WENATCHEE — Two west-side pols vie for the heart of North Central Washington … but in a congressional district that tilts toward King and Pierce counties, do they need it?
Work history: Management consultant since 2003; Seattle University adjunct professor since 2002; director of development, Seattle University, 2008-2010; former development and fundraising director for local Salvation Army and United Way
Experience: Former campaign fundraiser for Rep. Tami Green, Gov. Gary Locke and Rep. Jim McDermott; former King County and Washington state Democratic caucus representative
Education: Bachelor’s, political science, Western Washington University; master’s, public administration, Seattle University
Work history: King County sheriff, 1997-2005; sheriff’s deputy and detective, 1972-1997
Experience: 8th District Representative since 2005; House Ways and Means trade and health subcommittees since 2009; member, Congressional Goods Movement Caucus
Education: Associate’s, Concordia Lutheran College, Portland
Personal: Married, three children, six grandchildren
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert became congressman for Washington’s 8th District in 2005, succeeding retiring Rep. Jennifer Dunn. His district at the time included well-heeled King County suburbs like Mercer Island and Bellevue, and only went as far east as the Cascade foothills.
Cut to the 2010 census, and the redrawing that draped the 8th across the mountains to wrap in Chelan County, Kittitas County and incorporated East Wenatchee — presumably a safe Republican seat. Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner called Reichert “one of the clear winners of the state’s latest congressional redistricting.”
Reichert, a Republican who’s narrowly held off a succession of challengers, now faces first-time campaigner Karen Porterfield in a race for the redrawn seat. Porterfield, a management consultant and Seattle University adjunct professor, entered the race in May touting results from a privately commissioned poll, showing the new part-rural, part-suburban 8th might not lean as knee-jerk conservative as many thought.
Porterfield, a Democrat, comes from the nonprofit strategic planning field, after earning degrees in political science and public administration. She served more than 12 years as a manager in the Salvation Army’s division providing senior housing. The longtime consultant took the second-highest vote total in the August primary after Reichert, knocking off four other challengers — but the margin was wide, with the incumbent earning 50 percent to Porterfield’s 28 percent.
“I was going for and wanting to introduce myself to what I knew was that 30 percent of strong Democratic base in the primary, which I did,” Porterfield told the Seattle Weekly at the time. She then began a campaign to link Reichert to what she calls “the failed agenda of the Republican leadership” in Congress.
Reichert has not always gone along with that leadership, though — he’s said yes on several votes to strengthen or maintain environmental protections; voted to extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover children of illegal immigrants in 2009; and voted to repeal the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on gays in active service in 2010.
“Cops look for facts, and that’s what I did for 33 years,” Reichert said in a debate against Porterfield Oct. 2. “… I don’t follow the political ideology of the Republican party. I vote on the facts.”
Reichert won election to Congress in part because of his prominence in the Green River Killer case, in which Gary Ridgway was captured in 2001 and pleaded guilty in the murders of 49 women over 20 years. His book about the affair, “Chasing the Devil,” was published in 2004.
Although it encompasses the historically Republican Wenatchee region, the new 8th has a population base centered to the west. About 242,000 registered King and Pierce County voters are in the district; the eastern counties contribute only about 68,000 voters. Much of the territory annexed to the 8th was formerly in Richard “Doc” Hastings’ 4th District, which now includes most of Douglas County outside East Wenatchee, plus Okanogan, Grant, Adams, Franklin, Benton and Yakima counties and a portion of Walla Walla County.
Reichert had the upper hand in fundraising going into campaign season, spending $745,000 by mid-July with $595,000 still in his war chest. Porterfield had raised $55,000 by the same point, and spent $66,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.
The Oct. 2 debate between Reichert and Porterfield, at a Wenatchee Valley College forum hosted by The Wenatchee World and KOHO Radio, was the pair’s first. See the video below.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123
The eastern voters of the new 8th District have no prior experience with either you or your opponent. Please introduce yourself.
Karen Porterfield: I am a third generation Washingtonian and am proud of my deep family ties in the Northwest. My family is part of this community, and I believe that there is no higher calling than serving the people in the community in which you live…
Dave Reichert: I grew up the oldest of seven children in Renton and Kent, and to say we struggled financially would be an understatement…