Less than one week after last Tuesday’s Election Day, the state's Democratic Party is already setting its sights on 2018.
A spokesman says 50 volunteers attended a Saturday organizing academy to launch the fight for the 8th congressional district, currently held by Republican Dave Reichert who's retiring after next year.
“I think it’s going to become pretty intense,” said longtime Washington pollster Stuart Elway of the 2018 midterms.
Elway released a new poll this week that found that Democrats currently hold a 14-point electoral advantage in the state, when asked about which party they would likely support in congressional races next year.
The advantage was even higher in certain subcategories. For instance, Democrats held a 30-point advantage with women, according to the survey.
While the 8th congressional district is the only Washington race on national lists of races to watch, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently added Washington's 5th District to an expanded target list ahead of next year.
Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, is facing a challenge from former lawmaker and WSU Chancellor Lisa Brown.
“Lisa Brown, former Majority Leader in the Senate, is going to be the strongest test that McMorris Rodgers has had,” said Elway.
“There is a shot; although it’s a longer shot,” said Elway of the 5th district race. “The Democrats have a pretty good shot at the 8th (district) a year away.”
Elway also notes that the state's third congressional district in southwest Washington has flipped back and forth between parties over the past few election cycles.
The seat is currently held by Republican Jamie Herrera Beutler who succeeded retiring Democratic Congressman Brian Baird in 2010. Previously, Baird had won re-election six times.
While ultimately all political races will come down to individual candidates, Elway says there's no question Republicans are carrying some extra weight into this upcoming election cycle.
“If I'm a Democratic candidate for anything, my opponent's middle name is Donald Trump,” said Elway.
While the Democratic strategy will revolve around President Trump, he believes the Republican strategy will revolve around Seattle.
“The Republicans will be talking about Seattle values creeping in our district,” said Elway. “That will be a major theme.”
It’s a tactic recently used in the balance of power Eastside race for legislative district 45, and it’s a divide Elway found in his own polls—noting a Seattle-rural divide that’s stronger than the typical urban-rural, or east-west divide across the state.
However, his poll found deep divides along party lines, even more than geographic boundaries.
“Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on issues of gun control, issues of government responsibility versus personal responsibility,” described Elway.
One of the few areas of agreement: dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, even though there would be huge disagreement among voters over how to improve the current climate.
Meanwhile, the State Republican Party is pushing back against the new polling, calling a polling a year before an election "pure conjecture" and irrelevant until names are attached.
"If Democrats are convinced they are going to win in solid Republican Districts against our great candidates, with proven records of working for their constituents, we say bring it on," said the Washington State Republican Party in a statement.