Over the course of the next few months, Senate Republicans and their financial backers will be spending a fortune desperately trying to save their majority by attempting to whip up anti-tax fervor in Washington’s 45th District, where they must win in November or else be forced to hand over power to the Democrats.
Senate Republicans are gambling they can prevail in the special election with Jinyoung Lee Englund, a thirty-two year old Republican operative who only moved into the district a week prior to announcing her candidacy. Republicans have instructed Englund to run hard against taxes and position herself as opposed to “Seattle style politicians” — whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Englund has hewed to those instructions in her social media postings and paid advertisements. But, in an appearance this week on Dori Monson’s show on KIRO, she was asked by her sympathetic host how she is going to respond when Democrats come after her as a supporter of Donald Trump.
At first, Englund deflected the question by declaring that the Eastside is home to voters who are independent thinkers, but when pressed by Dori Monson to respond (“How do you feel about the President, since they’re going to try so mightily to tie you to him?” Monson asked), she went off script and said:
JINYOUNG LEE ENGLUND: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, he is our president. And I don’t know if a lot of people know, but my husband, he’s an active duty Marine. And President Trump is his Commander in Chief. And I was always taught, you know, you respect your elders, and you respect the people who are in leadership. And I really respect the way that President Trump and his administration… they’re for a strong military, and they’re also for military families.
It’s hard to imagine these comments being received well in the 45th District, which overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton last November. The last thing most voters around here want is a senator who admires Donald Trump.
Englund could have responded to Dori Monson’s question by saying she doesn’t like how Trump treats people of color, Muslims, or Americans with disabilities.
She could have talked about how, as a woman, she finds Trump’s horrific, degrading views towards women offensive and repulsive.
She could have said she’s proud of Washington State for challenging Trump’s many overreaches — like his unconstitutional executive orders.
But she didn’t say any of those things, because she is not the independent thinker she claims to be. She is a loyal soldier for her party, and like Susan Hutchison, she has fully embraced Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s destructive, toxic politics.
In the span of thirty seconds, she gave the Democratic Party exactly the sound bite that it was looking for. Now, at any point down the road, if anyone complains that Democrats are being unfair to Englund by trying to tie her to Trump, they can simply play back the audio from this interview with Dori Monson.
It’s quite evident from Englund’s answer that she has fully accepted Trump as the leader of her party and the leader of her country, unlike the district she seeks to represent. She has bought into the Trump mythos — she’s a true believer.
Again, it’s hard to imagine these comments being received well in the 45th.
The 45th has been considered to be a swing district for many cycles, but it is now on the verge of becoming a Democratic district like its neighbor to the west (the 48th), where Republicans don’t even bother to recruit candidates for the Legislature anymore. Republicans know the 45th is changing, demographically and politically, and that it could soon cease to be a district where they can win.
They are desperate to cling to power. And while winning is what matters to them most, they’d prefer a successor to Rossi who is dependable. Someone who can be counted on to supply a vote in any situation. Someone who will happily continue the grand old Eastside Republican tradition of enabling extremism.
They’ve bet the farm, so to speak, on Englund, a millennial candidate who is making her first run for office. Englund is a protege of Dino Rossi, who served two terms in the Washington State Senate from the neighboring 5th District prior to making three failed bids for statewide office (in 2004, 2008, and 2010).
In the last ten years, only one Republican candidate for the Legislature has won in the 45th: Andy Hill, who died last year and has been succeeded by Rossi. Both of Hill’s winning campaigns came in years where Republicans enjoyed a nice tailwind (2010 and 2014). They’re not going to have such a tailwind this year.
And while Englund will not lack access to money (Rossi and Senate Republicans will see to it that her campaign coffers are flush with cash), she does not have Andy Hill’s community ties or roots in the district. Hill was a committed parishioner of St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond and an active coach and parent in the Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association. Englund is an unknown.
Englund’s lack of familiarity with the district was on display earlier in the interview with Monson, when she amusingly described her entry into the race as having been prompted by Dino Rossi’s decision “not to run again”.
Englund either doesn’t know or forgot that Rossi is only an appointed senator — voters in the 45th never sent him to Olympia to represent them.
Rossi is in the Senate because he was nominated by the King County Republican Central Committee and appointed by the King County Council to represent the 45th District until an election could be held to fill the vacancy caused by Hill’s death.
Rossi has said from the outset he would only serve as a caretaker and would not be a candidate in the special election this year.
Rossi got the nod over the two other Republicans nominated in part because of his Senate “experience”. As noted, he represented the neighboring 5th Legislative District in the Senate from 1997 until 2004, when he lived there.
Rossi vacated his Senate seat in 2004 to run for governor… twice. After failing to defeat Chris Gregoire, he challenged Patty Murray, and lost again.
Rossi briefly went back into the Senate in 2012 as an appointee, taking the place of his own successor Cheryl Pflug following her resignation five years ago.
Later that year, voters elected Democrat Mark Mullet as their next Senator, and Mullet has held the position ever since. Rossi is once again an appointed Senator owing to the tragic death of Andy Hill, only this time in a different district.
In less than six months, Rossi could again find himself making way for a rising Democratic star. If voters in the 45th elect Manka Dhingra to be their next senator, and if voters in the 48th send Patty Kuderer back to the Senate the Eastside would have a quartet of Democatic senators for the first time in history — and three of them would be women.
Voters in the 41st last year opted to dump Republican incumbent Steve Litzow in favor of Democratic challenger Lisa Wellman, even though Litzow went to every extent possible to paint himself as an anti-Trump, reasonable Republican who gets along great with Democrats. Litzow spent enormous sums trying to hold his seat, and even created flyers implying he was supported by Democratic representatives Judy Clibborn and Tana Senn. It didn’t work. He went down to defeat.
Democrats have once again coalesced behind a promising woman candidate in their quest for a Senate majority, and Republicans have responded by making a big, bold, bet on Jinyoung Lee Englund. It’s hard to fathom how Englund is going to succeed where Litzow couldn’t, considering she’s an avowed supporter of Donald Trump and has no connection to voters in the 45th.