Democrats already have eyes on 2 congressional seats

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist
  • Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

It’s hard to believe we’re just 89 weeks from electing Washington’s first representative from the 10th Congressional District.

And that same November 2012 election should produce a successor for U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee who is trying to figure out when to move his campaign for governor out of the shadows and into the light.

Such talk makes normal folks want to scream. But in politics, it’s about time for serious candidates to get started seriously thinking about whether to run for those seats.

That’s why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dispatched its chief recruiter to Washington earlier this month.

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Penn., sat down with several individuals whose names are constantly circulating as possible candidates for Inslee’s seat.

These included two state lawmakers from Snohomish County — Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, and Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens — and a former state representative, Laura Ruderman.

For Ruderman, this is somewhat familiar. In 1998, she began a challenge of incumbent Republican Congressman Rick White. Several weeks later Inslee entered the race and she dropped out, running instead for a state House seat.

Hobbs is in an awkward position because he doesn’t live in the 1st Congressional District. At least not yet.

His Lake Stevens home is in the district served by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. But with redistricting, Hobbs should wind up in a redrawn 1st District though until that’s clear he’s got to keep a lid on anything resembling a campaign.

Liias isn’t in that position and should be watched closely. There’s no question this 29-year-old Edmonds resident aspires for higher political office. He’s also a sharp enough political strategist to figure out if the new district bodes well for him in 2012 or not.

While he’s not talking about Congress, this year in Olympia, he looks to be trying to build his resume and boost his profile. For example, he is carrying the torch for environmentalists wanting to shut down the state’s only coal-fired plant and the banner for a statewide effort to fund transportation services with new voter-approved taxes. Both are earning him ink and face time on television.

One person Schwartz apparently didn’t sit down with was the just retired Congressman Brian Baird, who recently moved from Vancouver, Wash., to Edmonds.

Baird has a wad of unspent dough from his last campaign but his newness to the area is an issue. And, his final votes in Congress didn’t sit well with liberal Democrats of which there are many more in Inslee’s district than the one Baird represented. And it’s likely to stay that way after redistricting.

Another person who did not get an audience — and did not want an audience — is Jeff Bjornstad, the former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and the manager of her 2010 re-election campaign.

Today, Bjornstad is a lobbyist with Washington2 Advocates and rumored as a potentially strong candidate because of his extensive political ties in this state and Washington, D.C.

Bjornstad laughed when told of the rumors.

“Trust me, there’s no way I would ever run,” he said. “Never.”

While 89 weeks is not too early to begin thinking about getting into a campaign, it’s also not too soon to get out.

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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