Issaquah City Councilmember Tola Marts will challenge seven-term Republican Rep. Dave Reichert in the 2018 midterm elections.
Marts, a 48-year-old Democrat, announced his campaign for the 8th Congressional District seat Tuesday, saying his first priority if elected would be legislation to provide two years of community college free for Americans.
In an interview, Marts, who has served on the Issaquah City Council since 2010, said he was not recruited by national Democratic leaders but had been considering a challenge to Reichert for some time.
“I want to make sure he has to take this race seriously and comes out to talk about his record,” he said.
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Marts criticized Reichert for initially supporting the GOP’s controversial Obamacare replacement — voting for it in committee — before ultimately voting against the bill when it came to the House floor with enough votes to pass.
“He really did the minimum he could to oppose that bill,” Marts said.
Reichert, the former King County sheriff, has represented the 8th District in Congress since 2005. He plans to seek an eighth term next year, according to a campaign spokesman.
“The congressman has dedicated his entire adult life to serving Washington and welcomes anyone who hopes to do the same to run for office,” said the spokesman, Chad Ramey, in an email.
For years, the district has been a tantalizing target for Democrats, as it consistently favors Democratic candidates for president, including Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Reichert has always hung on.
In recent cycles, Democrats have failed to field top challengers. In 2016, former TV sportscaster Tony Ventrella ran a fumbling, halfhearted campaign in which he declined to solicit campaign donations.
But Democrats hope that will change in 2018, which is shaping up as a referendum on President Donald Trump and the policies of the GOP majority in Congress.
An engineer, Marts since 2012 has worked for Intellectual Ventures Lab on projects that include vaccine research to aid poor populations around the world.
Marts described the lab as a “think tank” that works closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in its mission to combat global poverty. He said his own role has included helping to develop “the world’s best thermos” to keep vaccines cold.
The lab is an offshoot of Intellectual Ventures, the Bellevue company founded in 2000 by former Microsoft executives Nathan Myhrvold and Edward Jung to amass and license patents.
The company has been slammed by critics as a “patent troll” for its controversial business model of making money by acquiring thousands of patents and reaping profits through licensing deals and the prolific filing of lawsuits.
Marts said he is not involved in that part of the company.
Before that, after moving to the area in 2003, Marts spent eight years with Blue Origin, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ private space-rocket company.
Two other Democrats also have filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for the 8th District seat: Poga Ahn, a military veteran and manager of a concrete business, and Thomas Cramer, who ran for Congress in 2012 in the 9th District.