Washington's all-mail ballot system has the potential for tortoise-paced results, as ballots must only be postmarked by Election Day. If the 8th Congressional District race is close, a decision might not be known for days or weeks.
With two weeks to go in one of the nation’s hottest congressional races, Democrat Kim Schrier and Republican Dino Rossi agree on one point: It would be nice to keep the election-night drama to a minimum.
The rivals in the 8th Congressional District race spent the weekend rallying volunteers who fanned out to doorbell thousands of homes, cajoling supporters to mail in ballots right away — an effort to give the campaigns a vital cushion of banked votes ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
In speeches to supporters, they also each claimed victory in their sole debate, and previewed closing themes in the race, with Rossi nicknaming Schrier “Dr. Tax” while she called him an evasive “career politician.”
On Sunday morning, Schrier laid out a Rolaids scenario in what she called “a squeaky tight race,” speaking to about 150 volunteers and supporters who gathered in the chilly fog outside Democratic Party offices in Issaquah.
With Democrats needing to flip 23 seats to take control of the U.S. House, Schrier said election night could conclude on the West Coast with the whole nation awaiting the 8th District’s outcome.
“My worry … is we are going to go to bed that night knowing we’ve got 22 seats, and our mail-in ballots are going to take three more weeks to count,” Schrier said. “And all of the sudden Schrier will become a nationwide known name.”
Washington’s all-mail ballot system has the potential for tortoise-paced results, as ballots must only be postmarked by Election Day, leaving some races in doubt for days or weeks.
Schrier urged supporters to get ballots in quickly, so that “we will know at 8 o’clock at night who has won this thing, and we can all go to bed and sleep really well knowing we have checks and balances on this administration.”
Schrier’s supporters on hand Sunday included people who know the first-time candidate from her years as a pediatrician at an Issaquah Virginia Mason clinic.
“Kim was our family pediatrician. She was terrific then. She always listened,” said Wendy Muzzy, of Issaquah, whose daughter, a Schrier patient, also was helping out with the campaign.
Muzzy said she trusts Schrier on health-care issues and does not believe assurances from President Trump and other Republicans that people with pre-existing medical conditions will continue to be protected if the GOP maintains control of Congress.
A day earlier, at his campaign headquarters just across the street, Rossi also stressed the importance of early voting in the 8th District race to a group of about 40 supporters and volunteers.
“This really matters. This is one of the top races in America, if not the top race,” Rossi said. He said the campaign keeps track of which ballots have been returned, and early voting “really helps the campaign a lot.”
Face-to-face contact at doorsteps “cuts through the $4 million Nancy Pelosi has spent against me so far,” he said. “Human beings actually talking to each other is much more powerful than that.”
Jared Gilmore, of Renton, part of Rossi’s door-knocking crew on Saturday, said he wants the Republican to win because the tax cuts implemented by Congress need to be protected and made permanent. And he said Rossi will bring a moderate demeanor to the partisan body.
“I do think that having somebody like Dino in the House will be better than somebody who will just increase the volume and keep yelling,” he said.
Rossi says he has personally knocked on doors at more than 8,000 homes since entering the race.
He has reason not to take anything for granted. As famously as any American politician outside of Al Gore, Rossi knows what it’s like to be on the losing end of a brutally close election.
Initially declared the winner of the 2004 gubernatorial race, he lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire after two recounts put her ahead. The result was not certified until late December that year, and the dispute dragged into the next year as Republicans unsuccessfully sued to overturn the election.
At Schrier’s campaign rally, her field director, Kali Lasher-Sommers, pointed to that 2004 drama, asking the crowd if they knew the final margin of Rossi’s loss.
“One hundred and thirty three votes,” several people called out.
Lasher-Sommers said the day’s goal of contacting 19,000 homes could cover that spread. “If we knock on 19,000 doors I am pretty sure we can get 133 votes,” she said.
Schrier’s campaign said it knocked on nearly 40,000 doors over the weekend, bringing the election total to more than 270,000. Rossi’s campaign said his volunteers along with the state GOP have knocked on nearly 200,000 doors in the race.
In their speeches to volunteers, Schrier and Rossi each pointed to their sole debate last week in Ellensburg.
Schrier said the debate showed “the difference between a career politician and a community pediatrician couldn’t be more clear. First of all, one answers questions and one doesn’t.”
Her campaign and allies have slammed Rossi for trying to downplay the importance of his conservative views on issues including abortion.
Rossi, meanwhile, told volunteers the debate was more evidence that he has “the most left-wing opponent I have ever had,” labeling Schrier “Dr. Tax.”
He hit Schrier for her support of a state carbon-fee initiative and a state income tax, adding, “I think you folks are paying enough.”
At Rossi’s event, field organizer Carson Coats gave one enticement to mail in ballots early that could apply to voters regardless of their political persuasion.
“You turn in your ballots right now … within two days all the campaigns, all the independent expenditures, all the initiative campaigns, they should stop calling you, texting you, door-belling you,” he said. “People like that.”