A Hardball Strategy for taking on Dave Reichert

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In politics as in war, the surprise preemptive strike carries great weight: The latest target is the gubernatorial campaign of ex-U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert.

The Bob Ferguson campaign and Washington State Democrats are churning out releases and ads seeking to define the affable former King County Sheriff as a MAGA mouthpiece. They have tracked Reichert appearances before conservative Republican audiences and harvested quotes likely to turn off progressive voters in Puget Sound population centers.

The strategy tracks with President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, which spent a summer defining GOP challenger Mitt Romney. The 2022 Patty Murray reelection, which was on TV in early summer with spots depicting GOP challenger Tiffany Smiley as a right-to-lifer who would back nationwide restrictions of abortion rights.

With Reichert, the rollout is a late winter speech to Douglas County Republicans. “I love Donald Trump’s policies,” he told them. “I worked with Trump for two years when I was in Congress. I met with him in the Oval Office. His nickname for me was ‘Sheeiff’ and we have a good relationship. I think he and I can work together.”

The Democrats have grafted together Reichert quotes with the statistic that he voted for Trump policies 92 percent of the time. Early in Trump’s term, 700 demonstrators showed up outside the Congressman’s district office in Issaquah to protest those policies,

Bob Ferguson and the Dems have found another treasure trove in a Reichert speech to Chelan County Republicans. “I have a MAGA hat at home with his [Trump’s] signature on it,” he told them. “He and I have worked together . . . The media is looking for me to make a statement about Trump that will be the nail in the coffin … They want me to identify with a certain presidential candidate that is not popular in the state . . . As soon as I do that, I lose that opportunity to win over some of those 25 percent of undecided voters.”

He has a point. Trump is unpopular in Washington. He was unable to crack 40 percent of the vote in 2020, and lost King County by a 3-1 margin. But he is beloved by the Republican base, the source of volunteers needed by the Reichert campaign for governor. The GOP state convention recently endorsed rival MAGA-man Semi Bird.

The Democrats know the spot Reichert is in. Ferguson is a chess master setting a trap for his presumed foe. The Attorney General unseated two Democrats in the King County Council and then beat fellow County Council member Reagan Dunn to win his present office.

Reichert has been sending covert signals to party faithful. Asked if he voted for Trump, the candidate reportedly nodded. Asked to define “woman,” he dodges gender politics by saying “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Reichert’s other hot issue is abortion. He has been quoted as saying: “There is no question that life begins at conception.” He voted in Congress against federal funding of Planned Parenthood. He has spoken in defense of pharmacists who, as a matter of conscience, refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.

Reichert was a hostage negotiator in his days with the King County sheriff’s office. As a politician, he is being backed into a corner, a MAGA-dominated party on one side, the electorate and swing voters on the other.

It has been 40 years since Washington had a Republican governor. Five Democrats have since held the office. The party needs a galvanizing issue if it wants to hold power, along with its interest groups. The 2004 and 2012 elections, when the office came open, were close and contentious.

The current solution: Tie Reichert to Trump. Depict him as a right-to-lifer who would restrict contraception.  Make Reichert choose between his constituency and wider electorate.

It’s a hardball strategy for holding power, but Ferguson as Attorney General has taken on Trump — and beaten him.

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. You are so right about Reichert and the corner he has made for himself. I’m not part of any campaign, but to avoid a Bob Ferguson coronation, vote for Mark Mullet in the primary and decide for yourself in November who would be best for Washington State.
    Voting for State Senator Mark Mullet in the August primary would result in a spirited campaign for Governor. Bob Ferguson would surely defeat Republican options for Governor, Dave Reichert Semi Bird. A Mullet vs. Ferguson contest would be best for Washington State. Mullet and Ferguson are eminently qualified. It would be instructive and helpful to hear Mullet and Ferguson debate. Vote Mullet in August! Then, standby for Mullet/Ferguson to go head-to-head. Visit http://www.mulletforgovernor.com to learn more.

  2. In an election year when much is being made of the advanced age of the Presidential candidates, there has not been much mention of the fact that Reichert is another old guy. At age 73, soon to be 74, Reichert is now older than Jay Inslee and would be at a Bidenesque age by the end of his first term. He now is at an age approaching the average age of a PBS Channel 9 viewer or a reader of the Seattle Times.
    Except for a recent photo in the Seattle Times, almost all of the photos of Reichert appear to be when the sheriff held a seat in Congress, much like the one above.
    Rambling on: Way, way back in the day it was a rule in Journalism 101 to get a newsmaker’s age up toward at the top of the story. At the Post-Intelligencer we kept a birthday file in our computers to make sure the dates were fresh. I have yet to see an age in a Seattle Times story.

  3. I’m not sure Ferguson should be playing hardball in this race, since he needs a softer touch, as well as some distance from the Locke-Gregoire-Inslee grip by special interests on the governor’s mansion and state politics. Voters want a fresh face, not a hard face.

  4. This voter could care less about our next governor’s “face.” I want one with a smart brain and experience in government. Bob Ferguson has that and more.

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