With Rep. Jim McDermott officially retiring from Congress at the end of the year, fundraising is full steam ahead in the race to fill his 7th District seat. While jumping into the contest early may have flouted Democratic Party decorum, it’s paying off for State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw.
In one month, Walkinshaw raised just over $223,000 — close to a quarter of what many say is the minimum deal-in for serious contenders to replace the 14-term McDermott.
According to his campaign, it’s the second-highest fourth-quarter total raised by a Washington Democratic Congressional candidate since 2007. With just two sessions in Olympia under his belt, donors don’t appear to be sweating the 31-years-old’s experience or that this will be his first ever contested election.
“This race is going to be about the issues and I think the support I’ve already brought to the table shows it,” Walkinshaw told CHS.
“There is a responsibility in this district to fight for issues that are on the right side of history, but may not be in the mainstream of the country.”
The issues Walkinshaw wants to tackle are wide-ranging: entitlement expansion, undoing Citizens United, passing aggressive environmental protections, sentencing reform, and imposing stricter regulations on the financial sector.
Most exciting for Walkinshaw is the opportunity to represent the forefront of progressive thinking on a national stage, pushing issues outside the national mainstream. Drug policy reform, specifically decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs, is at the top of his list.
“There is a responsibility in this district to fight for issues that are on the right side of history, but may not be in the mainstream of the country,” Walkinshaw said.
The Capitol Hill resident has also amassed a list endorsements from around Seattle, including sustainability activist Ben Schiendelman, Hilary Stern, founding executive director of Casa Latina, and Rep. Ruth Kagi of Shoreline.
“He is an outstanding legislator on human services, and will be a strong, progressive voice at the federal-level for those facing economic and social hardship in our society,” Kagi said in a statement.
Walkinshaw is currently the only candidate in the race, though that is expected to change any day. McDermott has represented the solidly Democratic district for 27 years. A shot at the Seattle congressional seat without having to challenge an incumbent could be a once in a political lifetime opportunity for state and local officials wanting to move to the national stage.
King County Council member Joe McDermott is seriously considering getting into the race and recently inaugurated City Council member Kshama Sawant reportedly isn’t ruling it out even with her 9th District residency. The 7th spans from Vashon to Lynwood and covers most of Seattle, though candidates are not required to live in the district to enter the race.
UPDATE (9:18 AM): Scratch off State Sen. Reuven Carlyle from the list of potential 7th District congressional candidates. The senator from the 36th District, which includes Ballard and Queen Anne, announced Wednesday he would not run for McDermott’s seat. He also painted a fairly depressing picture of what’s in store for the winner.
“Despite all the public attention of an open seat in Congress for the first time in a generation, I know the dark side of the fanfare,” he said in a statement. “I know the difference between the rewardingly loud family home that Wendy and I have built in Seattle and a soulless apartment in Washington, D.C. where silence is deafening.”
What about the 43rd?
Walkinshaw’s move has also opened up the race for his 43rd District House seat in Olympia. Michael Maddux, who lost a close City Council race in November, had been considering a run but recently told his supporters that it wasn’t his time. Other names in the early mix have strong Capitol Hill ties, including 2015 District 3 candidate Morgan Beach and Capitol Hill Community Council president Zachary Pullin,
In the meantime, Walkinshaw will be returning to Olympia next week for a 60-day session that, once again, will be dominated by a protracted fight over education funding.
Walkinshaw will be sponsoring bills that seek to help workers secure jobs after serving prison time and other criminal justice reforms.