These are the people, so far, who think they beat Dave Reichert.
These are the people, so far, who think they can beat Dave Reichert. The Campaigns of Jason Rittereiser, Mona Das, and Tola Marts

We're 16 months away from election day, but the race to flip Washington's 8th district has begun in earnest. Though the independent commission redrew the district back in 2012 to make it more safely Republican, the DCCC has targeted the area because its constituents voted for Obama in 2012 and Clinton in 2016. If they can get those voters to come out against Reichert for the midterm, then they're one seat closer to taking back the House.

Republicans are responding to this challenge seriously. Reichert's already raised approximately $420,000 in a race that will likely draw a stupid amount of money.

I talked with the three Democrats currently running against Dave Reichert at Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's town hall last Saturday afternoon, and my first impressions are mixed.

Tola Marts

Tola is like the Polish for Tony, Tola told me. Here he is with his family.
"Tola" is like the Polish for "Tony," Tola told me. Here he is with his family. Courtesy of Tola Marts Campaign

This is hard to explain, but I had a strong urge to non-ironically attend the Renaissance Fair with Tola Marts. Though I cannot personally allow myself the pleasure of donning a suit of fine armor and swinging a broad axe in the air as I barbarically stomp and yawp, there's something about Tola that allows me to indulge any inner nerdery remaining from my years of secretly playing RPGs in high school. Maybe it's because he worked on Blue Origin? Maybe it's because I know he loves science fiction, and that he worked with Stranger Genius nominee in Literature Neil Stephenson on his recent novel, Seveneves?

I don't know. But what I'm saying is this: even though he's built like a viking, he puts you at ease. As an Issaquah city councilman, Marts is also the only elected official running against Reichert, and he's come straight out the gate advocating for a specific policy: two years of free community college for all. Not quite College for All, but not not.

Though he seems smart and capable, he doesn't exude fancy pizazzy star power. If he wants to win, it seems to me that he must knock on every door in the 8th district and talk to everyone for five minutes. (While five minutes is brief, it's enough to give you a nice, gossipy first impression, as evidenced in this post.)

Mona Das

Shes a hugger.
She's a hugger. Courtesy of Mona Das Campaign

Immediate mom vibes from Mona. She seems game, pumped, personable, and ready to go "all for Washington" on a message of oneness. I want to hang out with her on some well-appointed deck and drink pink wine and listen to her critique my business plan in a firm but loving way.

She moved from Seattle to Covington, WA, about two months ago (👀 ), and told me she's had a mortgage business for thirteen years. Her family came to America from India with "$6 in their pocket," she said, and credits education as the force that "created [her] family." For this reason she "believes that education is a right, just like healthcare." She says she champions women’s rights, immigrant rights, and the environment. She proudly waves her MBA in Sustainability from Presidio Graduate School as evidence of that latter fact.

Though she appears to advocate for basic human and environmental rights, its unclear where she stands on specific policies. When I asked, she gave me the ol' line about "knocking on doors and talking to voters about what they're concerned about."

Jason Rittereiser

Strong, sandy handshake.
Strong, sandy handshake. Courtesy of Jason Rittereiser Campaign

I want to go to a Mariners game with Jason Rittereiser. It seems like he'd be surprisingly good at heckling. He'd know so much about each of the players that his jabs could be tailored to their particular shortcomings, and I might find that funny even though I know nothing of baseball. And it also seems like he'd take issue with a very specific baseball rule that he thinks is unfair, but that persists because of some foolish, unjust tradition.

Perhaps this apparent love of sports and his overachiever attitude will serve him well on both sides of the mountains. Though he also moved into the district within the last few months (👀 ), he was born and raised in Ellensburg, WA, went to UW, and only spent a few years in Chicago for law school. "I've lived and worked in King County and Pierce County my entire life," he told me in his serious voice, "The 8th district's our home, and we're excited to be living in Issaquah."

Though he's clearly from Ellensburg (go Bulldogs woo!), Rittereiser walks and talks like a politician because he's a lawyer. Starch shirt, clean cut, good slacks. He's the kind of person who says "Look—" when he catches himself rambling and wants to get back on message. If part of his appeal lies in the fact that he somehow innately understands the concerns of the people who live in the rural parts of the district because he's from those parts, then he'll have to find a way to talk like I imagine he does at the ballpark.

The thing that links these Democrats together, aside from the general thrust of their liberal views, is that they're all incredibly well-educated. Mona's a successful businesswoman, Tola's a genius engineer, Rittereiser's an award-winning prosecuting attorney. Congressman Dave Reichert is a lucky cop with a two-year degree who would crumble like crumb bun on a debate stage with any one of these smartypants motherfuckers. Oh yeah, and Reichert also did all of this stupid shit:

Reichert Watch:
Every time Reichert takes a party line vote that hurts his constituents or introduces needless legislation or does anything at all, we’ll add it to the list.

• This month, Reichert didn't respond to an invitation from his constituents to hold a town hall, so Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal stepped in and did the job for him.
• In May he voted against the latest version of Trumpcare, but only after it became clear the Republicans in the U.S. House had the votes to pass it
• On March 9, he voted for the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
• A week later, after a Congressional Budget Office analysis found the plan could leave 24 million people across the country without insurance by 2026, he defended it.
• Before that, Reichert made misleading statements about threats posed by his own constituents.
• Recently, he voted for the SCRUB act, which creates a regulatory committee to identify and eliminate regulations that don’t directly increase the GDP. The committee’s goals align with White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s plan to “deconstruct the administrative state,” but the irony of commissioning a regulatory agency to cut back on regulations is lost on no one, especially not tax payers who are being charged $30 million for the favor.
• Reichert twice voted against forcing Trump to show Congress his tax returns (once in committee and once in a roll call vote), which may illuminate conflicts of interest and business ties with Russia.
• Reichert was the only Washington Republican who voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.
• In 2014, he proposed a bill that would ban welfare recipients from using benefits to buy weed, despite the fact that such purchases were already illegal.
• In 2010, he voted to maintain “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
• That same year, Reichert suffered significant brain trauma when a tree branch fell on his head. The resulting hand-sized blood clot that formed in his brain went untreated for two months.
• In their 2006 endorsement, The Seattle Times Editorial Board applauded Reichert for his “conscience-driven independent streak,” but, that same year, during a speech before the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, Reichert expressed his readiness to vote along party lines, saying: “when the leadership comes to me and says, ‘Dave, we need you to take a vote over here because we want to protect you and keep this majority,’ I... I do it.” Though he has voted for some land conservation efforts, Reichert describes his pro-environment votes as “chess pieces, strategies” to hold his seat in a swing district. (RICH SMITH AND HEIDI GROOVER)