Candidates for 8th Congressional seat speak with The News Tribune’s editorial board
Replacing Washington state’s most moderate Republican member of Congress in territory that’s neither red nor blue but distinctly purple would seem an ideal job for Dino Rossi.
Indeed, the former state senator and two-time governor candidate was anointed the GOP’s heir apparent to Dave Reichert a year ago, shortly after the 8th Congressional District representative announced he was retiring after 14 years.
Rossi has a solid record of public service. He could handle the challenge of representing a district that stretches from eastern Pierce and King counties across the Cascades to parts of Chelan and Kittitas counties.
But the stakes are so high in the other Washington that our endorsement goes to Democrat Kim Schrier, who’s fiercely smart and measures up well to her opponent.
The 8th is a true swing district — a majority of its voters went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and the pendulum has swung to the point that a correction is needed. Electing Schrier would be our state’s contribution to flipping political control in D.C. and beginning to restrain the destructive impulses of the Trump administration.
Schrier, a pediatrician, would be the only female physician in Congress, a knowledgeable voice defending the Affordable Care Act from attacks by Trump and his allies at the Capitol. She says the potential loss of medical coverage for as many as 32,000 people in her district is what motivated her to run.
That issue alone should give voters a compelling reason to support Schrier. The number of uninsured Americans would increase by 15 to 30 million over a decade if Trump gets his way, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The human toll in untreated illness and personal bankruptcies would be devastating.
But Schrier has developed thoughtful positions on other issues, too, from middle class tax cuts to trade agreements to climate change. She didn’t miss a beat answering our questions on everything from forest management to Syria policy.
Rossi, who like Schrier is a resident of the Sammamish-Issaquah area, remains a viable moderate Republican candidate 14 years after narrowly losing the governorship to Christine Gregoire. (We endorsed Rossi in that race.) He built a reputation in Olympia as a shrewd budget committee chairman who closed a $3 billion deficit in 2003 with nominal tax increases and no big cuts to social programs. He was later appointed to fill Senate vacancies on two occasions.
The millionaire businessman campaigns on his ability to exact fiscal discipline while protecting the most vulnerable.
But as long as Trump’s in the White House and a weak-kneed GOP majority controls the Capitol, the ranks of vulnerable Americans will only grow.
Under ordinary circumstances, we don’t see Congress as a starter job for political novices. But these are extraordinary times, and Schrier could be good for what ails us.
The choice is much clearer in the 6th Congressional District where Rep. Derek Kilmer, the impressive Gig Harbor Democratic wonk, has earned a fourth term.
It takes some nerdishness to get excited about serving on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform. Or the Bipartisan Working Group. Or the Problem Solvers Caucus. But these assignments reflect Kilmer’s interest in fiscal responsibility, as well as his desire to reach across the aisle.
Kilmer partnered with Reichert on bipartisan efforts to improve freight mobility and increase National Parks funding, among other bills. He has a firm grasp of bread-and-butter issues for his district, from the docks of the Port of Tacoma to the historic timber towns of the Olympic Peninsula.
As a member of the House minority, Kilmer is mostly limited to introducing bills, or “putting shots on goal,” as he calls it. If Democrats seize and hold the majority, look for this rising star to put a lot more shots through the net.
Republican challenger Douglas Dightman is running a low-level campaign while tending to his family medicine practice in Shelton. He has no political experience, isn’t raising funds and did not meet with us.
In the 9th Congressional District, it’s a battle of two Smiths: 11-term incumbent Rep. Adam Smith and opponent Sarah Smith. They’re not related, except by political party; the fact two Democrats advanced through the primary speaks volumes about a deep-blue district dominated by south Seattle and its wealthy suburbs.
The redistricting shuffle of 2011 plucked most of Tacoma from the 9th District, and Adam Smith moved to Bellevue. But his expertise and influence on local issues — particularly those related to JBLM, Boeing and other military stakeholders — are as strong as ever. He’s ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and will be chairman if Dems gain control.
First-time candidate Sarah Smith, who recently worked for a Renton auto dealer, is a millennial squarely in the Bernie Sanders camp. She’s well spoken on progressive passion projects, such as single-payer health care and student debt forgiveness. But she’s something of a vagabond, arrived in the Seattle area three years ago and doesn’t even live in the district now; last year she moved to a home in Kent about a half mile outside district lines.
The two Smiths aren’t that far apart ideologically, except Adam Smith takes more nuanced, pragmatic positions; for example, he would reform U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and reduce detentions, rather than ban ICE outright.
His record of accomplishment should propel him to a comfortable win on Nov. 6.
Finally, in the 10th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Denny Heck deserves reelection over self-funded Republican challenger Joseph Brumbles.
We agree with the Editorial Board at our sister newspaper, The Olympian, that this race stacks up as a serious mismatch in a district that extends from Shelton to Olympia and south Pierce County.
Heck, an Olympia resident, established his bona fides as a businessman, investor and state government insider. Over three terms in Congress, he’s fought for veterans, women’s health care, Puget Sound cleanup and the federal export-import bank that helps Washington companies sell goods overseas.
On the House Intelligence Committee, he has a hand in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Brumbles, a former drug-store manager, is taking time from his life as a single father raising two daughters in Roy to seek office for the first time. We applaud anyone who would do that. He certainly gives voice to the disaffected right wing in his appeal to gun owners, property-rights activists and tax rebels. But his “We the People” agenda, while short on details, carries a whiff of the extremist American Patriot movement.
Like Sarah Smith in the 9th, Brumbles also lives slightly outside district boundaries.
Heck, Kilmer and Adam Smith, are beneficiaries of safe congressional seats. Winning reelection is a fait accompli, as it was in 2016, and winning our recommendation is once again a no-brainer.
We concluded our endorsement two years ago with a crazy wish: “Is it too much to hope the South Sound will see a couple of robust congressional races in 2018?”
At least with Dave Reichert’s retirement, we got one.
CHECKING THEIR RECORDS
The TNT Editorial Board is partnering again this year with Verify More, a nonpartisan nonprofit watchdog that coordinates background screenings with candidates’ consent. Both Kim Schrier and Dino Rossi participated in the screening and showed clean records. To see the database, go online to verifymore.org