Joe Kent focuses on immigration, war during town hall


Third District Congressional candidate Joe Kent drove home his conservative priorities on immigration, the war in Ukraine and American politics May 31 at a town hall in Kelso.

The Third District hopeful spoke to roughly 40 people at the Cowlitz County Republican Party headquarters, but said little about the legal issues surrounding his party’s presidential nominee.

Other than a few brief mentions about the “weaponized justice system,” Kent did not say much about former President Donald Trump’s conviction on multiple felony counts the day before.

Kent’s comments were also light on local issues, apart from a back-and-forth with a couple from Kalama about the school district pushing back on the state’s rules around transgender students.

Mostly, Kent focused on his planned rematch against Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, after losing a close race in 2022, beginning with the Aug. 6 primary election for the House of Representatives. Her victory flipped the seat for the first time in more than a decade.

Gluesenkamp Perez belongs to the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of moderate House Democrats who are more likely to vote with Republicans. Kent argued Gluesenkamp Perez had the worst traits of both parties; she was simultaneously far left on social issues that came through Congress and had the same foreign policy priorities as Republican Dick Cheney.

“We have to look at the way Marie Perez votes versus the way she speaks versus the way the media covers her,” Kent said. “We have to highlight her record. That is absolutely key, that’s how we’re going to win in 2024.”

Immigration, U.S. military

One of the first things Kent wants a Republican-controlled government to do next year is a strict immigration crackdown, using mass deportations or forcing immigrants to self-deport by cutting off as much aid as possible.

“We’ve just got to get people out there, knock on doors, ballot harvest and then start mass deportations,” Kent said. “We just gotta have a strong president.”

Kent named multiple legal paths for immigrants to become American citizens that he would eliminate. He said the government should “cut off the ability for most illegal immigrants to be able to earn a living” by going after companies that use legal worker visas or hire immigrants. Kent supported getting rid of birthright citizenship, which is currently guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

A local Republican whose wife was an immigrant asked Kent about keeping that pathway to citizenship, and he said he was open to the idea.

Despite being a conservative veteran and former CIA operative, Kent was critical of many parts of the United States’ military industrial complex. Kent has said that since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, NATO was on the brink of over-involving itself in Ukraine and escalating the conflict into a world war.

“Most of the national security apparatus ... from both parties has this neo-conservative ideology that we need to constantly be in some sort of conflict of Russia, that we need some sort of regime change,” Kent said. “Because the regime change in Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan worked out so well.”

Kent said there needs to be negotiated peace talks with Ukraine and Russia. He downplayed the military risk Russia poses to the rest of Europe, pointing to the multiple struggles the Russian military has faced in Ukraine during the current war.

The local Republican Party has endorsed Kent.

Earlier, Republican 3rd District candidate Leslie Lewallen was endorsed by Cowlitz County Commissioner Dennis Weber and former Longview City Councilmember Ramona Leber, two of the founders of Lower Columbia Republicans United. Cowlitz County Sheriff Brad Thurman, of the same group, endorsed Lewallen in April.