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Washington Candidates Fight for Competitive Seat

Most Competitive Race in State Will Challenge Eventual Winner to Represent Diverse Interests

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House candidate Suzan DelBene is one of the individuals running in the Democratic primary in what will be the most competitive race in Washington state.

The eventual Republican nominee in Washington’s 1st district may want to reach out to Rep. Dave Reichert for some tips.

The two Democratic challengers whom Reichert defeated in a nearby district over the past three cycles were drawn into the open seat and are early frontrunners in what will be the most competitive race in the state.

Darcy Burner, who lost to Reichert in 2006 and 2008, and Suzan DelBene, who lost in 2010, are both former Microsoft officials. They’re banking that the open-seat race offers a better opportunity than challenging Reichert.

“This is an open seat,” Burner said in an interview. “There’s no chance I’m going to be running against somebody that Lifetime network is going to be running TV movies about what a hero he is the entire election.”

Burner was referring to Reichert’s role as King County sheriff in the 2001 capture of the “Green River Killer,” who had been on the loose in the Seattle area for two decades. Reichert is running in safer territory now, while Burner and DelBene are running in mostly new terrain.

DelBene said the 1st district has a diverse makeup of urban and rural areas, like Reichert’s 8th district. “But this one definitely is unique in its own way given the border, for example, and a larger agricultural base,” she said.

Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D) gubernatorial bid left his district more vulnerable to a drastic redraw, and that bore out in the bipartisan commission’s final map. Democrats gained a favorable seat in the new Olympia-based 10th district, while Republicans were given a realistic shot at winning the 1st, which now juts north from Seattle’s eastern suburbs to the Canadian border.

Along with north King County, the 1st takes in much of the eastern parts of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, areas currently represented by Rep. Rick Larsen (D) in the 2nd district.

It’s easily the most competitive in the state, and it’s one where this year’s winner will likely never face a comfortable re-election. Reichert had a similar fate after first winning the 8th district in 2004.

“This is going to be déjà vu in reverse,” said Ron Dotzauer, a veteran Democratic strategist. “The Reichert district was always going to be in play once he got elected. If a Democrat were to be fortunate enough to win this seat in 2012, which is not a given, they’ll be under siege every cycle.”

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