By Bruce A. Smith
Local Democratic Party activists are working diligently to “Flip the 8th” Congressional District (CD) from Republican to Democratic control. Currently, Republican Dave Reichert is the congressman representing the 8th CD, but he is retiring, and a replacement will be determined in the November 8, 2018 general election.
It appears that Congressman Reichert, a moderate Republican, is joining the exodus of Republican office-holders who do not choose to, or can not, fight the Trump Administration and the Republican Party’s embrace of President Donald Trump. Reichert has publicly stated that he did not vote for Trump in the 2016 election, but subsequently has not advertised that decision widely.
Currently, the Republican Party holds a slim majority in the federal House of Representatives, and a swing of twenty-four votes nationwide will shift the balance of power in Washington.
Into this void are stepping at least eight Democratic candidates, and the challenger will be selected in the August 7, 2018 primary election. In the meantime, Democratic organizers are gearing up for the battle for votes in South Pierce County – long a Republican bastion, and the critical swing region in a district where the demographics of the Seattle suburbs are decidedly Democratic.
The 8th Congressional District is composed of southeastern Pierce County – including Eatonville, Ashford and Graham – and runs northward in a sliver of geography through Puyallup to Auburn, where it turns eastward and includes the communities of the 1-90 corridor, such as Wenatchee, Ellensburg and Leavenworth. This is a federal office, and elects one congressional representative.
However, the 2nd Washington Legislative District ( 2nd LD) comprises south Pierce County and eastern Thurston, including Eatonville, Roy, McKenna, and Yelm, and deals exclusively with state offices. At present, both state representatives and the single state senator from the 2nd LD are Republicans, reflecting the 2-1 Republican/Democratic registration in South Pierce County. As a result, this jurisdiction is often the primary battleground for local Democrats.
Therefore, to counter the heavy Republican vote in the 2nd LD that is also part of the 8th CD, the Democrats are organizing with historic zeal, led by long-time activist, Bill Harrington, who has created the “Flip the 8th” committee.
Many see this unprecedented level of Democratic Party energy and organization as a response to the vulgarities, policies, and lies of President Trump, but also a manifestation of a growing need to help the middle class and struggling Americans.
Harrington has established a long “To Do” list of political activism. He is holding weekly meetings to build the organizational base in the 2nd LD, with frequent public events, such as the January 15th “Voter Registration Drive” in Spanaway, or the February 18th “Spaghetti Feed Fundraiser” at the Elk Plain Grange.
In addition, the Flip the 8th will host a “Meet the Candidates Night” on Wednesday, January 31st at the Graham Public Library from 6-9 pm. All eight Democratic candidates for the 8th CD are scheduled to attend.
Recently, Harrington met with the core of his Flip the 8th Committee in Frederickson on Saturday January 13th. There he was joined by ten members from the 2nd LD Democratic team, along with a dozen activists from surrounding legislative districts who realize that South Pierce County could hold the key to Democratic success in November.
Harrington’s crew, composed mostly of newly-energized anti-Trump activists, come from a diverse background and have established a solid base of operations. Leeroy Perkins has launched a Facebook page for the Flip the 8th Committee, and maintains its website: www.flipthe8th.net.
Others are veterans of the 2016 Bernie Sanders for President campaign and are still “fired-up.” Several Bernie volunteers are also members of the Our Revolution of Thurston and Pierce County, a grassroots group committed to progressive ideals, such as health care and education for all, women’s rights, and environmental justice.
Other volunteers announced their participation in the “She Should Run” movement, a national group dedicated to electing women to public office at all levels of government. “Our goal is to have 250,000 women elected to office by 2030 – whether it’s to a local school board, county or state office, or at the federal level,” said one volunteer.
It is “An Awakening of Democrats” said another volunteer at Harrington’s meeting.
Yet, a few of Harrington’s team are “first-timers,” folks who have never participated formally in the election process before. “I just needed to do something to stop Trump,” said one.
Sensing keenly this underlying disgust at President Trump and the yearning to change the course of American politics, Harrington is reaching out to disaffected voters. He is hosting an “Open Meeting” at the Graham Public Library on Friday, January 19th for people who just want to talk politics and share their concerns and despair.
Some volunteers voiced similar views. “A lot of people are Democrats, but just don’t know it,” said one volunteer. Supporting that opinion are most national polls on health care, education, and immigration, which show wide-spread support for Democratic positions, such as maintaining Medicaid and lowering the cost of getting a good education.
Harrington also realizes that his Flip the 8th Committee needs to do something tangible, as well. As a result, his group is partnering with the Bethel School District (BSD) in their effort to pass a Levy and Bond issue at the February 13th Special Election. The Flip the 8th Committee is currently distributing BSD literature on the vote, identifying the purpose of the educational levy, namely classroom improvements, and the bond vote, which seeks to raise the money for a new high school in Graham and several grade-school renovations, along with two new elementary schools. Due to funding changes at the state level, the tax bill property owners will shoulder will actually be lower in coming years.
Of course, the hopes of Democrats are predicated upon having honest elections, but that occurrence is in doubt as Russian interference is very real. Over one dozen US intelligence agencies have stated that Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, meddled with the 2016 election. Although Trump’s collusion with Putin is still unclear, at least legally and politically, one thing is certain – Trump has resisted acknowledging the Russian involvement, and he has refused to prepare any defense against Russian intrusion in future elections.
Coupled with this lack of preparation is the current Republican Party’s embrace of Trump. Perhaps as damning as their support for repressive immigration policies, the attempted scuttling of Obamacare, and egregious tax legislation, is the Republican support for Trump’s deceptions, such as his recent lie about “shithole countries.” This vulgarity is generally believed to be true even though there are no recordings to support the numerous claims that Trump said what he allegedly did, such as from Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).
Therefore, it is arguable that the Republicans in congress know the “fix is in” for the 2018 elections. However, Washington State elections, at least in the 8th CD, may be protected. These elections are controlled by the County Auditor in Pierce County, Julie Anderson, and a comparable official in King County, both of whom are Democrats. Further, the Pierce vote is cast mostly by paper mail-in ballots, which reduces the potential for electronic tampering.
Bill Harrington leads his Flip the 8th Committee on January 13th