If "Who?" was your reaction to last week's news that former Bush II White House aide Scott Stanzel was exploring a bid to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell in 2012, you weren't alone. And "Who?" doesn't bode well for a state Republican party with a thinner bench than the Mariners.
But lately we've been hearing somewhat credible rumors that 8th District Congressman Dave Reichert might be up for abandoning his seat and challenging Cantwell. So is this chatter serious, or is there a stealthier factor at play here?"I've heard that," says Democratic consultant Blair Butterworth in reference to a potential Reichert Senate bid. "But I've always thought that he was using the rumor as leverage on the redistricting commission so as not to make the 8th District more Democratic."
In other words, Reichert may be involved in a bit of gamesmanship concerning Washington's new Congressional district, which will be drawn up before the '12 cycle. It's anyone's guess as to what sort of land grab that'll ultimately entail, but if, say, right-tilting southeast King County is shorn from the 8th, that could stick Reichert, a Republican who's consistently--and narrowly--beaten the odds in a onetime swing district that now leans Democratic, with his most difficult re-election duel to date. Leave Reichert's district alone (or, as one scenario has it, shift it a bit southward to make it more Republican), as Butterworth's logic dictates, and the Congressman, whose office did not return calls seeking comment for this story, will clear the coast for Cantwell to pummel the likes of Stanzel and coast to a third term (full disclosure: I worked for Cantwell during her 2000 campaign to unseat Slade Gorton).
But what if Reichert's motives are more pure? What would ensue would be a fascinating race between polar opposites: Cantwell, the wonkish brainiac who takes on issues of substance yet struggles with retail politics and staff retention, versus Reichert, the dull knife who gets by on Ken-doll looks, law-enforcement legend, and timely tacks to the center.
Sorry, Stanzel, but that's more along the lines of how we like our political theater.