Reichert Runs: Does he have a Shot at being Washington’s Next Governor?


We used to have a leather-longed, publicity-craving group of Seattle-area seniors — several of them labor union veterans — who specialized in descending on Republican members of Congress with accusations the GOP was mounting an assault on Social Security.

Sen. Slade Gorton couldn’t stand them, declined to meet with them, and let uncomfortable colleagues defend his record. A Seattle P-I photographer, Paul Joseph Brown, took a memorable 2000 picture of Slade ducking down the back stairs from his Bellevue office as the militant seniors entered via the front door.

The seniors received a far different reception when I covered their arrival at the office of GOP Rep. Dave Reichert. Reichert invited them in, greeted each one, sat them down at a long conference table, and poured coffee. He then heard them out.  Anticipating hostility, the intruders were flummoxed by his hospitality.

Dave Reichert retired from Congress in 2018, visibly uneasy at the combat politics of the Trump presidency. A crowd of 700 anti-Trump demonstrators had descended on his office in the spring of 2017. The largely suburban 8th District seat, Republicans’ one foothold in the Puget Sound area, fell to Democrat Rep. Kim Schrier.

Reichert is on the comeback trail, just announcing a plan to run for a governorship held by Democrats ever since Booth Gardner flipped it in the Reagan landslide year of 1984. The onetime King County Sheriff appears as the great hope of Washington’s more traditional, conventional Republicans. The reception of the MAGA crowd is less welcoming: A ”Yakima GOP” Tweet has characterized Reichert as the sheriff of Nottingham.

A member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, Reichert was comfortable in what used to be a collegial Washington congressional delegation. He mounted a discharge petition, teaming with Democratic Rep. Denny Heck, to force a House floor vote on reauthorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, vital to Boeing’s overseas jet sales. Republican leaders had let reauthorization languish in committee. It passed and Boeing hosted a reception, at which a Yakima businessman praised Reichert for having cojones. The sheriff beamed.

Reichert sponsored legislation to add the Pratt River to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and extend Wild and Scenic River Act protection to the Middle Fork-Snoqualmie River, closest mountain valley to our population centers. But an ultraconservative Washington colleague, Rep. Doc Hastings, who chaired the House Natural Resources Committee, sat on the legislation.

Reichert was rescued by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who persuaded Hastings to relent and used her Senate leadership position to insert Alpine Lakes protection into a defense authorization bill just before Congress adjourned in 2014. Reichert and Murray teamed up in the rain for a presser where forks of the Snoqualmie River come together.

Where will Reichert get his votes if he runs for Governor? Unlikely on his old home turf. King County has lately delivered 400-500,000 majorities to Murray and outgoing Gov. Jay Inslee. True, Reichert did know how to stay on voters’ good side while Democratic presidential candidates carried his district. He was, for instance, only of 15 GOP House members voting to repeal the Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy, which forbade “out” gays and lesbians from serving in the military. He signed a GOP letter opposing oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Nowadays, however, Washington has become a solidly blue state. Nor will MAGA Republicans forgive anyone giving hint of moderation. They ousted Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler after she vote to impeach Trump. Rep. Dan Newhouse barely survived when a trio of MAGA types split the primary vote against him. Seeking to reclaim what he described as “my mother’s Seat” in Congress – Rep. Jennifer Dunn preceded Reichert – King County Councilman Reagan Dunn didn’t even make it out of the 8th District primary in 2022.

Of the Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner, it’s become an axiom of Washington politics: Nobody outworks Bob Ferguson. The Democratic AG repeatedly took on the Trump Administration, starting with successful legal challenge to first Muslim travel ban. Reichert endorsed the ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, saying: “My first and most important job is protecting families in our region and the American population.”

While Ferguson stuck his chin out, Reichert was keeping his head down. After narrowly surviving his first two reelection races, Dave was given a safer House seat when the 8th District crossed the Cascades to take in Kittitas and Chelan Counties. He traveled extensively as chairman of an international trade subcommittee of the tax-writing House Ways & Means Committee.

Ferguson is not letting up. He has amassed a war chest that tops $3 million, with show-of-strength fundraisers filling ballrooms in Seattle and Tacoma, with events lately in Bellingham, Spokane, and Walla Walla. Endorsements have come in from the King County Labor Council, the National Congress of American Indians, five members of Congress, ex-Gov. Christine Grégoire and a bevy of labor unions.

No interview with Dave Reichert goes by without Reichert mentioning that he was King County Sheriff and served 33 years in law enforcement.  He looks the part, tall and silver haired.  In covering him, however, a question kept coming back to me: Does Dave Reichert work very hard? The question now: Has Reichert mapped out a lane in which to run, and support to make the run? The race for statewide office belongs to the relentless.

Joel Connelly
Joel Connelly
I worked for Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1973 until it ceased print publication in 2009, and 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.


  1. Dave Reichert was extreme right even before that ultra-faction took over the grand old party. He voted to defund Planned Parenthood, though low-income people rely on those clinics for basic health care. Hypocritically and repeatedly he vowed to take away women’s rights to choose to end an unplanned pregnancy, while making it nearly impossible for many to get birth control. Or even get an annual Pap smear….Planned Parenthood takes repeated hits from men in office like Reichert, who think nothing of the hardships they impose on families. After the disastrous Supreme Court Dobbs decision, we are seeing how a ban on abortion has made it unlawful in many states to end a pregnancy….even if the fetus can’t survive. Even if carrying the fetus to term drastically imperils the mother’s health.

    Please do not underestimate the consequence of taking away women’s basic rights. I assure you, women are motivated on this issue. Reichert has very little chance of being governor.

  2. Mr. Connelly’s prompt and succinct review of 73-year-old Dave Reichert’s prospects in 2024 help put this candidacy in the correct perspective. We should deduce an uncertain outlook for the retired congressman, if one expects him to appeal to “independents” and thus bolster the hopes of Washington’s shrunken “moderate” wing of the GOP.

    We are a “top-two” primary state these days and currently there are younger, more up-to-speed gubernatorial candidates who “identify” as Democrats who could push the elderly Republican out of the running into third or lower place in the primary vote.

    A candidate with Reichert’s track record on reproductive rights means a direct threat to our state’s families and their health care. This will be a top priority issue for voters of many and varied perspectives on other issues.

    A positive note: political pollsters and campaign organizers will glean interesting perspectives via Reichert’s showing re the current strength of what passes for a “moderate” in our state’s Republican party.

    While Reichert could “clear the field” of other GOP hopefuls, as politicos say when a high-profile candidate “tosses his hat into the ring,” that no longer is enough to guarantee him a spot in the general election.

    Connelly is a wise interpreter of today’s political tempers, unlike some paid pollsters who were off the mark in predicting the most recent state-wide vote total: Murray’s U. S. Senate race.

    Reichert’s PDC filings will make interesting reading.

  3. Polity in Washington State currently has no center, there is only a left and a right which are mutually exclusive spheres. To the extent that Dave Reichert has the ability to restore centered governance he will have the support of many citizens in the state. A little divided government, wherein, both sides need to find mutual agreement and common ground in the interest of the state, would be a welcome change from one-party rule.

  4. Would it be too early to inquire into their intentions for the governorship? For example, Inslee’s climate policies – I suppose Ferguson and Franz would lean in the same direction? Reichert would be eager to roll some of it back?

  5. The joy of knowing your stuff. Joel Connelly is a treasure and a tribute to political reporting anchored in knowledge and experience.

  6. Reichert was Part of the Do Nothing Republican Run Congress. Lots of smoke Zero be legislation. Slade Gordon Jr. Lol. I will say they Republicans in Wa State have finally found a Viable Candidate but he Still won’t Win. Bob Ferguson is 21-0 in Suits against Trumps failed Policies and might as well Swear Bob into office

  7. Reichert will not make it out of the Republican Primary unless Bird drops out. While the Republican leadership would love to have Dave Reichert as their candidate and have been trying to get him to run for 12 years now, the Republican base has moved past him. Many in Republican leadership and especially the rank and file refer to Reichert as a Rino.

    However, Democrats strategy of painting Reichert as being aligned with Trump 93 percent of the time in Congress may actually do more to help get him through the primary if it makes rank and file Republican’s think he is MAGA enough.

    This will kill any chance for Mark Mullet to make it through the primary. Mullet is largely unknown throughout the state and I am not sure how he changes that in any meaningful way between this August and next August. He may have had a shot if only the most far-right extremist Republicans were running in the election and the less extreme Republicans picked him as their “best of the rest,” but now that all of those folks are going to vote Reichert, Mullet has zero pathway through. Mullet barely won reelection in his own district against a Democrat Ingrid Andersen and relied heavily on Republican voters to win by like 100 votes or whatever it was.

    What this will be good for is fundraising for Hillary Franz and Bob Ferguson and Democrats in general. There is now a formidable opponent, but one that currently will struggle to make it through the primary unless he commits to saying things and taking stances that will cost Reichert the General elections.

    • I’m puzzled by the reference to the “Republican primary” in the opening sentence here, mostly because it’s Top Two now, and there isn’t any such thing as a “Republican primary” or a “Democratic primary” anymore. Also, if you imagine that this guy Bird is going to outpoll Reichert in a statewide primary, I have an alpine ski lodge in Death Valley to sell you.

      Reichert’s great service to this election is that he will clean out the field. His candidacy benefits Ferguson, at the expense of every other announced candidate, in the primary, and he has as much chance of beating Ferguson in the general election as he does of flapping his arms and flying to the moon.

      That is because Ferguson will campaign, as he always does, in every corner of the state as if he was a longshot underdog, and Reichert is old and dumb and lazy, his politics stink, and he has never been troubled by an original thought in his life.

      • I agree with Ivan that an out-of-right-field grassroots MAGA candidate like Bird is unlikely to outpoll Reichert in our Top 2 primary. After seven months of campaigning, Bird is unknown, even to most Republican primary voters, and hasn’t exactly been lighting it on fire on the fundraising front, raising only $116K so far. Reichert, OTOH, is going to be able to raise a reasonable seven figure amount of money, which will give him a huge paid media communication advantage in the primary over Bird.

        That said, I wouldn’t be shocked if a stronger and more credentialed harder right Republican got into the race and was able to get some momentum by denouncing Reichert as a “RINO.” As Derek says, much of the Republican base has moved way past Reichert’s brand of establishment conservatism into the brave new highly insular world of MAGA populism, so he is potentially vulnerable to a challenge on his right.

        I also agree with Derek (and Ivan) that Reichert getting in all but kills any pathway for Mullet to challenge Ferguson, and to some lesser extent Franz’s. I was on a Folio panel the other night with John Carlson, who approvingly said that the nascent support Mullet has been getting from Republican donors and power brokers would end now that a real Republican like Reichert is getting in. I responded that yeah, Reichert did Ferguson a huge favor, since his getting in just ensured Bob’s election as the next governor of Washington State.

        • “… and to some lesser extent Franz’s.” Reichert would pull votes from Franz?

          She isn’t even remotely in the same political quadrant, so I reckon the point here is that she’s a less divisive figure who would get a percentage of the anyone-but-Bob vote.

  8. Having visited Reichert right after DJT was elected, to talk about public lands issues in his Wenatchee office, I was struck that the office was a “museum” to the sheriff who apparently takes full credit for catching the Green River killer. Framed news articles, not about what he did in Congress, but the Green River killer, his books (which he offered to autograph), framed photos of him as sheriff….I came away feeling he was a nice guy, probably really nice during traffic stops, but not a great listener and totally mailing it in as a Congressman. I find it curious why he would want to run for Governor in a state where the Governor actually has to work.

  9. How would a true conservative in their right mind vote for this Rino Reichert (RR)!!! Last April RR endorsed Susanna Johnson, a democRAT, lesbian, who is running for Sheriff in Snohomish County. After RR saw the damage he had done to himself he rescinded his endorsement. Wishy Washy Dave!!!

    Semi Bird for Governor!!! United We Stand, Together We Can!!!❤️❤️❤️


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