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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Dave Reichert won’t seek reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018

Entrenched Repub­li­can incum­bent Dave Reichert announced in a lengthy state­ment this morn­ing that he has decid­ed not to seek reelec­tion to the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2018, set­ting the stage for what could be one of the most close­ly con­test­ed U.S. House races in the coun­try next year.

“It has been an hon­or and and a priv­i­lege to serve the peo­ple of the great­est state in the world’s great­est nation for near­ly five decades,” Reichert said, say­ing his “life of ser­vice” was enter­ing a “new phase”. “First as a mem­ber of the U.S. Air Force Reserves for six years, then in the King Coun­ty Sher­if­f’s Office for 33 years, and most recent­ly as a sev­en term Mem­ber of Congress.”

“After spend­ing time dur­ing the August work peri­od with fam­i­ly and friends, reflect­ing on the past, dis­cussing the future, and cel­e­brat­ing anoth­er birth­day, I have decid­ed this will be my last term and I will not run for reelec­tion in Novem­ber 2018. It was not an easy deci­sion but I believe it was the right one for my fam­i­ly and me. I have spent my entire career and devot­ed my life to ser­vice. I see this not just as a job, but as a call­ing — a call­ing I will not walk away from.”

Repub­li­cans have held a long grip on the 8th Dis­trict, going back to the dis­tric­t’s incep­tion fol­low­ing the 1980 cen­sus. Reichert is the third Repub­li­can to rep­re­sent the dis­trict, after Rod Chan­dler (1983 — 1993) and Jen­nifer Dunn (1993 — 2005). How­ev­er, the dis­trict has been sup­port­ing Democ­rats for Pres­i­dent for years. It backed Al Gore, John Ker­ry, Barack Oba­ma, and most recent­ly, Hillary Clin­ton… even after its bound­aries became more favor­able to Repub­li­cans in 2012.

Reichert beat out sev­er­al oth­er Repub­li­cans in 2004 for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion (2004 was a year when Wash­ing­ton had a real pri­ma­ry) and went on to defeat Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Dave Ross in the gen­er­al election.

Dar­cy Burn­er then mount­ed two con­sec­u­tive chal­lenges to Reichert (one in 2006, the sec­ond in 2008), both of which were unsuccessful.

In 2010, Suzan Del­Bene stepped up to take on Reichert, but by then, Reichert was well entrenched and had sur­vived two Demo­c­ra­t­ic wave elec­tion cycles, and he was able to defeat Del­Bene with­out much dif­fi­cul­ty. (The fol­low­ing year, Del­Bene’s neigh­bor­hood was placed into the open 1st Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, and she ran for Con­gress again and won. She con­tin­ues to rep­re­sent the 1st Dis­trict today.)

Reichert then faced Karen Porter­field (2012), Jason Ritchie (2014), and Tony Ven­trel­la (2016), win­ning by lop­sided mar­gins each time.

Democ­rats had vowed to mount a more cred­i­ble chal­lenge to Reichert in 2018, but Reichert’s deci­sion to retire will com­plete­ly change the dynam­ics of the race. The 8th Dis­trict is now one of the best pick­up oppor­tu­ni­ties any­where in the coun­try, and to prop­er­ly take advan­tage, the par­ty will want a charis­mat­ic, cred­i­ble can­di­date who is com­fort­able cam­paign­ing on both sides of the Cas­cade Mountains.

Pri­or to Reichert’s retire­ment, a slew of can­di­dates had stepped for­ward to chal­lenge him as Democ­rats. Only one is an elect­ed offi­cial: Issaquah City Coun­cilmem­ber Tola Marts. With Reichert now retir­ing, we’ll see oth­er elect­ed offi­cials give thought to enter­ing the race, and poten­tial­ly jump in.

The Nation­al Repub­li­can Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee’s Steve Stivers lame­ly tried to put the best pos­si­ble spin on Reichert’s retire­ment, offer­ing the fol­low­ing response: “Washington’s 8th Dis­trict is a seat that has cho­sen Repub­li­cans for over a decade. With a bit­ter and expen­sive pri­ma­ry fight already con­fronting Democ­rats in this seat, Repub­li­cans are ready to elect anoth­er com­mon-sense con­gress­man like Dave Reichert, not anoth­er rub­ber stamp for Nan­cy Pelosi.”

First of all, Wash­ing­ton State does­n’t uti­lize a pri­ma­ry to select nom­i­nees like most oth­er states do. Wash­ing­ton has the Top Two sys­tem, in which the top two vote get­ters advance regard­less of par­ty. This is a sys­tem that can poten­tial­ly result in either the Demo­c­ra­t­ic or Repub­li­can par­ties get­ting com­plete­ly shut out of the gen­er­al elec­tion, even in a statewide con­test. For example:

  • in 2014 and 2016 in the 4th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, where the gen­er­al elec­tion was a con­test between Clint Didi­er and Dan Newhouse;
  • in 2016 in the state Trea­sur­er’s race, where the gen­er­al elec­tion was a con­test between two Repub­li­can candidates;
  • sev­er­al times per cycle in leg­isla­tive dis­tricts that are heav­i­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic (i.e. in Seat­tle) or heav­i­ly Repub­li­can (i.e. in East­ern Washington).

If Repub­li­cans get their own field of can­di­dates and they split the vote more bad­ly than the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates do, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty could have two of its own can­di­dates advance to the gen­er­al elec­tion and the seat would be lost to the Repub­li­cans. It’s not an unre­al­is­tic scenario.

At this point, Repub­li­cans can’t afford to gloat about the prospect for Demo­c­ra­t­ic divi­sions when they have their own field to manage.

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic field is going to be upend­ed any­way. It was in a state of flux even before Reichert’s deci­sion to retire, with can­di­dates exit­ing and enter­ing. With Reichert’s retire­ment, the six Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of the state’s del­e­ga­tion will take an intense inter­est in the race, as will the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee (DCCC) and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee (DNC).

Sec­ond, the notion that Reichert was a “com­mon sense Con­gress­man” is a laugh­er. Talk about rub­ber stamps — Reichert is the liv­ing, walk­ing def­i­n­i­tion of a rub­ber stamp. He does what he’s told, and has ever since he was elected.

He even admit­ted it at a gath­er­ing of the Main­stream Repub­li­cans in 2006:

Some­times the lead­er­ship comes to me and says, ‘Dave, we want you to vote a cer­tain way.’ Now, they know I can do that over here, that I have to do that over here. In oth­er dis­tricts, that’s not a prob­lem, but here I have to be able to be very flex­i­ble in where I place my votes.

Because the big pic­ture here is, keep this seat, keep the major­i­ty, keep the coun­try mov­ing for­ward with Repub­li­can ideals — espe­cial­ly on the bud­get, on pro­tect­ing our troops, on pro­tect­ing this coun­try. Right? Being respon­si­ble with tax­pay­er dol­lars. All of those things. That’s the big pic­ture. Not the vote I place on ANWR that you may not agree with, or the vote that I place on pro­tect­ing salmon.”

You have to… be … flexible.

And so, when the lead­er­ship comes to me and says ‘Dave, we need you to take a vote over here because we want to pro­tect you and keep this major­i­ty, I…I do it.’

Because Reichert is a rub­ber stamp, he is in the habit of wait­ing to receive instruc­tions pri­or to announc­ing how he’ll vote on a con­tentious bill or amend­ment that’s unlike­ly to be well received back home in the real Washington.

When top Repub­li­cans reach the point where they don’t need his vote, they release him and give him per­mis­sion to but­tress his mytho­log­i­cal rep­u­ta­tion as an inde­pen­dent thinker by vot­ing no — like on the awful Trump­cuts bill.

Reichert has tra­di­tion­al­ly enjoyed one impor­tant advan­tage in his cam­paigns and dur­ing his ser­vice as a Mem­ber of Con­gress, how­ev­er: he’s con­tin­u­al­ly been able to rely on an adept staff who have helped com­pen­sate for his shortcomings.

Reichert has been the sub­ject of many crit­i­cal Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate posts over the years. Here’s a look back at the low­lights of his tenure in Congress:

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