The first thing Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez told donors gathered at a recent wine-and-cheese campaign fund-raiser was of the role she played in securing $600 million in federal funding to rebuild one of the region’s main arteries, the aging Route I-5 bridge.

“Bringing that grant home was a dogfight,” said Ms. Perez, 35, a first-term Democrat from a rural, working-class district in Washington State that twice voted for former President Donald J. Trump, and who is facing one of the toughest re-election races in the country this year.

“My community is going to build that bridge,” she told the roomful of gray-haired donors gathered in a packed living room in Washougal, Wash., with giant windows overlooking the Columbia River. “This is our work.”

Ms. Perez considers this funding to be a major coup for her district and her re-election campaign. But the bridge in one of the country’s most competitive districts has become a political piñata in the race, which is all but certain to pit Ms. Perez against the far-right Republican Joe Kent, whom she beat in 2022 by less than 1 percentage point.

Mr. Kent, who denies the legitimacy of the 2020 election and has referred to those jailed for taking part in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as “political prisoners,” has branded the reconstruction plan an “Antifa superhighway.” He has claimed that the proposed project, which includes a light rail and tolls, will bring unwanted urban elements from Portland into the car-centric, predominantly white community of Clark County, Washington, effectively serving as “an expressway for Portland’s crime & homeless into Vancouver,” as he wrote on social media.


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