Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri defeated fellow councilman Stan Flemming in the first vote in the state’s new 10th Congressional District. But both Republicans trailed Democrat Denny Heck in early primary vote returns.
Heck, a wealthy investor and businessman from Olympia, was pulling in more than 40 percent of the vote, and fellow Democrat Jennifer Ferguson of Lakewood was in fourth place – giving the Democrats more than half of the ballots cast. Progressive Independent Sue Gunn of Olympia and independent Steve Hannon of Yelm were not a major factor in their first-time campaigns.
“We’re encouraged by it but there are 91 days to go. We feel like the basic message has been affirmed, talking about policies that strengthen the middle class,” Heck said. “It’s what’s on voters’ minds.”
Redistricting carved out the new district as a Democrat-leaning territory that runs from Shelton and Olympia to Puyallup and University Place. The district is one of three open seats in Washington that both parties believe they have a shot at in the larger national battle over control of the U.S. House.
“I think it comes down to, I’ve run for Congress before in 2010. I have name recognition and a better reputation especially here in Pierce County,” Muri said, explaining his significant lead over Flemming, a former University Place mayor. Muri of Steilacoom captured 26 percent of the vote to Flemming’s 15 percent.
In South Sound’s other closely watched congressional race, wealthy Republican Bill Driscoll of Tacoma moves on to the November ballot to face Democratic state Sen. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor in the 6th District race. That position came open after 18-term Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks of Belfair announced his retirement.
The district leans Democratic. Kilmer had more than half the vote – and three times what Driscoll had in a field of five Republicans and one independent.
“We’re feeling good,” Kilmer said. “I’ve been saying we need someone that will fight for the middle class and understands what middle class families are going through. I think tonight’s results are a strong support for that.”
Driscoll put in $520,000 of his own money and nearly matched Kilmer’s $900,000. Driscoll, a Weyerhaeuser heir and real estate executive, used some of the money for cable TV ads to introduce his campaign. He said voters liked his message of bringing “a bipartisan focus on jobs and the economy and the deficit.”
Finishing further behind were Republican technology consultant Jesse Young of Tacoma, Republican attorney Doug Cloud of Tacoma, Republican software-company owner Dave “Ike” Eichner, independent Eric Arentz Jr., and Republican real-estate investor Stephan Andrew Brodhead of Tacoma.
Money also flowed into the 10th District race, but mainly to Heck, who raised $1.4 million and spent more than $385,000, blanketing the district in the final weeks with a series of mailings that attacked the Republican “tea party” Congress – and by implication his GOP rivals, who were more busy attacking each other than him.
Neither Muri nor Flemming ever caught fire with donors, although Muri did circulate a mailer late last week touting his record on the Pierce County Council on budget and environmental issues. Flemming reported nearly a quarter-million dollars raised at one point, but more than $200,000 of it was borrowed money – and in early July he returned $150,000 of it unspent to an unconventional lender in Beverly Hills.
In other early Evergreen State congressional returns:
• In the newly configured 9th, Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Tacoma was on his way to a November showdown with Republican Jim Postma, a retired rocket scientist from Steilacoom who finished ahead of three other challengers. Redistricting moved the district north into Renton and Bellevue and made it more liberal than when it extended to Lacey and included Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
• In the redrawn 8th District, four-term Republican Rep. Dave Reichert of Auburn faced a runoff against Democrat Karen Porterfield in a field of six candidates. The district now runs along the Cascade foothills in east King and Pierce counties and over the mountains into Eastern Washington as far as Vantage.firstname.lastname@example.org 360-753-1688 theolympian.com/politicsblog