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Sunday, June 25, 2006

WA-08: Reichert's Badge Isn't So Shiny, After All

Posted by James L.

As you are probably well aware, there are more Netroots candidates than just Ned Lamont. One of the latest is Darcy Burner, who's taking on freshman Rep. David Reichart (R). To get a good sense of what Darcy is about, and why she stands a good chance in this district, I highly recommend you take a few minutes to read the excellent piece that the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger did on her back in March.

The 8th District of Washington state has never elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives since it was created after the 1980 census. However, the district, just outside Seattle, has become more fertile territory for liberals and Democrats in recent years; Reichart only won this open seat by four points (51-47%) in 2004 against liberal radio host Dave Ross. As The Stranger notes:

Democrats need to wrestle 15 seats from Republicans in order to take back the House, and it's in places like the 8th District that they plan to do it. The district is a large and fast-changing area that encompasses suburban developments and rural farmlands, and covers the east side of Lake Washington as far north as Duvall and as far south as Mt. Rainier National Park. It has trended increasingly liberal in recent years, voting for Democratic candidates for president and Senate. On Tuesday, this increasingly liberal bent prompted state Representative Rodney Tom, who represents a part of the 8th District, to abandon the Republican party and declare himself a Democrat so that he could be more in line with his constituency. But since its creation in 1982, the 8th District has never sent a Democrat to the House.

In 2004, when longtime Republican Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn retired from her seat in the 8th District, Dave Reichert, having gained national fame for capturing the Green River Killer as King County Sheriff, shrewdly parlayed his name recognition into a run for Dunn's seat. He won a narrow, 4-percentage-point victory [...] but that same year the ticket-splitting voters in the 8th District also picked Democrat John Kerry for president and helped send Democrat Patty Murray back to the Senate.

As was alluded to, Reichart had the edge in 2004 because, on paper, his resume was impeccable: as Sheriff of King County--by far the most populated of the 8th's three counties--he helped track down the Green River Killer, one of the most notorious and prolific serial killers in U.S. history. However, according to Roll Call (subscription only), there have been more and more noises as of late of a big bowl of administrative and ethical problems in the King County police force that were left ignored or tolerated due to either incompetence or indifference on Reichart's part. The Stakeholder managed to snag a few excerpts from the article for the masses to see:

Freshman Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) earned his suburban Seattle seat two years ago by running a campaign centered on his storied tenure as King County sheriff.

Now Democrats hope that revelations of corruption in the sheriff’s office will taint his reputation as an ideal law enforcement officer and cripple his re-election efforts.

Since last August, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has run a front-page news series about an array of problems in Reichert’s old fiefdom, ranging from abuse of power to officers hit with drug and domestic violence charges.

Josh Feit, news editor of the weekly Seattle newspaper The Stranger, calls the on- going revelations the “sleeping giant” of the campaign.

Reichert is not accused of any wrong- doing but some of the stories paint a portrait of an administrator unaware of questionable, and sometimes illegal, behavior by subordinates. The stories also examine whether Reichert let some bad cops retire with full pensions out of expediency rather than pursuing criminal charges.

“I think it creates a serious credibility problem because he’s shirking accountability for criminal activities that happened on his watch,” alleged Kelly Steele, spokesman for the state Democratic Party.

“Ultimately, in a broader sense, it’s the same problem with the Republican corruption in Washington D.C.,” Steele continued. “Reichert thinks that the rules don’t apply to himself and his friends.”

It seems that we've found the rare Republican that was corrupt even before coming under the influence of Tom DeLay and his cronies. I think the most interesting part of the article is this quote from an FBI agent who had the unfortunate experience of working with Sherriff Reichert:

“What’s this group doing down there?” the agent was quoted as asking. “Who’s in charge? “Where’s the accountability?”

Last December the paper wrote: “A few weeks before that, two sheriff’s commanders also recommended [a deputy] be fired for breaking department rules. Instead, Reichert — then in the midst of a hot Congressional campaign — allowed [the officer] to quietly slip into retirement about two weeks later, records show.”

It seems that Reichart's biggest advantage--his record as King County Sheriff--is slowly being eroded as his Republican-style (ie. incompetent) administrative skills are being brought to light. For the record, I think turning this race into a referendum on Reichart's abilities as Sheriff is a risky move, but personally tying Reichart to general Republican incompetence will be a much easier sell given these allegations.

PS: Here's the money shot of Congressman Dave and one of his closest friends that you'll be seeing again and again in this race.

Posted at 08:44 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Washington | Technorati

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Here are some more stories referencing Reichert's department's problems.

Sheriff's Office shelters its own.

Two Cops Sue the Sheriff

Democrats to File Ethics Complaint Against Reichert (from nearly two years ago, though).

Posted by: DemocraticLuntz [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 25, 2006 09:32 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I don't think running against incumbent members of Congress based on actions in previous offices is a winning strategy unless they were personally involved in corruption while in that office. A poorly run King County Sherrifs Dept is not enough to bring Reichart down. The picture of Reichart with Bush and his voting record in Congress are going to be much more important components of this race.

Posted by: John Mills [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 26, 2006 11:57 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment