The only Northwest Republican left representing an area west of the Cascades, Dave Reichert of the district located roughly east and southeast of Seattle but west of the mountains, has been through the political wringer.
He was elected in 2004, in a fairly tight race, then re-elected more closely in the Democratic year of 2006. Through this decade, his one-Republican district has been trending firmly Democratic in legislative and other races. And then, in 2008, the opposition to Reichert looked as if it had jumped the shark. His Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner, in her second race against him, did not quite as well as she had the election previous, in an election year even better nationally for Democrats. 2010 seems unlikely to be a comparable sweep year for Democrats. And the historical norm is that once a member of the U.S. House has passed the first re-elect, or maybe two, they generally settle in to easy returns.
And maybe that happens with Reichert. But our attention was snagged today by a Tacoma News Tribune article on Reichert (and Representative Doc Hastings of central Washington, a different situation since his is a very strongly Republican district) and his response to the health care debate. In Congress, Republicans have been hanging in very solidly on health issues, absolutely opposed to public options and other key elements of Democratic proposals. Operating in a politically marginal district, Reichert has been hanging in with his caucus.
The story notes, for example, "Reichert said, 'it’s exaggerated to say it will put a federal bureaucrat in every doctor’s office, but the government will have a role.' Both are also absolutely convinced the Democratic proposals to rein in Medicare spending by more than $500 billion over 10 years will result in cuts in care for the elderly, an allegation Democrat’s dismiss as an outright lie."
Not only many superhot issues where the partisan divide has been so deep have found Reichert so firmly planted with his caucus; in some other cases, he seemed to try to have at least toe in both camps. But not so in this one.
When he draws an opponent next year, as he will, what role will this play? And will there be cost exacted?