‘Throw the bums out’ of Congress? Not very likely

Hours into the partial unplugging of federal government, HappyClam was anything but joyous about the feat of the nation’s elected leaders.

“Our government has become an embarrassment,” the creatively named one wrote in an online comment on HeraldNet.com. “Just remember all the morons causing the problems so they can be removed from office swiftly.”

Such disgust has since become measurable throughout the country. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last week, six out of 10 people said they would vote to replace every member of Congress, including their own, if they could do so.

They can’t, and if history is any indication, they won’t when the opportunity arises in the 2014 elections.

Right now, 375 of the 435 House of Representative seats up for election next year are rated as “safe” for one party or the other by political science professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for the Study of Politics.

And only eight are tabbed as ‘toss up’ by Sabato in his well-respected “Crystal Ball,” which tracks competition in federal contests.

While Americans dislike Congress and have a tradition of saying they want to ‘kick the bums out,’ it never happens, said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Most of the ‘bums’ will get re-elected without much of a fight.

Washington is no exception. All 10 House seats are deemed safe for the incumbent and, as of today, none of the office-holders even faces an opponent.

Leaders of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties insist there’s plenty of time to recruit candidates who can mount viable challenges. They reflexively reject the suggestion their party is already conceding seats to the other’s incumbents.

“As soon as the election is finished Nov. 5, that’s when we survey the landscape,” said Susan Hutchison, the state GOP’s newly minted chairwoman. “Voters have a short attention span. They are not thinking about 2014 yet. Even the Democrats want to wait until the 2013 cycle is over.”

If there is to be a battleground, it would most likely be in Washington’s 1st Congressional District, which stretches south from the Canadian border to Kirkland. It encompasses communities and farms in Snohomish, Whatcom, Skagit and King counties.

The state’s Redistricting Commission designed it to include as equal a number of Republican and Democratic voters as possible. Commissioners envisioned this district, more than any other, to be where the two parties could send their best gladiators to duel every two years.

But rookie Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene of Medina looks as comfortable an incumbent in that seat today as Democrat Rep. Jim McDermott in Seattle and Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Spokane.

Hutchison said she’s talking with a “couple very strong candidates” who won’t decide until after the November election.

Meanwhile, DelBene is solidifying her position.

She’s raised several hundred thousand dollars and is presumed able to self-finance in a pinch, if needed; she did en route to winning the seat in 2012.

Her voting record may not be much of a target. In the shutdown, she’s voted with the Republican majority in the House to reopen federal agencies, sealing off one potential line of attack. Her high-level involvement in writing a new federal farm bill is a resume booster, too.

And one other sign of her strength — the National Republican Congressional Committee isn’t devoting much attention to her.

“National Republicans last cycle never felt like it was a good district for them,” Kondik said. “If that’s the way they felt about it last time, why would they feel any differently (now)?”

If there isn’t a good tussle in this district in 2014, there’s unlikely to be any worth noting elsewhere in the state.

That probably won’t put HappyClam, and a whole lot of others, in a mood to smile.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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