The confusion in the 1st

The Seattle Times editorial board was critical of several would-be members of Congress who decided to run both for the temporary seat and the permanent one. I wish the issue were that easy to describe for us in Kitsap, but let’s save that conversation for later in this blog post.

The Times’ criticism points out that candidates like Darcy Burner, who was the first to declare she’d run in both races, get to raise twice as much money this way for mailers and the like, because she can raise money for two different elections. (Confused already? I don’t blame you. I’ll explain it all later. I keep promising that, I know.) I mention Burner specifically, because she’s the one who started the cascade of candidates running for the full two-year term that begins in January to also run for the one-month job (It might be longer. I know, that’s confusing.) That ends in January to fill the last month of Jay Inslee’s congressional term. He resigned earlier this year to focus on his bid for the governor’s office. Burner was joined in running for both seats by Democrats Suzan DelBene, Laura Ruderman and Darshan Rauniyar. Republican John Koster joined in as well. Democrat Steve Hobbs declined, saying the move by the other candidates was motivated by money. The Times editorial didn’t mention that independent candidate Larry Ishmael also declined.

The Times may be off the mark in question the point of a one-month congressional job. There could be some important items to vote on, such as the budget, the extension of the Bush tax cuts and an income tax deduction for Washington residents.

But I think the Times may also have a case in suggesting candidates will raise money for both races, but do you think anyone Kitsap County will see any mailers from candidates for the one-month job? The Times opines that all the benefit of the extra money will go toward winning the permanent seat.

So let’s again explain why this is happening.

First off, Jay Inslee resigned from Congress, and congressional officials said federal law stipulates that an election to replace him during his term must happen. If he had resigned with a month left that wouldn’t have been necessary, but he is out of the seat for long enough that congressional officials believe it merits electing a replacement.

Had this not been a redistricting year the state would have had the option of taking the winner of the general election and appointing him or her to the seat early. Because it’s a redistricting year and the 1st District boundaries have been changed dramatically, whoever gets elected in the 1st will be representing a vastly different area than the current 1st. So voters in Bainbridge would be represented for one month by someone they had no say in choosing.

So on the primary and general election ballot voters in about half of Kitsap County, the part currently in the 1st Congressional District, will pick a member to fill the remainder of Inslee’s term from about early December to early January and a congressman in the 6th Congressional District, with that term beginning in early January.

In the final candidate filing story last week I tried to simplify the discussion by writing this:

“Candidates for the new 1st Congressional District, which does not include any portion of Kitsap County, had all held back on running for the temporary seat, which carries the northern portion of the county and Bainbridge Island.”

I received an email from someone confused by that paragraph. A different person used the story comments to express befuddlement. I admit that there are times I can write things clearer than I do, but in this case I think the issue is confusing and difficult to boil down in a single sentence. I think I did pretty well, and it’s still confusing.

So let me try this.

If you live in the 6th Congressional District now, you have nothing to figure out.
If you live in the 1st Congressional District in Kitsap County, you will be electing two members of Congress this year. One will be in the 6th Congressional District, because beginning in January you will no longer be in the 1st. You will be in the 6th. That member of Congress will serve a regular term. The other member of Congress you elect will be in the 1st District and will only serve for the last month you will live in the 1st District.

Are we clear yet?

2 thoughts on “The confusion in the 1st

  1. And let’s give criticism to where criticism is due for the residual in the old 1st CD: Jay Inslee for going AWOL (quitting). The timing Inslee used made all of this mess possible. And the last dollar quote for the special election — as I recall — was $1,000,000.

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