Update, April 12: Roger Goodman has withdrawn from 1st CD race, making the Democratic competition slightly less crowded. He will instead run for re-election to his old seat in the 46th LD.
Only three months in and 2012 is shaping up to be a year of political intensity, and not just for the presidential candidates. Washington state’s recently finalized redistricting of congressional districts has set the stage for a fierce competition, but it’s not where one might expect.
Thanks to the 2010 US Census results, the Evergreen State gained a coveted prize — another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. This representative will herald from the state’s newly established 10th Congressional District, smack in the middle of Pierce County and centered around Olympia. One would think this new political arena would be the talk of the town and swarming with legislative hopefuls. But as of now the 10th is home to only three announced candidates, Democrat Denny Heck and Republicans Stan Flemming and Dick Muri.
Meanwhile, it is the no-longer-recognizable 1st Congressional District that’s heating up with competition. The Redistricting Committee has redrawn the 1st’s geographical and political lines. What used to be a compact “water district” of mostly King and Kitsap counties is now a sprawling beast, stretching from Medina to the Canadian border and incorporating everything from the UW-Bothell campus to rural farmland in Lynden. Of the District’s 672,000-plus population, over half are transplants from different jurisdictions.
The adjusted territory has dramatically altered the district’s political leanings. The former 1st was solidly Democratic, but the new boundaries include Republican strongholds, like conservative Whatcom County. That, coupled with former Democratic 1st CD Rep. Jay Inslee’s resignation from Congress to run for Governor makes this CD a new ballgame.
And people are lining up to run: six Democrats, an Independent and a Republican. With eight people vying for one spot, it’s essential to know the players.
We’ll start with the left.
First up are Suzan DelBene, former corporate vice president of Microsoft, and Darcy Burner, former Microsoft manager. Both were transplanted from the 8th CD into the 1st by the redistricting, after the latter swallowed hunks of Snohomish County. Both lost races to House Representative Dave Reichert in their former CD. DelBene couldn’t unseat the four-time Congressman in 2010 despite sinking almost $2.3 million of her own money into the race, while Burner lost to Reichert’s Green River Task Force charisma twice, in 2006 and 2008.
DelBene and Burner are now targeting the 1st with similar economic platforms — creating jobs and educational opportunities based on private sector experience rather than political know-how. DelBene has served in an appointed government position, Director of the Washington State Department of Revenue. However, being handpicked to be a “tax collector” by Governor Christine Gregoire might prove to be a challenge in rural Snohomish and Whatcom counties.
Burner is markedly more outspoken about income inequality and social issues than her competitors, going as far as meeting with Occupy Wall Street leaders in New York and repeatedly calling President Obama a Republican (he apparently will no longer be receiving campaign funds from her) on her Twitter feed.
Joining the Microsoft experience candidate pack is Laura Ruderman of Kirkland who worked at the company for five years before serving three terms as 45th State Legislative District representative. Her issue positions align with the other female candidates: Ruderman is a fair trade and union advocate, committed to same-sex marriage and abortion rights. She prides herself on her record of personally reaching out to voters and fundraising prowess.
Roger Goodman is another 45th LD representative throwing his hat into the congressional race. The attorney has served in the state legislature since 2006. The platforms on his campaign site range from strengthening education to preserving fisheries, with an emphasis on ending the war on drugs. There is no overt mention of marriage legislation or woman’s issues.
Perhaps the least-known Democratic hopeful, at the moment, is Darshan Rauniyar, a Nepalese immigrant and small business owner. Education reform and a nine-point plan for American schools are the centerpieces of his campaign site.
Steve Hobbs rounds out this crop of liberal candidates at the more moderate end of the spectrum. Hobbs has over 20 years of military service spanning both Iraq and Kosovo and a number of military honors. He has been elected twice to the Washington State Senate to represent the 44th LD.
In the middle of the road stands Larry Ishmael, an Independent with a consulting firm and an economics professorship at Northwest University of Kirkland. Ishmael condemns the federal government’s partisan politics and handling of the economy.
The Democratic bids for the 1st CD present voters with an ice cream shop of liberal flavors. In contrast, Republicans have chosen a different approach — unification behind a single candidate, John Koster. In fact, James Watkins, who challenged Inslee in 2010, had planned to run but dropped out of the 2012 race and endorsed Koster in lieu of fighting with a fellow conservative.
Koster is a lifelong Snohomish resident and a third generation dairy-farmer. He’s earned Tea Party support with a campaign promise to never raise taxes. He emphasizes a “culture of life” in his opposition to abortion and believes marriage is strictly between a man and a woman. Before being redistricted into the First, Koster ran against Democrat Rick Larsen for Position Two in 2010 and narrowly lost.
While the Democrats are occupied with robust in-party competition in the August primary, Koster has the potential to cull a Republican support base in the 1st’s rural areas. Moreover, a liberal candidate will face a large challenge in a general election with a 50% conservative constituency.
Eight candidates, one seat. That’s the 1st CD in 2012.