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Koster and ‘the rape thing’

Washington’s first House district is much the most interesting, seemingly much the closest, congressional race in the Northwest this year – the only one that really has had the feel of a jumpball race. Is it still?

The new first district is really unlike any that preceded it, an inland district generally in northwest Washington between Seattle and Canada. It includes some King and Snohomish county turf toward its southern end that tilts Democratic, but lots of other territory north of that with a Republican history. It’s commonly called a close-split district, and seems here to have maybe a thin Republican edge.

The race there is heated. The Democratic primary, won by self-financing Suzan DelBene (who has experience running in the 8th congressional district), was closely contested between a bunch of candidates. The Republican field was relatively cleared by John Koster, a Snohomish County commissioner well-known in the area, who came within an inch or so two years ago of defeating 2nd District Democrat Rick Larsen, and ran very strongly in the substantial parts of the new district that overlap with the old 2nd. Our initial take was that this race was close, but Koster seemed to have a slight edge.

That may be gone now. DelBene has been heavily outspending him, though that may be a lesser factor. She has been leading (though not by a lot) in the few polls that have surfaced.

And now, days before the ballot deadline, there’s Koster’s entry into the Republican rape talk hall of fame.

One of Koster’s problematic areas, in a district largely economically conservative but more socially liberal, has been his social conservatism, especially on abortion and related subjects.

Last weekend, he was on tape saying this: “On the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s the consequence of this crime, how does that make it better? You know what I mean?”

Asked about incest and rape, he described incest as “so rare” – the suggestion being that it’s so uncommon as to hardly merit cognizance.

What that may be widely taken to mean is Koster’s association with the Akin-Mourdoch discussion about rape and abortion, a stance that has crippled those once-strong candidacies and has turned them both from frontrunners to underdogs. If Koster’s statement goes viral around the 1st in the next few days, DelBene may not just win, but win easily, in a district that otherwise would have been a tough, close call for days after next Tuesday.

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