10th Congressional District
Washington State's 10th Congressional District, where Beth Doglio, Kristine Reeves, Marilyn Strickland, and a large field of candidates are vying for the opportunity to succeed Denny Heck (Washington State Redistricting Commission)

In ear­ly Decem­ber of last year, U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Den­ny Heck of Washington’s tenth dis­trict announced his inten­tion to retire at the end of his term. Heck, who has rep­re­sent­ed WA-10 since the dis­trict was cre­at­ed fol­low­ing the last cen­sus, said that the par­ti­san divi­sions of recent years have left his “soul weary.”

As a senior mem­ber of the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, he has more rea­son to be wea­ry of par­ti­san fight­ing than most – his com­mit­tee was at the cen­ter of the polit­i­cal mael­strom sur­round­ing Don­ald Trump’s impeach­ment at the end of 2019 and it seemed like­ly that the issue would con­tin­ue to dom­i­nate head­lines all the way up to the 2020 gen­er­al elec­tion… before COVID-19 came along.

Con­gress­man Heck’s influ­en­tial posi­tion in the House was indi­cat­ed by the praise heaped upon him after his announcement.

Speak­er of the House Nan­cy Pelosi called him a “cher­ished” mem­ber of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and said that “his guid­ance and friend­ship will be missed by his many friends in Con­gress.” In a sim­i­lar vein, Gov­er­nor Inslee praised Heck’s “tire­less advo­ca­cy” on behalf of Washingtonians.

While pro­gres­sives also laud­ed Heck – Prami­la Jaya­pal described him as hav­ing served “with hon­or and dis­tinc­tion” – his deci­sion to leave the House (he is now run­ning for Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor) is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s base to elect some­one who’ll join the ranks of Jaya­pal’s House Pro­gres­sive Caucus.

The open seat cre­at­ed by Heck­’s depar­ture has attract­ed a large field.

Most of these can­di­dates are long-shots to say the least, either because they are polit­i­cal nobod­ies or because they are Repub­li­cans run­ning in a heav­i­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­trict (Heck won over 60% of the vote in 2018).

The three most promi­nent can­di­dates to replace Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Heck are all peo­ple with expe­ri­ence serv­ing in elect­ed positions.

One is for­mer Taco­ma May­or Mar­i­lyn Strick­land, whose cam­paign mes­sag­ing has all the hall­marks of “Third Way” neolib­er­al­ism. Strick­land talks about “bring­ing the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor togeth­er,” and touts her record of bud­get cuts (or “bal­anc­ing”) in the after­math of the Great Reces­sion as a sign of pragmatism.

After leav­ing elect­ed office, Strick­land worked as the CEO of the Greater Seat­tle Cham­ber of Com­merce, and was involved in fun­nel­ing over $2 mil­lion into last year’s City Coun­cil elec­tions in order to defeat pro­gres­sive can­di­dates (with lim­it­ed suc­cess). Strickland’s cam­paign had raised $252,000 pri­or to the end of June.

Strick­land’s plat­form explic­it­ly men­tions uni­ver­sal broad­band as a pri­or­i­ty that she would focus on. While her broad­band plank does not explic­it­ly talk about restor­ing net neu­tral­i­ty, which was gut­ted by Ajit Pai’s FCC, it does call for reg­u­lat­ing broad­band as a util­i­ty as Tom Wheel­er’s FCC vot­ed to do in 2015.

“Like water and elec­tric­i­ty, fast and reli­able broad­band is a util­i­ty, and it should be reg­u­lat­ed as such,” Strick­land’s web­site says.

“In Con­gress, Mar­i­lyn will advo­cate for uni­ver­sal afford­able broad­band, focus­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly on low-income, under-served, and rur­al communities.”

Strick­land has not offered a bold cli­mate action plan as part of her cam­paign, instead empha­siz­ing far more mod­est envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion goals.

“In Con­gress, Mar­i­lyn will fight to stop Trump’s plan to expand off­shore drilling and work to increase fund­ing for Puget Sound restora­tion. She will work to rein­state reg­u­la­tions on emis­sions and pro­tec­tions for our pub­lic lands and will advo­cate for rebuild­ing the EPA, espe­cial­ly offices and pro­grams designed to track the health and envi­ron­men­tal impacts of pol­lu­tion in under-served communities.”

(It is inter­est­ing that Strick­land men­tions off­shore drilling. Don­ald Trump’s off­shore drilling plan will only need to be fought if Trump stays in pow­er, oth­er­wise it will be dead fol­low­ing Trump’s depar­ture from the White House.)

Strick­land is backed by The Seat­tle Times, The News Tri­bune, The Seat­tle Medi­um, for­mer Gov­er­nors Gary Locke and Chris­tine Gre­goire, and a long list of may­ors and local offi­cials from Wash­ing­ton and oth­er states.

Many in the pro­gres­sive wing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty are uni­fy­ing around State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Beth Doglio. The fifty-five year old Doglio has a long record of polit­i­cal activism – she was the found­ing direc­tor of Wash­ing­ton Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers from 1991 to 1995, and cur­rent­ly works for an NPI ally, Cli­mate Solu­tions, an envi­ron­men­tal and clean ener­gy advo­ca­cy group.

Beth Doglio addresses supporter (Photo: Beth Doglio @BethDoglio)
Beth Doglio address­es sup­port­er (Pho­to: Beth Doglio @BethDoglio)

Doglio has won a series of high-pro­­file endorse­ments from labor unions, pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions, Prami­la Jaya­pal, and Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders.

Doglio is unapolo­getic about her pro­gres­sive credentials.

She enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­ports the Green New Deal and Medicare For All, among oth­er pro­gres­sive ideas. By the end of the first half of 2020, she had raised almost as much as her two main rivals, around $240,000.

“Con­gress needs more cli­mate cham­pi­ons – and we must not miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to elect one in the 10th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict,” Doglio says. “If I’m elect­ed, I will approach this chal­lenge with the appro­pri­ate focus and lens: Cli­mate change affects every issue we care about – the econ­o­my, health­care, immi­gra­tion, hous­ing, social jus­tice, nation­al secu­ri­ty and of course, the environment.”

Doglio is also an enthu­si­as­tic backer of paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave.

“Wash­ing­ton led on paid fam­i­ly and med­ical leave, and as a result we have one of the top rat­ed pro­grams in the coun­try,” Doglio’s cam­paign web­site points out.

“This should be a nation­al pro­gram, the way it is in almost every devel­oped nation in the world. Every­one ought to be able to take time off work and care for fam­i­ly after the birth of a child or a seri­ous illness.”

Doglio wait­ed until after the leg­isla­tive ses­sion to declare her can­di­da­cy, unlike rival Kris­tine Reeves, who resigned from the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in late 2019 to focus on build­ing her con­gres­sion­al cam­paign. Reeves has the sup­port of U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Smith (D‑9th Dis­trict), who used to rep­re­sent por­tions of the 10th pri­or to the last round of redistricting.

Also sup­port­ing Reeves are the Labor­ers, the Team­sters, sev­er­al SEIU locals, the Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion, the Puyallup Tribe of Indi­ans, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and the Lati­no Vic­to­ry Fund.

Reeves sup­ports expand­ing on the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act with a pub­lic option, say­ing that she wants to “make sure every­one has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to buy into Medicare if they so choose.” (This the same posi­tion that for­mer South Bend May­or Pete Buttigieg adopt­ed in his pres­i­den­tial campaign.)

While Reeves’ cam­paign does not empha­size tuition-free col­lege — anoth­er idea strong­ly sup­port­ed by pro­gres­sives — she does favor expand­ing stu­dent aid. She sup­ports “increas­ing the amount of Pell Grants that can be pro­vid­ed to stu­dents, raise the income thresh­old so more fam­i­lies are eli­gi­ble, and allow them to be used dur­ing sum­mer school months so that stu­dents can grad­u­ate on time.”

Reeves stress­es that her life expe­ri­ences have pre­pared her well for the job of Unit­ed States Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, a posi­tion often held by millionaires.

“As some­one who was raised in pover­ty, cycled in fos­ter homes and was even home­less for a time, help­ing those in need is per­son­al for me,” Reeves says. “I am not anoth­er lawyer or anoth­er mul­ti-mil­lion­aire, but Con­gress already has lots of those. Instead, I bring a unique per­spec­tive in that I under­stand what it means to strug­gle under tough cir­cum­stances, and that inspires my unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to help­ing oth­ers strug­gling through tough times like these.”

These three expe­ri­enced can­di­dates are by no means the only ones hop­ing for a vic­to­ry tomor­row, how­ev­er. Two of the oth­er can­di­dates are par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­thy of men­tion, as either would (if elect­ed) be the youngest mem­ber of Congress.

Twen­ty-eight year old Phil Gard­ner cur­rent­ly works as Den­ny Heck’s dis­trict direc­tor, which places him in a per­fect posi­tion to learn about his poten­tial future con­stituents’ needs. In an inter­view with News Tri­bune, he was per­haps a lit­tle over-enthu­si­as­tic in point­ing this out, say­ing: “Apart from Den­ny, I have the sin­gle best under­stand­ing of this dis­trict and its needs – that’s lit­er­al­ly my job!”

Gardner’s plat­form is a clas­sic exam­ple of tri­an­gu­la­tion. He says he sup­ports Medicare For All, but with qual­i­fi­ca­tions; he empha­sizes his plans for cli­mate action, but they fall far short of the kind of trans­for­ma­tive change the Green New Deal calls for. He pro­fess­es to be for police reform, but he only wants to “lim­it” (rather than end) the trans­fer of mil­i­tary weapons to police forces.

Twen­ty-six-year-old Joshua Collins couldn’t be a more dif­fer­ent candidate.

An avowed social­ist, he decid­ed to run before Heck declared his inten­tion to leave the U.S. House. Collins is a new­com­er to elec­toral pol­i­tics, though he has been involved in activism since his high school days. He worked as a long-dis­­­tance truck dri­ver before he decid­ed to run.

His plat­form is resound­ing­ly left-wing and his cam­paign is dri­ven by a large social media fol­low­ing on Twit­ter and Tik­Tok. Despite Collins’ lack of sup­port from even pro­gres­sive politi­cians – his only promi­nent sup­port­er is Seattle’s social­ist city coun­cil mem­ber, Kshama Sawant – he man­aged to raise over $200,000.

How­ev­er, his cam­paign began to recede into the back­ground fol­low­ing Heck­’s exit from the race. Collins did­n’t even show up to be inter­viewed by The Stranger, and its Elec­tion Con­trol Board endorsed Doglio instead.

While Collins and Gard­ner have ensured that youth are rep­re­sent­ed in the Top Two field, they will need to per­suade vot­ers much old­er than they are to back their can­di­da­cies to make it through to the next round.

Less than 10% of the 400,000 strong vot­ing pop­u­la­tion are under the age of twen­ty-five. Con­gress­woman Alexan­dria Oca­­sio-Cortez, cur­rent­ly the youngest mem­ber of the House, rep­re­sents a much younger dis­trict.

The qual­i­fy­ing elec­tion for this posi­tion will con­clude tomor­row. The top two vote get­ters, regard­less of par­ty, will pro­ceed to the gen­er­al elec­tion in November.

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