Editor’s Note: Columnist Julie McDonald previously wrote a three-part series based on an interview with Republican congressional candidate Joe Kent. That series, and the first part of her interview with Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, can be found at chronline.com.
Far-right critics like Republican Joe Kent have dubbed Third District U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez as “Marxist Marie,” tying her to President Joe Biden and progressive liberals to sabotage her campaign.
“My voting record just does not support that,” said Gluesenkamp Perez, who campaigned as a moderate Democrat and narrowly won her 2022 race against Kent.
The congresswoman described Southwest Washington as an independent region with a heritage in the timber and fishing industries.
“It’s reflected in who they’ve elected here,” she said. “This district is very independent-minded. I’m really proud of it. And it’s part of my heritage, too. My great-grandparents are buried in Tenino.”
She referred to her great-great-grandfather, Herbert “Bert” Gilmore, a quarry foreman who helped build the state Capitol in Olympia, and his wife, Addie.
The congresswoman contrasts her deep roots in the Third District, where she lives in Skamania County, to Kent’s short tenure in Clark County. He lived in Portland during the 2020 election but ran for the Third Congressional District in Washington in 2022.
“I think that what we’ve created here is what is going to save America,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “If we can figure out why Southwest Washington is so independent, we can help generate that independence throughout the country. That’s how we get out of this two-party rat race and actually deliver politicians that care more about their reputation at the gas station than their reputation at the lobbyists’ dinner.”
She bucked her party with several votes, including the House of Representative 1 energy bill, also known as the Lower Costs and Energy Act, to help the United States gain more energy independence. Kent said she later voted against funding it, but her staff said House Republicans haven’t yet brought up a budget resolution for a vote.
“He’s going to make stuff up,” the congresswoman said. “Joe is now a professional candidate. His job is to twist my votes into political posture. He’s not actually working to fix anything. He’s working to tweet about what I’m doing.”
During the 2022 campaign, questions arose about the funding of Kent’s campaign and his well-paid computer software consulting job, but the Federal Elections Commission dismissed allegations of a shell company or phantom job. That hasn’t stopped the probes of the 20-year Army veteran and CIA operative, though.
The Daily Beast on Jan. 4 published an exclusive piece about Kent under the headline, “How This MAGA Extremist Hides His Campaign Spending” and detailed the Republican candidate’s relationship with and payments to Matt Braynard, a former campaign aide, political consultant and election denier tied to white nationalists. According to the report, Braynard posted on Twitter: “The world will be a better place when Germany is again proud of its history.”
That’s likely problematic for the sitting congresswoman, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, especially given Kent’s staunch support for former President Donald Trump. In mid-December, Trump said immigrants to the United States are “poisoning the blood of our country,” echoing the anti-Semitic words of Adolf Hitler, Germany’s fascist dictator responsible for the slaughter of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust during World War II.
The United States was built on the blood of immigrants.
Gluesenkamp Perez said Kent reminds her of someone who watched too many TV Westerns, bought the chaps and pretends to be a cowboy.
“It’s all hat, no cattle,” she said. “We’re independent here. We are not buying your brand of crazy.”
It’s not just far-right people criticizing the congresswoman. When she opposed Biden’s student debt forgiveness proposal last summer, left-wing Democrats protested outside Dean’s Car Care, the shop she and her husband own in Portland, and online trolls flooded the internet with negative reviews of their company.
“It really narrows your social network in a lot of ways because the way that you vote on issues is always binary,” she said.
She voted with Republicans for the Gas Stoves Protection and Freedom Act to prohibit using federal money to regulate gas stoves as a banned hazardous product and imposing safety standards that could prohibit gas stoves.
She also supports Second Amendment rights to bear arms and takes heat within her party for it, though she said, “I think we can have reasonable restrictions on uzis and surface-to-air tactical nukes.”
Although Democrats are dismissive of House Republicans’ investigation into Hunter Biden’s laptop, she said the probe addresses a deeper issue: “Do we have two tiers of a justice system?” One for the wealthy or well-connected, another for everyone else?
“We know the kids in high school who got out of a DUI because their daddy got them a good lawyer,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “Democracy cannot persist when we don’t have a fair legal system.”
Kent accused her of being anti-veteran after she voted against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included amendments to restrict abortion and transgender health services.
“This year’s NDAA was deeply flawed because of the Republican majority weaponizing the legislation to play into their senseless culture wars,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “I voted against these harmful amendments. I refuse to play their game.”
But she said she supported a revised version that included her amendment to improve the military’s ability to fix its own equipment.
She also voted against the 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies funding bill, again prompting attacks on her commitment to veterans. But she said the Republican bill limited women’s access to abortion and stripped away educational and housing benefits for veterans.
“I voted against that because it was underfunded, and then he (Kent) said that I was defunding the VA,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “Eventually, the one that I voted for was the one that actually funded the VA.”
Kent criticized her for voting against the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act, or REINS Act, designed to increase accountability and transparency in the regulatory process by requiring Congress to approve all federal regulations with an economic impact of $100 million or more. Kent contended that easing federal regulations would increase logging, improve salmon runs and curtail wildfires. But even if it had won Senate approval, the legislation would apply only to new regulations.
And Congress already has oversight of federal regulations. While executive agencies create rules, under the Congressional Review Act, those can be overturned, Gluesenkamp Perez’s staff noted.
“The REINS act would overhaul this process,” by requiring Congress to approve major rules before they take effect, creating an even slower, more cumbersome regulatory process, said Gluesenkamp Perez senior adviser Phil Gardner. “The congresswoman believes Congress should use the tools on hand more effectively rather than trying to create a new one.”
Abortion and teen pregnancy
But Kent is correct in saying the congresswoman has at times sided with liberal Democrats.
She voted against the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which would require transparency in educational curriculum. She also opposed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require life-saving care for babies born after botched abortions.
Kent told me last summer, “If you look at her voting record, there’s very little daylight between her and Hakeem Jeffries and (Nancy) Pelosi.”
I asked if she supported late-term abortion.
“It is exceedingly rare,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “Something has to have gone terribly, terribly wrong for somebody to pursue a late-term or provide late-term abortion. It almost never happens.”
True, according to the Centers for Disease Control; the majority of the 625,978 abortions in 2021 took place before 13 weeks (93.5%) with 5.7% between 14 and 20 weeks and 0.9% at or after 21 weeks. More than half of all abortions are done using medications rather than surgeries.
“Who writes these laws and the policies around when and who can access abortion?” MGP said. “These are not people who have been pregnant.”
Still, from a pro-life standpoint, abortion killed more than half a million babies in the United States in 2021.
So should any restrictions be placed on abortion?
“I don’t think we can legislate that kind of thing,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “That’s one of the cultural things where you can’t govern someone’s heart.”
Teen pregnancy numbers have plunged in recent decades.
“Young people aren’t even having sex anymore,” she said. “They’re all on TikTok.”
Better sex education and access to more long-acting, effective, yet reversible, contraceptives are among reasons fewer females between 15 and 19 are giving birth to babies.
“That’s how we get at these issues,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “That’s the way to prevent late-term abortion. I mean, nobody likes the idea of it. But to think you’re going to write a piece of legislation that can work well … and that the sheriff is going to show up and ask you to prove something. It is uncomfortable for me to say we’re going to give up those rights to privacy.”
In her auto repair shop, Gluesenkamp Perez worked as a woman in a male-dominated industry — a role she’s still in as a member of Congress.
“I’m good at being underestimated,” she said. “People think that it’s debate club. The stakes are way higher than winning debate. I’ll work with anyone.”
Gluesenkamp Perez joined a bipartisan problem solvers caucus in September to avoid a catastrophic government shutdown.
“No party has a monopoly on good ideas,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “Finding common ground is the only way to make progress on the issues that matter most to Southwest Washington in a divided Congress. … Ultimately, I didn’t come to Congress to be a cheerleader for either party, so I’ve sought to build relationships across the aisle whenever I can.”
Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org