For the first time in state history, Washington will have two Republicans running against each other for a seat in the House of Representatives. That means in November, the voters of the state’s 4th Congressional District will get to choose between two GOP candidates who represent different sides of the conservative spectrum. Dan Newshouse is an establishment candidate who worked as the state agriculture director under a Democratic governor. Against him will be former NFL star and two-time Superbowl winner Clint Didier, who played for the Washington team and bills himself as a tea partier. Either one of these men will replace the Doc Hastings, who is retiring after 10 terms in office. So this particular house race in Washington gets two Republicans for voters to choose from, both of whom will have to find a way to differentiate himself based on something other than party affiliation.
Washington has a unique top-two primary system, which is what made this unusual situation possible. In this system candidates run against each other in the primary and only the two candidates who receive the most votes advance to the general election. This means that party affiliation does not matter to the outcome of the primary. Instead, it is a free-for-all that reveals who can get the most support from all the voters. Because of that the results are a pretty good predictor of how strong a particular candidate’s base is and all the votes for the losers are up for grabs in November.
While the Democrats have been sidelined in the race to replace Doc Hastings, the Republican field as it stands now has a few interesting foibles. Newhouse is an establishment Republican while Didier is a tea partier. In some ways, the state of Washington getting two Republicans for the House race represents the current situation of the Republican party in microcosm. The outcome of this race could be indicative of the temperature of the GOP waters, at least as far as tea party enthusiasm goes. Should Didier win as a tea party candidate, some might take it as a sign that the old guard of the GOP is over. If Newhouse wins, then the establishment will take it as a sign that it still has what it takes. Whether either of these interpretations are true or not, it will be interesting to see the spin that these two sides of the conservative movement put on the outcome.
Turnout for the primary was expected to be low, but because of the vote-by-mail system most of the votes that were cast were counted before last night. This fact allowed FOX News to call the election for Newhouse and Didier. What remains is for these two men to square off in the general election. Didier has name recognition from his time in the NFL and has promised not to raise taxes while he is in office, a tea party buzzword. Newhouse is claiming that his experience of working with a Democratic governor gives him the political experience to work with Democrats in the House, but it could also open him up to questions about his GOP credentials. The race that ensues between these two men as they vie for Hasting’s vacant House seat will show Washington voters what they will get when they cast their final votes.
By Lydia Bradbury