In Our View: Reichert Will Be Missed

Congressman’s retirement underscores importance of 2018 midterm elections

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Next year’s retirement of U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert will draw attention — as well as campaign money — to Washington. The race for the state’s 8th Congressional District will be viewed as a bellwether for the midterm elections as Republicans try to maintain a majority in the House of Representatives.

All of that is important, but we would be remiss to ignore the vast contributions Reichert has made to his state. The 67-year-old Republican from Auburn announced last week that he will not seek an eighth term in Congress, leaving behind a strong legacy as a moderate.

This year, Reichert has bucked his party by being one of 20 Republicans — along with Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler — to vote against the GOP’s health care bill. He also has reiterated long-standing support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and has made it clear that he is no fan of President Donald Trump. Reichert, a former King County deputy and sheriff, has a long record of supporting free trade, fighting against human trafficking and working to preserve wilderness areas. Along the way, he has demonstrated that he works for constituents rather than for party leadership.

Reichert’s service to the people of the 8th District has been admirable, but on a national level, his retirement will probably be the most attention-grabbing action of his career. He is one of three moderate House Republicans who have announced they will not seek re-election next year, triggering much early analysis for what already promised to be a tumultuous election.

As the Cook Political Report opined: “If Democrats could have picked one House GOP incumbent to retire in 2018, it would have been GOP Rep. Dave Reichert. … Reichert’s exit moves Washington’s 8th District all the way from Likely Republican to the Toss Up column.” Political magazine Roll Call moved the 8th District race from “Solid Republican” to “Tilts Democratic.”

Washington’s 8th District crosses the Cascade Range, stretching from the eastern portion of King County to Chelan and Kittitas counties. It has elected a Republican to Congress ever since being created following the 1980 U.S. Census, but has voted for a Democrat in recent presidential elections. Considered a swing district, it will draw much media attention and big money from throughout the country for next year’s congressional election.

Undoubtedly, the election in the 8th District will highlight the partisan rancor that marks the nation’s deep political divide. It also will serve as a referendum upon the divisions within the two major parties. But rather than focus upon those divisions, the race for Reichert’s seat will present an opportunity for voters to demand moderation and problem-solving in Washington, D.C.

Nationally, next year’s election will be viewed — as are all midterm elections — as a referendum on the current administration. The 8th District will be viewed as one of the keys for Democratic hopes of gaining control of the House, where Republicans hold a 241-194 advantage. But rather than considering the midterms as a victory for one party and a repudiation of the other, they should be judged as an opportunity to return effective governance to the nation’s capital.

Reichert long has embraced that ethos while working for policies that enhance the quality of life for Washingtonians. Through thoughtful moderation, he has valiantly served his constituents and set an example for his successor to follow.