The 8th Congressional District looks different than it did last time Republican Dave Reichert ran for re-election, and a new crop of opponents is stepping up to challenge the four-term congressman in the Aug. 7 primary.
The redrawing of the congressional map earlier this year moved Bellevue out of the 8th District and added Kittitas and Chelan counties.
With the additions east of the Cascades, the district has grown more Republican. Kittitas and Chelan counties were previously in the 4th District, which is represented by nine-term Republican Doc Hastings, who won his last re-election with 63 percent of the vote in Kittitas County and 68 percent of the vote in Chelan County.
But two challengers disagree with the Republican characterization of the district. Karen Porterfield, an Issaquah college professor, paid for a poll in January before deciding to run for Congress. The poll by McGuire Research Services of Las Vegas said 41 percent of likely voters in the new 8th District self-identified as Democrat, 20 percent independent and 39 percent Republican, she said.
“It’s an independent-thinking district,” Porterfield said, adding that she doesn’t believe there are stark divisions between eastern and western counties. “On the surface we look very different, and yet, our values of family and community really bind us together.”
James Windle agrees. A Snoqualmie independent, he says district residents tell him that they are tired of pull between Democrat and Republican.
Windle, a Washington native, spent the last decade in Washington, D.C., working for the White House budget office, the House Appropriations Committee and most recently as a professor and associate dean at the National Defense University.
When the state’s new congressional boundaries were released in January, Windle decided it was time to fulfill his lifelong dream to represent his home state. He resigned his job May 1 and drove home to Washington.
“This just seemed like the perfect time and place to try a run as an independent,” Windle said.
Reichert says he has been embraced by the new parts of the district and compared campaigning in the added eastern counties to a family reunion where “you haven’t seen your cousin in a while.” In the 2010 election, Reichert beat Democratic challenger Suzan DelBene by 12,715 votes and pulled about 52 percent of the vote.
ANOTHER COP ENTERS FRAY
A former King County sheriff who calls Auburn home, Reichert says his heart is still in law enforcement, but he sees Congress as a way for him to continue serving people.
“I’m not a career politician, I’m really a cop in Congress,” Reichert said.
Now another cop is making a run for his seat. Keith Swank of Puyallup is a sergeant with the Seattle Police Department and is running against Reichert as a constitutional conservative Republican.
Swank draws on his experience for his campaign. Being on the street, he saw that some social programs didn’t work, he said.
“All of my experience in the 22 years of being a police officer has helped influence my ideas and my foundations of what I believe we need to do in order to make the country a better place,” Swank said.
Swank was in the news last year when the Seattle Police Department suspended him for 10 days. Swank was disciplined for not providing adequate supervision of the officers who threatened to beat the “Mexican piss” out of a detained suspect in 2010. Swank reported the language used in the incident to his superiors, he said.
“To think that I did something maliciously is ridiculous,” Swank said. “I did more than any sergeant I ever worked with would have done.”
Reichert’s other Republican challenger is Ernest Huber, who declines to give media interviews. Huber, of Issaquah, previously ran for the 8th District seat in 2010 and received 5.82 percent of the vote. On his website, Huber says that environmentalism is a “Leninist weapon,” homosexuality is an “addiction,” and interest-free loans from public state banks will improve the economy.
Another familiar face in the race is Keith Arnold, an Auburn Democrat who ran for the 8th District seat in 2008, when he pulled 1.23 percent of the vote, and 2010, where he received 2.11 percent.
“(People) see that I am committed to my issues,” he said of his several runs for Congress. He takes a more moderate path than Porterfield, splitting with the Democratic party on the issue of same-sex marriage. In statements to The News Tribune, Arnold defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
FOCUS ON THE ECONOMY
All the candidates say the economy is the major issue in the campaign.
Porterfield says she is looking for long-term fixes. Part of her plan to stimulate job growth is training for workers who need it as well as investing in education from pre-kindergarten up to college.
“That’s building our asset sheet for tomorrow,” she said.
Reichert said he wants to provide incentives for investment, research and development projects in the state. He also is focused on improving trade, which he said accounts for 1 out of every 3 jobs in Washington. He was the lead Republican on the Korean Trade Agreement on the Ways and Means Committee, which opened markets for Washington cherries, wine and wheat.
Windle, too, sees trade as crucial to a thriving economy and said one of the keys to protecting it is a strong national defense. Windle said he would focus on securing trade lanes to major trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Trade is our lifeblood,” he said. “If we can’t defend our trade, history tells you can get in trouble in a hurry.”
Windle blames politicians for the flagging economy. “Businesses and investors and households have no confidence in what is happening in Congress right now,” he said.
One side of the debate on the economy is the issue of federal spending. Swank favors rolling back spending on many programs and services.
“A lot of the spending is not constitutional,” Swank said. “I believe the government should be limited to just what’s spelled out in the constitution.” Federal spending on social programs is unconstitutional, he said.
Windle’s plan to cut the deficit is to go agency by agency to assess whether the services the agencies provide are efficiently using taxpayer money. He worked on a similar project with the Department of Energy when he worked for the House Appropriations committee, he said.
“We can get efficient and smaller without this crazy talk of cutting agencies,” he said. “We have to assume the federal government is pretty fat right now.”
Arnold wants to see a fairer tax structure. He doesn’t approve of the current House budget and would like to see higher taxes on those making more than $1 million a year. He said all issues, including taxes and the economy, boil down to the issue of fairness.
“I will fight for the fair issues,” Arnold said. “I’ll look for the right issues.”
TAKING ON AN INCUMBENT
Some of Reichert’s challengers cast him as out of touch with the district’s needs.
Porterfield criticizes Reichert for accepting large contributions from special interest groups. She has a website – “The $4 Million Congressman” – detailing donations to Reichert’s current and past campaigns.
She said it’s time for change. The issues the country is dealing with – tax structure, social issues, campaign finance – are the product of laws written in a different time, Porterfield said.
“We need to look at what government in the 21st century looks like,” she said. “It’s time to say ‘what should it be now’ because it’s a different time and there’s different things at play.”
Swank also is on the offensive, saying Reichert’s votes – especially on environmental issues where he tends to cross the aisle – are more political strategy than representative of the district. “Dave has been voting wrong for a long time,” Swank said.
Reichert said attacks go with the territory.
“As you build a record, you have to have a thick skin,” Reichert said.
8th Congressional District candidates
Occupation: Accountant at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Education: Bachelor of Science, University of Illinois.
Civic experience: Previous congressional candidate.
Occupation: Retired naval officer.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Gonzaga University; Juris Doctor, Gonzaga Law School.
Civic experience: Previous congressional candidate.
Occupation: Adjunct faculty member at Seattle University.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Western Washington University; Master of Arts, Seattle University.
Civic experience: Involved with FUSE and other progressive organizations.
Education: Associate of Arts, Concordia Lutheran College, Portland.
Civic experience: King County sheriff (1998-2005), U.S. Air Force Reserve (1971-1976), King County Domestic Violence Council, board of directors for Special Olympics of Washington, co-chairman of King County Methamphetamine Coalition, former member of King County Committee to End Homelessness.
Occupation: Seattle police sergeant.
Education: Bachelor of Science, University of Washington.
Civic experience: U.S. Army veteran, GOP Precinct Committee officer.
Occupation: Government administrator; most recently, associate dean at the National Defense University.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Washington; Master of Arts, Boston University; Master of Arts, Naval War College.
Civic experience: University of Washington Jackson School mentor.