Democrats are drooling over a Washington state congressional seat that’s always been in Republican hands.
Republican political consultant Chris Vance says he knows why: "Donald Trump is unbelievably unpopular," Vance said. "His approval ratings are down to 34 percent, and he's taking down the entire Republican Party with him."
Party operatives working with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will meet in private Tuesday morning with around eight candidates in the Puget Sound area.
Their ambitious goal is to beat an entrenched Republican. Their more ambitious goal is to take back Congress. (Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives since 2010.)
The target is Dave Reichert, who represents the 8th Congressional District, which is east and south of Seattle.
And Vance says going after Reichert's seat makes sense for Democrats.
"The president's party routinely loses seats in off year elections. So 2018 is almost certainly going to be a Democrat year anyway," Vance said. "You add into that how monumentally unpopular Donald Trump is in western Washington in the Puget Sound area, and it looks like a Democrat tidal wave."
Beating Reichert won't be easy. He's been re-elected six times. He's known by many people in his district as the former King County sheriff who caught the Green River killer (although the precise role Reichert played is disputed). On top of that, Reichert votes less conservatively than many in his own party.
But Vance says that may not matter: "When your entire party is going down, it is the moderates from the swing districts who go down. And it's really not fair because you think the moderates should survive, but for both parties, it is the moderates from swing districts who perish in the tidal wave."
The 8th Congressional District is in some ways a tale of two tribes. It runs from the small city of Issaquah in King County, across the cascades through much more rural territory to the much smaller city of Chelan.
But Vance says key to winning the 8th Congressional District is to focus on the "moderate, cul-de-sac, PTA, kids-in-school, white suburbanites. Those are the key voters in Washington state. Those are the key voters in Dave Reichert's congressional district. And they don't like Donald Trump."
The election isn’t until 2018. But sources tell KUOW at least eight candidates are already thinking of getting in. (As of this writing, six have filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission).
This is one of 23 Republican-held seats that Democrats are looking at where Hillary Clinton beat Trump in 2016.
One candidate in the 8th is Tola Marts, an engineer and Issaquah City Council. Marts says he hopes to tap into the political energy that's emerged this year in the district, most visibly in several protests in defense of Obamacare.
"The folks who you're seeing involved right now in some of these protests are folks who haven't historically gotten involved," Marts said, "but feel that things have really reached a point that they have to be involved."
But Marts says he aims to speak to voters across the district: "There were a lot of folks who just didn't feel like they were a part of the prosperity, and I think we see that in the 8th. There are parts of the 8th that are doing real well, and there are parts that have real challenges."
Washington State Democrat and party chair Tina Podlodowski has a similar message:
"The qualities for a candidate in the 8th are really diverse," she said. "But I think it's going back to our roots in terms of being the party of working families, and looking at economic issues, as well as health care issues."
Congressman Reichert did not make himself available for this story. But his spokesman Chad Ramey said in a statement, “The congressman has dedicated his entire adult life to serving Washington and welcomes anyone who hopes to do the same to run for office.”