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November 3, 2008 4:20 PM

The Challenger to Jim McDermott

Posted by Bruce Ramsey

Steve Beren, the Republican challenger to Rep. Jim McDermott, is a conservative running in the district that is the state’s most liberal: the 7th, mostly representing the city of Seattle. Beren has a fascinating background: he used to be a socialist. Two years ago, when he ran for the first time, I wrote this column about him. I wondered if Republicans would accept him with a background like that, but they did, and he has turned out to be a party loyalist. He has run hard, sent out emails, spoken at every forum he could, and run radio ads. He cannot afford TV ads, but his radio ads, which feature his own voice, are well-done given his limited finances.

As for his chances—here is what he’s up against. These are the vote percentages of the last 10 elections in the seventh:

1988
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 76.3%
Bob Edwards, Republican, 23.7%

1990
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 72.3%
Larry Penberthy, Republican, 24.1%
Robbie Scherr, Socialist Workers, 3.6%

1992
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 78.4%
Glenn Hampson, Republican, 19.1%
Paul Glumaz, Independent, 2.5%

1994
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 75.1%
Keith Harris, Republican, 24.9%

1996
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 81%
Frank Kleschen, Republican, 19%

1998
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 88.2%
Stan Lippman, Libertarian, 9.4%
Jeff Powers, Socialist Workers, 2.4%

2000
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 72.8%
Joe Szwaja, Green, 19.6%
Joel Grus, Libertarian, 7.6%

2002
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 74.1%
Carol Cassady, Republican, 21.9%
Stan Lippman, Libertarian, 4%

2004
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 80.7%
Carol Cassady, Republican, 19.3%

2006
Jim McDermott, Democrat, 79.4%
Steve Beren, Republican, 15.7%

You can see why McDermott is sometimes called "congressman for life." He has never got less than 70 percent of the vote. The only campaign I recall with any appreciable yard signs by a McDermott opponent was by the Green Party candidate, Joe Szwaja, in 2000--and Szwaja ran against McDermott from the left, as a critic of trade agreements.

Well, then, why would Beren, a conservative, run in a district like this? And not just put his name on the ballot, like some of those other Republican candidates, but really campaign? Because he believes in the cause--an aspect of his personality that probably hasn't changed since he was a leftist. He is a candidate driven by ideas, including a low-tax capitalism and victory in the war on terror. That his ideas, particularly those on foreign affairs, aren't the ideas of his district doesn't faze him. Individuals can be convinced. Beren's goal is to significantly beat the showing he had last time--and to help the Republican Party by increasing the vote in 7th for Dino Rossi, Rob McKenna and other Republicans who do have a chance to win. All this makes Beren much different than the standard politician, who runs to win and hold a job.

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