In Seattle suburbs, the nail-biting countdown to a test of the Trump presidency
Dino Rossi stood up on a brown leather couch and laid out the stakes to supporters on Saturday.
“This is going to be a race that is going to determine in the end who is going to control Congress,” he said. “You’re going to be going out and talking to Republicans today who need a little, ‘Hey can you please send in your ballot.’ We get those last votes in, and we … will … WIN.”
Rossi knows about close elections: He lost a 2004 race for governor by just over a hundred votes.
Now he’s locked in a struggle with Democrat Kim Schrier for the U.S. House seat in the 8th Congressional District.
And new polling from the New York Times shows them essentially tied.
In the final days of the campaign, Rossi and Schrier launched big efforts to get every last vote they can.
State Republican party chair Caleb Heimlich told the volunteers Saturday that about half the votes in the district had yet to be submitted.
“The 8th Congressional District right now is the most expensive congressional race across the nation," Heimlich said. "The other side has spent over $16 million lying about our candidate’s record, but what makes the difference is that turnout. We have enough votes to win.”
Independent groups have put twice as much money into the race as the candidates have raised themselves. And much of that money has gone for negative ads. Rossi defends his ads as more substantive.
“Our ads have been about taxes, which are issues. Their ads have been about character assassination,” he said.
But Schrier has been the target of plenty of negative advertising herself.
Washington state Democratic chair Tina Podlodowski said that even though the 8th District has never elected a Democrat before, voters are ready for a change in this election.
"People are feeling … this is one where my voice desperately needs to be heard, in the wake of so much hate, racism, sexism, islamophobia, anti-semitism,” she said. “I think people are standing up and saying: I’ve got to fight this at the ballot box.”
Volunteers on both sides are working the phones and canvassing neighborhoods for every last vote.
Alice Fong said Saturday that she came out to help Rossi because she admired his work as a senator in the Legislature.
“The big thing about taxes, health care, education – I think he’s able to see those different sides and make sure that everything is going to be done socially responsibly and also fiscally,” Fong said.
Jennifer Hurley has been knocking on doors in Auburn to find voters for Schrier.
“I’ve actually met quite a few who said they’ve always voted straight Republican and they are now voting more Democrat,” she said at a Federal Way community center where Democrats launched a big push Thursday.
Congressman Denny Heck was there rallying supporters. He represents the 10th District, which includes Olympia, but he’s also in charge of recruiting for Democrats nationally to take back the House this year.
Heck told the crowd that Schrier has an advantage in spending on political ads, but that’s not enough.
"What you’re doing – knocking on doors, calling people up, is what will win the war," Heck said. "She has the air power, now we need the ground power.
"That’s what will send her to Congress. That’s what will put Democrats in control of the U.S. House of Representatives."