Voters in eastern Washington ready to dump man who voted to impeach then-president, Loren Culp tells Andrew Buncombe
Every Tuesday evening Républicain Loren Culp lets rip with a live-streamed speech packed full of red meat.
He makes addresses in person as well, at events that give him the chance to meet people and speak to them one-on-one.
But it is at these regular Tuesday appearances, one senses, that the hardline, anti-abortion, America-first MAGA-chomping 59-year-old has most effectively distilled his message to voters.
“Welcome to the show you guys. I appreciate you being here," il dit, in one recent stream, seeking to address the “disinformation” and old “smears” he claims are being leveled at him by opponents.
“I want you guys to know and be reminded, and share with other people, what I stand for – I stand for truth, logic and common sense. Dieu, family and country, the Constitution, smaller government. We need to build a wall, we need to impeach Biden and Harris. We need to cut government spending. I’m pro-American energy.”
Il ajoute: “We have to have no more ‘forever wars’, and not have a war without a declaration from Congress.”
Culp, briefly served with the military, before running a concrete and contraction business, and then becoming a police officer – and later the head of police – in the small rural community of Republic, 140 miles north of of Moses Lake, where he now lives.
Dans 2020, he challenged Democrat Jay Inslee to be Washington State governor, lost by 43 points to 57, claimed the election was rigged and briefly sued the authorities before dropping the action. Before long he was noticed by the circle surrounding Donald Trump, who also falsely claimed the 2020 elections were fraudulent.
Now Culp is Trump’s man in eastern Washington’s fourth congressional district, long considered the state’s most conservative.
Comprising farmland and construction, crops and high desert, about three hours drive east of Seattle, the fourth has since 2015 been represented by Republican Dan Newhouse, 67, a former agricultural scientist, raised on a farm, who later turned to politics. (The last Democrat to hold the seat was in 1992.)
Dans 2016, Newhouse backed Trump’s candidacy for president, saying while he did not agree with all his views, he would be better than Hillary Clinton and the “dangerous, liberal” policies she would pursue.
Data shows Newhouse voted in support of Trump’s agenda 90% of the time, and after Trump lost in November 2020, he was among 126 Republicans who signed an amicus curiae to a lawsuit to the Supreme Court, contesting the election. He supported Trump’s efforts to throw out the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Encore, in the eyes of Trump, none of that mattered, when in the aftermath of the Jan 6 attacks on the US Capitol, Newhouse was among just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach the president, and establish an investigation.
“He did not strongly condemn the attack nor did he call in reinforcements when our officers were overwhelmed,” Newhouse said in a statement at the time, about what he said was his most difficult choice as a politician. “Our country needed a leader, and President Trump failed to fulfill his oath of office. I will vote yes on the articles of impeachment.”
The vanquished Trump rapidly vowed revenge, working to establish a slate of candidates across the country, up and down the ballot, who supported him. His revenge was perhaps the most focused in its effort to oust those members of his own party who had voted to impeach, with the list of 10 also including Liz Cheney, and another Washington State Republican, Jaime Herrera Beutler.
Trump endorsed Culp the former police chief in February, accusing Newhouse of having joined the “Radical Left Democrats to vote for the Impeachment Hoax”. He said Culp was “a man of the people” who would stand up for “Election Integrity” and gun rights.
“Loren will never turn his back on Central Washington, or our Country," il a dit.
Has Trump’s endorsement helped?
Culp tells L'indépendant the people of the fourth already knew him, especially after his run for governor in 2020. He says in that cycle, while Trump obtained around 60 per cent of the vote in the 4th, he had received 63 pour cent.
“They know that I’m a fighter. They know that I stand up for their rights," il dit. “So having President Trump’s endorsement was the icing on the cake.”
This year’s congressional primary, being held on August 2, contains a total of eight candidates, seven of them Republican. The top two, irrespective of their party, go through to general election in November.
“The other candidates tried to get President Trump’s endorsement. Most of them spent thousands of dollars traveling around the country going to President Trump events, and even very expensive fundraising events at Mar-a-Lago trying to get in with people that surround him trying, trying to get his endorsement.”
Il ajoute: “I told my campaign from the very beginning that President Trump is a very smart man, he’ll figure out who the best person is. And I felt confident he would choose me. So we didn’t pursue his endorsement. But I got it in February, [et] he saw what I did in 2020.”
Some polls show the hearings of the Jan 6 committee have eaten away at the former president’s support among those who previously voted for him, as further details have emerged of his role, not only in encouraging and rallying the crowds that stormed the Capitol, but of his refusal for several hours afterwards to call them off or send in the national guard to help the besieged police.
Has support for Trump been similarly diluted in the 4th?
"Non, it has not. It’s made President Trump even stronger," il dit. “People see that this is a sham, this is a show trial. They’re not allowing witnesses from the other side to come in and testify. It’s nothing but a show. And people are seeing that.”
Il ajoute: “Most of the people I’ve talked to aren’t even watching after my first couple of times.”
Like Trump, Culp continues to insist the 2020 l'élection a été volée, contrary to all evidence and the confusion of Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security election integrity unit.
When asked why he continues to believe this, Culp references 2000 Mules, a documentary by rightwing pundit Dinesh D’Souza, and a favourite of conspiracy theorists, who claim it shows ballot stuffing. The Associated Press said the film relies on “faulty assumptions, anonymous accounts and improper analysis of cellphone location data”. Trump’s former attorney Bill Barr called it “indefensible”.
“It contains government camera footage of people dumping ballots into ballot boxes, which is against the law,” says Culp. “I would highly recommend you watch that and with an open mind and just just take it for what it shows.”
Culp says he has not seen any effort to improve or tighten election security since 2020.
But does that mean if he wins the 4th, that his rivals will be able to allege the system was rigged, as he did?
Culp says he is asked that often, as well as why people should bother voting if the system is rigged. He says he would not again run for a statewide race where the opportunities for wrongdoing were bigger. (Washington State countersued Culp in 2020 when he alleged election interference.)
He claims in a smaller race, there was less “bias”, and less chance for people to do “nefarious things”.
On a hot day in Moses Lake there appeared to be a fair amount of support for Culp, some for Jerrod Sessler, another Republican, and a little for Doug White, the Democrat. There appeared to be less public displays of affection for Newhouse.
“We need new blood. It is time for change,” says 63-year-old Debbie Osborne, who was heading into the postal office.
She listed off a series of issues – soaring inflation, rising crime, a purportedly porous border – that Culp would address.
Rick Swanson, 68, who owns an auto-repair business, says he is voting for Culp. “Lots of people are having a tough time right now," il dit.
Business owner Sue Torrance says she has not yet made up her mind. She voted for Newhouse in 2020, and usually votes Republican. She too likes the idea of change, and yet says what Trump did on Jan 6 was wrong.
“I need to sit and think this through," elle dit, opening the door to her clothes and gift shop.
Newhouse has given very few media interviews ahead of the primary, and his campaign failed to respond to multiple inquiries from L'indépendant.
There have been no public polls to date. Yet it may be that support for him is higher than Culp and other challengers like to believe.
The website FiveThirtyEight donne Newhouse a 98 per cent chance of winning, compared to just 2 per cent to Culp. (It gives Herrera Beutler a 99 per cent chance.)
Indeed the Washington Post recently reported that given Washington state’s “jungle primary” and the fact that Newhouse and Herrera Beutler are collecting more money than their rivals, that Trump’s wish for revenge may not happen.
Newhouse, who has raised $1.6m to Culp’s $300,000, has been using that money for attack ads against his opponents. Lorsque L'indépendant visited Moses Lake, several locals said their mail boxes were full of glossy flyers attacking Culp.
One of them accused him of having “botched” a sex abuse investigation when he was a police officer and “letting the molester” get away.
Culp has repeatedly denounced Newhouse’s claim as a false smear, saying that in the case in question, it was not handled by his department, but rather the police in Ferry County. A lawsuit was filed against Culp and two other officers in 2017, who were accused of failing to properly investigate and report to state authorities allegations in 2013 from a 17-year-old girl who said a male relative had been sexually molesting her since she was a child. An individual was later arrested and convicted.
Asked about the flyers Culp says he only was only present at one interview with the young woman, and that another department had handled the case. He has denied any wrongdoing and said the issue was raised by Republican opponents when he ran in 2020 and “it had been adjudicated in the public square then just like I’m doing now”.
Why does Newhouse bother with the flyers if the claims are false?
“That’s all he has. All he has is to smear me because he knows he’s losing," il dit.
“He knows he’s behind. There’s a high possibility that Newhouse may not even make it through the primary.”
Il ajoute: “So Mr Newhouse knows and his advisers know that he is losing, and they’re going scorched earth. He has nothing to lose at this point. He has to do this in an attempt to try to knock me down, otherwise, he’s not going to make it through the primary.”