Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-1), already a declared 2012 candidate for governor of Washington state, will resign his seat in Congress this week. With gubernatorial election polling continuing to show him either behind or tied with Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), carrying out his responsibilities in the nation’s capital while still trying to campaign in a state that is the farthest away in the continental region from Washington, DC is logistically too difficult.
The timing of his resignation is important, hence the reason that he has waited until now to leave office. Under Washington election law, resigning in March prior to the state’s May 18 candidate filing deadline will allow a special election to be conducted concurrently with the state’s regular primary and general election schedule, Aug. 7 and Nov. 6, respectively.
This is a curious decision because the current 1st District, where a special election would be held, is more highly Democratic than the new 1st District. Though the Obama 2008 percentage in the new 1st is 56 percent, usually regarded as a strong partisan number, Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R) current 8th District has the same percentage, yet he has held even in the worst of Republican years. Therefore, the open battle in the new 1st figures to be much more competitive than one in the current 1st.
While it’s true that any new member would serve just a short time under the current lines if the election were held sometime before November, the short-term incumbency advantages would seemingly put the winner in a stronger position when facing a viable Republican regular election opponent, presumably 2nd District 2010 nominee John Koster who held Rep. Rick Larsen (D) to a 51-49 percent win. Much of the Koster base territory is in the new open 1st.
Expect WA-1 to be competitive in the fall. The concurrent special election will be virtually meaningless, because the winner will serve only the final two months of the current term. If the two elections produce different winners, the special election victor will have only eight weeks in office during the interim transition period.
The law in Washington states that if Inslee resigns after the 7th of March, no special election will be held.