Donald Trump’s Selective Service System chief of staff, a best-selling Christian author and blogger on motherhood and a 20-year Green Beret veteran have announced their candidacies as Republican challengers to six-term incumbent 3rd District Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.
Wadi Yakhour of Brush Prairie, in Clark County, announced his candidacy on a local radio station and filed his statement of candidacy Feb. 16 with the Federal Election Commission, with a political campaign committee address in San Rafael, Calif.
Heidi St. John, of Battle Ground, Herrera Beutler’s city of residence, also filed as a candidate for Washington’s 3rd District, which includes Cowlitz County, on Feb. 19, according to Federal Election Commission documents.
The first challenger to file was Joe Kent, a former U.S. Army who joined the Fifth Special Forces, where he logged 11 combat tours in Iraq and elsewhere, retiring as a chief warrant officer. Kent filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 10, announcing his candidacy on Twitter.
Herrera Beutler was one of 10 GOP members of Congress who voted for the impeachment of Trump, and her revelations of comments by former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of his Jan. 6 conversation with the former president put her in the spotlight on the final day of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
Those two actions touched off a firestorm of opposition, some of it threatening, both within and outside her 3rd District, where she had been a solidly popular representative, but in 2021 has suddenly become vulnerable.
She was elected as a Tea Party candidate, but has built a bipartisan reputation. Her independent streak led her to vote against Trump for President in 2016 and speak out in support of the Affordable Care Act, but then to vote to support Trump’s unsuccessful bid for re-election and against efforts to discipline one of her congressional colleagues, Marjorie Taylor Greene for her incendiary comments and Q-Anon links.
The 3rd District, once described as a “purple” district because of a strong Democratic base in Vancouver matched by conservative counties to the north and west, tilted further into the red in 2020, which Herrera Beutler won re-election by her largest margin.
In 2016, Yakhour, who was to formally announce his candidacy on Tuesday, Feb. 23, worked on the communications staff in the Trump campaign.
Before entering politics, Yakhour served six years in the U.S. Navy, stationed on Whitbey Island, and left service in 2014 as a second class petty officer.
The Washington State University Vancouver graduate was rewarded with jobs as special assistant to the secretary of the interior in 2017, then a similar position in the Selective Service system, where he would be promoted to chief of staff, serving from May 2018 until Trump left office last month.
St. John’s blog, is called “The Busy Mom,” which also describes her career. She founded Momstrong International, an online evangelical Christian ministry, and has written seven “Becoming Momstrong” books. She has been married for 32 years and has seven children.
She says her campaign aims to “unite” a divided Republican party, which she said in a press release Feb. 20 has been jeopardized by the “severe backlash from ongoing controversial decisions” made by Herrera Beutler.
St. John has homeschooled several of her children. Her most recent book is Bible Promises for Moms, released in 2019. Her political committee has a Battle Ground post office box address.
Kent, in announcing his candidacy, said on YouTube that he is running because Herrera Beutler “voted for the impeachment of President Trump against the will of the people of this district.”
“I never wanted to go into politics,” he wrote on Twitter Feb. 18. “I’d prefer to be serving our nation from the shadows with my late wife by my side. After witnessing the establishment deceitfully reject the needed changes Trump brought to the natsec community as he attempted to end wars, I had to speak out.”
Kent’s wife, Shannon Kent, was killed in action in January 2019, and her sacrifice received considerable posthumous attention because the Navy linguist had been assigned to Syria at the time of her death. Kent wears a “Gold Star husband” pin in his lapel, in memory of his wife.