Well, that was anticlimactic.

Con­trary to what many pun­dits and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors had pre­dict­ed, the five-way Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­test for U.S. House in Wash­ing­ton’s 1st Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict is turn­ing out to be not close at all.

As of 9:40 PM, with no more bal­lots expect­ed to be tab­u­lat­ed until tomor­row, for­mer Microsoft vice pres­i­dent Suzan Del­Bene had a com­mand­ing lead over fel­low Democ­rats Dar­cy Burn­er, Lau­ra Rud­er­man, Steve Hobbs, and Dar­shan Rau­ni­yar in every coun­ty in the dis­trict. The numbers:

Suzan Del­Bene: 23.33% (17,663 votes)
Dar­cy Burn­er: 14.6% (11,051 votes)
Lau­ra Rud­er­man: 7.08% (5,358 votes)
Steve Hobbs: 6.79% (5,137 votes)
Dar­shan Rau­ni­yar: 2.48% (1,879 votes)

Recent polling had led many to expect that there would be a bat­tle for sec­ond place between Del­Bene and Burn­er (Repub­li­can John Koster is in first place with a plu­ral­i­ty of the vote) . But Del­Bene evi­dent­ly built a much stronger lead among Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers in the final weeks than those sur­veys showed.

Burn­er has already thrown in the tow­el; both her cam­paign team and Del­Bene’s have con­firmed that she called Suzan a lit­tle bit ago to con­cede the race. And just a few min­utes ago, she tweet­ed the following:

It’s crit­i­cal that the Dems take the House in Nov. In WA, we must send new mbrs Kilmer, Heck, and Del­Bene to Congress.

— Dar­cy Burn­er (@DarcyBurner) August 8, 2012

Speak­ing at an elec­tion results watch par­ty in Kirk­land, Lau­ra Rud­er­man also con­ced­ed defeat and con­grat­u­lat­ed Del­Bene on her victory.

Rud­er­man’s plans for a strong fin­ish in the win­now­ing elec­tion were upset a few weeks ago when it was dis­cov­ered that her moth­er, Mar­garet Roth­schild, was behind a shad­owy polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee called “Progress for Wash­ing­ton” that had been send­ing out a series of tacky attack mail­ers which false­ly likened Del­Bene to Mitt Rom­ney and laugh­ably labeled her a fail­ure in business.

Roth­schild had set up the com­mit­tee in June with the help of a not-too-bright polit­i­cal con­sul­tant named Jeff Gumbin­ner to go after Del­Bene because she was upset that Del­Bene had the abil­i­ty to invest large sums of mon­ey to strength­en her cam­paign’s finan­cial resources. Because fed­er­al elec­tions law pro­hibits enti­ties that finance inde­pen­dent expen­di­tures from coor­di­nat­ing with can­di­dates, Roth­schild did­n’t tell her daugh­ter that she was respon­si­ble for the attack mail­ers. Con­se­quent­ly, for sev­er­al weeks, Roth­schild was essen­tial­ly play­ing bad cop to Rud­er­man’s good cop… with­out Rud­er­man’s knowledge.

Around the same time that Roth­schild was approv­ing Gumbin­ner’s plans to trash Suzan Del­Bene in the mail, she con­sent­ed to play a star­ring role in a tele­vi­sion spot con­ceived by Rud­er­man and her media team, intend­ed to bol­ster Rud­er­man’s can­di­da­cy and tilt the con­test in her favor.

The cam­paign was only two days away from unveil­ing the ad when the news broke that Roth­schild was “Progress for Wash­ing­ton”, and that “Progress for Wash­ing­ton” was also going up on the air with an ad… though not a pos­i­tive ad warm­ly invit­ing vot­ers to sup­port Rud­er­man. (The “Progress for Wash­ing­ton” TV ad showed Del­Bene mor­ph­ing into Rom­ney). Rud­er­man wast­ed lit­tle time in pub­licly ask­ing her moth­er to pull the plug on the attack campaign.

The TV ad came down and the attack mail­ers ceased, but it was too late. The dam­age had been done. As the results show, Rud­er­man was unable to gen­er­ate the momen­tum for her can­di­da­cy that she had hoped to ignite in the final days of the cam­paign. It looks like she’s going to end up in fourth-place over­all, far behind Repub­li­can John Koster and fel­low Democ­rats Dar­cy Burn­er and Suzan Del­Bene, but ahead of Steve Hobbs and Dar­shan Rauniyar.

As it so hap­pens, the top-four vote get­ters in this race have all run for fed­er­al or statewide office before and lost. Koster unsuc­cess­ful­ly ran against Rick Larsen in 2000 and 2010, los­ing nar­row­ly both times. Burn­er unsuc­cess­ful­ly chal­lenged Dave Reichert twice (in 2006 and 2008), also los­ing nar­row­ly both times.

Del­Bene then took on Reichert in 2010, but, like Burn­er, could­n’t defeat the incum­bent con­gress­man. Rud­er­man left the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to run against Repub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Sam Reed in 2004, but Reed eas­i­ly won reelec­tion that year. (Rud­er­man, by the way, also sought the Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats’ top job of par­ty chair in ear­ly 2006, but lost to Dwight Pelz).

No doubt Del­Bene under­stands how Burn­er and Rud­er­man feel right now. They cam­paigned vig­or­ous­ly, but nei­ther crossed the fin­ish line first… or sec­ond. And only the top two can­di­dates can go on to the gen­er­al election.

Except for Burn­er, none of Del­Bene’s rivals appears to have post­ed any kind of state­ment online con­ced­ing defeat, or offer­ing con­grat­u­la­tions to Del­Bene. Per­haps we’ll see some sup­port­ive state­ments issued by the oth­er cam­paigns tomorrow.

Con­gress­man Rick Larsen, who endorsed Del­Bene and appeared at her vic­to­ry par­ty in Kirk­land, had this to say:

I am thrilled to con­grat­u­late Suzan Del­Bene on her deci­sive vic­to­ry tonight. She has the char­ac­ter, expe­ri­ence, and knowl­edge to rep­re­sent the 1st Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict well, and I look for­ward to serv­ing along­side her in Congress.

The Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty will prob­a­bly add Del­Bene to its list of nom­i­nees for fed­er­al office in 2012 at its next quar­ter­ly meet­ing in Sep­tem­ber, if not before then. The par­ty did not nom­i­nate a can­di­date in the 1st Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict at the state con­ven­tion in June, though it did nom­i­nate can­di­dates in eight of the state’s oth­er con­gres­sion­al districts.

POSTSCRIPT: Del­Bene and Koster also grabbed the top two spots in the spe­cial elec­tion to serve out the last few weeks of Jay Inslee’s term in the old 1st District.

Those results:

John Koster: 34.78% (28,832 votes)
Steven J. Gerdes: 2.79% (2,317 votes)

Suzan Del­Bene: 25.07% (20,786 votes)
Dar­cy Burn­er: 15.21% (12,612 votes)
Lau­ra Rud­er­man: 9.59% (7,955 votes)
Bri­an Sul­li­van: 3.4% (2,822 votes)
Dar­shan Rau­ni­yar: 2.93% (2,431 votes)
Bri­an Berry: 2.05% (1,700 votes)
Ruth Mor­ri­son: 1.51% (1,256 votes)
J. Byron Hol­comb: 0.99% (817 votes)

Note that Steve Hobbs did not file for this spe­cial election.

Bob Cham­pi­on: 1.66% (1,380 votes)

SECOND POSTSCRIPT: Here’s Lau­ra Rud­er­man’s state­ment on the results, in which she con­cedes defeat and endors­es Del­Bene. A grace­ful way to exit:

When we launched this race in June 2011, we knew it would be a hard-fought jour­ney. That my path through the pri­ma­ry was not clear.

We’ve spo­ken with thou­sands in the 1st dis­trict who see the Amer­i­can Dream slip­ping from their grasp. Who work hard every day but strug­gle to make a liv­ing wage. Who can’t afford health care for their fam­i­lies, or can’t afford to retire with dignity.

We fought against long odds. We left no stone unturned. We scrapped for every vote.

But we came up a lit­tle short.

I am incred­i­bly proud of the cam­paign that we ran.

Thank you to my won­der­ful cam­paign staff and to all of the vol­un­teers who tru­ly fueled this cam­paign from the ground up. I couldn’t have done it with­out you.

And thank you to my hus­band, Craig, for his unwa­ver­ing sup­port when our house turned into cam­paign head­quar­ters. And to my two won­der­ful step­kids, Jake and Amelia, who would have liked to see me home for din­ner and help­ing with home­work a lit­tle more often.

Now it’s time to regroup and con­tin­ue work­ing hard for the peo­ple we met along this jour­ney. We need to re-elect Barack Oba­ma as Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States so the peo­ple of our dis­trict who want afford­able health­care have a cham­pi­on in the White House.

We need to make sure that Jay Inslee becomes the next gov­er­nor from the State of Wash­ing­ton, and we must put the 1st Con­gres­sion­al dis­trict in Demo­c­ra­t­ic hands. I would like to offer my endorse­ment to Suzan Del­Bene in her upcom­ing fight against John Koster.

We must also approve Ref­er­en­dum 74 so that any two Amer­i­cans who want to get mar­ried final­ly have that right. We must elect Democ­rats up and down the tick­et to keep fight­ing for our Amer­i­can Dream.

I live all of these issues every day. Just like you do. Now is the time to go out there and fight for our val­ues, for what we believe in as Democrats.

Thank you for this amaz­ing jour­ney and for all of your help and sup­port along the way. I am tru­ly hum­bled by each and every one of you.

Dar­shan Rau­ni­yar and Steve Hobbs have not yet post­ed state­ments to their web­sites react­ing to the results. As not­ed above, they fin­ished behind Koster, Burn­er, and Rud­er­man, but ahead of Lar­ry Ishmael.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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