Republican incumbent Dave Reichert has already beat his Democratic challenger, Suzan DelBene, once this election season. Reichert won in Washington state’s “top two” primary, which spins out the top two candidates among contenders from all parties to compete against one another in the general election. Reichert won first place among the seven primary candidates with 47 percent of the voters behind him, while DelBene garnered 27 percent support to come in second.
There were three Republican votes for every two Democratic votes in the primary; DelBene will have to reverse that dynamic if she is to capture enough votes to win the general election. Although he is leading in the polls, Reichert is nevertheless considered vulnerable, as he is a Republican representing a district that leaned Democratic in the last presidential election.
In his three terms, he has never won by a strong margin. A head injury Reichert suffered in March adds to his vulnerability. Reichert declined to disclose until Sept. that he underwent brain surgery and narrowly avoided death last spring. He has been accused by his opponent and by neutral sources of avoiding public appearances since then, running a lackluster campaign and declining to participate in issues debates. The Seattle Times, which previously supported Reichert, declined to do so in the 2010 primary, saying that Reichert is unstudied on the issues and the district deserves someone who is faster on his feet.
Candidate: Dave Reichert
Political experience: Reichert is a three-term incumbent representative of Washington’s 8th District. According to GovTrack, he sits on the House Committee on Ways and Means. He is a member of the president’s export council. He has sponsored 38 bills since his election in 2005, of which five made it out of committee and one was enacted into law. GovTrack rates him a moderate Republican.
Reichert was appointed to the office of Kings County sheriff in 1997 and was elected to a second four-year term in 2001.
Professional experience: Before being appointed sheriff of King County, Reichert was a detective and sergeant in the sheriff’s office. He is noted for serving as lead investigator for eight years on the Green River Killer Task Force, a law enforcement effort that ultimately led to the capture and prosecution of serial killer Gary Leon Ridgeway.
Reichert earned his bachelor’s degree from Concordia Lutheran College.
Key issues: Reichert says his top priority is creating jobs and revitalizing the economy. His ideas for getting the economy back on track include supporting innovation with incentives for research and development. He wants to open new markets for U.S. trade. Reichert proposes cutting wasteful spending in order to trim the deficit.
Reichert’s website says he is committed to working to protect the environment for future generations. During the campaign, an audio tape of his private discussions with other politicians was leaked disclosing that he strategically voted for environmental legislation when it was destined to pass without his vote and otherwise voted with his party, often against environmental initiatives. The League of Conservation Voters nevertheless endorsed Reichert, though it rated him 64 percent on its National Environmental Scorecard. In 2009, the 22 House representatives LCV endorsed in the 2008 elections had an average score of 90 percent.
On energy independence, Reichert supports moving away from reliance on oil toward more diverse energy sources.
Endorsements: In addition to LCV, Reichert’s endorsements include the National Education Association, the American Nurses’ Association and several police associations.
Chances of winning: Although his lead is narrowing, Reichert is running ahead of his opponent with a Sept. 27 to Sept. 29 Survey USA poll showing a seven-point spread, down from 13 percent a month ago. Real Clear Politics calls this race likely GOP.
The candidates’ respective spending is relatively equal in this race.
Candidate: Suzan DelBene
Political experience: None. DelBene explains on her website that she is running for political office because she sees the country as heading toward a “make or break” moment and that changing the course of the economy and reversing failed policies requires new leadership.
Professional experience: DelBene worked for Microsoft for 14 years, working her way up to vice president for mobile communications, according to her website. She was a founder of drugstore.com, serving as vice president of marketing and store development. She was CEO of Nimble Technology.
DelBene earned her bachelor’s degree from Reed College and her master’s from the University of Washington.
Key issues: On jobs, DelBene promises to use her executive experience to develop incentives and infrastructures to create the innovation that will enable the region’s exceptionally qualified workforce to find good jobs. She favors increased R&D investment. She would expand training opportunities to fill jobs in targeted industries with a shortage of workers.
To reform and restore trust in financial systems, DelBene advocates strengthening capital requirements, ending bailouts, regulating derivatives, eliminating predatory lending and strengthening consumer protection laws.
DelBene favors climate change legislation that caps carbon emissions and includes market incentives for companies to adopt green technology, more government investment in energy research, and passage of and the Green Bank Act, legislation authorizing a tax-exempt government corporation to fund clean energy projects.
Endorsements: DelBene is endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the American Federation of Teachers, among other organizations.
Chances of winning: Washington’s 8th District, though it traditionally votes Republican, supported Obama with 57 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential election. According to Real Clear Politics, the district appears to be swinging back to its Republican roots if the primary turnout is any indication. Though the odds are against her, DelBene is running a strong race and is a credible challenger to Reichert.
Key differences between Dave Reichert and Suzan DelBene
Both candidates consider innovation crucial to developing new jobs. Reichert wants to expand U.S. trade. DelBene wants to invest in training for targeted industries where workers are in demand.
On the economy, Reichert would trim wasteful spending to reduce the deficit. DelBene would reframe the nation’s financial structure.
Both candidates want to cap carbon emissions. Reichert prefers to move away from reliance on oil for the nation’s energy. DelBene would develop market incentives to promote greener business practices, and she is in favor of passing the Green Bank Act.
Demographics: According to the 2006 to 2008 census survey, Washington’s 8th District has a population of 654,905, with a median age of 35.8. The racial composition of the district is 84.1 percent white, 2 percent black, and 7.9 percent Asian, with 4 percent of residents of all races describing themselves as Hispanic or Latino. The educational attainment of this district is significantly higher than the nation as a whole with 37.4 percent holding a bachelor’s or higher degree compared with a 24.4 percent national average. The district has a slightly higher percentage of veterans than the nation as a whole, and a lower percentage of residents speaking a language other than English at home.
The percentage of the population in the labor force, median family income, and per capita income all exceed the national average. Washington’s 8th District has less than half the number of individuals living in poverty as the nation as a whole.