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These candidates for 8th district were motivated by threats to Obamacare

Three Democratic hopefuls: Dr. Kim Schrier, Dr. Shannon Hader, and attorney Jason Rittereiser are all first-time candidates running in the 8th CD.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil
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Three Democratic hopefuls: Dr. Kim Schrier, Dr. Shannon Hader, and attorney Jason Rittereiser are all first-time candidates running in the 8th Congressional District.

In Auburn, Dr. Shannon Hader had returned home to run for Congress — a move prompted, she said, after seeing her work "dismantled" by the Trump Administration.

In Issaquah, Dr. Kim Schrier, a pediatrician, said the 2016 election results, and changes to the Affordable Care Act, also inspired her candidacy.

And Jason Rittereiser, an employment attorney, said he has championed working women — including a new mom's right to a lactation room at her job.

These are the three leading Democrats vying for Washington’s 8th Congressional District — the position vacated by Dave Reichert, a Republican. The district crosses the Cascades, from East King and Pierce County to Chelan and Kittitas.

This year the race for the 8th district is considered among the country’s most competitive. Republicans want to keep it and Democrats hope to flip it.

Republican Dino Rossi is running to succeed Rep. Dave Reichert. And the race has attracted a crop of Democratic newcomers.

“This is the perfect time to flip the district,” Hader said.

“The last election, Hillary Clinton won by about three points on the same ballot Republican Dave Reichert won by about 20," Hader said. "But he stepped down so all bets are off. For the first time in nearly fourteen years this is an open race.”

The three leading Democrats in the race are all first-time candidates. Two are medical doctors, one is a lawyer. The doctors are women, and the lawyer is a man. But all would rather be viewed on their own terms.

Hader grew up in Auburn and became an infectious disease specialist. Most recently she served as director of the Division of Global HIV and TB at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She oversaw $2.4 billion in public health spending.

“At the time I left to become a candidate, my team had contributed to the more than 2.2 million babies that have been born HIV-free across this world who otherwise would have been infected, were it not for the generosity of the American people and our taxpayer dollars,” she said. “And that is a bipartisan program.”

Schrier was also galvanized to run by what she viewed as threats to Obamacare.

“I went with three other docs and met with Dave Reichert’s office and explained all the ways that the Trumpcare bill would be terrible for my patients and for 84,000 people in our district who would lose care," she said. "Within days he voted for it anyway.”

Reichert voted for the bill in the House Ways and Means Committee but not in the full House. Schrier said she’s optimistic that voters from any party in the politically diverse district will appreciate her experience as a doctor and someone with Type 1 Diabetes.  

“My message is really resonating about having a pediatrician going to bat for our healthcare, to fight for lower drug costs," she said. "I think people understand that as a mom and as a person with a pre-existing condition, I get it.”

Schrier said there’s also excitement around more women running for office this year. She took part in a Democratic boot camp that sought to promote more women candidates.

“This year I think it probably is an advantage," she said laughing. “It’s never been an advantage for anything else!”

Democratic candidate Jason Rittereiser said women candidates are faring well this year. “Anyone who doesn’t recognize the momentum of female candidates across the country isn’t paying attention,” he said.

Rittereiser grew up in Ellensburg, where his father was the police chief. He was a prosecutor in the Special Assault and Violent Crime units in King County and now works in employment law. He said he wants to see more women elected to Congress. But he said his legal work also addressed crimes and workplace barriers faced by women.

“Most of my big wins in the courtroom are around protecting women’s rights and equality,” he said.

Last year he won a discrimination lawsuit after a religious university fired his client for being unmarried and pregnant. “Those are the fights that I take on and that’s I think indicative of the type of representative I’ll be,” he said.

(KUOW reported on one of his cases involving access to lactation rooms.)

Kim Schrier has raised over $1 million in campaign contributions, putting her about $400,000 ahead of her fellow Democrats. (Republican Dino Rossi has more than $2 million).    

At a recent public forum at Bellevue College, Rittereiser criticized Schrier for not treating more Medicaid patients in her pediatric clinic.

“How are we going to trust that you’re going to fight for healthcare in D.C., when you built a practice here that has refused to treat the vast majority of poor kids on Medicaid?” he said.

Schrier responded that her practice accepts some Medicaid contractors and not others. She said attacking a doctor is misguided because “insurance companies hold all the cards.” All three candidates support moving to single-payer healthcare.

Gun violence has also been oft discussed by voters in this district.

Heather Berry of Issaquah said school shootings are one of the most important concerns to her as she considers her vote.  

“I have two kids in school and I send them off every day and I think that they’re safe," she said. "But I worry that maybe they’re not.” She said proposals to arm staff and teachers don’t bring her any comfort.

She said she also wants to know how candidates would help young people in crisis.

All three Democrats endorse universal background checks. But Rittereiser said it’s not enough to limit new gun purchases.

"There are 360 million guns in America today," he said. "We have to focus on the ability to empower law enforcement and prosecutors and courts and mental health providers to intervene before it’s too late.”

Shannon Hader said one of her top goals would be to allow and fund the Centers for Disease Control, where she used to work, to research solutions to gun violence.

“The gun lobby has convinced people that we cannot somehow both have gun rights, or the Second Amendment, and also reduce deaths by guns, which is just silly,” she said. “That’s like saying we can’t keep cars and also reduce deaths by motor vehicle accidents, right?”

Kim Schrier said she would support safe storage requirements for firearms and a higher minimum age for gun purchases.

“I take care of a lot of depressed teenagers,” she said. “I understand that especially with boys, what may make the difference between a contemplated suicide – which by the way is incredibly common – and a completed suicide is very often whether there’s a gun in the home.”

The top two vote-getters in the August 7th primary – including Dino Rossi — will advance to the general election. 

Year started with KUOW: 2005