Republican legislators, candidate Joe Kent share priorities during town hall


Southwest Washington Republicans spoke about their priorities leading up to November’s general election during a town hall last week in Battle Ground. The town hall was hosted by 19th District Rep. Jim Walsh, who is the state Republican chair, and 18th District Reps. Stephanie McClintock and Greg Cheney, and Joe Kent, candidate for U.S. Congress from Washington’s Third District.

Joe Kent’s priorities

Kent hopes to unseat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez in November. Kent said, if elected, one of his priorities would be securing the country’s Southern border. Kent claimed he personally witnessed 2,000 to 3,000 immigrants cross the border during previous visits.

“Last time I was down, there were Chinese military-age men, and then also a lot of folks coming through the Middle East,” Kent said. “...The (Department of Homeland Security), Joe Biden and all the Democrats in Washington D.C. want us to continue to fund this invasion of our county.”

Kent criticized Gluesenkamp Perez for her role in supporting the proposed Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act in Congress. The act would include policy changes for border patrol agents to suspend entry of inadmissible immigrants and would secure billions of dollars for supporting the defense of U.S. allies, including Ukraine and Israel. Kent dislikes the bill for not making policy changes to prevent immigrants from claiming amnesty, which he called a loophole in the system.

“It’s all eye dressing because guess how much money it allocates to actually secure the border — $0,” Kent said. “Her bill also does not physically secure the border, so (it) won’t stop the flow of fentanyl.”

Kent said another issue in Congress is overspending toward overseas projects.

“Another major crisis we have is economic,” Kent said. “The cycle of inflation that we’re all feeling everytime you go to the gas pump (and) grocery store, that is because Washington D.C. is addicted to printing money … Biden has been spending probably about $2.5 or $2 trillion over our annual budget every single year.”

Washington state’s education

Conservatives in Washington state have been keeping a close eye on school board elections. Walsh said, since last fall, conservatives began to invest more into school board races in Washington’s swing-districts.

“The state party didn’t give them money, but we did help them do their own fundraising,” Walsh said. “We did give them lists of political donors based on historical disclosure information (in) their area. We gave them good pitch letters, talking points (and) things to say when asking for contributions.”

McClintock celebrated the passing of Initiative 2081, also known as “The Parent’s Bill of Rights,” which will allow parents to opt their children out of sex education in public schools. The initiative also requires public schools to notify parents regarding their child’s curriculum.

Legislators also discussed Senate Bill 5462, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law. Effective June 6, the law will require school districts to adopt new curriculum to highlight contributions and perspectives of marginalized groups, including people with disabilities, ethnic, racial and religious groups, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

One town hall attendee called the new law an infringement on parent’s First Amendment rights regarding their freedom of religion.

McClintock, who is on the state House Education Committee, said, “well, hopefully, parents will pay attention and fight back with their school districts and school boards, or pull their kids out,” in response.

Walsh told attendees that the state Legislature should find ways to improve reading, writing and math scores, calling the history curriculum “narrow and specialized.”

Gun policies

Walsh talked about House Bill 1903, which passed as law during the session. The law will put policies regarding reporting of stolen firearms in place for Washington.

“On the face of it, it doesn’t sound that bad, but basically, it adds penalties [or] substantial fines if you don’t report a stolen firearm within a certain timeline,” Walsh said. “... I think it’s victimizing the victim.”

House Bill 2118, which has yet to be signed into law as of press time, would require licensed firearm dealers to set up audio and visual surveillance of purchases. Walsh said the bill was “designed to crush small gun dealers” and claimed the policy violates two-party consent laws in Washington.

“So, to comply with the new law, they have to break other laws. Great policy, Inslee,” Walsh sarcastically commented.

Requirements including additional surveillance policies are not required for licensed firearm dealers making less than $1,000 a month.

Climate policies

Walsh then told the audience about House Bill 1589, which passed through the Legislature. The bill would speed up Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) transition away from fossil fuels by requiring the company to move to 80 percent of their energy being renewable by 2030. Under the law, PSE is required to transition completely to clean energy by 2045.

Walsh said the acceleration of PSE’s transition to renewable energy would increase the company’s electric and natural gas usage rates for its customers. Walsh announced that, on March 28, he filed an initiative to repeal the bill.

“The timeline is short. If it gets the signatures by July 5 of this year … then it qualifies to be on the general election ballot this November,” Walsh said. “It’s a very tight window of time. It will be a major undertaking to get it qualified.”

Walsh also spoke in support of Initiative 2117, which will be on the general election ballot in November. The initiative would repeal the state’s Climate Commitment Act (CCA) entirely if approved. The 2021-approved CCA operates to reduce carbon emissions through “allowances,” which companies can purchase and trade at auctions, similar to stocks. Each year, the state reduces the amount of allowances, which raises the value and price.

According to the Department of Ecology, under the legislation, a portion of auction proceeds fund alternative transportation and pedestrian improvement grants through the state’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Account fund each year. A sidewalk and bike lane improvement project for La Center would not receive state funding next year should the initiative pass. More details regarding the project can be read on "La Center secures state funding for community center remodel, possibly pedestrian access".