Radio host grills Democrat seeking Herrera Beutler’s seat in ‘debate’ with Joe Kent

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A rare appearance by a Democratic candidate for federal office highlighted Friday’s programming on the conservative The Lars Larson Show, as Brent Hennrich, challenger to U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, made an appearance during a debate with Herrera Beutler’s closest challenger from her own party.

During an afternoon airing of the Portland-based show, Hennrich squared off against Republican Joe Kent, a favorite of Larson’s to unseat the incumbent Herrera Beutler. 

“I think she ought to be replaced. I think she’s turned into a RINO or worse,” Larson said, using the acronym that stands for Republican In Name Only.

Although it was characterized as a debate, Larson did not give the chance for rebuttal.

Larson commented on the rarity of having someone who was left-leaning on his show. Hennrich came out of the gate thanking Kent, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran whose wife, who was also in the military, died in combat. 

Kent acknowledged recent polling by Trafalgar Group that had him in the lead with Hennrich in second.

“I’m running against Jaime Herrera Beutler because she has betrayed our values,” Kent said, noting her vote to impeach the then-president Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol building among other issues.

Hennrich said he didn’t believe the country was headed toward socialism, noting social programs already in place, such as Medicare and Social Security.

“Expanding on social programs is in no way leading us to a path of socialism,” Hennrich said.

Kent, however, said the U.S. was “on a very slippery slope right now toward socialism, communism and really just authoritarian control.”

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the far left got to jumpstart a lot of their most devious plans,” Kent said, adding that Democrats were shutting down small businesses to shift resources to corporate entities.

Although Larson gave Hennrich “props” for making an appearance on the show, he did not give him any favors. Larson said spending packages under the Build Back Better name would cost roughly $5 trillion. He asked how Hennrich could justify its support. 

“You’re talking about the spending without the revenue portion,” Hennrich said. “That’s comparing apples to oranges.”

“We need to get America back on track and going forward again, and that’s what the Build Back Better plan is for,” Hennrich said.

Kent said the spending plan was “utterly irresponsible,” saying the debt incurred would be passed onto future generations. He said most of the money did not go to infrastructure, calling funding for rechargeable car stations a “payday for the Chinese communist party, the people that crashed our party by sending us COVID.”

Kent said the systemic issue he was seeing was a lack of American jobs to support the supply chain.

“I think we’ve seen the government overstep their bounds consistently with these mask mandates. They cannot dictate what you put on your face, and they shouldn’t be able to dictate access to public facilities where our taxpayer dollars go to,” Kent said. He said there’s been a lack of public trust among Washingtonians and their government. 

Larson proceeded to grill Hennrich on questions about mask mandates. Hennrich said government officials were “well within their rights” to enforce the mandates.

“I believe (those officials) have a duty to protect the overall population,” Hennrich said, adding they were using the best data from health experts for their decisions. 

Larson was clearly in favor of Kent.

“I mean I do have a bias here, not just in the favor of Joe Kent,” Larson said. 

Kent was against any mandates from government officials, questioning whether they had the right to “slap a mask on (his) face.”

Larson focused in on Hennrich’s stance regarding vaccine requirements, asking if the government had “the authority to stick a needle in your arm, and another one, and another one, as boosters are required?”  

“They are looking for the general wellbeing of the overall population, and they are doing everything they can,” Hennrich said.

Outside of COVID-19-related questioning, Larson turned the conversation to energy policy. Kent said Biden’s administration was “completely reckless” in its policy approach in that sphere, and Hennrich was decidedly in support of current energy efforts.

The candidates were also asked about their opinion on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, after the 17-year-old fatally shot two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and injured a third. Rittenhouse was acquitted of first-degree homicide.

Hennrich hedged the decision, pointing to the due process of law while saying personally he did not like the verdict. He acknowledged it was by a jury of peers.

Kent gave a quick answer, saying “what I want to point out, is the right decision and self defense.”

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