The 9th Congressional District — spanning from Southeast Seattle and Bellevue down to Federal Way and Tacoma — is a reliably safe Democratic district that incumbent Congressman Adam Smith will likely keep.
Early results in the Aug. 7 primary election show Democrat Adam Smith leading in King County with 50.2 percent of the vote, followed by Republican challenger Doug Basler with 26.2 percent and Democratic challenger Sarah Smith with 23.5 percent.
Congressman Smith has held it for the past 21 years and has defeated Republican challengers by large margins. He’s received endorsements from local progressive leaders such as Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, and was an early supporter of the $15 minimum wage campaign in SeaTac, burnishing his liberal credentials.
This year, he faced a fiesty challenge from the left: Sarah Smith, a 30-year-old Democratic socialist and former volunteer for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign who ran on a platform of universal healthcare, a federal jobs guarantee and slashing defense spending. Her candidacy embodies the current internal debate going on in the Democratic party about how far it should swing to the left.
Sarah Smith was also backed by the same organization that supported Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful bid to oust longtime Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley in New York. She has attempted to run a somewhat similar campaign by running to the incumbent’s left. She’s criticized Congressman Smith for accepting substantial donations from the defense industry, as well as voting for the Iraq war in 2001.
Congressman Smith has defended his record, citing his progressive stances on numerous issues, such as reforming the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He’s also argued that he has more roots in the district and has criticized Smith for technically living outside of the district’s boundaries. Sarah Smith notes that her home is only several blocks from the district line.
Given that the only other contender in the race was Basler, a low-profile Republican candidate who has frequently ran against Congressman Smith and lost, it was expected that Sarah Smith would advance to the November general election. However, while there is certainly enthusiasm for her among left-leaning political groups and members of local Democratic party organizations, it remains to be seen if she can overcome Congressman Smith’s name recognition and track record in the district.