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Suzan DelBene wins big in WA-01, will face John Koster in November

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.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 8th, 2012 at 5:42 AM | Permalink

    I’m happy that as Democrats, we can put this all behind us and work to elect Suzan to Congress.

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