The primaries for the November 2017 election may have just taken place, but two familiar Issaquah faces are setting their sights on a goal further down the road — the 2018 Congressional election.
In recent months, 8th Congressional District Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) has come under fire for what some constituents see as a lack of making himself available to those he represents, and a refusal to own up to his support for President Donald Trump’s policies.
In response, locals are throwing their hats in the ring to run against Reichert 15 months ahead of his next election.
Issaquah City Councilman Tola Marts, who is currently running unopposed for a third term on the council, announced his candidacy for the District 8 position in May, just two months after announcing his council campaign.
“I was concerned by what I saw in last fall’s election … It felt like when I looked around, things are heading in the wrong direction in this country,” Marts said.
Two weeks ago, another local candidate, Issaquah pediatrician Dr. Kim Schrier, announced her candidacy and released a campaign ad that directly targeted Reichert’s “empty chair” reputation.
In February, Reichert gave a one-hour Facebook Live interview to KCTS with pre-chosen questions that addressed hot-button topics, such as the repeal of Obamacare and the environment.
Some constituents were disappointed that Reichert did not acquiesce to their requests for a more personal town hall meeting, which they had publicly called for throughout the district in a series of marches and “empty chair” town hall meetings (in which an empty wooden chair was placed at the front of the room to symbolize Reichert’s absence).
At the time, Reichert told the Reporter in an email that town halls have historically turned into “shouting matches” that can pose a danger to politicians and their staff.
“When hundreds of us from all over the district took time out of our busy lives to talk to him about the health care bill, Congressman Reichert couldn’t even be bothered to show up.
He left the chair empty,” Schrier said in her campaign ad.
“These are times when we need a representative who listens to his people,” Schrier told the Reporter. “He has lost touch with his district.”
“In every way, [Trump] is taking us in the wrong direction, and Reichert is rubber-stamping almost everything” that Trump passes, Schrier stated.
Reichert voted against Trumpcare, the American Health Care Act, but he waited until the very last minute to disclose his vote, Marts said.
Affordable health care for all tops the agendas of Marts and Schrier, along with action to protect the environment. Education is also a priority — Schrier is very concerned about proposed funding cuts to public schools in favor of charter schools, and Marts would like to see the government financially help young people forge their paths for two years after high school, whether this is at college, a trade or technical school, or in the workforce.
Schrier believes that her experience as a doctor gives her expertise in the health care debate, as she has witnessed firsthand the tough issues that people face when trying to pay for health care. She said that patients have called, telling her that they had to leave her practice due to insurance reasons.
Schrier has not held any prior political office, but she said the time is right to bring some change to the status quo in the nation’s capitol.
The 2018 congressional election is not the only political race on the agenda for Marts, currently in the midst of his 2017 council election. However, he stated that he doesn’t “think the campaign will prevent me from doing my duty for the citizens of Issaquah” next year.
Marts pointed out that he is skilled at managing his time, as he currently juggles his council seat along with his position on the Council Services and Safety Committee, his membership in the Sound Cities Association and his day job of designing technology for impoverished countries.
If he is elected District 8 representative, however, this will change.
“If I’m lucky enough [to be elected], I will have to step down from the Issaquah City Council,” Marts said. “If I do so, it will be after nine-and-a-half years of serving the citizens of Issaquah.”
“Hopefully people will feel they got their money’s worth,” he added with a laugh.
He made the decision to run against Reichert in May, after seeing that he had no challengers in the council race. (A council race with an opponent, Marts said, would have taken up significantly more time than an unopposed race, and he could not have managed a second campaign.) As soon as he decided to run, he alerted his constituents.
He joked that the “insider baseball thing to do would’ve been to wait a while,” but he “wanted to be honest with folks in Issaquah and folks in the 8th.”
The other 8th District residents running for representative so far include Jason Rittereiser, Thomas Cramer and Poga Ahn.