The Eighth Congressional District, for years a Republican stronghold, could swing blue next year during the midterm election—now that U.S. representative Dave Reichert is out of the picture.
Reichert, a Republican Congressman for seven terms since the 2004 election, announced Wednesday he will not be running for reelection. In a released statement Reichert said he made the decision after reflecting with friends and family.
"Each and every day, I have committed to serving the Eighth District and our nation with the heart of a servant," he said. "I have spent my entire career and devoted my life to service. I see this not just as a job, but as a calling—a calling I will not walk away from."
The district—which includes Issaquah and other eastern parts of King and Pierce counties—has been dominated for years by GOP representatives and in 2010, redistricting made it even friendlier as a battleground for Republicans by taking out left-leaning Mercer Island and Bellevue suburbs. But with still a year away from the midterm election, eight Democratic contenders have already filed as candidates with the Federal Elections Commission. Not challenging an incumbent just made it easier.
The Democratic party is shooting for House control, and political analysis have said the party's success will heavily rely on the number of incumbents who choose to bow out. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in January released a list of 59 Republican incumbents as "round one" targets for the midterm, and the list included Reichert (and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, in Southwest Washington).
So what are the chances the swing district chooses a Democrat next year? Marco Lowe, a Seattle University professor who ran Dave Ross's 2004 campaign against Reichert, said there was a shot for the party even before Reichert dropped out of the race, and even if Dino Rossi were to run.
"This next midterm election is going to be an absolute up or down vote on President Trump," Lowe told PubliCola, adding that current polling for Trump and midterm trends historically could show less GOP enthusiasm next year. "WA-08 is on almost any list of potential pickups for the Democrats."
Kyle Kondick—managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan politics newsletter published by the University of Virginia—wrote that Reichert stepping down transforms the district "from a longshot Democratic pickup opportunity to one of their best chances to flip a GOP-held seat in the whole country."
Kondik writes that whether Democrats can pull off a House takeover will rely on "how many, and which," Republicans choose not to run for reelection. Both Lowe and Kondik pointed out that the president's party tends to be less popular during midterm elections for open seats. (Here's an analysis from Sabato's Crystal Ball published in July.) And Lowe said he thinks highly educated, high-wealth tech workers living in the Bellevue area demographically could also favor the Democratic party, as well as continuing suburbanization in Issaquah.
One thing's for sure: Expect both parties to pour money into this high-profile race. The DCCC said it would first focus Republican-held House seats in areas where presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won last year. Clinton won within the Eighth District by 3 percentage points. In 2004 when Reichert first won against Ross, the Democratic challenger, Reichert's campaign spent $1.6 million, while Ross's campaign spent $1.4 million, according to the FEC. Reichert's top opponents both in 2008 and 2010 raised over $4 million.
High-profile GOP contenders are likely to jump in soon. Here are some names that are floating around: