Nation & World

Challengers take on veteran congressmen

A Pierce County councilman, a rocket scientist and a government actuary all want Adam Smith's seat in Washington's 9th Congressional District.

A young business consultant and an independent attorney each seeks Norm Dicks’ job in the 6th District.

Smith and Dicks, both Democrats, aren’t assured of spots on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

But with long records in Congress, deep roots in their districts and easy elections in the past, their Aug. 17 primary races seem less about their advancement than about who will run against them in November.

Their opponents have long odds, says Matt Barreto, an associate professor of political science at the University of Washington.

Though Republicans nationwide are looking to capitalize on unhappiness with the Democratic Congress and President Barack Obama, Barreto said he believes Smith and Dicks “are pretty safe.”

Smith is challenged in the 9th District by Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri; retired air, space and defense engineer Jim Postma; and actuary Roy Olson. Muri and Postma are Republicans; Olson belongs to the Green Party.

Dicks faces attorney Doug Cloud and former Russell Investments technology consultant Jesse Young, both Republicans.The top two vote-getters in each Aug. 17 primary will advance to the general election.


Muri, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, has a County Council platform and former service on the Steilacoom School Board boosting name recognition and, he believes, electability.

Postma, 64, bills himself “as the only conservative who can beat Adam Smith.” But Smith clobbered him two years ago in a 67 percentto-33-percent cruise. That leaves Muri looking like a likely Smith opponent in November.

Muri says he’s not running against Adam Smith, he’s running against Adam Smith’s voting record, calling the seven-term incumbent a highly partisan liberal who isn’t meeting constituents’ needs.

“I think he thinks he represents Seattle,” Muri said

He calls the health care reform law, which Smith supported, unconstitutional and says it should be replaced. He’s also critical of Smith’s fiscal record and says he’d exercise more restraint.

Muri says his Air Force career gives him the background to provide insightful support to the area’s military population, and his records on the School Board and County Council prove his skill at bringing opposing views together.

Smith, first elected to Congress in 1996, says he’s well familiar with the needs of residents in the 9th District, which runs a jagged path through suburbia from Lacey to Kent.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s done as good a job as I have done in giving voice to the concerns of the people,” the 45-year-old attorney said.

He cites his work on the House Armed Services Committee as proof of his commitment to and knowledge of the military and his support of service members, active and retired. He chairs the Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces.

Smith said he voted for health care reform only after listening to the people, pointing out that he held a town hall forum in Lake-wood last summer while other members of Congress shied away from heated meetings.

His record, he says, is one of help for district residents, from securing money to fix the Howard Hanson dam to working with community banks during financial crisis.


Yard-sign politics are evident in the campaigns of Cloud and Young, with their names prominent on colorful placards in driveways and rights of way.

Each stresses his local roots:

Cloud describes himself as a former Fife High School student body president who earned degrees in economics and law at the University of Washington, moved on to the prosecutor’s offices in Pierce and Kitsap counties and establishment of an independent law career.

His campaign website blasts Dicks for support of “at least four terrible bills,” on health-care reform, financial bailouts, stimulus funding and environmental regulations. He is a 53-year-old married father of three.

Young grew up on Tacoma’s Hilltop, graduated from Wilson High School and worked his way through college at Notre Dame, according to his campaign information. He describes himself in campaign literature as “a Christian man and married father of five” and writes of growing up in poverty, of achieving his American dreams and believing in fiscal responsibility, individual freedoms and free-market principles.

Dicks has no trouble with name recognition. He’s been elected 17 times to represent voters in an area stretching from Tacoma to Kitsap, Mason and Grays Harbor counties and the Olympic Peninsula. He’s a key member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.