NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

Crowded field vies to succeed Representative Denny Heck in Washington’s 10th District

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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