Biking around Washington State as a route to higher office? McDermott did that in 1972, logged 754 miles, and, he points out, The result of that was that I got 11 percent in the primary.
  • Office of Congressman Jim McDermott
  • Congressional candidate Andrew Hughes isn't the first guy to try biking around Washington State as a route to higher office. McDermott, seeking the governor's mansion, did that in 1972. He logged 754 miles and, he points out, didn't win. "The result," McDermott says, "was that I got 11 percent in the primary."
This morning I'll be jumping on my road bike and heading out to meet up with Congressional candidate Andrew Hughes, who today launches his campaign to unseat 23-year Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott with an athletic, three-day-long trek across Washington's 7th Congressional District.

It starts this morning with a bike ride across Vashon Island and then, this afternoon, a kayak trip across Puget Sound. Tomorrow morning: a swim across Lake Burien, plus the first leg of a two-day, 30-mile walk that will deliver Hughes to the new north tip of the district, in Edmonds, on Saturday.

But, before all that begins, a word from the man who Hughes, 30, wants to retire.

Speaking by phone yesterday from Washington, D.C., McDermott, 75, said of Hughes:

“I don’t know much about him. I don’t know who he is, really. The campaign, I guess, is where that will all be flushed out. I always encourage people to get involved in politics, so, you know, whatever.”

I asked McDermott: So you're not rattled by this young guy demonstrating his vigor by biking—and kayaking, and swimming, and walking—across the district you've held for over two decades?

"No," McDermott replied. "This is not a sport decided by how strong your back is or how high you can jump or whatever. The people are giving you their trust to make decisions for them, to make reasonable decisions. And if they don’t think your decisions are going to be reasonable, then they’re not going to give you the trust. These kinds of stunts may attract some media attention, but it’s not going to last very long."

Tell me about the biking you did in your failed 1972 run for governor.

“I watched Lawton Chiles walk the length of Florida and I thought—'Well, biking would fit better for Washington State.' I biked from Blaine to Vancouver. And I biked around in Spokane some... The result of that was that I got 11 percent in the primary.”

What are you going to be talking about as you run for re-election this year?

“The most important thing for me is to be here to implement the healthcare bill. I think the Supreme Court is going to ratify what we did and give us the go-ahead to finish implementation. It’s going to be a monstrous task to get a national plan up and running in 50 states.”

McDermott also spoke of pushing green energy and conservation, and then noted that the ranks of experienced, long-serving representatives from Washington State are thinning with Jay Inslee's departure to run for governor and Norm Dicks's retirement. He continued:

“Between Norm and Jay Inslee we’re losing a lot of impact on two of the three major committees. We’ve lost people with seniority, and we need people here who know people, and know how this place works.”

McDermott, who's a senior member on the House Ways and Means Committee, was heading off to vote for re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, so I asked him if he had any quick advice for Hughes (or me) about life on the bike trail.

“Have a good time," McDermott said. "I’ll be surprised if that’s the basis on which people make their decision—whether someone can swim across Lake Burien or whatever."