Capitol Hill’s young state representative announced he is making a run at the other Capitol Hill in a bid to unseat the state’s most senior congressman. Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, the 43rd District’s junior representative, announced on Thursday he planned to challenge U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott in 7th Congressional District election next year.
“I’m running for Congress to offer a fresh start,” said Walkinshaw, a 31-year-old gay Cuban-American who lives on Capitol Hill. “We cannot expect a change in Washington D.C. unless we are willing to elect new kinds of leaders from Washington State.”
McDermott is deeply entrenched in Washington state politics. The 78-year-old former U.S. Navy psychiatrist was first elected to the state House in 1970 and served four terms in the state Senate. In 1988 he was elected to Congress and won every reelection race since without any major opposition. In 2014 he was reelected with 81% of the vote.
Unseating McDermott, who is considered among the most progressive members of Congress, is an ambitious goal for Walkinshaw’s first contested race. After working for the Gates Foundation, Walkinshaw was tabbed by Democrats to replace Sen. Jamie Pedersen who took over Ed Murray’s Senate seat when he became mayor. Walkinshaw then ran unopposed for the seat the following year.
Walkinshaw also heads into the race without an endorsement from his two 43rd District colleagues, House Speaker Frank Chopp and Sen. Pedersen, who also lives on Capitol Hill. The race tees sets up an internal struggle among Seattle Democrats over the next year, but could also have implications for Seattle’s socialists.
The 7th District is one of the most liberal in the country and likely offers City Council member Kshama Sawant the best opportunity to make it to the national stage as an elected official — though she would need to move north. With Sawant committed to another four years on City Council, Walkinshaw’s 2016 bid could potentially head off a messier race down the road with the socialist firebrand or another Democrat in the mix.
The 7th District covers the majority of Seattle and Capitol Hill, but leaves out a substantial section of the city south of E Madison. McDermott is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for writing tax policy.
Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed two of Walkinshaw’s bills with Capitol Hill ties. Joel’s Law would strengthen involuntarily commitment guidelines for people suffering from mental illness. The bill was inspired by Joel Reuter who died on Capitol Hill in 2013. Walkinshaw’s other bill expanded access to naloxone, a drug that can reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose.