Over at the Seattle Weekly (yeah, the Weekly,) Aimee Curl has been digging through recent PDC filings, and they don’t look so good for state House Republicans. Sixteen months before the next election, the House Dems’ official campaign committee already has over $450,000 in the bank, compared to the Republicans’ measly $40,621. Wow.
The organizing committees are the party machines that give campaign funds directly to candidates. “It’s amazing how big the disparity has become,” marvels former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance. […] Vance credits this year’s Democrat cash explosion in part to House Speaker Frank Chopp’s machine. “In terms of Olympia that’s the shadow that looms over everything,” he says, adding that Republican challengers are as good as on their own in 2008.
“The financial advantage is so massive it will put the Republicans completely on the defensive,” Vance says. “The Democrats can force the Republicans to have to worry about their incumbents. Now you have to take whatever money you’ve got and defend them and you’ve got no other money to help challengers.”
Progressives like me sometimes question Chopp’s willingness to use his near-super majority, but we have no qualms about his ability to build and maintain it. Folks smarter than me about these things tell me that House and Senate Dems have stretched the limits of attainable majorities given current electoral realities, but I wouldn’t expect a GOP comeback in 2008.
Still, I’m not entirely comfortable with Chopp’s incrementalist approach, and can’t help but wonder if he took away the wrong lesson from the Republican landslide of 1994. Conventional wisdom asserts that voters punished state Dems for overreaching during the previous session, and it is hard to argue that this didn’t play some role, at least in the rhetoric of the 1994 campaign season. But I think that the important lesson to learn from the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 — and the Big Blue Wave of 2006 — is that electoral politics can shift dramatically, seemingly overnight, and sometimes for reasons apparently beyond your control.
If Chopp thinks Dems can sustain a working majority indefinitely, he’s deluding himself. And even if he does maintain control of the House, that’s no guarantee that the Senate or the Governor’s mansion won’t suddenly fall into GOP hands. Sure, there’s no compelling reason to toss out Gov. Gregoire in 2008, but in this notoriously fickle and ticket-splitting state, voters don’t need one. The Dems are always just one bad campaign away from finding themselves mired in gridlock… or worse.
I suppose one can imagine a rosier political scenario than the one currently facing state Dems. But one would be foolish to expect it.