Anti-incumbent fever is fueling crowded congressional races across the country. The South Sound is not bucking the trend.
A slew of candidates is out to unseat battle-tested incumbents in Pierce County’s three congressional districts. This reflects a national pattern: Across America, a record-breaking number of congressional challengers who have entered this year’s midterm election.
The Pierce County races depart from the national script in one way: It’s Republican Dave Reichert, not his two Democratic colleagues, who faces the heaviest competition from the opposite party. Nationwide, the opposite is true: There are almost twice as many GOP challengers as Democrats.
Some challengers are taking on truly vulnerable officeholders. Others are hoping to catch a gargantuan wave of voter outrage.
It certainly would take a tsunami to dislodge the likes of Democrat Norm Dicks from the seat he’s held for 34 years. The 6th District – which includes the Olympic Peninsula, University Place, and parts of Lakewood and Tacoma – reliably re-elects him by large margins.
Dicks has taken his slings for playing the earmarks game, but he’s also been extraordinarily effective at solving problems inside and outside his district. He’s in line to chair the House Appropriations Committee; ousting him now would be be a huge blow to the state’s influence in Congress.
But for disenchanted or staunchly Republican voters seeking another option, Republicans Doug Cloud and Jesse Young are credible choices. Cloud is a Tacoma lawyer who lives in Gig Harbor and has run against Dicks four times. Young, who until recently was a senior business technology consultant at Russell Investments, is making his first try for elected office.
Young appears to have more support among the GOP faithful, but Cloud seems the most thoughtful candidate. He has a particularly keen interest in economics and fiscal discipline – a perspective desperately needed in Congress.
In eastern Pierce and King counties’ Eighth District, Dave Reichert is facing yet another spirited challenge from yet another Democratic comer.
In all, eight challengers are running to replace Reichert, the former King County sheriff. Among the Republicans, he is the clear choice. His independence fits his swing district, and his law enforcement experience is an asset in Congress.
The Democratic field is dominated by Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft executive and microfinance consultant who has been campaigning since last year and has raised more than $1 million. DelBene’s moderate views and strong business background make her a more formidable opponent than her predecessor, Darcy Burner. She will provide a real challenge to Reichert in November.
In the 9th District, seven-term Democrat Adam Smith heads into his re-election bid on a tailwind from the debate over health care reform. Smith voted for the final legislation, but not before voicing legitimate concerns about the costs of earlier proposals. He also won converts last summer for facing the angry crowds that turned out for town hall meetings on health care.
Smith has proved a moderate and a fiscal hawk, two attributes that play well in his district – which includes Puyallup, Federal Way, and parts of Tacoma and Lakewood – and also give him pull in Congress when Democrats need votes.
His Republican opponents, Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri and retired engineer James Postma, say Smith talks a good game but rarely strays from the Democratic line.
Postma has previously run against Smith and lost. Muri’s record of public service and reputation as a forthright councilmember make him the stronger candidate. Muri, a pragmatic conservative and self-described Reagan Republican, would represent the district well.