The state of Washington has nine congresspersons, divided between six Democrats and three Republicans. Four of the six Democrats have safe/solid seats. Two of the three Republicans are safe/solid and will probably be re-elected. One seat (currently Dem) is considered a toss-up; two (one Dem, one Rep) have a slight chance of flipping.
I started with the idea of covering all nine races. However, because the diary has grown to a relatively large size, I’ll be focusing on districts 3, 8, and 2 – the ones with the most competitive races.
If you’d like to know more about the WA congressional races, I’ll tell you more under the fold.
Let’s begin with a map of Washington (from the Cook Political Report):
Note that the congressional districts 4 and 5 are solid red (Republican). Both are east of the Cascade mountains. They’re mostly rural, mostly dry, mostly desert. Small towns and lots of farmers.
Congressional districts 1, 6, 7, and 9 are solid blue (Democratic). West of the Cascades, with urban areas, around Puget Sound, on the coast. They’re fairly wet and rainy (there’s a major rainforest in on the peninsula in district 6), with lots of people.
Here’s a list of the six biggest cities in WA, with population and congressional district:
- Seattle 617,334 – CD 7
- Spokane 203,276 – CD 5
- Tacoma 199,637 – CD 6
- Vancouver 165,809 – CD 3
- Bellevue 126,626 – CD 8
- Everett 99,384 – CD 2
The Cook Political Report says Congressional District 3 – which is the only open seat in WA – could go either way. And CD 2 (light blue) and CD 8 (light red) might switch. Let’s look at the contested districts first.
WA-03 Rep. Brian Baird-D (retiring)
COOK: Toss Up (D+0)
First, the recent election results:
It would seem to be a Democratic district, at least when people are voting for the House of Representatives. However, the district has voted for Republicans: They went for G.W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and for Dino Rossi for Governor in 2004 and 2008. It’s heartening to note that WA-03 went for Barack Obama in 2008 (52-46%).
Baird is retiring, so this is an open seat. Craig Pridemore was the generally acknowledged progressive/liberal, but he withdrew from the race in June and gave his support to Denny Heck, who will probably be the Democratic candidate. According to this article about FEC filings, the major candidates have these amounts of cash on hand:
Denny Heck (D) $950,162
Jaime Herrera (R) $377,415
David Castillo (R) $245,334
David Hedrick (R/Teaparty) $41,358
There are also a handful of other candidates who are considered longshots and don’t have much money.
According to his campaign website, Denny Heck has a long history in Democratic politics. He was the chief of staff for Governor Booth Gardner, was elected to five terms in the state House of Representatives, was an early investor in Realnetworks (which is where Senator Maria Cantwell once worked), and started the TVW channel (best described as Washington’s statewide version of C-SPAN).
Among the Republican contenders, Herrera is a state Representative, Castillo is a financial consultant, and Hedrick is a former marine and darling of the teabaggers.
In June, Herrera released an in-house poll (story here) that said she was favored over the other Republicans. It also said that 42% would vote for a generic Republican and 35% for a Democrat, 3% neither, with 20% undecided. That’s a lot of undecideds. Here’s my favorite biased question from the poll:
When asked: "Who would you prefer to represent you in Congress? A Republican member of Congress who will be a check and balance to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, or a Democrat member of Congress who will help Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats pass their agenda?" 49 percent said they would prefer a Republican, 41 percent said they would favor a Democrat, and 10 percent said they did not know.
The biggest city in WA-03 is Vancouver, WA. It’s pretty much a suburb of Portland, Oregon. But it attracts some people who hate to pay taxes. Oregon has an income tax but no sales tax. Washington has a sales tax but no income tax. You can live and work in Vancouver (and pay no income tax) and then buy stuff in Portland (where there's no sales tax).
WA-08 Rep. Dave Reichert-R
COOK: Likely R (D+3)
Here are the results from the last eight elections:
The district has been growing steadily more Democratic over the years. If you look at the Presidential elections, the district has voted for the Democrat in the last three elections. Gore won WA-08 in 2000 by 2%, Kerry won in 2004 by 3%, and Obama won in 2008 by a whopping 15%.
It looks like Reichert’s opponent will be Suzan DelBene (described by some as "Darcy Burner 2.0," since both of them worked at Microsoft, so you need to add a number and a decimal point). According to recent FEC filings, both DelBene and Reichert have around $1 million cash on hand.
If you look at the three Republican Representatives from Washington, this district is the one where Democrats have the best chance of flipping the seat. And it’s heartening to know that DCCC has listed WA-08 on their Red-To-Blue list.
For more details about the district, see my diary from last December (WA-08: Can The Democrats Oust Reichert?).
WA-02 Rep. Rick Larsen-D
COOK: Likely D (D+3)
Here are the last eight elections in WA-02:
I’m not sure why Cook isn’t calling this a solid Democratic seat. Larsen has won his last three elections by comfortable margins and I don’t know of any scandals. His likely Republican opponent is a teabaggerish guy named John Koster, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin on both Facebook and Twitter. Palin describes him as a "pro-family, pro-business, rock-solid commonsense conservative!"
Also, Larsen’s FEC filings show him with $834,000 cash on hand. Koster has $211,000. However, the NRCC has listed this as a seat that can be flipped, so Koster will probably get some financial help from them.
Larsen’s campaign website can be found here.
NOTE: For the rest of the six Congressional Districts, which are all considered pretty safe, I’ll just show you the nifty little graph of previous votes and maybe write a sentence or three.
WA-06 Rep. Norman Dicks-D
COOK: Solid D (D+5)
WA-09 Rep. Adam Smith-D
COOK: Solid D (D+5)
WA-05 Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers-R
COOK: Solid R (R+7)
This seat once belonged to Tom Foley, the Speaker of the House. He lost in the 1994 Contract With America slaughter.
In the chart below, she’s called Cathy McMorris. She married a guy named Rodgers a few years ago and became Cathy McMorris Rodgers. She's the only woman of the nine House members, but WA does have a female Governor and two female Senators, so it balances out.
WA-01 Rep. Jay Inslee-D
COOK: Solid D (D+9)
WA-04 Rep. Doc Hastings-R
COOK: Solid R (R+13)
This guy is the Republican Congressman from WA I despise the most. Back when the Republicans had the majority in the House, Hastings was chairman of the House Ethics Committee and he basically stonewalled all investigations of Republicans. He’s a lizard. I’d dearly love to see him lose. But he’s ensconced in a solidly Republican district:
WA-07 Rep. Jim McDermott-D
COOK: Solid D (D+31)
According to Cook, of the 435 congressional districts, McDermott’s is one of the 25 safest districts. And I’m proud to say that I vote for him every two years. In fact, WA-07 is so Democratic that it wouldn’t surprise me if McDermott’s opponent in the general election was another Democrat or a Green or a Socialist. (There’s a section below that explains the new top-two primary system.) Here are McDermott’s numbers:
How Primaries Work in WA
I’ve lived here for over 20 years and I’ve seen the evolution (or dissolution) of how parties picked their candidates. At one time, the Democrats and Republicans had precinct caucuses and district conventions and state conventions. So the parties had the power to pick their own candidates.
One year the supporters of Pat Buchanan got organized and took over the state Republican convention and nominated a slate of lunatics. So the Republicans decided to switch to a primary system for picking their candidates. The Democrats kept the caucus/convention system. But a problem arose. Democrats could go to the caucus and pick the best Democratic candidate, and then Democrats could vote in the Republican Primary and choose the most idiotic candidate – the one most likely to lose. Republicans hated this idea.
I should mention that the state of Washington has never asked voters to register their party preference – and whenever the idea comes up, the independent voters claim that they want to vote for the best person. They don’t want the government to force them to declare their loyalty to Democrats or Republicans. But the independent voters also want to vote in primary elections.
So the legislature passed various laws and the political parties filed lawsuits and everybody had a big old fight.
What we ended up with was the top-two primary. Everyone who wants to be Governor or Senator or Congressperson is listed on the primary ballot. The top two vote-getters face off in the general election.
So, if you’re a Democrat living in Doc Hastings’s district, you might not be able to vote for a Democrat in the general election. You might have to choose between two Republicans. Or you might have to choose between a Republican and a Teabagger.
Or, if you’re in Jim McDermott’s district, the general election might feature two Democrats. Or a Democrat versus a Green. Or a Democrat versus a Socialist.
Or, if you’re a Democrat in District 3, where there’s basically one Democrat and three Republicans, you could assume the Democrat will be in the top two and, in the primary, vote for the crazy teabagger, who’s the weakest candidate. Then you vote for the Democrat in the general election.
How Redistricting Works in WA
Washington state currently has nine representatives in Congress. People who understand demographics have said that WA has a good chance of gaining a representative after the 2010 Census. If we don’t get another one after the 2010 Census, then we’ll certainly get one in 2020. Here’s how the boundaries will be drawn.
Every ten years, when the official Census is finished, the state of Washington sets up a redistricting commission to do two things: draw new boundaries for the state legislature districts and draw new boundaries for the U.S. House districts.
The majority and minority leaders of the State House and State Senate each appoint one member to the commission, which means there is an even split – two Democrats and two Republicans. These four people then select a fifth non-voting chairperson to lead them. He or she is the boss, but he/she doesn’t get a vote.
Here are the general rules:
Districts shall have nearly equal population;
District lines should coincide with local political subdivisions (such as city and county lines) and "communities of interest";
Districts should be convenient, contiguous (share a common land border or transportation route), and compact;
Districts must not favor or discriminate against one political party or group;
District divisions should encourage electoral competition.
Once the commission comes up with a plan, the legislature votes on it, but it takes a 2/3 majority to modify the plan. After the legislature passes the redistricting bill, the Governor can’t veto the bill. It’s really pretty fair and bipartisan. It prevents gerrymandering.