Established after the 1990 U.S. Census, the 9th District was originally drawn as a "fair fight" district. The first representative from the 9th District, Mike Kreidler (D), was defeated after one term by conservative RepublicanRandy Tate; Tate, in turn, was defeated after one term by Smith. Kreidler currently serves as the Washington Commissioner of Insurance, and Tate went on to succeed Ralph Reed as executive director of the Christian Coalition. Since being first elected in 1996, Smith's moderate voting record and a strong Democratic trend in the Puget Sound region have turned the formerly contentious district into a fairly safe Democratic seat. He won reelection easily in the 2008 election.
In 2011 the state began the process of redistricting in response to population changes determined by the 2010 census. In the final report by the bipartisan redistricting commission issued in January 2012 shifts District 9 to the north to encompass Bellevue, southeast Seattle, and Mercer Island but only goes as far south as the southern tip of Commencement Bay in Tacoma. As of the 2012 redistricting, it is now a majority minority district.