As was correctly pointed out on NPI’s blog, I was never a knee-jerk supporter of Darcy Burner. I first met her nearly a year ago at Camp Wellstone, and while I personally liked her, and always believed she would make an excellent congressperson, I had legitimate questions about the ability of a novice like her to run an effective congressional campaign.
There would be many important races and initiatives before voters this year, and I was not about to waste either my energy or my credibility aggressively promoting a candidate who could not win. Of course, Burner eventually earned my enthusiastic support, but it was a long time coming. Indeed, as recently as January — even as Burner was proving to be a surprisingly adept campaigner and fundraiser — I contacted a local politician whom I particularly admire, and asked if he/she might consider jumping into the race.
I didn’t hold much hope that Politician X would say yes, but I didn’t quite get the rejection I had expected.
“The truth is that I’m too old to run for Congress,” Politician X wrote me. “It would be a waste of the state’s time.”
Politician X went on to explain that the state needs to embrace a “seniority strategy” like that which has enabled Southern states to dominate our national legislative agenda. We needed somebody in their early to mid 30’s, forty-ish at most, who could eventually grow to be “Norm Dicks’ replacement.”
This very pragmatic strategy certainly made sense at the time — and in fact served to make my support for the 35-year-old Burner even stronger — but its full significance was brought home this week when Knowlegis, a firm serving lobbyists, published its list of congressional “Power Rankings” after months of sifting through legislative records, committee assignments, news articles and other documents.
As might be expected, many of the most powerful congressman and senators are Republican, as that is the party that controls both committee assignments and the legislative agenda, and thus that is party most courted by lobbyists. But not in the WA state house delegation, where, you guessed it… the long serving Rep. Norm Dicks is by far the most powerful congressman in the state.
Republicans Reichert, Hastings and McMorris are middling at best, their ranking pumped up by plumb committee assignments, but with little legislation or influence to show for their efforts. But Dicks, in the minority since 1994, is nonetheless ranked as one of the most powerful men in the other Washington, largely on the basis of his seniority.
There is no doubt that the demographic changes in Washington’s 8th Congressional District favor Democrats over the long run; in fact, it already has become nominally blue. Thus it’s hard to imagine the 50-somethingish Reichert as anything more than a temporary placeholder.
Now is the time to pursue our own “seniority strategy,” and Darcy Burner is the perfect place to start.