SEATTLE — A former Army captain and Amazon manager will contest U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier’s 2020 bid for a second term in Washington’s 8th Congressional District.
Jesse Jensen, 35, a Republican, has been a senior program manager at Amazon since 2018. He previously worked for Microsoft. He has not previously sought political office, but was an aide to Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota in the mid-2000s. Jensen spent seven years in the U.S. Army starting in 2007, including deployments as a platoon leader in Afghanistan.
Barring a shift in political sentiment, Republicans may face uphill battle to win back Schrier’s seat. The National Republican Campaign Committee has listed the 8th District as among the 55 House seats it’s targeting in 2020. But the Cook Political Report, which monitors competitive political races, has listed the district as a “likely” Democratic hold.
The 2018 Schrier-Rossi contest was the costliest U.S. House race in state history, drawing more than $31 million in spending by the candidates and outside groups. For her reelection effort, Schrier already has raised $1 million and had $865,000 in her campaign bank account as of the end of June.
In addition to Jensen, another Republican candidate, Keith Swank, has filed with the Federal Elections Commission to run in the 8th District.
In an interview last week, Jensen said he was motivated to run for office after hearing stories of inadequate medical care by the Veteran’s Administration and of suicides by combat veterans with whom he’d served.
Jensen has been lining up support and endorsements for months from local and national Republicans. He argued Schrier’s voting record in Congress is too liberal for the 8th District, calling her a “rubber stamp” for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“There’s a lot of folks on the eastern side of the district who don’t feel represented,” he said.
Schrier, D-Sammamish, a pediatrician who’d never previously run for office, defeated Republican Dino Rossi in the 2018 midterm election, becoming the first Democrat to represent the 8th District. Her win was part a backlash against President Donald Trump that swept suburban districts across the country.
Jensen said he did not vote for Trump in 2016, instead writing in “the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt.” But he is now a Trump supporter and will vote for his reelection. At the same time, Jensen said, “I’m not going to be a parrot for Donald Trump.”
He said he’d oppose “socialist” proposals advanced by Democrats, such as Medicare for All. Schrier campaigned in 2018 on moving toward universal Medicare coverage, but has not signed on to sweeping Medicare for All measures championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives.
She’s instead backed a more gradual shift, starting with allowing people to buy into a public-option insurance plan.
Jensen is a relative newcomer to the 8th District. He’d been living in Tacoma but said he moved recently with his family to Bonney Lake, the Pierce County town that lies partly in the district, which includes eastern King and Pierce counties and extends across the Cascade Mountains to Kittitas and Chelan counties.
Schrier won her first term in 2018 with about 52% of the vote, running up big margins in cities including Issaquah, Sammamish and Auburn. In Chelan County, she talled 45.5% of the vote, compared to 40.7% in Douglas County.
In an emailed statement, a Schrier campaign spokeswoman thanked Jensen for his military service.
“Right now, we’re not focused on politics or the next election,” the statement said. “In the district, Rep. Schrier has held 19 town halls and driven more than 4,000 miles to meet and listen to her constituents. In D.C., she’s focused like a laser on delivering results for the folks back home — like bringing down the cost of health care and prescription medications, protecting our environment, and ensuring our economy works for everyone.”