Elections

A toss-up, this House race is poised to be the most pricey in Washington state history

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 28, 2017. Reichert announced his retirement in September, creating an electoral scramble for the 8th Congressional District seat that will likely be the most expensive race in Washington state history.
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 28, 2017. Reichert announced his retirement in September, creating an electoral scramble for the 8th Congressional District seat that will likely be the most expensive race in Washington state history. AP

Democrats are continuing to out-raise Republicans in Washington’s 8th Congressional District, one of the nation’s most competitive House contests and one that is likely to become the most expensive in the state’s history.

As expected, out-of-state PACs — including groups linked to labor unions, the Koch brothers and Vice President Mike Pence — are already pouring money into both sides of the race, according to reports filed this week. But the big bucks won’t flow until voters decide who will prevail in the Aug. 7 primary.

Four leading candidates, one a Republican and three Democrats, are vying to replace retiring Republican Rep. Dave Reichert in the district, which sprawls from the suburbs of Tacoma across the Cascade Mountains to the northern tip of Chelan County.

The Cook Political Report rates the 8th District as Washington state’s only “toss up” contest for Congress, meaning that either party stands a good chance of winning. Some 26 House districts nationwide are listed in this category, with outcomes that will help determine if Republicans retain or lose control of the U.S. House in November.

Washington state has a top-two primary system for congressional and state-level elections, which means that Republicans, Democrats and third-party candidates will all be included on the Aug. 7 ballot, with the top-two vote getters advancing to the general election.

The main drama involves who will to advance to face Dino Rossi, a Republican with wide name recognition in a swing district that, since it was created in the 1980s, has elected only Republicans to the House while also voting for Democrats in the last seven presidential elections. Rossi has served in the Washington state Senate three times, and also ran unsuccessful statewide campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate.

Rossi enjoys the support of Reichert, who announced his retirement in September after serving in Congress since 2004. Considered a moderate in the GOP, Reichert refused to endorse Donald Trump for president, and once called his candidacy “a joke.” By contrast, Rossi refused to go along with a last-ditch effort to “dump Trump” while serving as a delegate to the GOP convention in 2016.

Democrats in the 8th District are campaigning hard on Trump’s trade and immigration policies, as well as abortion rights, a hot issue as the president seeks to shift the Supreme Court to the right with his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. EMILY’s List, a political action committee that supports candidates who support abortion rights, boosted the fortunes of one of the Democrats, Dr. Kim Schrier, when it endorsed her and called the 8th District “an opportunity to flip an open seat from red to blue.”

8th candidates.jpg
Clockwise from top left, Dino Rossi, Kim Schrier, Jason Rittereiser and Shannon Hader

Rossi’s biggest support has come from within state, but he’s also pulled in more than $200,000 from national PACs, including $10,000 from both the Koch Industries KOCHPAC and the American Bankers Association PAC, as well as $5,400 and $5,000 from leadership PACs associated with Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Boeing’s PAC also chipped in $5,000.

Schrier, a Sammamish pediatrician, added more than $71,000 during the same period, bringing her total to $1.6 million raised, more than any other Democrat in the race. She spent $355,000 in the first 18 days of July, leaving her with $654,000 of cash on hand.

Schrier, too, has gotten most of her support from within Washington, but roughly 10 percent of her itemized contributions have come from California. She’s also gotten backing from several labor union PACs, including the American Federation of Teachers and Laborers’ International Union of North America, as well as Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List, which backs female Democratic candidates.

Attorney Jason Rittereiser, a former criminal prosecutor who grew up in Ellensburg, raised $52,000 in the period, resulting in a total of $898,000 raised. He spent $197,000 in the first 18 days of July, reducing his cash on hand to $233,000.

Nearly $30,000 of that support has come from Rittereisers, with $1,000 of that amount from the candidate himself. He’s also gotten more than $25,000 from labor union PACs.

Dr. Shannon Hader, an Auburn physician and former Center for Disease Control and Prevention official, raised $24,000 in the period, bringing her total raised to $421,000. She also made personal loans of $420,000 to her campaign. She spent $256,000 in the period, leaving her cash reserves with $547,000.

The majority of the itemized contributions that Hader’s campaign has raised have come from out of state, with Washington D.C. and California topping the list of states providing support to her campaign.

Washington’s most expensive House race came in 2012, when Reichert and his Democratic opponent, Karen Porterfield, collectively raised more than $7 million. Already, the four leading candidates for the 8th have raised more than $6.3 million, and contributions expected to surge once donors know who will be on the November ballot.

Stuart Leavenworth: 202-383-6070, @sleavenworth

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