Dave Reichert for Governor?

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For a guy who isn’t even in the governor’s race yet, former U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert is racking up some high-profile endorsements. 

The latest player to back the former King County Sheriff and longtime congressman was Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, who was the dream candidate of many on the Republican side until he rained on their parade this spring. Dammeier was part of a social-media push for Reichert to get in that’s looking more and more like an orchestrated campaign.

Reichert would bring some instant gravitas to the Republican field in this race, which thus far includes Yakima physician Raul Garcia and Richland School Board member Semi Bird, neither of whom are lighting things up by any metric. But is Sheriff Dave the guy to lead Republicans back to the sweet suite in the capitol for the first time since the early 1980s?

He looks like a solid bet to get through the August primary. The last time Reichert was on a primary ballot was in 2016 when he got 73,000 votes in the 8th Congressional District, which has about a tenth of the state’s population. For context, Loren Culp got through the 2020 gubernatorial primary with about 435,000 votes statewide. Reichert represented two different versions of the swing 8th District from 2005 until 2019. His campaigns played out in the Seattle-area media market, which means his name recognition likely remains high in seven of the 10 congressional districts. 

That said, Reichert’s reelection campaigns were squeakers until 2012, when the district was redrawn¹ to make him safer. He was one of just a handful of House Republicans to win a district carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. He peaced out rather than face the backlash against President Donald Trump in 2018. Democrat Kim Schrier took the seat that year and has held it twice since. 

Perhaps no politician here is more exposed to the Trump conundrum² than Reichert, who will have to wear his voting record during the first two years of that administration in a state where the former president and likely nominee is deeply unpopular. Also, his votes on abortion over the years are unlikely to reassure moderates unhappy about the Supreme Court’s decision to toss Roe v. Wade.

Even so, Reichert definitely looks like the candidate who could overwhelm the other Republicans in the field and dash hopes of a Democrat-on-Democrat showdown facilitated by a divided GOP electorate. The most interesting element of that is the fate of moderate state Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, whose 5th Legislative District is squarely within the 8th Congressional District. There’s an argument to be made that the East King County suburbs and exurbs are moving more in Mullet’s direction than Reichert’s politically. If Reichert gets in, we’ll get to see that question settled on the field. 

Looking past the primary, Reichert’s political origin story is still The Guy Who Caught the Green River Killer.³ That narrative and strong support from law enforcement groups would make him a formidable messenger for an obvious line of messaging for Republicans: that things have gone to hell in a handbasket, public safety-wise, during the tenure of the presumptive frontrunner, Attorney General Bob Ferguson.⁴

In theory, Reichert could also unlock some fat Republican wallets that declined to invest in Loren Culp in 2020. The last legit GOP candidate for governor – then-Attorney General Rob McKenna – raised nearly $14 million, including more than $2M in big donations that got washed through the state party thanks to one of those loopholes in the campaign cash rules.

But we’re told Reichert is notoriously averse to shaking people down for money. So the question boils down to whether Reichert, who will be 74 when the election rolls around next year, is really up for spending a year and a half raising all that money and butting his head against the dual obstacles of Democrats’ big structural advantage here and the growing drag of Trump at the top of the ticket. 


Some interesting polling numbers

The folks at Future 42 dropped a new poll this week. The right-leaning organization tested a bunch of hot-button issues including gas prices and the police-pursuit law, but the numbers that jumped out at us was the favorable/unfavorable for Attorney General Bob Ferguson, which polling firm Echelon Insights put at 31 percent to 40 percent in the survey conducted in early June. (Thirteen percent had no opinion and 16 percent said they’d never heard of the guy.)

Future 42 is a hard no on the Ferguson-for-governor question, so a grain of salt is in order. But still, not a great great place to start when you’re running for governor. The poll didn’t test Reichert or Mullet. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz was also underwater at 18/20 percent, but a whopping 40 percent of respondents hadn’t heard of her.


Footnotes:

1. Until 2012, the district was confined to eastern King and Pierce counties. The 2011 redistricting process stretched it over the Cascades, which made Reichert’s life easier until Trump came along. 

2. To embrace Trump likely repels swing voters; repudiating him risks alienating the pro-Trump Republican base, not to mention tangling with the toughest troll in the history of politics.

3. Serial killer Gary Ridgway’s arrest will be some 23 years in the rear-view mirror when ballots are cast. That said, Ridgway is still locked up in Walla Walla, and there’s a lot of compelling tape of a much younger Reichert. 

4. This argument is a little dubious here given the AG’s limited role in criminal law enforcement, but that won’t stop anyone from making it.

This article orginally appeared in the author’s political blog, The Washington Observer.

Paul Queary
Paul Queary
Paul Queary, a veteran AP reporter and editor, is founder of The Washington Observer, an independent newsletter on politics, government and the influence thereof in Washington State.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Yes, Sheriff Reichert….who let a serial killer like Ridgway slip through the net for something like…20 years? While the kill count mounted steadily? 48 victims that we know of. And it took decades to make an arrest. I don’t want to think it was because these poor victims were all sex workers, many underage.

  2. Moderate Democrat here. Senator Mark Mullet is attractive for several reasons, one being that he is also moderate, and second that he attracts Republican moderates who helped him survive the Inslee effort to defeat him. And maybe, hopefully, the extreme partisan rancor in Olympia might diminish

  3. The old sheriff might be a bit old. Time for some new leadership. I agree that Mullet would be a breath of fresh air. He’s a Democrat but not part of the “in” crowd.

    Moderate Dems, independents and Republicans not in the Trump orbit could all vote for Millet.

  4. I recall that WAGOP tried once many years ago to recruit Reichert for Governor and his presentation was so awful he was immediately dropped from consideration.

    I recall many a time when Reichert in a debate had trouble completing a thought and forming coherent sentences.

    In an interview he admitted he suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in brain shrinkage.

    He’s an unimaginative choice for the Republicans, a desperation throw.

  5. While a Republican member of Congress, Dave Reichert voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Which millions of women relied upon for health care. He would have a tough time explaining that vote, coupled with his anti-choice stance.

  6. What is it with the Republican party and empty suits with excellent helmet hair?

    He’ll do a little better than Culp, but not much.

  7. I don’t think Mark Mullet can get elected based on his (anything but moderate) support of shuffling kids into “gender affirming” care without their parents’ consent. Gender affirming care is a debunked concept that has no science behind it. It turns out that double mastectomies and castration don’t relieve the angst that these mostly autistic and sexually abused kids suffer from. It was not a vote that a moderate would make.

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