With less than ninety days to go until the filing deadline arrives, the Republican Party has finally found a challenger for U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene: Pedro Celis, a fifty-four year old former software engineer who resides in Redmond. Celis worked for Microsoft for more than a decade and is now a member of the board of Plaza Bank, a local financial institution that serves the Latino community.
Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner spoke to Celis earlier today ahead of his official campaign kickoff tomorrow to get a sense of what Celis will be running on.
Celis predictably criticized DelBene’s support of the Patient Protection Act, no doubt having been told by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) that this should be his major theme. And he also condemned DelBene for supporting an increase in the minimum wage, to $10.10 an hour.
I can’t imagine that Celis isn’t aware that Washington State has the highest minimum wage of any state in the county and that voters here have welcomed opportunities to increase the minimum wage, most recently last year in SeaTac.
In fact, the reason that our state’s minimum wage is the highest of any state in the Union is that we started indexing it to the Consumer Price Index in 2001.
A few weeks after Celis began working at Microsoft (he started in September of 1998, according to his LinkedIn profile) voters resoundingly and overwhelmingly approved Initiative 688 by a margin of nearly two-to-one – 66.1% to 33.9%.
I-688 increased the minimum wage from $4.90 to $5.70 in 1999, and then to $6.50 in 2000, providing that it be indexed to the CPI thereafter. (It’s now $9.32 an hour). It ranks as one of the most popular initiatives in Washington State history.
Celis is certainly entitled to his opinion, but raising the minimum wage has been good for Washington families and our economic security.
Prior to I-688′s passage, lobbyists for numerous trade associations predicted that bad things would happen if it became law. Here is how the Seattle Times’ Jim Lynch characterized their opposition at the time:
Washington business groups call the November ballot measure a frightening prospect that could stick the state with unreasonably high wages and put it at a competitive disadvantage.
“Scary,” says Russ Goodman, spokesman for the Washington Restaurant Association.
Scary? Try successful. I-688 has now been the law of the land for over fifteen years, and it has contributed to the economic security of thousands of Washington families. Lately, our state has repeatedly been ranked as one of the best states to do business, and our high minimum wage actually helps our competitiveness.
What Celis doesn’t seem to appreciate is that when workers (who are the real profit creators!) are paid a higher wage, they need less public assistance and can contribute to the economic security of their neighbors.
If Celis and his campaign team think that running against the minimum wage will help him appeal to voters, they are sorely mistaken. Dino Rossi tried that in 2008 in his rematch with Chris Gregoire, and it contributed to the failure of his campaign.
Given that Celis was a supporter of the Washington State DREAM Act, signed into law today by Governor Jay Inslee, I’d be curious to know what his position is on comprehensive immigration reform. Brunner’s story doesn’t discuss that issue, although that doesn’t mean Brunner didn’t ask Celis about it during their interview.
Celis’ campaign has registered several domains to be used in conjunction with the campaign, including pedrocelis.com, which a WHOIS search shows is currently held by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s senior digital strategist Christopher Hanks. Hanks also is the registrant for celisforcongress.com.
DelBene’s campaign did not mince words when asked for comment. Speaking on behalf of the campaign, Soundview Strategies’ Sandeep Kaushik told Brunner, “If you like the way the Republican Congress has forced the irresponsible government shutdown, advocates for privatizing Social Security and launched a war on women, and want more of the same, then Celis is your candidate.”