Second debate between Hennrich, Kent touches on immigration, inflation

The lead Democratic and Republican candidates vying for Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s seat in Congress met on a conservative talk show to make their case in a debate.

Brent Hennrich, D-Vancouver, and Joe Kent, R-Yacolt, returned after a four-month hiatus to The Lars Larson show Thursday to discuss a variety of topics that touch Southwest Washingtonians on a local and national level.

The host of the Portland-based show said he originally intended the debate to be between Kent and fellow Republican challenger Heidi St. John, who declined the invitation – something both Kent and Larson openly ridiculed. Instead, Larson welcomed Hennrich on air and lauded him for doing so, considering his conservative listenership.

Larson opened the show by asking the candidates what they would do for Southwest Washington if they were elected to Congress. Despite their differing views, both agreed that Herrera Beutler was not fit to continue in her position.

Hennrich underscored the responsibility for representatives to make themselves available for their constituents and hear their thoughts and concerns. He said the incumbent is not fulfilling this duty. Hennrich added that a cornerstone of his campaign is to reach as many people as possible and “take their concerns to heart.”

“While I agree most of my followers aren’t listening to your show,” he told Larson, “there are voters here and I need to be able to talk to them.”

Kent answered Lars’ question by pointing to the “carnage” being perpetuated by “the establishment.” He noted that Democratic leaders are leading America “on the verge of collapse,” whereas the Republican establishment is putting the country’s safety at risk by supporting international communist governments and opening its borders. Of course, Kent wedged Herrera Beutler in with this ominous entity.

Throughout the debate, Larson asked the candidates about their thoughts on inflation, refugees fleeing Ukraine and the U.S.’s southern border security. However, the host repeatedly backed Kent, who he described as his favorite candidate, and grilled Hennrich.

Kent emphasized that the U.S. must boost its number of jobs, deregulate fishing and timber industries, and become energy independent. Inflation, he continued, was brought on and exacerbated by the Biden Administration because of its social spending, which is only resulting in ratcheting debt. He also pointed to the administration’s aid to Ukraine as a mistake for the U.S.’s economy.

Hennrich held his position that social spending was not causing inflation in the U.S., as it’s bringing people out of poverty.

He asserted that gas prices are high, yet it isn’t consistent with the cheaper price per barrel that oil companies are producing. For this reason, Hennrich would support legislation to prevent companies from price gouging.

As the Ukrainian crisis continues, countries are opening borders to support those who are fleeing the war. The U.S. announced it would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees seeking asylum – an effort that Hennrich supports. Kent, though, argued that this will have a negative impact on America’s economy, as the refugees would find jobs and never leave. Instead, he posed, the U.S. should send aid to Poland as they accept refugees.

This sentiment falls in line with Kent’s beliefs on immigration, especially as it relates to those fleeing from countries past the southern border. The problem? Some who immigrate are taking American jobs and others are funneling drugs along the I-5. The solution? Finish constructing the U.S.’s border wall and establish military troops along the border.

Hennrich contested the statistics that Larson was presenting during his line of questioning, saying the information was being misconstrued.

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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