Connelly: Late starting Dr. Hader gains backing in hot 8th District House race

By Joel Connelly, Seattle PI

A young Eastside Democrat took a call from 8th District U.S. House candidate Dr. Shannon Hader, and heard out health policy views of someone until recently a senior HIV/AIDS/TB administrator at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He was persuaded to back the late-starting Hader, who moved back to her native Auburn to make the race, and backed a Hader endorsement by 45th District Democrats.

The Democrats have a three-way race between first-time candidates for the sought-after seat in Congress.

Dr. Kim Schrier, an Issaquah pediatrician, was first in the Democrats’ targeted race to win the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert. Issaquah attorney Jason Rittereiser has come on as an advocate for gun safety and single payer health care.

Waiting to take on the winner is field-clearing Republican candidate Dino Rossi. Rossi makes his way through contractors’ and home builders’ fundraisers, elicits frequent hysteria from The Stranger, and notes that he carried the 8th District in losing statewide races for Senate and Governor.

Dynamics in the Democratic race have changed of late. Hader is gaining in the backstretch, while Ritteneiser and Schrier stage press release duels.

It’s a frequent pattern in American politics. When two early contenders go at each other, they create room for the outsider who steers clear of the mud. Hader would flinch at being called an outsider, stressing her South King County roots.

In the past week, Hader has won endorsements from the 31st, 41st and 11th District Democrats. She recently won backing from the National Organization for Women. NOW pointed out that Hader supervised $2.4 billion in budgets and 2,000 employees at the Centers for Disease Control.

“Dr. Hader is the only candidate that has experience and proof points of delivering results and federal dollars and resources to communities, and will do the same for the 8th District in Congress,” NOW said in its endorsement.

EMILY’s List, which bundles donations to pro-choice Democratic women, endorsed Schrier early in the race.

Petty back and forth between Schrier and Rittereiser has not been pretty. Schrier was taken to the woodshed by the liberal DailyKos website for publishing partial results of a poll, supposedly showing her far ahead in the race. Rittereiser has challenged Schrier to release more of her income tax returns.

The Rittereiser campaign recently put out a news release on Schrier’s “refusal to treat children on Medicaid.” Schrier is a pediatrician employed by Virginia Mason. Rittereiser is attacking Schrier for her employer’s insurance contracts.

The Washington State Labor Council’s COPE recently made a dual endorsement of Schrier and Rittereiser. Schrier sent out a release celebrating the endorsement, not mentioning that it was shared. Rittereiser did the same thing.

Labor is splintered like sawdust between the three Democrats. Hader has the endorsement of the North Central Washington Labor Council and the Wenatchee Aluminum Trades Council. Rittereiser has backing from the Renton and Tacoma Firefighters. Schrier is backed by the Boeing Aerospace Machinists and the American Federation of Teachers.

The 31st District includes rural King and Pierce Counties and the cities of Auburn, Enumclaw and Buckley, Reichert territory in recent elections.

Of Hader, the district Democrats delivered an adult-in-the-room assessment, saying: “Her extensive experience, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demonstrates a successful track record making sure that tax dollars are used efficiently to deliver results that meaningfully improve peoples’ lives.”

Hader, Schrier and Rittereiser will fight it out through the summer, a season when Washington residents often tune out politics. They have big distances to cover. The 8th District crosses the Cascades to include Kittitas and Chelan Counties.

The Republicans will pour resources into the race. Dino Rossi reported raising more than $2 million at the end of the last Federal Election Committee filing period. A “superPAC” associated with House Speaker Paul Ryan has already reserved more than $2 million in TV time for the fall campaign.

The Democrats will need a formidable candidate. They have not won the 8th District since it was created in 1980. They desperately need it this year, as one of 23 House districts that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but sent a Republican to Congress.

SeattlePI.com writer Joel Connelly can be reached at 206-448-8160 or joelconnelly@seattlepi.com