It’s pretty crazy. These days, in order to run for Congress- let alone win a spot in it- you have to raise a ton of money. Incumbents, according to noted campaign finance expert Tony Corrado, come up with an average $1.4 million to run their races.
Keep in mind that figure is about incumbents- as you may have heard before, incumbents generally don’t have much trouble getting reelected to the House. Most Congressional districts are engineered by state legislatures to lean heavily in the direction of one of the two parties in a process called gerrymandering. Therefore most Congressional races aren’t competitive. Think about it this way: the only way Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle is going to get voted out is if someone comes at him from the left. People from Capitol Hill and Fremont aren’t going to vote for a Tea Partier.
That means that the most frantic and important fundraising you’ll see every year is in heavily-contested districts. The 8th Congressional District, which includes Auburn, Kirkland, and parts of Bellevue, has recently become one of the more competitive districts in the country. Rep. Dave Reichert, the incumbent, has served three consecutive terms.
However, he’s never won more than 53% of the vote due to the increasingly-Democratic nature of his constituents and the strength of his opponents (the political parties tend to save their efforts to recruit strong challengers for competitive districts- a rising-star R wouldn’t run against McDermott in Seattle, for example; “strong candidate” stories are a great identifier of competitive races). Readers may remember the hype surrounding Darcy Burner, Reichert’s opponent for the last two elections.
And all of this leads up to a point (I promise!): you might have seen the headline “Republican [House Minority] Leader Boehner to raise money for Reichert in Bellevue.” There’s a lot of information you can glean from that simple headline.
First, and most repetitively, that the race is competitive. The parties don’t send national figures to campaign except in competitive races. National figures like, say, your leader in the House of Representatives. The leadership, being human, have finite time and, therefore, finite fundraising trips they’re able to make- especially if they’re schlepping 6 hours across the country to the Best Coast to stump.
The GOP is targeting this race heavily if Boehner is trotting out for a one-off fundraiser. Being on a West Coast swing is kind of a big deal. Forgive my West Coast bias, but most of the time we aren’t deigned worthy of campaigning East Coast bigshots unless they’re going to get something out of their visit that they wouldn’t get by taking a half-hour flight to Pennsylvania.
In other words, the 8th is very much in play again this year.