By Bruce A. Smith
The Democratic Party’s effort to flip the 8th Congressional District to blue gained major strength this week as a group of canvassers rang doorbells and talked to constituents in Graham.
Over twenty party faithful and paid field organizers from Democratic candidate Kim Schrier’s team fanned across Graham on Thursday, ready to press the flesh and bolstered with the news that a New York Times phone survey had reportedly placed Schrier ahead of Republican challenger Dino Rossi, 46-45.
Democratic volunteer Mike Prince told the Mountain News that the Times poll was the first one conducted in this swing district, and the one-point margin in favor of Schrier was tempered by a four-point margin of error.
The 8th CD is one of several dozen around the nation that the Dems are trying to flip – turning them from a Republican “red” to Democratic “blue.” The Democrats need to re-capture twenty-three districts nationwide to take control of the House of Representatives. The 8th CD’s current congressman, Dave Reichert (R), has announced his retirement and the seat is thus open. After a bruising primary where eight Democratic challengers vied for the top spot, pediatrician Dr. Kim Schrier won the Democratic slot, while Republican mainstay, Dino Rossi, was selected by his party despite his failed bids in his last three political contests, including a run for Governor in 2004.
The 8th CD is an “L-shaped” district running north from the Pierce-Lewis County line along the Meridian Ave corridor to I-90 in Issaquah and continuing east to Wenatchee. As such, it pits the heavily populated suburbs of Bellevue and Redmond against the interests and culture of rural Pierce County and the agricultural lands east of Seattle. As a result, Schrier’s canvassers felt that their standard bearer is best-suited for the district.
“Kim Schrier knows that health care is the number one issue for the people of the 8th,” said Ari Perimutter, volunteer coordinator for the Schrier campaign.
Coupled with that message is Schrier’s background as a pediatrician, a career that the Rossi campaign has attacked, claiming that Schrier has turned away children needing medical care. Several canvassers discussed how to best counter Rossi’s statements when they met voters. “Kim has never turned away a kid who needed her help,” proclaimed Perimutter. “Anyone who is denied healthcare, when it occurs it’s because of a failed medical insurance system where not everyone is adequately covered,” he said.
Volunteer Mike Prince added, “It is 100% absolutely false that Kim Schrier has turned away any child needing healthcare.”
Prince stated that Medicaid has dozens of different benefit packages, with varying criteria for eligibility, further adding to the difficulty of receiving appropriate health care for many Washingtonians—but it is not a doctor’s fault.
These kinds of discussion led naturally to the day’s events in Washington D.C., where Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had just testified in Congress about her memories of being sexually attacked by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. “We believe women,” Perimutter declared.
“Period!” shouted Dem stalwart Yanah G. Cook, standing nearby.
Afterwards, Perimutter got down to business and announced that the canvassers’ task in Graham was to talk directly to independent voters and “low turn-out Democrats” who only vote infrequently. Perimutter gave surprising instructions: “Avoid any homes that have “Dino” signs, or even “Kim Schrier” signs. We know whom those folks are going to vote for.” Further, he said that some sections of the district have up to 40% of voters who consider themselves to be “Independents.”
The twenty volunteers who assembled at the Graham Starbucks on Thursday were only part of the Schrier campaign’s overall volunteer effort. Perimutter said the campaign has 200 volunteer canvassers district-wide on the weekend, per shift. In addition, he said the campaign has already rung over 80,000 doorbells and placed 90,000 phone calls to voters.
Some of the volunteers in Graham had traveled quite far to help the Schrier campaign. Dee Axelrod had driven from Suquamish, which is north of Bainbridge on the Kitsap Peninsula: “I may not know Graham real well,” she told the Mountain News, “but I know Rossi—he’s a known quantity and I don’t want him in Congress.”
The winner for distance was Tim Kerfoot, who traveled from his home in Kansas to help Democrats once his home race was determined. “I was helping a really progressive, young Democratic candidate for a state position, but when the Koch money came in a month ago that race got decided, so I drove to Washington to help out. First, I was with the Heck campaign in the 10th CD, but they needed me more here,” he told the Mountain News.
First-time canvasser, Phil LoGrande, however, only had to drive from his home in Graham. “We need someone with integrity,” he said. “Someone with compassion, too. That’s Kim Schrier in my opinion. We need someone who cares about people.”
LoGrande spoke at length about his concerns with healthcare, especially Medicare, the federal program for citizens 65 years old. “I’m on Medicare, and I’ve never seen a more corrupt Congress in my life—threatening to cancel or cut back Medicare and other health care programs.”
Thursday’s effort is in stark contrast to Democratic Party efforts in the past. In 2006, the Dems only had one part-time paid field organizer and one volunteer to canvass all of Eatonville, Graham, and Orting.
Democrats gather in Graham to canvass in support of Kim Schrier
Field organizer Ari Perimutter explains details to his band of Democratic volunteers in Graham
Picture of Dr. Kim Schrier in Graham at the Democratic Party’s Candidates Forum in the spring of 2018. This and the above photos are courtesy of BA Smith.
Dino Rossi. Picture courtesy of the Dino Rossi for Congress campaign.