Challenger Sarah Smith wins primary to face fellow Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith

A Smith vs. Smith matchup awaits votes in Washington’s 9th Congressional District, as Rep. Adam Smith will face fellow Democrat, challenger Sarah Smith, this fall.

Democratic challenger Sarah Smith surged past Republican Doug Basler in new vote counts Friday, setting up a contest with longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Smith this fall.

Sarah Smith, a 30-year-old first-time candidate, solidified a second-place finish in the top-two primary in the 9th Congressional District.

While thousands of votes have yet to be counted, a Seattle Times analysis projects Sarah Smith will advance to the general election. To catch her, Basler would have to roughly double his share of the remaining votes, which often trend liberal in the Seattle area.

Rep. Smith, D-Bellevue, took by far the largest share of primary votes, with about 49 percent. Sarah Smith had about 26.5 percent, leading Basler by about 2,600 votes. A day earlier, she had led Basler by fewer than 200 votes.

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“We put in the work and it was incredible to see it happen,” an elated Sarah Smith said in an interview Friday, crediting a scrappy, volunteer-driven campaign for her primary showing. “We’re proving you can be a viable competitive campaign without taking corporate cash.”

She said the fall matchup with Rep. Smith will give voters a real choice in the Democratic district, allowing people to “read platforms and policies and vote their conscience” without worrying about losing the seat to a Republican. Her campaign has drawn comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who made national headlines in June with an upset win over longtime Rep. Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary in New York.

Rep. Smith, 53, has already expected to face his fellow Democrat this fall. He said in an interview Thursday he was not intimidated by an intraparty challenge, noting he’d previously faced primary challengers from the left.

He said he was in “very, very solid shape” with Democratic voters coming out of the primary and predicted his challenger, a democratic socialist in the vein of Bernie Sanders, would have a hard time picking up independent or Republican votes in the district.

In addition to making an issue of Rep. Smith’s corporate PAC donations, Sarah Smith said she’d contrast her anti-war activism with Rep. Smith’s more pro-military stances. He’s the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee and in position to chair the panel if the party takes the House majority this fall.

Rep. Smith said that seniority is an asset. “It’s important to have a strong progressive person” to chair the Armed Services committee, he said Thursday.

The 9th Congressional District stretches from Bellevue through south Seattle to north Tacoma. Rep. Smith, a 22-year incumbent, easily defeated Basler in each of his past two elections, winning in 2016 with nearly 73 percent of the vote.

Friday’s vote count did not end the primary among Democrats in the 8th Congressional District.

Kim Schrier, an Issaquah pediatrician, remained the favorite to face Republican Dino Rossi this fall in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. As of Friday evening, Schrier had 18.7 percent of the vote, just 1,067 votes ahead of attorney Jason Rittereiser, at 18 percent.

While Rittereiser was running out of votes to overtake Schrier, he was prepared to wait for another round of ballots Monday and did not concede.

Rossi took first in the primary, with 43 percent of the vote.

Seattle Times staff reporter Justin Mayo contributed to this report.

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