When it comes to who is best equipped to hit the ground running in Washington, D.C., the standout among Democratic candidates in the 8th Congressional District is Shannon Hader.

Share story

With U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert’s decision to retire, voters in the 8th Congressional District are treated to a strong field of intelligent, qualified candidates from across the political spectrum. They should choose wisely.

Republican front-runner Dino Rossi, a former state senator, is likely a lock for a place on the November general election ballot. The 8th District, which has never sent a Democrat to Congress, includes eastern portions of King and Pierce counties, and stretches east to include Kittitas and Chelan counties and part of Douglas County.

That other spot on the ballot is really what’s in play at this point. Among the Democrats, three pose viable challenges to the conservative Rossi.

They align in many of their policy views. Whoever advances will ensure a competitive race.

Candidates Kim Schrier, Shannon Hader and Jason Rittereiser all oppose President Donald Trump’s push for a border wall. They also disagree with his imposition of tariffs on foreign products, which has created a trade war with far-reaching consequences here at home.

Each wants to rein in prescription drug prices and, in various ways, help more Americans access public health-care options such as Medicare.

And all claim they will stand up to the Trump administration in ways the GOP-majority Congress has not.

Where they differ most is in their track records of working collaboratively, managing budgets and demanding that government programs get results.

In these areas, Hader, a public-health doctor and past division director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has the clear edge.

Her experience managing programs with taxpayer dollars positions her to take on Rossi, a former state Senate budget chief who is campaigning on his ability to balance a budget and work across party lines. Rossi, a Sammamish real estate investor, also ran for governor twice, narrowly losing to Christine Gregoire in 2004.

All three leading Democrats are running for public office for the first time. But Hader, an Auburn native, is the only one who is experienced at navigating politics at the federal level.

Repeatedly in an interview, Hader gave the most nuanced, specific answers — without a trace of a politician’s coyness — on how she would approach policies ranging from renegotiating trade deals to building upon the Affordable Care Act.

Hader has served as director of the CDC’s Division of Global HIV and Tuberculosis and also led the CDC’s office in Zimbabwe. She was responsible for managing a sizable federal budget, as well as overseeing programs that tested and treated millions of people around the world for HIV.

While leading the municipal HIV/AIDS administration in Washington, D.C., she was credited with dramatically improving the city’s response to an ongoing HIV epidemic.

Hader also spent a year on Capitol Hill as a health-policy adviser for Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, giving her experience in the challenges of overhauling the U.S. health-care system.

Schrier, a pediatrician from Sammamish, deserves credit for stepping up early to challenge Reichert, a seven-term incumbent who at that time had yet to announce he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Still, on many topics — including her core issue of health-care reform — Schrier seems to often talk in campaign platitudes, with less grasp of how to turn vision into reality.

Rittereiser, a lawyer who grew up in Ellensburg and now lives in Issaquah, also started early. The former King County deputy prosecutor says his roots in Central Washington connect with voters in the more rural parts of the district.

But the standout Democratic candidate is Hader, who also shows streaks of independent-thinking that could help win over some of those moderates.

Constituents in a trade-dependent state need someone who can jump in and start making a difference immediately.

Among the Democrats running, there is no question that person is Hader.

Hader and Rossi are the best candidates to advance.