Reichert vs. Ventrella: The battle for the 8th Congressional District

May 22, 2016, 8:11 AM | Updated: May 24, 2016, 2:13 pm

Reichert, Ventrella, congress...

Tony Ventrella (right), who was running against Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District, received 17 percent, according to early election results. (AP, Seahawks)

(AP, Seahawks)

The race is on for Washington’s 8th Congressional District has attracted a handful of candidates. Leading the pack are incumbent Republican Dave Reichert and challenger Democrat Tony Ventrella.

Related: Congressman Dave Reichert calls Donald Trump a joke

Seattle’s Morning News spoke with both candidates about the current presidential election and why they are running for the 8th District, which covers portions of East King County, East Pierce County, Wenatchee and Chelan. On Monday, May 23, Seattle’s Morning News will also interview Santiago Ramos, another Democrat vying for the job.

Tony Ventrella

Ventrella is a former sports broadcaster who formerly had a show on KIRO Radio. His primary cause is fighting the influence of big money  in politics.

“There’s a lot of issues out there, but you can’t get any of them done unless you get big money influence the heck out of politics,” Ventrella said. “That’s why I’m running.”

“It’s directly related to the other issues we all care about don’t get done,” he said, such as union rights, health care, social security, national security and veterans benefits.

Ventrella argued that the need for campaign funding keeps legislators in a cycle of fundraising. Not only does that skew their loyalties, it forces them to take time away from doing their job as lawmakers.

“There is a reason incumbents have to spend 30 hours a week calling and raising money,” he said. “It’s so, they don’t lose next time around. If you are spending that much time raising money, you are not legislating. You are not thinking about the issues. You are not meeting with the voters.”

And on those issues, Ventrella believes that legislators aren’t really too far apart and shouldn’t be prevented from getting the job  done.

“We’re not that far apart on issues, but congress has not moved in the last few cycles,” he said. “Dave Reichert — I like him. I’ve been to his office several times. I interviewed him on KIRO Radio when I had a show years ago. I think he’s part of the reason Congress hasn’t moved.”

Venrtrella said the solution is getting some new blood in the game.

He also weighed in on the presidential nomination process currently underway. While he is running his campaign in the vein of Bernie Sanders — standing up to financial influence in politics — he has come out as a Hillary Clinton supporter. In fact, he is a delegate for Clinton.

“I love a lot of what Bernie is doing and he’s got some great ideas that will have to be gotten to gradually,” he said. “I was thinking what the practical side of this is: Who can win in the general election? My thought was that Hillary could. I love what Bernie is doing, but I believe that Hillary can win the general election. It was a practical decision.”

Dave Reichert

Most Washingtonians came to know Reichert through his work tracking down the Green River Killer, or his time as King County Sheriff. He first ran for the 8th Congressional District in 2004 against KIRO Radio host Dave Ross. He has maintained his position ever since.

“What is it with you guys at KIRO and Microsoft coming up with candidates against me?” Reichert quipped on Seattle’s Morning News.

“We have had a handful of candidates who are running, including Tony who doesn’t live in the 8th District,” he said. “If he has an issue with the system, maybe he should run in the district that he lives in.”

Reichert said that Ventrella should take his political financing message to his home district.

“He should make that same point he is trying to make with his own congressman, which happens to be Adam Smith,” he said. “Adam Smith has raised 67 percent of his fundraising through PAC money that Tony is talking about.”

“Candidates really need to get their facts straight before they start to talk,” Reichert said. “Just because you watched a 60 Minutes special on fundraising doesn’t mean that every member of congress is spending 30 hours a week on it. I wish I had 30 hours a week to do something else. I don’t. This is a 24/7 job … People don’t support me just with their money — they support me with their votes and because I stand for the things they believe in.”

Turning his attention to the presidential election, Seattle’s Morning News pointed out that the last time the congressman was on the air he had expressed some thoughts about Donald Trump. He said Trump was a joke.

Now that Trump is the presumptive nominee, Reichert wouldn’t say anything along those lines. But he maintains that he finds Trump off-putting.

“I really still struggle with a lot of the comments that have been made by Mr. Trump and I think a lot of Americans do,” he said. “I worry about the rude behavior, obnoxious behavior and the bullying tactics. It sets a bad example for our children.”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen on either side of the aisle until the conventions are over,” Reichert said. “There are delegates held by previous candidates going to the convention. There is a movement by a so-called third party effort — including Romney. I’m waiting until the smoke clears. I come from the old law enforcement background — you want to gather all the facts first before you make decisions on who you will support. When all the facts are in, I’ll make a decision.”

The original version of this article included a quote from Tony Ventrella that stated Reichert was part of a group that “blocked and voted against” a 2011 jobs act proposed by President Barack Obama. That act never made it to congress for Reichert to consider and vote on. The article has been corrected to reflect this.

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Reichert vs. Ventrella: The battle for the 8th Congressional District