Elections

Is Dave Reichert up, or is he down? According to his campaign, the answer is yes 

With the August Top Two elec­tion draw­ing near, Repub­li­can Dave Reichert’s cam­paign is get­ting increas­ing­ly aggres­sive — and des­per­ate — in its chase for dol­lars, hop­ing to win­now Bob Fer­gu­son’s fundrais­ing lead and secure the resources need­ed to wage a cred­i­ble cam­paign that can afford paid adver­tis­ing on tele­vi­sion and oth­er modes. 

We’ve had a front row seat to take it in, because we’ve been get­ting texts and emails from Reichert on an increas­ing­ly fre­quent basis. Though our staff nev­er signed up to receive any com­mu­ni­ca­tions from Reichert, we are nev­er­the­less receiv­ing almost dai­ly fundrais­ing appeals ask­ing us to give mon­ey to his cam­paign, and we’ve been read­ing them all with great inter­est. Who­ev­er is writ­ing the appeals is seem­ing­ly throw­ing every­thing at the wall to see what sticks, Tiffany Smi­ley style. Con­se­quent­ly, Reichert’s back­ers are being sub­ject­ed to some pret­ty con­tra­dic­to­ry messaging. 

Let’s take a look at an exam­ple of what I’m talk­ing about. 

Dave Reichert’s campaign says they’re up

On April 3rd, Repub­li­can-aligned poll­ster Ech­e­lon Insights (work­ing for Steve “Truck­ing Mag­nate” Gor­don’s Con­cerned Tax­pay­ers of Wash­ing­ton) released the results of a skewed sur­vey that pur­ports to show Dave Reichert ahead by nine points. It’s a non­sen­si­cal find­ing that isn’t cor­rob­o­rat­ed by any cred­i­ble research, and I explained why it should­n’t be tak­en seri­ous­ly in a post right here on The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate.

But Reichert’s cam­paign jumped all over it. In a mes­sage sent on April 5th, 2024 that was deliv­ered at 12:19 PM Pacif­ic Time, his cam­paign crowed about the finding: 

🚨 BREAKING NEWS 🚨 

The num­bers don’t lie… and I’m up!

A slide from Ech­e­lon that Reichert’s cam­paign sent out along­side this text message

+ 9 points in the gen­er­al bal­lot, the largest spread to date of any inde­pen­dent polling released on this race. 

The will of the peo­ple is clear. They’re ready for a gov­er­nor that pro­motes the peo­ples val­ues and fights to pre­serve freedom. 

Chip in to keep this momen­tum going! [Dona­tion link] 

- Dave Reichert

stop2end

Num­bers can, of course, be fab­ri­cat­ed or manip­u­lat­ed to say any­thing, as Dar­rell Huff explained in his 1954 book How To Lie With Sta­tis­tics. (If you haven’t read it, you real­ly should. It’s a clas­sic and def­i­nite­ly worth your time.) 

Dave Reichert’s campaign says they’re down

Last Fri­day after­noon, Reichert back­ers were seem­ing­ly told the oppo­site: that the cam­paign is behind, not ahead, and real­ly needs their help. 

Here’s the mes­sage, received April 12th, 2024 at 2:22 PM Pacif­ic Time: 

Friend, I’ve seen the num­bers. I’m falling behind. 

This is pret­ty seri­ous news in my fight to win this cam­paign. Could you donate to help me build a bet­ter tomor­row for Wash­ing­ton? [Dona­tion link] 

- Dave Reichert 

stop2end

Notice the mes­sage does­n’t spec­i­fy what num­bers the cam­paign is talk­ing about. Fundrais­ing hauls, per­haps? The mes­sage came after cam­paigns filed their March finan­cial reports with the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion. I imag­ine some Reichert back­ers may have been left won­der­ing — What num­bers? Did­n’t you just say the oth­er day that you’re nine points up on Fer­gu­son? What’s going on? But per­haps that’s the idea: Tell ’em we’re up, tell ’em we’re down; don’t tell ’em why, just ask for their money! 

The reality: Dave Reichert is running in a very difficult electoral environment for Republicans

Reichert twice took a pass on chal­leng­ing Jay Inslee for gov­er­nor (in 2016 and again in 2020), only to come out of retire­ment and run when the seat came open. But Wash­ing­ton State pol­i­tics has changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly since he last threw his hat in the ring for high­er office twen­ty years ago, and even since he was last on the bal­lot in the 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict in 2016. The polit­i­cal ter­rain has got­ten rough for his party. 

In the last three elec­tion cycles — 2017–2018, 2019–2020, and 2021–2022 — Repub­li­cans have lost a net of two statewide offices, two con­gres­sion­al seats, eight seats in the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and five seats in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, along with that cham­ber’s major­i­ty, while Democ­rats have suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ed the long list of oth­er offices they already hold, from gov­er­nor on down.

Reichert hopes to be the first Repub­li­can in decades to win a gov­er­nor’s race. The last was the esteemed John Spell­man, all the way back in 1980. Yes, 1980! 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Reichert, he is run­ning in a hyper­par­ti­san era where the old mantra I vote for the per­son, not the par­ty does­n’t ring true any­more. The Repub­li­can brand is tox­ic. Reichert will have to share a bal­lot with wannabe author­i­tar­i­an Don­ald Trump and will be harsh­ly crit­i­cized and scru­ti­nized for his uncom­pro­mis­ing posi­tion oppos­ing repro­duc­tive rights. Even if he runs a stel­lar cam­paign, the odds are against him. 

And before he can even ful­ly turn his atten­tion to duk­ing it out with Bob Fer­gu­son, Reichert will have to con­tend with ultra MAGA rival Semi Bird. The ex-Rich­land School Board mem­ber, recalled by vot­ers last year, remains in the guber­na­to­r­i­al race and has turned into a headache for Reichert. Many Repub­li­can PCOs and activists like Bird, and if enough del­e­gates to this week­end’s Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Con­ven­tion in Spokane were to vote for him, he could get the par­ty’s endorse­ment, which would be a major embar­rass­ment for Reichert. 

We found Reichert nar­row­ly ahead of Bob Fer­gu­son last Novem­ber thanks to some inter­est from Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers in his can­di­da­cy, but our Feb­ru­ary polling, which found a four point lead for Fer­gu­son, sug­gests Reichert’s crossover sup­port has already evap­o­rat­ed. And not because of any­thing Reichert or Fer­gu­son did, but because of the larg­er dynam­ics at work in this high stakes pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cycle. 

Tiffany Smi­ley and her back­ers dis­cov­ered in the midterms that hav­ing boat­loads of cash and what they thought was a win­ning mes­sage did­n’t make a dif­fer­ence. Pat­ty Mur­ray eas­i­ly dis­patched Smi­ley in a lop­sided vic­to­ry that was appar­ent as soon as the first Elec­tion Night num­bers were pub­lished, vin­di­cat­ing the cred­i­ble polling (includ­ing ours) and dam­ag­ing the rep­u­ta­tions of the Repub­li­can-aligned firms that had put out garbage data sug­gest­ing Smi­ley was almost tied with Murray. 

This time around, at least some in right wing media are lis­ten­ing to what we’re say­ing and ask­ing whether Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­cans might be fool­ing them­selves again.

Andrew Villeneuve

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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