Washington's 8th Congressional District May Be Less Republican Than You Think

A new study by a nonpartisan group gives weight to Democrats' argument that Dave Reichert can be beat.

The common perception is that Washington's recently redrawn 8th Congressional District, which incumbent Republican Dave Reichert calls home, is a safe haven for the GOP by design. Given that a sizable chunk of it consists of places like Chelan, Douglas, and Kittitas counties, it's an understandable assumption.

But Reichert's Democratic challenger, Karen Porterfield, isn't buying it. And apparently neither is the nonpartisan website OnTheIssues.org, which has ranked Reichert the country's seventh most vulnerable congressman.

Saying it looks "for incumbents whose party is a mismatch with the people in that district," OnTheIssues.org's ranking methodology is based on a district's voting history in presidential elections. With Obama garnering 57 percent of the vote in 2008 (to McCain's 42 percent) in what is now the 8th, and Kerry notching 51 percent (to Bush's 48 percent) in 2004, Reichert earned an OnTheIssues.org score of –18—which puts him in a three-way tie with New Hampshire's Charlie Bass and Illinois' Bobby Schilling among Republicans identified as vulnerable.

Even more promising for the Dems' chances in the 8th, according to Porterfield, are the results of August's primary. "We went back and wanted to look at the numbers to find out 'What did the story tell us?' " she says of the results analysis. "The key is in King County he had 48.5 percent [of the primary vote] and in Pierce 48.8 percent of the vote. The two counties make up 81 percent of the entire [primary] vote."

In essence, Porterfield is pointing out that while Chelan, Kittitas, and Douglas counties lean Republican, in the primary they represented only roughly 19 percent of the total votes cast. And with an especially big turnout expected in Democrat-heavy King County, math like that could spell trouble for Reichert.

Most telling, according to Porterfield, is that in the August primary Reichert collected only 50.62 percent of the vote—the worst showing of any congressional incumbent.

"He spent almost $2 million and barely cracked 50 percent," Porterfield points out. "He is vulnerable. He is definitely there on the cusp."

 
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