Washington D.C., for all intents and purposes, is a shithole. It's filled with more opportunistic social climbers and power mongers than a cocktail party of Aaron Spelling characters. But the sad truth remains: These people make decisions that affect our daily lives.

So The Stranger is prepared to hold its nose and make a sacrifice. We're going to Washington D.C. so you don't have to.

This new column was born from a sense that local media doesn't pay enough attention to the members of our state's D.C. delegation. The idea, quite simply, is to find out more about who these 11 people are, and what exactly they do to deserve those fat $150,000 salaries.

I'll be setting up shop in D.C. next week to track the following lawmakers:


The state's newest senator, Democrat Maria Cantwell, was the winner of 2000's other high-stakes overtime election, coming from behind on absentee ballots to defeat Republican incumbent Slade Gorton. Cantwell was ousted from the House of Representatives in 1994, just in time to get in on the dot-com boom. As a Real Networks executive, she was one of the lucky few to cash in overinflated dot-com stock in time to buy something else--a U.S. Senate seat. Cantwell spent about $10 million of her own money during her campaign.

The state's senior senator, Democrat Patty Murray, was elected in 1992, the so-called "Year of the Woman." In addition to tireless mention of her tennis shoes, she led the drive to oust Oregon Republican Bob Packwood from the Senate. Murray has become a key Democratic fundraiser, chairing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, essentially a soft-money funnel for Democratic Senate candidates.


CD1--Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island). Über-liberal Inslee used to represent the more conservative 4th District. But like so many Democrats in the state, Inslee got his clock cleaned in 1994. So what did he do? Moved to Bainbridge Island and ran again in 1998, this time in a district with a lot more Democrats.

CD2--Rick Larsen (D-Arlington). This district, which stretches from Everett to the Canadian border, is probably the most competitive in the state. Larsen, a former Snohomish city councilman, won with just 50 percent of the vote in 2000. Both Democrats and Republicans spent big money here in 2000, as control of the House was up for grabs. With control of the House once again on the line, Republicans could make Larsen one of their top targets in 2002.

CD3--Brian Baird (D-Olympia). Brain Baird, elected in 1998 to represent Southwest Washington, is a moderate democratic voice on health care issues. He was a primary sponsor of the patient's bill of rights, and founded a bipartisan House Meth Caucus last year.

CD4--Doc Hastings (R-Pasco). Hastings is a good GOP soldier, which has earned him a spot in the Republican leadership hierarchy, serving Speaker Dennis Hastert as an assistant majority whip.

CD5--George Nethercutt (R-Spokane). Nethercutt is best known as the man who defeated a sitting speaker of the House. Either that, or for breaking his 1994 pledge to only serve three terms. A potential Senate candidate in 2004.

CD6--Norman Dicks (D-Bremerton). Dicks has represented this Tacoma-area district for 26 years. He is a moderate who routinely votes for defense-spending increases--no surprise, since his district is heavily dependent on military contracts.

CD7--Jim McDermott (D-Seattle). Jim McDermott is such a liberal institution that no Republican has even bothered to run against him for the last six years. A Green tried to tweak the status quo in 2000, coming up way short.

CD8--Jennifer Dunn (R-Bellevue). Dunn's attempt to introduce some common sense into the Republican Party was thwarted in 1998 when she lost her bid to challenge conservative caveman Dick Armey for House majority leader. Though Democrats Bill Clinton and Al Gore both carried the district, Dunn won her races with better than 60 percent of the vote.

CD9--Adam Smith (D-Kent). Smith, who was first elected in 1996, has carved out a reputation as a moderate with an independent streak. At the ripe old age of 36, he's already held elected office for one third of his life.