(John Koster addresses Tea Party/Republican supporters at 2010 kick-off
Photo Credit: Curt Eidem)
Before the lines were drawn this was essentially a race to see who would replace Jay Inslee in a relatively “safe” Democratic district. However, with the new lines and the addition of John Koster into the mix, this district somehow became a “swing” district at best and “leans Republican” by many other accounts. The certainty that the “New 1st” was drawn up for Koster’s benefit is so strong for some that even one of the state’s leading Liberal voices issued a knee-jerk endorsement of perhaps the leading “moderate” Democrat in the race. Well I’m not so sure; especially about Koster’s impact on the district.
It’s certainly true that the ‘conservative to the extreme’ pal of the state’s chief homophobe, Larry Stickney, has had great success in the Snohomish County Council district that he represents, and that he even managed to win more votes in Snohomish County than 2nd CD congressman, Rick Larsen in the 2010 race. However, I think the part that many are missing is the fact that, while the district has picked up the rural haven that is Koster’s playground, it has also inherited the northern portion of the old 2nd CD (Parts of Skagit and Whatcom Counties) that has voted mostly Democratic and (in what I believe will be the Koster/Stickney campaign’s undoing) added the parts of northern King County that have also voted mostly Democratic. Even in the areas that were carved out of the Republican controlled 8th CD, the folks who voted Republican there were only offered moderate choices in the late Jennifer Dunn and the current congressman, Dave Reichert. This is not to say that I don’t think Koster won’t make the top two come primary election day; I simply do not believe his hard core Tea Party conservatism will win in the more densely populated urban centers of the new 1st CD.
Which brings me back to my belief that this should be a great year and a great district for the long overdue and yet necessary debate from within the Democratic Party. For years, I and many other Progressives have argued that the reason Democrats have not been as successful as they could be in winning back the hearts and minds of the so-called Reagan Democrats and folks in the rural regions of the country is that we do not run candidates who will profess their liberal values. We continue to run more “moderate” or as some call them “Republican-lite” candidates. Yes, it has been true that these candidates do sometimes come away with a victory or two; however the old adage attributed to Harry Truman really is more true than false: “If it's a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time…” A case in point would be Snohomish County Councilman, Dave Somers from Monroe who is serving his 2nd (non-consecutive) term representing the 5th Council District - much of the same rural area that is now part of the 1st CD. Never backing away from his strong values of “people and the environment first” over the developer and concrete and pavement crowd, Dave has twice beaten “Pro Growth” Republicans and, in one instance even pushed back a challenge from the so-called centrist wing of the Democratic Party in the days when there was a party primary. And there are other examples in the district where a strong Progressive challenge has won the day.
(Darcy Burner - Progressive Champion)
(Sen. Steve Hobbs - Unrepentent Centrist)
This year’s contest offers the voters a choice between a champion of Progressive values and activism in Darcy Burner (formerly of the 8th CD and currently Executive Director of ProgressiveCongress.org) and a truly unabashed moderate (founding member and leader of the centrist Roadkill Caucus in Olympia) in State Senator Steve Hobbs (D-44th LD). The remaining Democrats fall somewhere between these two and any one of them may become the beneficiary of an electorate that might shy away from the intraparty debate. Obviously I am not one who would be so shy and I look forward to a spirited debate. Unfortunately, I will have to wait for at least a couple of months while Sen. Hobbs is involved in the current legislative session and is not able to lend his full voice to the campaign. In the meantime, look for Darcy Burner to be showing up in a venue near you to get her name recognition up and to hear what folks in the “New 1st” are most concerned about. I will bet she has already been fighting for a lot of those concerns in DC.
Chad (The Left) Shue