Tuesday’s Primaries: The Berniecrats Go Down


Image: Wikimedia

The Asteroid issue failed to take off  for one “Berniecrat” challenging a down-to-earth Washington congressman, as insurgencies from the left continued to fizzle in races for Congress.

In a quarter-million-dollar campaign against Rep. Derek Kilmer, Democratic challenger Rebecca Parson hit the incumbent from outer space, tweeting:   “My opponent took money from an asteroid mining company and then wrote a bill to privatize all asteroids in the Solar System.”

It didn’t fly on the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas.  In the election night count, Parson received 16,954 votes to 69,475 votes for 6th District incumbent Kilmer.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., faced a left challenge from one Jason Call, who gained endorsements from some Democratic district organizations.  Initial vote totals, Larsen 63,813 with Call receiving 15,021 votes.

Larsen has been through this before.  A 2016 challenger, backed by Berniecrats, proclaimed himself “the voice of the 99 percent.”  The initial primary returns showed him with 9 percent (later rising to 14 percent).

Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, put away a virulent anti-military candidate in 2018, and did Washington a favor in 2016 by turning back a primary challenge from ex-State Rep. Jesse Wineberry.  Wineberry played the race card. Smith is virtually unopposed in this cycle.

The left has scored breakthroughs in New York, and on Tuesday unseated 20-year House incumbent Rep. Lacy Clay in Missouri.  But insurgents from the left, so strong in Washington’s 2016 precinct caucuses, have done less well when the voters choose in primaries.  Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the state’s 2016 “beauty contest” primary, and Joe Biden – with virtually no campaign in the state – beat Sanders in this year’s more meaningful primary.

The left vs. mainstream rivalry still has one major test left in the state in 2020.  The Congressional Progressive Caucus has poured resources into the 10th Congressional District, backing State Rep. Beth Doglio for the open South Sound “Denny district.”  It was crafted in 2011 for Denny Heck, who is leaving Congress this year to run for “Lite Governor.”

Doglio is fighting it out for second place, and a spot on the November ballot, with ex-State Rep. Kristine Reeves.  Dogio is in the lead by about 1,200 votes.  The overall leader, however, is ex-Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, a mainstream candidate backed by ex-Govs. Locke and Gregoire, and former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks. An all-Democrat contest in November is certain.

The Washington delegation, in Washington, D.C., shows a bit of the Democrats’ divide.  Reps. Kilmer and Suzan DelBene are officers of the 104-member New Democrat Coalition, a centrist group that includes all Democrats in the delegation except Rep. Pramila Jayapal.  Kilmer is also chair of a bipartisan panel charged with identifying ways to make the House function in a more orderly fashion.

Jayapal is co-chair of the 103-member House Progressive Caucus, and a prominent Bernie surrogate on the presidential trail earlier this year.  She is, however, a skilled political operator who serves as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s link with caucus bomb throwers.  After the 2018 election, Jayapal secured good committee assignments for incoming progressives and then delivered a skillfully timed endorsement of Pelosi for House Speaker.

Washington is an increasingly “blue” state.  The Republicans have been totally shut out of some races.  The contest for Lieutenant  Governor, in November, will pit Heck against fellow Democrat State Sen. Marko Liias.  State Sen. Mark Mullet and fellow Democrat Ingrid Anderson will fight it out in the 5th Legislative District on eastern King County, which had an all-Republican legislative delegation just a few years ago. The race for Congress in the 10th District will not see a Republican on the ballot.

The 8th Congressional District was represented by Republicans (Rod Chandler, Jennifer Dunn, Dave Reichert) for 36 years after its creation following the 1980 Census.  It was made more Republican a decade ago, with addition of GOP-leaning Chelan and Kittitas Counties.

Yet, a Democrat, Dr. Kim Schrier, won the seat in 2018 when Reichert retired, and led her nearest Republican opponent by a better than two-to-one margin in Tuesday’s early vote count.

With the state’s Democratic leanings, and King County as a reservoir of Democratic votes, is seems increasingly likely that divisions within the D’s will be fought out at the ballot box.  So far, however, Berniecrat challengers have totally failed to take out mainstream Democrats in the congressional delegation.

Challengers Parson and Call posted tweets expressing their enchantment with the Capitol Hill occupied zone in Central Seattle. It wasn’t a gathering place for 2nd and 6th District voters.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and SeattlePI.com from 2009 to 6/30/2020. During that time, I wrote about 9 presidential races, 11 Canadian and British Columbia elections‎, four doomed WPPSS nuclear plants, six Washington wilderness battles, creation of two national Monuments (Hanford Reach and San Juan Islands), a 104 million acre Alaska Lands Act, plus the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.


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