Why Dave Reichert Is Ahead in WA-08

by: Matt Stoller

Fri Oct 10, 2008 at 19:38


So I've been out in Bellevue, WA for the past few days, puzzling over a mystery.  Why at this moment is every single Democrat - from Obama to Jim Martin in Georgia to Tom Perriello in Virginia to Eric Massa in New York - rising in the polls except for Darcy Burner?  The latest polling on the race - 49-41 in Research 2000- is probably off by a few points, as it undersamples cell phones and probably oversamples Republicans (Obama is up by more than 4 in this district).  But there's no denying it, even in her best poll, she's down by at least 3 points.  Why?  And is this trend of rising Democrats everywhere but WA-08 likely to continue?

Matt Stoller :: Why Dave Reichert Is Ahead in WA-08
The conventional wisdom is that Reichert is a very strong candidate, a local hero, and a moderate.  Unlike most Republican politicians, Reichert made his political bones via a Lifetime-style saga, capturing the legendary Green River Killer after a 20 year investigation.  As a nonpartisan sheriff, Reichert was a local hero, and is fondly remembered as as a nice and sincere cop.  His actual record is quite mixed; he was the sheriff of King County during the 1999 IMF protests, and many people think that 20 years was a ridiculously long time to find a serial killer.  There are also allegations of police corruption and brutality, but by and large, his heroic image resonates strongly with the blue collar voters, whose economic basis was logging, coal mining, and manufacturing until quite recently.  And as you can see from the photo above, Reichert heavily cultivates this image, working out so often that he looks like a 25 year old body builder that likes to wear muscle t-shirts.

The district is shifting rapidly to a progressive suburban tech-savvy area, but it's not yet strongly Democratic.  There is the South of the district; think of the setting in the first Rambo movie, and that's the environment we're talking about.  And the King County area, while tech savvy, has other attributes which make it less likely to go Democratic than you might think, in particular the economy, which is doing well.  

To compound the bad polling news, the Seattle PI, considered a liberal newspaper in the area, endorsed Reichert, citing his moderate environmental record (in 2006, the paper endorsed Burner).

Reichert was absent without leave from good sense during the worst periods of the Iraq War. We will never agree with his anti-choice views. But he has shown a willingness and capacity to hear opposing positions, to learn from the discussions and to work across political divisions. As a Republican of moderation, he is an endangered species worth preserving.

This endorsement comes from some smart strategic choices by Reichert's campaign, which is extremely well-run.  His campaign manager (and former Chief of Staff) Mike Shields is a highly intelligent and capable political operative who is part of Newt Gingrich's political apparatus.  For the past two years, Reichert has positioned himself to the left of his caucus, moving his League of Conservation Voters score from the low 40s to a respectable 85.  Reichert, who has in the past been fairly aggressive about women not having access to birth control, has even gone so far as to butter up Planned Parenthood, citing a bill he's cosponsoring making it cheaper to purchase contraceptives, and arguing in the most debate when asked about Roe v Wade that his views don't matter because Congress has no role in dealing with abortion.

The strategy has worked.  Green groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace have replied in kind by cozying up to him, as have newspapers like the PI.  Shields has effectively taken a lot of liberal infrastructure offline in this race, including education groups, while convincing far right groups like the US Chamber of Commerce, the NFIB, and the NRCC that Burner is a far left creation of the netroots, bringing in an additional million and a half to two million into the race.  This extreme right partisan tinge belies Reichert's aggressive positioning as a moderate who works with both parties in Congress; he frequently refers to his work with the Blue Dogs.  He has a Democrats for Dave group run by Jim Vaughn, an old and somewhat cranky conservative Democrat who ran against Burner in the primary on a platform of winning the war in Iraq.

From Darcy's side, her position as a young woman without a public service background challenging a local hero hamstrings her ability to communicate.  Chauvinism is huge in this race; this ad from 2006 showcases Reichert's strategy of framing Darcy as a stupid ditzy blonde, using terms like having 'no experience' to give voters a reason to reject a young woman running for office.  And look for him to continue this line of attack.

Despite writing a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq and managing an extremely important initiative for Microsoft (project managing the .NET initiative), voters, Burner has trouble convincing even progressive voters that she is competent to represent them and can get things done in Congress.  Unlike the 'he man' stereotype of Reichert or 'fighting Dem' vets, there's no simple archetype that fits a young woman with tremendous success in a technology business being ready to take on national security challenges.  This email from a 'progressive' in the district referring to her as 'highly confrontational' and a 'low level manager at Microsoft' is about par for the course, though at least this man didn't call her a glorified secretary.  Her strategy has been organized around communicating with women through innovative glossy magazine-style direct mail pieces and an extensive field campaign.  Her campaign, like Reichert's, is extraordinarily well-run.  

Still, none of this can really explain why Republicans in every other race I've seen are sinking, and Democrats are doing better.  Well, not every single one.  There is one big exception, and that is the Dino Rossi versus Christine Gregoire contest in Washington state, for Governor.  It's interesting that this race and Darcy's are both in Washington, and Obama's not quite the same lift in this state as he is elsewhere in the country.  This map in fact helps explain what is going on here.

That big green dot in the upper left part of the map is Seattle, which is actually doing relatively well economically compared to the rest of the country.  This region is heavily dependent on export led growth and resource extraction, both of which have done well in a time of a weakening dollar and high commodity prices.  Just two months ago, Gregoire was still bragging about the number of jobs she had helped create as a reason to reelect her, a striking difference between the rest of the country and this area.

There are more stats that bear this out; housing prices are only 6.9% below their peak in Seattle, one of the best performances of any city in the country (Portland, OR is better on housing values, but its economy is not doing well).   Seattle is also the single best metropolitan area in terms of number of recent home buyers who are under water, at 11%, and housing is still substantially overvalued here.  In other words, the bubble hasn't popped in this area, and so the impact of the financial crisis has been different.

The Seattle PI's endorsement, when seen in this economic light, looks different.

In the 8th Congressional District, Eastside and neighboring voters have a race that is more competitive than most, with two capable candidates. For those of us who think that there should be strong reasons to kick out an incumbent trying to represent a diverse district well, Dave Reichert is the choice for re-election. We also think that preserving and encouraging the development of a rare voice of moderation within the Republican Party is important at a time of almost unremitting polarization.

We would be perfectly comfortable with his opponent, Democrat Darcy Burner, who is smart, well informed and progressive. Her views are much closer to our own on domestic and foreign policy, and we supported her in 2006. But this is not an ideological choice.

While in most of the country these are extraordinary times, in the Seattle area it's business as usual with a pretty good economy.  In normal environments, there needs to be a reason to kick out an incumbent, and Reichert just has not had any scandals.  He's just kind of inept, but that's not enough to fire him.  That's what the PI rests its case on, even going so far as to say that Darcy is more in tune with their ideas and would be a good Congresswoman.

Now, will this trendline continue?  Perhaps, but there are good reasons to think that Reichert's in more trouble than it seems.  Here's today's Seattle Times.

Seattle Headlines

Reichert is not solid on the economy, with hard right credentials and a record of supporting private accounts for Social Security.  That's not really important, though, the question is simply whether the economic collapse is going to begin moving voters here the way that it has in the rest of the country.  That's not clear, but a 35% haircut in the stock market, the recent sudden collapse of local banking giant Washington Mutual, and a strike in the local Boeing plant has gotten voters here talking.  And the sooner voters here join the national conversation about the financial panic, the larger a likelihood the district swings towards Burner.

I'll be watching signs of economic activity in this region, as well as further polling.  

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Hate to be cynical... (0.00 / 0)
...but I've lived in WA-08 for fifteen years.  This district has never elected a Democrat to Congress -- never.  Each time around, we hear that this has turned into a "swing district" and that the Democratic candidate has a great chance to flip the seat...and, every Election Day, the Republican wins by a wider-than-expected margin.

It does seem as if the district is starting to go blue in presidential races.  As far as I can tell, there's a degree of animosity toward Bush and/or McCain that doesn't translate down to the congressional race.  Maybe it's just the difference between conservative Republicans from other parts of the U.S. (i.e. TEAPOT Syndrome, as in "Those Evil Awful People Over There") versus homegrown conservative Republicans ("he's not that bad -- after all, he's 'one of us'"), but I think it will take a huge Obama landslide to furnish the coattails to turn this seat blue for the first time ever...and, even then, it might not be enough.

It can be done... (0.00 / 0)
...but it isn't easy.

The 41st and 48th state LDs have to be locked down as yours, and quickly.  Do whatever you need to do to get every last favorable vote out of them, but don't spend too much time there.

Get Democrats to run in the 5th state LD, which is very Republican, to enhance getting potentially discouraged Democrats extra incentive to vote.

Pretty much live south of the Renton city limits and do as much face-to-face as humanly possible, even in the Pierce County portion of the 8th CD.  Personal contact will matter very much there.  If you get the percentages in the 47th LD that state legislative Democratic candidates get, you're on your way to victory.  If you keep things relatively close further south, it's done.

Darcy has tried to do all of this.  The only thing I would do differently is try to do more joint events with Adam Smith of the 9th CD (which has most of Pierce County in it) and/or John Ladenburg, Pierce County Executive (and running for state AG presently).

My two bits...

[ Parent ]
That's an interesting theory. (0.00 / 0)
I think it makes sense, for the most part. But then why is Obama (and Dems in general) doing so well in Virginia and Colorado? Do demographic chages in those states simply outweigh their relatively strong economies?

well (0.00 / 0)
Good questions.

Colorado shows Udall ahead, but not any further ahead than he was a few months ago: http://www.pollster.com/polls/...

I know the Virginia exurbs are getting blown away by the housing crisis.

[ Parent ]
This district has a history of superstars right? (0.00 / 0)
First Ron Chandler, local celebrity turned 8-year state legislator. Then Jennifer Dunn coming off more than a decade as chairwoman of the state GOP. Then Reichert and his Superstar Sheriff routine.

John McCain opposes the GI Bill.

Unfortunate (4.00 / 1)
A very good analysis...of an unfortunate situation.  That ad by Reichert will generate some traction. In every race, a certain percentage of voters do indeed vote based upon a "job qualification" model. Who is the most qualified? I am sure Reichert's people have polled on this...

It would seem that Darcy Burner can increase her chances of pulling off an upset if she "nationalizes" the race. She must make it the Democratic party versus the Republican party in her district, the past versus the future. Considering the mess that the Republicans have put us in, we cannot, in good conscience, reward them with reelection. We need a new direction. We must send a message...that sort of thing.

Of course, considering the political environment wherein Democrats are energized and eager to vote for Obama across the country, the Burner campaign would do well to coordinate very closely with the local Obama campaign. You need to make sure all the Democrats remain true to BOTH Obama and Burner through targeted mailers and calls, and you need to maximally leverage the Demo/Repub turnout differential. In short, you need incredible GOTV. In this environment, with high enthusiasm for the Democratic brand, and low enthusiasm for the Republican brand, historic Demo/Repub turnout differentials are possible.  

Well, there's a bit to say about that... (0.00 / 0)
Typically, out where I live, you have what are known as "Coordinated Campaigns".  The idea is to tie the various campaigns together toward a common goal - getting Democrats elected.  What usually happens, in reality, is that the highest-ranking campaign gets the lion's share of the attention.  The lesser statewide campaigns and the state legislative campaigns in particular are often starved for attention as a result.

In 2006, that accolade should have gone to Senator Maria Cantwell, but it didn't until well into the general election because most activists were enraged with her stands toward Iraq and Iran.  It fell into Darcy's hands instead - even when the CC was officially Cantwell's, many folks simply walked away outright from Cantwell and over to Darcy.

In 2008, it would have probably fallen into Darcy's hands technically, but given Governor Gregoire's close campaign in 2004, there was bound to be some competition.  Instead, however, it became....Senator Obama's.

Gregoire and Darcy aren't ignored, mind you - this Coordinated campaign has been better than most at trying to give everyone a fair shake.  But Obama's staff get first shake, without question, and Dino Rossi's bromides and extravagant lies give Democrats all over the state indigestion when we look at the resulting polls.

Finally, Gregoire is a state campaign, and Darcy and Obama run Federal campaigns.  And the twain cannot always, legally, meet.

So, it's a good idea, but follow-through is incredibly hard to apply.  And the end result is too much "siloing" instead of cross-fertilizing.    

[ Parent ]
There Are Creative Ways To Do It (4.00 / 1)
I wasn't necessarily suggesting that the coordination had to reach a solid, official understanding/agreement...though that would be ideal.  

Essentially, assume Burner has a volunteer list...of say 500 volunteers...when they call, the script can mention the need for democrats to vote democratic for both Obama and Burner.  Similarly, any time one of these volunteers happens to call for the Obama GOTV within that congressional district, they can mention the need for democrats to vote democratic for both Obama and Burner...assuming the Obama GOTV campaign is okay with that. Ideally, of course, you would have an understanding with the local Obama GOTV, that the official script would always include mention of the need to vote Democratic...including Burner.

Similarly, the Burner sign and literature effort can...if they so desire...find ways to put Obama and Burner...ahem...together/near each other.

You do need to understand what the Obama campaign is doing in that particular congressional district. Are they going to be able to push the Demo/Repub turnout differential hard? If so, then laying the groundwork (through scripting, signs and literature) for Demos staying true to both Obama and Burner takes on even greater importance.

[ Parent ]
Thre are a lot of factors in play out here.... (4.00 / 1)
...where I happen to live.

The economy being relatively healthy is one, and the seemingly impenetrable armor Reichert has as "the Sheriff" (buttressed by extremely good staff to cover up his gaffes and periodic unwillingness to answer specific questions on issues) matters.

But other factors come into play as well.

The 8th CD can be roughly split into four areas - Bellevue/Mercer Island, Renton/Covington, Auburn/Pierce County, and the 5th state Legislative District (Issaquah/Sammamish to Maple Valley and beyond).

One thing to realize is that, before Reichert, Jennifer Dunn was its only representative to Congress.  She was a Reagan-era conservative, and very good at sounding sympathetic to issues that she wouldn't vote for with a gun to her head.  Reichert, or at least his staff, have adopted this attitude for their own purposes.

Over time, the desire for more investment in local infrastructure began to change to political outlook of the Eastside, most especially Mercer Island and Bellevue.  They started voting for Democrats to state office and the state legislature.  The Renton/Covington area had been doing the same thing a few years before, but were for a time the ultimate swing district in the state before tending to steadily vote majority Democrat.

In part for this reason, and in part because she was denied her goal of becoming Secretary of Commerce under a Republican administration, Dunn left office.

The 5th, however, is still for the most part an uber-suburb in terms of its majority being very anti-property tax and pro-development-everywhere.  (It's changing, but slowly.)

As you start in Bellevue and go south, moreover, bright collar majorities are replaced by blue-collar majorities.  Microsoft is replaced with Boeing and Kenworth.  Auburn and the sliver of Pierce County that exist in the 8th CD (the rest being in King County) suffer from less jobs immediately available, stressed infrastructure not being immediately replaced by municipalities, and social stress as both their area and Renton/Covington, like the rest of South King County, receive large numbers of typically middle-class African-Americans, Asian-Americans of all stripes, Eastern European immigrants and usually lower-class Hispanics.  It's easier in their area to identify with Reichert than with Burner, many of which equate her with Microsoft and economic "fellow travelers" that have led, in their minds, to driving housing costs to levels they can't afford, resulting in living with, or moving as far as they can away from, people with which they aren't comfortable.

The most extreme result is our tiny slice of Pierce County in the 8th CD, a majority of which is adamantly opposed to Darcy, and composed of some of the fastest-growing blue-collar communities there.  Houses are still relatively inexpensive, and it is very, very white.

There's more going on, but I hope that will explain things a bit more.

A couple of corrections... (0.00 / 0)
One thing to realize is that, before Reichert, Jennifer Dunn was its only representative to Congress.

Not true -- Rod Chandler preceded her.

And I would question your divisions of the district, especially the notion of a "Renton/Covington" bloc.  From living right in the area, I'd be more tempted to subdivide it into a "Renton/Kent" bloc that follows the demographics you mention, and a "Maple Valley/Covington" bloc (where the latter is becoming the commercial/retail core, and the former the "bedroom community"), which is a (relatively-speaking) lower-income echo of Issaquah to its north.  The difference between the two is the difference between employment at Microsoft and the "Silicon Forest" (Issaquah) and Boeing (Maple Valley/Covington) -- the latter includes machinists as well as engineers, with many working on Boeing's military projects and, hence, of a more conservative bent.

[ Parent ]
I separated Kent and Covington.... (0.00 / 0)

...because Covington, not Kent, makes up most of the 47th state LD, which is part of the 8th CD.  Renton is where the blue vs. bright collar transition begins, though Renton is actually split up among multiple state LDs, and thus among multiple CDs.  But economically, I would say a Covington/Maple Valley combo makes more sense, especially in light of county and state road improvements.

I stand corrected regarding Rod, but then I guess that shows how much of an impact he had on things in our state.  ;-)  (I think a lot of people projected on him the idea of "the next Dan Evans", and that didn't pan out too well.)

[ Parent ]
That map... (0.00 / 0)
Is also a perfect picture of why Texas is such an odd beast. And more impressive that our candidates in TX-07, TX-10, and TX-Sen are continuing to close in their races. I think that's part to having the Bush factor lifted from out state finally for the first time in about 10 years.

There are several 06 candidates... (0.00 / 0)
...that came incredibly close and have been playing from behind by much larger margins the whole race this cycle.  Darcy Burner in WA, Vic Wulsin in Ohio and Christine Jennings in FL.  Other than being female, I don't know of any other significant common attributes, and I don't think gender is significant.  But I also don't know the why/where/how of these candidates who all came within a hair of victory being down 5-10 or more points in multiple polls over the last 6 months.

I wonder about what the candidates did with their "down time" - did they stay relevant in the media and aggressively party build in the off year?  Did they seek out Democrats who were not enthusiastic supporters in 06 and win them over?  Did they do the opposite, losing key supporters from 06, be it individuals, groups or organizations?  Staff?

I think a big piece may have been lack of image improvement and shaping in the off season, buffing Darcy's credibility as a contributor to the community as well as doing more to get the word out on her business acumen for instance.  But I don't live in any of these districts and I was somewhat busy in 2007 with some other campaign to track what these ladies were doing.

Jennings district is numerically the most challenging of the three in my opinion, but in the current climate they should have all been in the drivers seat before the race "kicked off."

I still have faith in all three of these women to pull out their races, I am optimistic for 20-35 House pick ups and very much looking forward to Congresswoman Burner speaking on the House floor.

Perhaps the obvious is the answer? (0.00 / 0)
The obvious being that all of these candidates are women. Stereotypes are incredibly pervasive and difficult for people to get over.  I work in an engineering office where we have an incredibly racially and ethnically diverse staff but where every single manager is male.  It gets hard after a while to picture a female in a management role -- you start getting a picture in your head of what a manager looks like and it is not me (I am female). And let's face it, the vast, vast majority of our congresspeople and elected officials are male; the female congresspeople are the exception, not the rule, and people have to be given a really good reason to go for the exception.

I have no good advice for Darcy's particular situation -- it sounds like she is doing everything right.  And I don't have a hugely good solution in general either.  At the rate that congressional seats turn over -- this year being an exception -- I will be long dead and buried before the gender composition of congress matches the population.  Recruiting female candidates and supporting them is of course something that should be done more of, but we still live in a world where many women might be great candidates don't have time to pursue it because they are taking on a majority of the house work, and/or the majority of the child care duties, and/or the majority of the care taking for other family members, etc.  Add on to that the fact that women earn less, meaning they have less money to put into their own campaigns, less disposable cash to do things buy tickets to networking events, or heck, buy clothes to where too the networking events.

Anyway, I'll stop blabbing on but really, its a problem, because we will never have the best people in office if structural elements keep large segments of the population out of the talent pool.  

[ Parent ]
Um, Reichert's predecessor was a woman (0.00 / 0)
A conservative businesswoman, but a woman nonetheless. It's not just Darcy's gender. I think that it's much more her politics, which is progressive, and her personality, which doesn't fall into the three female archtypes that conservatives tend to be comfortable with, i.e. the subservient stay at home mom (Laura Bush), the conservatively-dressed and tough as nails matron (Barbara Bush), and the gun-totin', no-nonsense fighter (Sarah Palin).

Burner is none of these, coming across (to me at least) as more Bay Area than PNW in her personality, and I think that locals have yet to figure out what to make of it. People here tend to be very conservative that way, in being resistant to change and newness--even among many liberals. I think that being relatively isolated from the rest of the country, dependant (until very recently) on a fairly small range of industries, and suffering from very depressing weather 9 months of the year, people here have taken on a wary, suspicious, risk-averse attitude, that's hard to overcome if you're an outsider who's clearly different.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
I think the big problem for Burner... (4.00 / 1)
...isn't her gender, but, as people have pointed out, that she really has no political background.  She's a "Microsoft Millionaire," which implies smarts, but she has never held political office..

That is, admittedly, a problem for Democrats in this district altogether, since it has been so red in the past, we really haven't had much of a chance to assemble a team of local Democratic state senators and legislators to mount a challenge.  Before Burner, the best we could come up with was Dave Ross, a moderate talk-show host with no officeholder experience.  He might have had a chance, especially since Reichart had no political background either, but got victimized by the post-9/11 atmosphere where criticizing the Iraq war, as Ross had often done on his show, was painted as "wanting our troops to die."

Before Ross, the Democratic opposition in this district generally came down to Heidi Behens-Benedict (sp?) an anti-gun-violence activist who ran (and lost) for this seat so often, she acquired the reputation of a local Democratic Harold Stassen.  And then there was the one time ('94) when not a single regular Democrat wanted to run against Dunn, and the primary wound up going to some obscure guy who turned out to be a LaRouchie...that's how bad it has been in this district.

(I'm still not giving up on Burner, but I do think her best chance will be if the national race is so obviously going to be an Obama blowout that the Republicans have trouble with their GOTV.  In other words, we're talking really big coattails.)

[ Parent ]
Overall, I just sense that she's seen (0.00 / 0)
as an outsider who doesn't quite fit in by a slim majority of voters in the district. It's not that they don't like her (although I'm sure that more than a few don't, e.g. the wingnuts who are really into Reichert's macho Sheriff Dave shtick), as that they don't quite see her as one of them, in a part of the country where outsiders are still viewed as outsiders (as I continue to feel after over 6 years here, and likely always will), and not fully trusted or embraced. It's identity politics, basically--although, obviously, not entirely, as the issues also matter to the voters there (especially property taxes and rights). It seems to me that the district just isn't quite yet ready for a Dem as progressive as Darcy. A more traditional corporate Dem like Stephanie Herseth or Ellen Tauscher might have had a better shot there. Darcy just seems to be a bit too young, new and left for the district at this point. I hope I'm wrong, of course!

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
I don't think microsoft millionaire is a political asset (0.00 / 0)
At least in Sammamish (where everyone works at MS) the rich old timers are widely considered to be lazy, arrogant bastards.

Definitely doesn't imply smarts.

More likely it implies they won the lottery and think they earned it.  Her constant bringing up being a manager at Microsoft is a major turn off.  MS has the worst internal politics and management infighting of any company I have worked with.

I know Darcy views this experience as a positive on her resume, but it's not.  Two groups really resent it - the blue collar workers being priced out of the housing market and the white collar workers who have to put up with the constant arrogance from the old timers at MS.

She needs to nationalize the race.  Badly.  It's got to be about supporting Obama.  Can't be a fresh microsoft outlook on politics - cause nobody around here wants any more microsoft than they already got.

[ Parent ]
Image contol is the campaigns responsibility. (0.00 / 0)
She isn't an unknown, she had high name rec in the district and nationally among strong democrats going in to this race.  She benefited from that with fund raising and had the resources and capability to do pretty much anything she wanted to do with this re-do race.  Darcy and her campaign saw all the things that played for them and against them in 06 and should have been able to make adjustments and strengthened her reputation among those groups that are "skeptical" of her experience.  Personal contact would be the first and foremost weapon, outreach into the communities and groups that were less inclined to support her...

The district isn't nearly the red monster that people repeatedly project it as.  Kerry won this district in 04 by 2%.  The incumbent has cultivated an image as a moderate, and is quite popular as such.  In 06 he showed some weaknesses and he has made some moves since to protect himself.  On the other side, Burner doesn't seem to have made any significant changes in her strategy or message, she hasn't made any move to significantly discredit his image.  The commercial showing his standing of influence and effectiveness in the Congress was a good start, but that should have been done months ago as the beginning of a multi-piece challenge of his mythical image with coordinated LTE's and policy/issue releases with real solutions.  Now I am 3000+ miles away and haven't had a narrow focus on this race, maybe the campaign has tried to do some of this, or tried to shape both candidates images in some significant way.  From here it looks like they were not as effective as they needed to be.

[ Parent ]
He passes himself off as a centrist (0.00 / 0)
Washington has a history of voting for the "person not the party" which is another way of saying you are a Republican mostly. Dino Rossi is advertising himself as belonging to the GOP Party, and won't own up to being a Republican. Republicans are very unpopular this year in WA. I don't see Gov. Gregoire bragging about being a Democrat. Darcy Burner in a debate didn't go after Reichert as a Bush guy. Debate was way too polite and Darcy left a lot on the table.

My own theory, trivial as it may be (0.00 / 0)
That sign with a fist holding a torch.  Terrible. Looks like an old man in profile or something.

Burner/Torch.  I get it.  But it's not funny.

Here's my .02 (4.00 / 3)
As someone who lives next door in Redmond.

First off, Reichert is not a loathesome conservative. I strongly disagree with his positions, and am dumbfounded and angered by his continued support of Bush & policies that have clearly failed. But his snaring of the Green River Killer is a lesson in small, every day heroism: the cop on the beat who was frustrated by mis-management and the underfunding of an investigation, but had a gut-level conviction of who the killer was, a perservered for 20 years until he had an air-tight case to put the guy away forever. There's something to be said for that, which people of all political stripes can recognize.

Aside from that, Reichert has the feel of a local boy, someone from an older Washington that has been all but swept away in the last 10 years. I've lived here since 1992, and sometimes its hard to recognize this area, not just visually but emotively. The middle class is being driven out of King County, as high-tech industry salaries and an endless boom of high-end development change the look, character, and identity of metropolitan Seattle. I'm a big fan of the urban planning concepts put forth by local governments (so this is not an anti-urbanization message), but the developers who implement those concepts are only interested in implementing them for an increasingly smaller socio-economic sliver of society.

And so there are a myriad of conflicting sensibilities from long-time residents of Western Washington towards this trend, and because of the way Reichert's district is designed, they seem to collide here in a dynamic that works in his favor. Up until 40 years ago, the communities on the Eastside were little more than small towns, each with its own character. Bellevue in many ways is similar to the spirit of Dallas: there is no history, only a future, and that future is to tear every thing down once every 10 years, and build bigger and better than before. It has always been anti-government, anti-taxes, and in love with wealth. Redmond, once a logging and farming community, still loves the memory of being a blue-collar small town, even though it hosts urbane Microsoft. Redmond tends to have shades of Bellevue's conservatism in its character, until that pro-growth attitude threatens its small-town identity, and so far the small town identity has always won out. And Kirkland and Renton and Mercer Island all have their own, slightly different, character.

People point to Microsoft as being an agent of political trending towards the Democrats, but that's not entirely accurate. The people that work there have an incredibly wide range of views; true to their industry and education level, their only philosophical convergence is a decided tendency towards social liberalism. On economics, they can range from quasi-socialists to dead-ender libertarians.

So what you have then is a dynamic that appears to innoculate Reichert from the failure of Reaganomics. The region historically fits a broad definition of small-town Eisenhower Republicanism, and in modern times has an oversized local institution with a large cadre of limosine liberals. The very people who would most likely be responsive to a progressive economic agenda are the small-towners, and the blue collar workers of Renton and perhaps Pierce, but the social liberalism of Microsoft, and the local pressures it puts on the middle class, pushes these same groups away from Burner. Of course, if the Dems ran a blue-collar candidate instead, the GOP would be able to run another Jennifer Dunn (who could appeal to social moderates and economic conservatives). These dynamics combine to really give Reichert some built-in protection, and make it difficult for the Dems to win unless they redesign the district.

I'm beginning to wonder if the only Democrat who can win here is Rodney Tom...

Great writeup (4.00 / 3)
As a much more recent arrival ('02), and living on the west side (North Seattle), I've never really gotten a "feel" for this district, and the east side in general. It has such a hodge-podge feeling to it, from the sleek and modern downtown Bellevue to sleepy Northern Exposure-like little towns like Carnation (Darcy's home, until recently at least) and Fall City, to bedroom communities like Newcastle, to what remains of the farmland in its eastern portion (which is my favorite by far--a great place to bike and hike). It's more like a state than a district. I can see how it's really hard for any Democrat to win it over, since you have to appeal to so many different kinds of economic, cultural, ethnic and ideological subgroups--especially if you're a progressive Democrat, whom I imagine many of the long-timers view as alien and suspect.

The whole greater Seattle region is kind of strange, in how it cleaves so sharply between progressive Democratic, and conservative Republican. There's a moderate Dem/Repub center, but the wings seem to dominate, to a large extent geographically. One of the things that struck me when I first moved here was how different things felt when I crossed into Snohomish from King county, when I drove to my first job here from my place in Seattle to my job in Mountlake Terrace. It was like going from the heart of progressive, hip, urbane, funky America, to Wyoming. Well, perhaps not quite that radical, but it felt that way. From Volvos and lattes to F-150's and Bud Lite. Yes, these are all cliches and stereotypes, but there's some truth to them, from my experience. I realize that the 8th CD is different from the west side of Lake Washington, but the urban/suburban/rural divide can't be that different.

I suspect that the district would have to experience some major economic dislocation before being willing to make a change in their congressperson. Right now things are still going fairly well there economically (which is a good thing for its residents), which I think is why, in addition to its conservative leanings and still traditional feel beyond the new development in Bellevue and such, she's lagging in the polls. People here don't like change. In that sense the area is VERY conservative. They like to complain about things, but when asked to do something about it they tend to do nothing, and when presented with options for improving things, they tend to reject all of them. (Passive-aggressiveness is another hallmark of local culture, one that I sensed immediately and have never gotten used to.) Generally, the option that most people seem to prefer is to keep things as is, even if they're not happy with them. Darcy, or circumstances, have to give them a reason to want a change, and so far, there haven't been any that have proved compelling.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
In other words.... (0.00 / 0)
....the "creative class" myth meets the Real World.

[ Parent ]
BTW (4.00 / 1)
great post!  It is really nice to see a post that looks critically at what is going on as opposed to just a "rah, rah, we can WIN this" perspective.


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