Which shade of blue will win Washington state's 10th congressional district this year?
Democrats are (mostly) united in the fight to defeat President Donald Trump. But there’s also tension brewing over who should lead the party, and what it stands for.
That conflict is playing out in the race for Washington’s 10 Congressional District in the Olympia-Tacoma area. It’s one of only two congressional races in the country that pits one Democrat against another this year.
State lawmaker and climate activist Beth Doglio is running as the more progressive of the two. She won the endorsements of lefty superstars like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who drew huge crowds when they came to town earlier this year.
On the other side, there’s Marilyn Strickland, a former Tacoma mayor who also headed the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. Strickland has landed endorsements from other business-friendly liberal Democrats, like former Washington state governors Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire, and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
University of Washington professor Margaret O’Mara, who studies the history of American politics, points out that Washington used to be a purple state. But these days, conflict within the Democratic Party has almost replaced competition between the two major parties in some parts of the state.
“Western Washington is at this point, various shades of blue,” O’Mara said.
On the issues, Strickland sounds more like Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders, but she rejects the charge that her opponent is more progressive.
"The definition of 'progressive' is actually the ability to make progress and move legislation forward out of Congress,” Strickland said.
Strickland’s dad was a Black solider from Georgia, who “served in two wars and fought for a country that did not always love him back.” Her mom was from Seoul, South Korea where Strickland was born before the family moved to the United States.
“We landed in Virginia in the Deep South, at a time when it was illegal for my parents to be married to each other,” she said.
If she wins, Strickland would be the first Korean-American woman elected to congress, ever, and the first Black person elected to Congress from the Northwest.
House Democrat Gregory Meeks of New York, co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action committee, which is backing Strickland, said she “seems to bring to the table a balance, which in this time of division … is desperately needed in Washington, D.C.”
For her part, Beth Doglio shares a lot of the same liberal goals as Strickland, including criminal justice reform and gun control. But Doglio gets more support from a broader progressive coalition that includes environmental and conservation organizations, as well as Native American tribes in the 10th district. Before serving in the state legislature, Doglio was a climate activist.
“We are really running out of time, and we need to elect leaders who make climate change a priority,” she said. She supports the Green New Deal and accuses Strickland being less willing “to stand up to the fossil fuel industry."
Her stance on climate change is one of the reasons why she got the backing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) of Seattle, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Doglio had a “perfect” questionnaire.
But what about the fact that Washington has never elected a Black person to congress? Jayapal calls that an “important consideration” but argues you have to weigh it against the candidates’ positions on the issues. “You've got to share the values of the Progressive Caucus,” she said.
Jayapal also points out that Doglio would represent another first: The first openly LGBT person elected to Washington state's delegation.
In the primary Strickland came out ahead. Political consultant Ben Anderstone said that while the 10th is safely democratic, it tends to be more conservative than say, Seattle — and that could be at play. He expects around 40% of active voters this year to be Republicans.
Anderstone said centrist and more conservative voters may favor Strickland, but this year especially, with Trump in the White House, there are political risks for both candidates.
"Outreach to Republicans around bipartisanship could be an appealing message," Anderstone said. "But at the same time, obviously, the candidates will be eyeing the Democrats in this district who are going to be very fired up and anti-Trump right now.”
We’ll find out after November 3 which shade of blue voters in the 10th prefer.