Last night, it was reported that Republicans have found a challenger to run against Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene in 2016: the gun-toting, background check-denouncing Elizabeth Scott, who currently serves in the Republican minority in the Washington State House of Representatives.
Republicans have not defeated a Democratic incumbent for federal or statewide office in Washington for over a decade, but that’s not stopping them from hyping Scott’s candidacy and trying to portray DelBene as vulnerable. Just read this spin from State Republican Party Chair Susan Hutchison:
Susan Hutchison, chair of the Washington State Republican Party, Wednesday called Scott “a terrific candidate” and argued the 1st District is “actually a conservative-leaning district.”
Terrific, as in extraordinarily great, or terrific, as in terrifying?
Hutchison may think of Scott as the former. But a majority of voters across the 1st Congressional District may see her as the latter.
It’s no secret that Scott is a very militant Republican.
This is the same Elizabeth Scott who doesn’t believe that women should be able to make their own reproductive health decisions:
This year, Scott sponsored an anti-abortion bill declaring life begins at conception. In 2013, she declined to sign on to a resolution honoring former Gov. Booth Gardner, telling the Herald of Everett she objected to his role in expanding abortion rights.
Scott was the only state lawmaker to vote in 2013 against a bill allowing criminal charges in certain cases of spousal rape. On her website, she argued its language was too broad and “threatens the liberty of nonviolent people in their homes”.
… and the same Elizabeth Scott who wants to allow gun enthusiasts like herself to carry firearms just about everywhere, even on public school grounds:
Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, told the crowd she would co-sponsor bills in the upcoming session to both repeal and weaken I-594.
Scott said she also planned to co-sponsor a bill to allow people with concealed-pistol permits to carry weapons on school grounds, in hopes of deterring a shooting, and another to eliminate the sales tax on guns and ammunition. As she announced each proposal, the crowd lit up in cheers.
I-594, of course, is the initiative to require background checks on gun sales sold over the Internet and at gun shows. It passed overwhelmingly, with a nineteen-point margin of victory, and support for the law has only grown since the election. But Scott doesn’t care that voters spoke loudly and clearly in favor of I-594. The law wasn’t a week old before she was talking about attempting to repeal it.
This is who Republicans want to send up against DelBene?
Susan Hutchison’s claim that the 1st is “actually a conservative district” is laughable. It doesn’t pass the straight face test. If it’s a conservative district, then why have its inhabitants repeatedly chosen Suzan DelBene to represent them over conservatives like John Koster and Pedro Celis? The district was brand new in 2012, and Republicans weren’t able to win it then, even though their handpicked redistricting wizard Slade Gorton had a big hand in drawing it so that it would be competitive.
Two years later, in 2014, they still weren’t able to win the 1st, even though the electoral climate was favorable for them (midterm cycle, no statewide race, low turnout, Republican Noise Machine working in overdrive in an attempt to make President Barack Obama and the Democratic brand as toxic as possible).
Incumbents are generally considered to be most vulnerable when they stand for reelection the first time. But DelBene survived 2014, and is no longer a freshman. Last cycle, Republicans recruited a candidate they said had a lot of promise (Celis, formerly of Microsoft, like DelBene), but he barely survived the August Top Two election, and ran an uninspiring, lackluster campaign.
Scott won’t have that particular problem – she’ll be packing heat, literally – but she’s not a credible opponent for DelBene. Yet, amusingly, Hutchison is trying to pitch Scott as the perfect foil to the well-liked Congresswoman:
Hutchison said Scott can appeal to the many 1st District voters who are not thrilled with DelBene’s support of the Obama agenda, including some Democrats. “Snohomish County Democrats are blue collar. They aren’t represented by that socialist wing that is so prominent in Seattle,” she said.
Ah, this trope again. Well, I guess it’s to be expected.
Republicans know they can’t win in Seattle, so they try to demonize the state’s largest city and pit the rest of the state against it.
But there is nothing extreme about the sensible policy directions that Seattle’s progressive leaders stand for, whether that’s increasing the minimum wage, making our state’s horribly regressive tax system fairer, or ensuring that law enforcement treats everyone with respect and dignity.
As I noted earlier, Republicans have failed to defeat a single Democratic incumbent at the federal or statewide level for years. The so-called boa constrictor strategy just hasn’t been working for them. But they seem determined to keep trying it.
If past history is any indication, they’ll find it tough going.
The Snohomish County Democrats have consistently put Washington’s third largest county in the win column for many Democratic candidates and causes.
Jay Inslee, Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, and Chris Gregoire have found support there, as have Democrats running further downballot, like Bob Ferguson and Peter Goldmark. Snohomish has been pivotal in the failure number of recent Tim Eyman initiatives, notably I-985 in 2008, I-1033 in 2009, and I-1125 in 2011.
Snohomish voters also memorably stood against overturning an increase in road funding in 2005 by voting down Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson’s I-912.
It is worth noting that the 1st District’s population base is actually in King County. Because the 2nd Congressional District encompasses the populous western portion of Snohomish, the portion of Snohomish that’s in the 1st is mostly rural. It includes the area affected by the destructive Oso mudslide last year. And, as local leaders in Darrington and Arlington have attested, DelBene represents the area very well. She shows up, she listens, and she delivers excellent constituent service.
The district extends north through Skagit and Whatcom counties, taking in communities like Mount Vernon and Ferndale, which also see a lot of DelBene.
It’s funny that Hutchison is so enthusiastic about Scott. Democratic strategists and campaign planners will be enthusiastic about her, too. She’s exactly the kind of candidate they like: someone who is so militant and extreme that there’s plenty of material just waiting to be harvested for use in negative ad campaigns.