A few weeks ago, we looked at local races for King County government, along with cities, school boards and special purpose districts for 2021. Candidates for these positions feel an emotional attachment to the offices they run for. Some are more prepared than others.
Next year the serious, issue-oriented politicians will be running and they will be better prepared. Actually the incumbents are already prepared, but it is early yet, and the fields are only beginning to take shape. And there will be twists along the way, as it may not come down to a Republican vs. a Democrat.
Former President Donald Trump is still upset that some Republicans voted to impeach him and has made loyalty to him a defining issue between Republicans who still support him, and those that want him to gracefully retire. Trump is more wedded to revenge. Republicans only need to win a few seats to take control of the House, and they can’t really afford to lose any seats to political infighting.
In the U.S. Senate, Patty Murray (D-Washington) is a long way from her 1993 “Mom in tennis shoes.” She is now a power in D.C. and might coast to reelection. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) is not up for reelection until 2024.
It is in the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts that things start to get entertaining. The incumbent in the 3rd District is Jaime Herrera-Beutler, a Republican who has continued to fight off challengers in a district that used to be represented by Democrat Brian Baird. She will be running for her seventh term. But this time, even her own party has censured her for voting to impeach Trump. She has drawn several Republican challengers to the race including some who think she betrayed Trump. Republican candidates include Joe Kent, a special forces veteran and former CIA employee; Heidi St. John, a Christian author and home school advocate; and Wadi Yakhour, who was chief of staff for the Selective Service system in the Trump Administration. Democrats include Brent Hennrich, Chris Jenks, and Lucy Lauser, although Lauser said she is a Libertarian Democrat. Kent says Trump had no control over the rioters, while St. John believes public schools are morally corrupt and rejects the use of masks against COVID-19. Lauser is transgender and her goal is to counter St. John. She was a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Hennrich is a movie theater technician
However, Herrera-Beutler has been working hard at fundraising and finished the first quarter with over $700,000 in the bank. She may also benefit from our state’s top-two format because the more people in the race, the better for the incumbent, as the vote splits among more people. Lastly, remember history: This district was previously represented by a Democrat and Herrera-Beutler is likely to score votes from Democrats for her independence from Trump.
The heart of the 4th Congressional District is Yakima, where Republican Dan Newhouse, a third generation farmer with 850 acres to keep track of, is the incumbent. Newhouse is a conservative who supports agriculture and the National Rifle Association and opposes taxes, but it was his vote to impeach Trump that appears to be what got former Republic Police Chief and former candidate for governor Loren Culp into the race for Congress. Culp was successful in running for governor in Eastern Washington, but still lost the race by over half a million votes. Now he will have to split votes with other Republicans. State Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick), along with Prosser businessman and former NASCAR driver Jerrod Sessler, are also in the race. Newhouse raised $290,000 in the first quarter, and like Herrera-Beutler, has an incumbent’s advantage. Last year in Olympia, Klippert wanted to abolish voting by mail, which may not go over well in a congressional race where more people of color are voting.
The other district that might be in play is the 8th Congressional District, east of Auburn, with the announcement that Republican Matt Larkin, who lost for Attorney General last year, will run against incumbent Kim Schrier. Schrier is a Democrat, but this seat was held by Republicans for many years before she flipped it. Larkin has emphasized homelessness and efforts to defund police in Seattle. Those are issues in Seattle, but Seattle isn’t in the 8th District. Last year, Schrier was reelected 52% to 48% over Jesse Jensen. Jensen is considering running again. If he does, he and Larkin will split the Republican vote.
There will be more announcements and some may drop out before the final field is set. Since all the state House and half the Senate are also up for election next year, legislators will go through the same process as we get close to the end of the year. Another Republican may decide to step up to the congressional level, but not a Democrat. Watch these races — they will be interesting.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.