By Pat Jenkins
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert says next year will be his last one in Congress.
Reichert announced last week, roughly halway through his seventh two-year term, that he won't seek re-election in 2018.
He said he reached his decision after spending time in August "with family and friends, reflecting on the past, discussing the future, and celebrating another birthday."
Reichert, 67, won his most recent re-election bid last fall. At the end of next year, the Republican will have spent 14 years representing the Eighth Congressional District,which covers parts of five counties, including southeast Pierce County. Eatonville, Graham and Ashford are among the communities in the district.
He said he has been "humbled" to serve the district in a public-service career that began as a detective and later sheriff in the King County Sheriff Department.
"It was not an easy decision" to step away from Congress next year, "but I believe it was the right one for my family and me," he said.
Reichert, who has been rumored off and on as a possible candidate for Washington governor, gave no indication if he plans to seek any other political office after he leaves Congress. But he appeared to keep the door open when he said, "I have spent my entire career and devoted my life to service. I see this not just as a job, but as a calling - a calling I will not walk away from."
Online reactions on Reichert's official congressional website to his announcement last week were mixed. Some praised him, while others were critical.
Typical of the positive comments were one by Candice Douglass, who wrote, "Didn't always agree with your politics, but I do thank you for your many years of service," and Mike Chittenden, who wished Reichert "Happy trails. You earned it."
Among commenters who expressed political opposition to Reichert were Suzanne Querry, who said "good riddance for all the party line BS you supported for so many years. While I think you're a good person at heart, you did not serve your constituents well. Time to put a true citizen advocate in Congress who will represent us."
Another commenter, Alyson Nelson, urged Reichert to use his final year in Congress to resist the policies of President Donald Trump. She asked Reichert to "stand up to Trump and insist your fellow Republicans do the same. Somebody has to become the unifier. You could step up and take that on."
Early in the presidsential election campaign last year, Reichert was a vocal critic of Trump. At a meeting in February of the Eatonville Chamber of Commerce, Reichert said Trump “would be dangerous” if elected to the White House and "doesn’t have a plan. The guy is a joke.” He also criticized Trump for making insulting comments about other candidates and political opponents.
At that same meeting, Reichert said he likes being in Congress and is “getting a lot done” there. He cited his efforts to improve international trade and the economic climate for small businesses.
Reichert was first elected to Congress in 2004. In subsequent elections, he won with substantial majorities, sometimes topping 60 percent. Last year, he finished with 60 percent of the votes in defeating Democrat Tony Ventrella, a first-time candidate who stopped campaigning during the primary election because of a lack of fund-raising for his candidacy but got back into the race after he finished a distant second in the primary.
Reichert has never lost an election, including as sheriff.
The Eighth District has been considered a "safe" one for the Republican Party since redistricting captured a largely pro-Republican base of voters.
It's expected that Democrats will mount an aggressive campaign in an effort to swing the district's seat to their party as part of a national effort to regain control of Congress from the Repbublican Party.
A field of possible successors to Reichert hasn't fully emerged. In 2016, five candidates besides Ventrella ran in the primary election. None of them generated heavy support. So far in the early stages of the 2018 campaign, five announced candidates have been seeking support as Democrats. All are from King County. Among Republicans, leaders of that party reportedly have promoted Dino Rossi, a former state legislator who lost two runs for governor and one for U.S. Senate.