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New Lines Will Start Washington State Scramble

File Photo
Rep. Rick Larsen, seen at right while campaigning for re-election last fall, will likely get more Democrats added to his Washington state district through remapping. The Evergreen State is also gaining a new seat, which is likely to be drawn to favor Democrats.

If the 10th is instead drawn in King County, Heck could still challenge Herrera Beutler in what will likely be a stronger district for Republicans.

Republican consultant Todd Myers said the 10th district would be better for the GOP if it weren't placed in Thurston County, and Inslee's exit likely puts the 1st district in play, too.

"I think the 1st will be competitive, no matter where that ends up," he said. "The 10th, if it ends up in King County, they'll have to draw it in a competitive way."

Republican James Watkins, who lost to Inslee by 16 points last year, is running again, and several Democrats have at least announced exploratory committees. They include state Reps. Roger Goodman and Marko Liias, as well as former state Rep. Laura Ruderman.

Also mentioned as potential candidates, depending on how the lines are drawn, are Suzan DelBene, who lost to Reichert by 4 points last year; state Sen. Steve Hobbs; Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown; and state House Ways and Means Chairman Ross Hunter.

Kucinich, a liberal known nationally as a two-time presidential candidate, will be in Seattle again July 9 as he remains open to running for Congress outside Ohio. He has spent time in the 1st district and would shake up any race he enters.

Kucinich's office did not return a request for comment, but the eight-term Congressman told the Associated Press last week that he is not sure where he will run. "It's way too early to have that discussion because the [redistricting] maps aren't available," he said.

In the 2nd district, Republican John Koster is running again after coming within 7,000 votes of defeating Larsen in 2010. But, like Heck, he could face a more difficult district than he ran for last year.

In Washington state, House and Senate races are floating beneath the political radar that right now is squarely focused on the gubernatorial race. With Attorney General Rob McKenna on the ticket, Republicans have a good shot at winning the governor's mansion for the first time since 1980.

Meanwhile, there is no chatter about a potential Republican challenger to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D), who will seek a third term next year.

If Reichert has been looking at the race, Evergreen State observers believe the four-term Congressman will abandon the idea if his seat is redrawn favorably. Gorton said the GOP doesn't "have anyone close to announcing."

"The overwhelming interest in the state now is on the governor's race, so talk of the Senate has been pretty minimal," Gorton said. "It has to do with the fact that this is a Democratic state. It's not a position that's impossible to win, but it has not drawn any interest yet."

Former strategist Ron Dotzauer, a veteran of Democratic politics who managed Cantwell's 2000 triumph that unseated Gorton and can still tick off her exact margin of victory (2,229 votes), said the dearth of challengers can be partly explained by the GOP's inability to defeat Sen. Patty Murray (D) in 2010.

"They spent a lot of money trying to unseat her in a good Republican year, and they weren't able to do it," Dotzauer said. "So what do their chances look like in 2012 in a presidential year? They diminish pretty significantly."

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