Opinion

Congress incumbents are safe in Washington | Bob Roegner

After redistricting, most of the congressional incumbents remained in the “safe” column.

In the contested races with a candidate that might have a chance of defeating an incumbent, the primary serves the purpose of separating “real” candidates from pretenders.

The big money groups and the national parties watch to see if a candidate can hold an incumbent under 50 percent. If they can’t, then they won’t get much outside help.

Money always makes a big difference in who is going to win because the districts are large and money creates name familiarity. But this year two candidates, one from each party, have contributed significant amounts of personal money that has made them competitive.

The redrawn 9th District, which includes Federal Way, isn’t one of those likely to be close. It became more Democratic and incumbent Adam Smith walked off with 61 percent of the vote against a weak field.

Some of the local media endorsed Smith outright and didn’t even go through the pretense of endorsing a second candidate for the general election. Smith will win comfortably in November.

In the 8th District, Auburn Republican incumbent Dave Reichert polled almost 51 percent. Reichert has had several close calls, but redistricting moved the district farther east, and he picked up more Republican territory. Also, it doesn’t appear his disagreement with AARP over the Affordable Care Act has caused any backlash. The partisan voters in the district are about equal, but voters who “lean” Republican made a big difference as the Republican vote almost doubled the Democratic vote.

Reichert’s November opponent will be Democrat Karen Porterfield, who won 28 percent of the vote. Porterfield is from Issaquah, but has a Federal Way connection. She helped with fundraising efforts when our Boys and Girls Club was raising money for the youth center. Reichert, the former King County Sheriff, is the likely winner.

New Congressional District 10 takes in much of Pierce County and goes south to Olympia. There is no incumbent, but three well known candidates filed. Former Democratic legislative powerhouse Denny Heck is considered the front-runner, but 39.7 percent of the vote was lower than expected, although it may be misleading.

Another Democrat picked up about 12 percent of the vote. Republican Pierce County Council members Dick Muri and Stan Fleming were in the race with Muri having an almost 2-1 vote advantage. Both Heck and Muri have run for Congress before and lost. Muri against Adam Smith in the old 9th District, and Heck ran against Jaime Herrera-Beutler in the old 3rd District. Heck spent $100,000 of his own money in the primary and has to be considered the front-runner as the Democratic vote was 52 percent to 44 percent.

The 1st District up in the Snohomish County area is an open seat due to Jay Inslee’s decision to run for governor. It was one of the hottest races in the state as four well known Democrats competed for the right to face Republican John Koster. Koster is a county councilman and has run for Congress before. He polled 45 percent, which would appear to be a strong number, in a race for an open seat, where the Democratic leader Suzan Delbene only polled 22.5 percent. But that is misleading. The overall Democratic vote surpassed Koster by more than 12,000 votes, which suggests that if the Democratic vote unites behind Delbene in the fall, she could win.

Delbene spent almost $2 million of her own money to secure the nomination and flooded the airwaves with commercials the past few weeks. Uniting the party might be the hard part, not money, as there is likely some hard feelings over some of the tactics that surfaced in the primary. If she unites the party base, she should win. If not, Koster will win.

Democrat Norm Dicks held sway in the 6th District for 30 years and is retiring. It was expected to be an easy race for well regarded Democratic State Sen. Derek Kilmer as he cleared the field of any other Democrats prior to filing. And Kilmer did get 53 percent of the vote. But a late entrant, Republican Bill Driscoll, may make this a race. Driscoll spent $540,000 of his own money to secure the nomination. While he only got 18 percent of the vote and the Republican total was only 44 percent, Driscoll has the personal wealth, is a Weyerhaeuser descendant, and has the contacts to attract independents.

Kilmer has to be favored and should win. Though he is a long shot, Driscoll could make it close if the Republicans get their voters to the polls.

In other races the incumbents, as expected, ran well and do not appear to have any major problems in getting re-elected. In the 2nd District, up north, Democrat Rick Larson took 57 percent of the vote. In the 3rd District in the Vancouver area, Republican Jaime Herrera-Beutler took 56 percent. As a side note, watch her for the future. She is likely being groomed for bigger things by party leaders. In the 4th District, in the Pasco area, Republican Doc Hastings won 59 percent of the vote. Over in Spokane, Republican Cathy McMorris-Rodgers won with almost 56 percent. In the 7th District in Seattle, Democrat Jim McDermott took 71 percent of the vote.

As the general election unfolds, watch Districts 1 and 10 with an occasional look at Districts 6 and 8. The others are pretty well decided.

In the race for the U.S. Senate, Maria Cantwell took almost 56 percent to Michael Baumgartner’s 30 percent. Cantwell will coast.

The Democrats “Get Out The Vote” campaign was strong statewide, but some hot button issues should help bring more Republicans to the polls. Watch for the turnout and where the special interest money goes.

 

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