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.
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.