Rep. Adam Smith (D)
Washington 9th District
The misty shores of Puget Sound have seen some of America’s most vibrant economic growth over the past two decades. It has spread south and west from Seattle, over the suburban territory to the outskirts of the once-industrial city of Tacoma. The subdivisions along the sound, which have some of the loveliest views in America, tend to be high-income. But much of greater Seattle’s prime industrial territory lies between the ridges that run north and south inland. Weyerhaeuser, the world’s largest private owner of softwood timber, has its headquarters in Federal Way. Boeing is a major presence in Renton, on the south end of Lake Washington. Its aircraft and electronic-components plants have made it America’s No. 1 exporter for many years. Renton, which gained renown as the home of 1960s guitarist Jimi Hendrix, manufactures 737s, the best-selling commercial jet in history. A host of smaller factories cluster near the rail lines that run from Minneapolis-St. Paul across the Great Plains to Puget Sound.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 9th Congressional District of Washington covers much of this area. It includes Sea-Tac Airport, Burien and Renton, not far south of Seattle, as well as Kent, Des Moines, most of Auburn and Federal Way, farther south in King County. It includes the container port of Tacoma, though most of the rest of that city is in the 6th District. In surrounding Pierce County (the nation’s largest producer of rhubarb), it takes in Edgewood and Puyallup, plus Fort Lewis, the largest Army base in the West, and McChord Air Force Base, home of the C-17. It also includes a part of Thurston County outside the state capital, Olympia, including the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, an important transit point for migratory birds. The district was created after the 1990 census and politically was almost perfectly balanced in the mid-1990s. It elected a Democratic representative in 1992, a Republican in 1994 and a Democrat in 1996. But as the Seattle region trended toward the Democrats, the district has done likewise.
Rep. Adam Smith (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: June 15, 1965, Washington, DC .
Education: Fordham U., B.A. 1987, U. of WA, J.D. 1990.
Family: Married (Sara); 2 children.
Elected office: WA Senate, 1990–96.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1991–92; City prosecutor, 1992–95.
The congressman from the 9th District is Adam Smith, a Democrat first elected in 1996. He grew up in the Sea-Tac area. His father, a baggage handler for United Airlines who was active in the Machinists Union, died when Smith was 17. The family went on welfare. Smith worked his way through Fordham University driving trucks for UPS, then went to the University of Washington Law School. He worked as a lawyer, then as a Seattle prosecutor, handling drunk-driving and domestic-abuse cases. In 1990, at age 25, he was elected to the state Senate, beating an incumbent Republican by canvassing the district door-to-door. In 1995, he decided to run against first-term U.S. Rep. Randy Tate, a Republican. The two had similar backgrounds. They were born in the same year to families of modest means, were first elected to office at young ages and were firm believers in grassroots campaigning. But Tate was a religious conservative and a strong supporter of Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while Smith campaigned as a moderate Democrat, supporting the death penalty and tougher penalties for criminals. He attacked Tate for supporting Gingrich on 96% of House votes and for backing cuts in Medicare. Tate attacked Smith for his opposition to assigning youthful offenders to adult courts and prisons and for voting for Democratic Gov. Mike Lowry’s $1.2 billion tax increase in 1993. This was one of the closest races in the country. In the September all-party primary, Smith led 49%-48%. In November, he won 50%-47%.
|Adam Smith (D)||176,295||(65%)||($612,066)|
|James Postma (R)||93,080||(35%)||($12,421)|
|Adam Smith (D)||81,503||(65%)|
|James Postma (R)||44,472||(35%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (59%), 2000 (62%), 1998 (65%), 1996 (50%)
In the House, Smith got a seat on the Armed Services Committee, a useful assignment back home, and joined the New Democrat Coalition. He established a moderate voting record and showed a willingness to take on established interests within his party. He voted against government-paid vouchers for private school tuition. He voted to authorize military action in Iraq and sought to improve compensation and other quality-of-life benefits for military personnel. In 2004, he was one of four Democrats who opposed a provision in the USA PATRIOT Act to bar law enforcement access to library and bookstore records. In 2007, he called on the administration to change its strategy in Iraq, but he also criticized liberal activists for pressuring Democrats to end the war. When Democrats took control of the House in 2007, Smith became chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, which he called the “tip of the spear” in the war on terrorism.
Smith’s independence has worked well for him back home. He has won re-election easily, and Republicans have quit targeting this district. In the 2004 presidential campaign, he was one of the first congressional supporters of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and chaired his campaign in Washington. In 2008, he was an early supporter of Democrat Barack Obama for president and chaired Obama’s Washington state campaign. Smith briefly explored the possibility of taking a job with the Obama administration, but in February 2009, he announced that he would keep his seat in the House. He earned a seat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, further bolstering his legislative credentials on military operations and foreign affairs.