It seems like the 2006 race just ended, and already the Democratic field is coming together to take on Rep. Dave Reichert in WA’s 8th Congressional District.
I ran into Tony Ventrella last night at Chocolate for Choice, and immediately asked him if he was really running for Congress in WA-08, and he gave the kind of definitive, confident reply a real candidate is supposed to give: “All the way through November, and beyond,” he insisted. Well, he’s got that part down pat.
Yesterday was also the day DraftRossHunter.org kicked off an effort to draft state Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Bellevue) for a run against Reichert. I suppose calling it a “Draft” campaign might suggest to some an aura of grassroots activism, but I’m told it is largely the initiative of King County Democrats Finance Chair Sharon Mast. Ross was informed of the effort, and didn’t object, but said he couldn’t deal with it until after the session. When asked for his biographical information, Hunter pointed Mast to his consultants at Moxie Media, who gave her what she needed. It’s not exactly grassroots provenance — and there’s nothing wrong with that — but it certainly doesn’t represent a broader movement.
Also at Chocolate for Choice last night was the 2006 Democratic nominee, Darcy Burner, and like the experienced politician she’s become, she would neither confirm nor deny her candidacy for a second run at “the Sheriff”. (A self-designation Reichert reminds us at the start of nearly every sentence, as in: “If I can look Gary Ridgeway straight in the eyes, I can look you in the eyes and tell you that I want a tall, double-shot, low-fat latte.”)
So where does that leave us? Perhaps my allegiance is showing, but if I were a betting man, I’d guess Darcy will run. And if Burner runs, I’m pretty damn confident we’ll be looking at a Reichert/Burner rematch in 2008.
Tony’s a nice guy and all, and from our brief conversation it sounds like his politics are a good match for the district, but I’m not sure he fully groks the immense amount of hard work and
begging fundraising required to make a viable run. Sure, he’s the only one of the three who can go on Dori’s show without being totally trashed, but Dori isn’t exactly known as a Democratic primary kingmaker. There is a finite reservoir of political dollars, and the unfortunate reality is that money in the bank is the primary yard stick by which donors judge political viability. Sometimes newcomers surprise you (ie, Darcy’s $3 million-plus in 2006), but I’m guessing Tony will be out of the running by this time next year, if not sooner.
As a several term legislator, Ross is the most experienced politician of the three, and if he had run for the nomination in 2006, he might have kicked Darcy’s ass. But this ain’t 2006.
After running an insurgent, come-from-nowhere campaign that raised unprecedented money, and coming within a few thousand votes of an incumbent despite the more than $6 million spent against her, Darcy is undoubtedly the frontrunner, and by far. Darcy has the advantage over Tony and Ross in almost every category: she has the district-wide name ID, the media exposure, the volunteers, the professional organization, and perhaps most importantly, the fundraising list. She also has the advantage of having been thoroughly vetted, with no skeletons exposed, despite the best efforts of Karl Rove and his evil minions.
And finally, Darcy not only has the support, but the love and respect of the netroots, a growing political force that only began to flex its muscles in 2006. If Darcy runs, she will have the bloggers on her side, almost to a one.
Nothing against Tony or Ross. I like both of them. But that’s just the way it is.
As for the general election I remain confident that the Democrats have a decent shot at unseating Reichert regardless of the nominee. The political landscape should remain tilted towards the D’s in a district that is growing bluer year by year, and Reichert won’t have a majority party leadership to puff up his profile during an election year. A presidential election will also greatly increase Democratic turnout in a district that has gone strongly Democratic the past few presidential elections.
And while the conventional wisdom is that Reichert should be harder to knock off now that he’s established in a second term, Darcy’s prospects are also buoyed by a pattern of challengers winning on their second try. Melissa Bean, Brian Baird, Stephanie Herseth, Jerry McNerney, Nancy Boyda, Joe Donnelly and others are all candidates who built on their first campaigns to come back and win the second time out. And knowing what I know about Darcy, how dedicated, hard-working, and most of all, how incredibly smart she is, I’m confident that she has what it takes to learn from her mistakes, and come back and win.
All she has to do is tell us she’s running, and the race is on.