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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.

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

Democrats target districts sculpted to lean Republican in Washington legislative races

If pol­i­tics is an art form, then the post-2010 redis­trict­ing process was the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty’s con­tri­bu­tion to mod­ern sculpture.

Leg­isla­tive dis­trict bound­aries were adjust­ed to give Repub­li­can can­di­dates a slight advan­tage. The Democ­rats on the Redis­trict­ing Com­mis­sion — Tim Ceis and Dean Fos­ter — were tak­en to the clean­ers by their Repub­li­can counterparts.

Two West­ern Wash­ing­ton dis­tricts stand out as exam­ples of Repub­li­can Com­mis­sion­ers Slade Gor­ton and Tom Hof­f’s hand­i­work. Belling­ham precincts were excised from the his­tor­i­cal­ly “swing” 42nd Dis­trict and more rur­al Repub­li­can cor­ners of Skag­it and Sno­homish Coun­ties were put into the 10th District.

The result in the 10th, a dis­trict that includes Whid­bey and Camano Islands, was the Repub­li­can cap­ture of Mary Mar­garet Haugen’s State Sen­ate seat in 2012 and an all-Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion in three con­sec­u­tive elections.

But with a reju­ve­nat­ed par­ty, and the Trump fac­tor, Democ­rats began to take down the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s mod­ern art in 2018.

Edu­ca­tor Dave Paul unseat­ed Repub­li­can Dave Hayes for Posi­tion #2 in the State House. Else­where, the Democ­rats flipped two House seats in the sub­ur­ban-exur­ban 5th Dis­trict of King Coun­ty. West­ern Wash­ing­ton eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor Sharon Shew­make nar­row­ly unseat­ed Vin­cent Buys in the 42nd District.

With Trump at the head of the Repub­li­can tick­et, and with top notch recruit­ing, Democ­rats have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­plete the job begun two years ago.

For the Sen­ate, Helen Price John­son is tak­ing on appoint­ed Repub­li­can Ron Muz­za­ll, who joined the Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus last autumn when incum­bent Bar­bara Bai­ley quit late in her sec­ond term.

Muz­za­ll seems pleas­ant and com­pe­tent, albeit tak­ing the par­ty line on fis­cal mat­ters. Price John­son is, how­ev­er, a dream can­di­date for a swing district.

She helped lead a suc­cess­ful League of Women Vot­ers chap­ter, has served on the South Whid­bey School Board, and is the first per­son “of the female per­sua­sion” (a famous Dwight Eisen­how­er bloomer) to serve as an Island Coun­ty Commissioner.

Bar­bara Bai­ley did not once men­tion an envi­ron­men­tal cause in the Leg­is­la­ture. Price John­son, on the oth­er hand, has been a cham­pi­on on local cli­mate response.

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Nor­ma Smith, a Repub­li­can who har­vest­ed crossover votes, is retir­ing. She was a cham­pi­on of net neu­tral­i­ty leg­is­la­tion in Olympia, and co-authored a bill allow­ing crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion of those who allow decay­ing boats to leak oil into our waters. (AG Bob Fer­gu­son has made use of the legislation.)

The Democ­rats have four can­di­dates run­ning to replace her and fill the open seat (Ang­ie Homo­la, Ivan Lewis, Suzanne Wood­ward, and Scott McMullen) while Greg Gil­day, a lawyer, is the Repub­li­cans’ only candidate.

Up in the 42nd, the Democ­rats hope to unseat Repub­li­can Luanne Van Wer­ven with small busi­ness own­er and Blaine City Coun­cilmem­ber Ali­cia Rule.

I’ve lived in both the 10th and 42nd.

Each part of North­west­ern Wash­ing­ton, long com­pet­i­tive leg­isla­tive turf, has his­tor­i­cal­ly been a place where both par­ties put up qual­i­ty can­di­dates for voters.

But the Repub­li­can Par­ty has tak­en a sharp right turn. Tim Eyman used a gath­er­ing of Island Coun­ty Repub­li­cans in March to invite defi­ance of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s first lim­it on pub­lic gath­er­ings. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s long­time track­er Zach Wurtz was roughed up at a Fourth of July gathering.

Nor­ma Smith’s mail­ers were inter­est­ing; you want­ed to read them. But a Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can mail­ing for would-be suc­ces­sor Bill Bruch is drea­ry and neg­a­tive. No on sex edu­ca­tion. Resist a state income tax. Defend the Whid­bey Naval Air Sta­tion (and its deaf­en­ing Growler jets).

And, of course: Don’t give “Seat­tle politi­cians too much con­trol of our lives.”

Boil­er­plate stuff. Could it be that the 10th Dis­trict will flip to an all-Demo­c­ra­t­ic del­e­ga­tion this year? It wasn’t designed to be a blue dis­trict. But it could end up swing­ing left any­way, just before anoth­er round of redistricting.

A major fac­tor in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s suc­cess last cycle were sub­ur­ban female vot­ers, who helped make Nan­cy Pelosi Speak­er again with a big major­i­ty.

As the annu­al Wom­en’s March­es have shown, the Trump years have ener­gized Demo­c­ra­t­ic women. The par­ty recap­tured the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate with pros­e­cu­tor Man­ka Dhin­gra in 2017, then fol­lowed that vic­to­ry up by elect­ing Issaquah pedi­a­tri­cian Kim Schri­er to Con­gress. Schri­er flipped a seat that had been in Repub­li­can hands since its cre­ation out of the 1980 Cen­sus.

Democ­rats are hop­ing to find more suc­cess this year using the same recipe that worked so well for them dur­ing the midterms. They have capa­ble women can­di­dates run­ning in the 10th and 42nd Dis­tricts as well as around the state.

Self-start­ing can­di­dates are pop­ping in unlike­ly places. Repub­li­can State Sen­a­tor Mau­reen Walsh is retir­ing in the 16th Dis­trict of East­ern Wash­ing­ton. “Mo” Walsh opposed the death penal­ty – the Wash­ing­ton State Pen­i­ten­tiary in Wal­la Wal­la is part of her dis­trict – and was a key voice for for mar­riage equal­i­ty.

The Democ­rats have respond­ed by field­ing one of their strongest can­di­dates any­where in the state: Danielle Garbe Reser, for­mer­ly a four­teen-year for­eign ser­vice offi­cer with the U.S. State Depart­ment, vet­er­an of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, and some­one who came home to be CEO of the Sher­wood Trust, a pri­vate foun­da­tion with $30 mil­lion-plus in assets.

She faces an uphill bat­tle: State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bill Jenkin and ex-Wal­la Wal­la Coun­ty Com­mis­sion­er Per­ry Dozi­er are run­ning for the Republicans.

But Garbe Reser has proven to be a fundrais­ing powerhouse.

And, unlike past Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates who have run in East­ern or Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton, she has a very sup­port­ive par­ty behind her.

When she took over as Chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee in 2017, Tina Pod­lodows­ki pledged to expand the map of com­pet­i­tive dis­tricts, run can­di­dates every­where, and ignore no cor­ner of the state.

The results already: Cap­ture of a seat in Con­gress, recap­ture of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, and a much big­ger House major­i­ty, plus out­stand­ing prospects in dis­tricts that were care­ful­ly sculpt­ed to give an advan­tage to the Republicans. 

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One Comment

  1. One of Tina’s promis­es was to run hard in every cor­ner of the state.

    # by Mike Barer :: July 22nd, 2020 at 7:16 AM
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