On one side of that divide is growing Democratic strength in white-collar suburbs recoiling from Trump; on the other is continued Republican dominance in rural places and blue-collar communities that flocked to Trump in 2016 and haven’t wavered much since. These divergent forces explain why Democratic opportunities are expanding in well-educated suburban districts around major metropolitan areas all over the country while the party is still facing an uphill climb in almost all the House seats outside metropolitan areas that it hoped to contest this year.
The Washington race between first-time Democratic candidate Kim Schrier, a pediatrician, and Republican Dino Rossi, a three-time GOP nominee for statewide office, is one of several contests that capture both of those dynamics inside the same district. Democrats this year are mounting serious challenges for Republican-held seats that sprawl from suburban into rural areas around Richmond, Virginia; Lexington, Kentucky; Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; Cedar Rapids and Des Moines, Iowa; Topeka, Kansas; Columbus, Ohio; Springfield, Illinois; and parts of upstate New York, among other places.
Republicans have controlled each of these districts for years, typically posting comfortable margins in both their rural and suburban areas. But the results in them this fall will pressure-test the electoral trade that Trump is imposing on his party: growing strength in small-town and rural communities offset by growing skepticism and resistance in many white-collar suburbs, particularly among women. The intensely divisive confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh appears poised to magnify the trends on both sides of that line.
Washington’s Eighth Congressional District contains all of these competing forces. It runs from white-collar suburbs in the district’s northwestern end (including Sammamish and Issaquah) to blue-collar communities (principally Auburn) in its southwestern portion. Extending to the east, it crosses the Cascades to mostly rural communities including Wenatchee and Ellensburg. It includes software engineers working at the nearby Microsoft campus in Bellevue, mechanics assembling Boeing airliners, and farmers growing apples and cherries.
Created after the 1980 census, the Eighth Congressional District has long displayed a split political personality. It has routinely preferred Democratic presidential candidates, though only by narrow margins: Clinton beat Trump there by three percentage points after Barack Obama won it by two points in 2012. But it has always elected relatively moderate Republicans to the House, with Reichert, a former King County sheriff known for catching the “Green River Killer,” holding the seat since 2004.
Schrier, a pediatrician from Issaquah, was initially spurred to activism by Trump’s victory and participated in the 2017 Women’s March. But she says she decided to run for Congress after Reichert voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act just a few days after she joined a delegation of local doctors that urged him not to. Schrier says she had never spoken in public before she announced her candidacy. But with strong support from national women’s organizations, Schrier, 49, narrowly topped Jason Rittereiser, a county prosecutor who was born east of the Cascades, for the Democratic nomination.