Retirement Brings a Toss-Up

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 8, 2017 — Washington Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) announced earlier this week that he will not seek an eighth term next year. The congressman was first elected in 2004, succeeding veteran Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R), which proved to be only two-plus years before her untimely death.

In 2005, Reichert came to Washington after serving 33 years in the King County Sheriff’s office, his last eight as the county’s top law enforcement officer. It was in this position where Sheriff Dave Reichert gained national notoriety through apprehending the Green River serial killer. After conviction, Gary Ridgway confessed to committing 71 murders, 49 of which were confirmed. Some investigators believe his actual victim number may exceed 90. The totals make Ridgway the most prolific serial killer in American history.

Riding his local positive image, Sheriff Reichert was able to bridge the partisan gap in his first congressional race and won election to the increasingly Democratic 8th District. He would clinch three re-elections in the seat before the district lines were made more Republican. In his trio of difficult campaigns prior to redistricting, the congressman averaged 52.1 percent of the vote. Post 2011 redistricting, his average victory margin increased to 61.0 percent.

In the statement announcing his retirement, the now veteran representative thanked his constituents for their loyal support over a long period and indicated that after celebrating his 67th birthday during this past congressional recess, it was time to retire and spend time with his family.

Reichert’s retirement decision means Washington’s 8th District will become the 23rd open House seat in the regular 2018 election cycle. The total will soon grow to 24 when Indiana Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) makes his Senate candidacy official. Of the current 23, 15 are Republican-held.

Though Rep. Reichert made the Seattle outer suburban seat safe for him, in an open configuration the Democrats believe they see a strong conversion opportunity. Hillary Clinton carried the district with a 48-45 percent margin over President Trump. President Obama scored a 50-48 percent win over Mitt Romney here, and he topped Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), by a 51-47 percent clip four years earlier when the precincts are converted into the current congressional districts. With the district going Democratic by two to four points in three consecutive presidential elections, the Republicans will face a rocky political road without Congressman Reichert on the ballot.

The 8th District’s population anchor is in King County, the state’s most dominant governmental entity. Just under 60 percent of the congressional district residents live in this sector. Almost a quarter of the constituency resides in Pierce County. The remainder is spread among Chelan, Kittitas, and Douglas counties. WA-8 is positioned east of the Seattle-Tacoma corridor and stretches into the Wenatchee National Forest, virtually to the center of the state.

Like in so many districts around the country, a large number of Democrats have already announced their candidacies. Here, eight have formed campaign committees, but only one, Issaquah City Councilman Tola Marts, has ever won an election at any level. We can expect more accomplished Democrats and Republicans to soon come forward now that the seat is open.

Rep. Reichert is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee and chairs the prominent Trade Subcommittee. As an open seat, WA-8 should be rated as a toss-up. Washington uses the top-two jungle primary system, meaning that two members of the same party can advance to the general election.

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