The race between incumbent Adam Smith and upstart Sarah Smith, both Democrats, has come to symbolize a local bout of a battle raging nationally within their party.

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For liberal-leaning residents of Washington’s only majority nonwhite congressional district, the race between 11-term incumbent Adam Smith and upstart Sarah Smith, both Democrats, has come to symbolize a local bout of a battle raging nationally within their party.

With Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, many Democrats have come to see centrism as a path to defeat and urge the party to run to the left. Sarah Smith, a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016 who now works for a company researching tax law, is trying to ride that progressive-activist wave in the 9th district, as she challenges Rep. Adam Smith, who, supported Hillary Clinton for president and, if the Democrats flip the House, could be the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

In the August primary, which advances the top two finishers — regardless of party affiliation — to the November election, Adam Smith captured 48 percent of the vote, Sarah Smith 27 percent.

But Karla Esquivel is undeterred.

“The Dems never did an autopsy after the election,” she said. “Too many of them are trying to stay in power instead of being willing to embrace new ideas.”

That’s why Esquivel is voting for Sarah Smith.

“I think Adam Smith is slightly better than most Democrats, but now that we have a situation where we don’t have to worry about the district going red we can take a chance on someone with bold ideas like abolishing ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement),” said Esquivel, who’s lived in the district since it was redrawn in 2012 to include Southeast Seattle, Bellevue and Mercer Island.

Esquivel, a former Democratic Party precinct committee officer and Sanders supporter, joins those in the district echoing national sentiments that their party has abandoned the working class in favor of an extended love affair with Wall Street bankers and defense contractors.

As she sees it, this all has led to capitulation on issues such as universal health care, student debt forgiveness, and an inflated military budget. Though the margins of victory for presidential candidates in the 9th make it the second-most Democratic-leaning district in the state, just behind the neighboring 7th district, this cycle is the first that incumbent Smith has had to face a challenger from his left.

He’s easily defeated three successive Republican challenges since 2012, collecting more than 70 percent of the vote each time.

Michael Wolfe, who’s lived in the district since its redrawing, expects the margin of victory to be big for Smith once again.

“You’d have to be the best candidate since sliced bread to get me to not support Adam Smith,” says Wolfe, a former chair of the 37th District Democrats, which endorsed the incumbent.

Wolfe said he likes Adam Smith’s record co-sponsoring and introducing progressive legislation on immigration reform and education.

He also said that with the Democratic Party’s current national predicament all focus should turn toward unification.

“If we’re dividing ourselves, then how are we going to combat the president of the United States who’s constantly inciting violence?” said Wolfe, pointing to the man accused of mailing bombs to high-profile Trump critics last month.

For district Democrats like Wolfe, a Clinton supporter in 2016, polls indicating that likely voters prefer Democratic control of Congress after November’s midterm elections leave him thinking about what it could mean to have Adam Smith as head of the Armed Services Committee.

The role would grant him influence on how the military budget is allocated — a prospect that has the incumbent, who says he’d use his authority to reduce military spending, asserting that his opponent is picking the wrong fight.

“She’s running against the wrong person. She keeps talking about issues that I’ve been working on for decades,” said Smith, who began his political career at 25, when he was elected to the state Senate.

As Sarah Smith is 30 years old, he says that he doesn’t knock his opponent’s lack of elected experience. But he does hammer away at what he says is an extreme agenda and a refusal to compromise.

“What it means to be a perfect representative is to know what you don’t know and to know how to relate to people who aren’t like you. Of all the candidates I’ve ever run against, I’ve never had one who was less capable of doing that,” he said.

Often compared to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who gained national recognition after unseating long-entrenched Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley in a New York congressional primary, his opponent has similarly unfiltered opinions.

Sarah Smith, who lives in Kent just outside the district, has painted the incumbent as out of touch and detached from the concerns of the working class — part of what led to the election of Trump.

“We keep getting told that we need to involve ourselves in politics only to have someone already in power tell us, ‘Oh no, I didn’t mean take my position,’ ” said Sarah Smith, whose campaign has been outspent 10 to 1.

Recruited to run, along with 50 other candidates nationwide who aligned with Bernie Sanders’ political platform, by political action committee Brand-new Congress, she boiled down the 9th District race to a fight for the Democratic Party between “innovation and status quo.”

“The only way things will change in this country is with fresh ideas, not legislators who have been in office for 20 years,” she said of her ideas of free college and single-payer health care.

Whether a majority of one of the nation’s most socioeconomically and racially diverse districts agrees will determine which Smith goes to the other Washington.