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Suzan DelBene cruising in early returns; redrawn 1st District looks safely Democratic

Ever since Washington’s 1st Congressional District was redrawn back in 2011, it has been widely characterized as the state’s most evenly divided political subdivision… a true “tossup” district if there ever was one.

But looking at tonight’s winnowing election results, a newcomer to Washington politics might be forgiven for thinking that the 1st is a district with a strong Democratic lean. With Whatcom County, King County, Skagit County, and Snohomish County all having reported in, freshman Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene holds a huge lead over her six opponents with 51.71% of the vote.

Republicans have tried to pin the vulnerable label on DelBene, but she certainly doesn’t look it tonight. She has more votes than her three Republican opponents twice over. And embarrassingly, Pedro Celis, who the Republican political establishment in D.C. recruited to challenge DelBene, isn’t even coming in first among the Republicans. He’s trailing Robert Sutherland, who has raised little money and hasn’t done much active campaigning. Ouch!

Results as of 9:20 PM Pacific Time, August 5th, 2014

Suzan DelBene
Democrat (incumbent)
51.71% (44,244 votes)
Robert Sutherland
15.93% (13,626 votes)
Pedro Celis
15.08% (12,906 votes)
John Orlinski
10.24% (8,761 votes)

There’s still a possibility Celis could pull it out, but even if he does, his weak showing won’t help his credibility for the autumn campaign season. Notably, Celis is losing big in Snohomish County, which is a crucial portion of the district.

Prior to the election, Celis’ campaign was practically invisible. About the only evidence of its existence were its website, an occasional cable television advertisement, and the red “Vote for Pedro” signs placed in a few places around the district by Celis’ supporters. (The slogan is a riff on Napoleon Dynamite).

Bizarrely, the campaign barred reporters from attending its kickoff a few weeks ago, and it appears they left a lot of money sitting in the bank ahead of the election. Celis’ operatives have acted as if their goal was to keep his candidacy a secret from the voters, and they may have well succeeded in doing so.

We’ll have a better idea tomorrow.

Celis’ candidacy may also be suffering from a lack of enthusiasm among the Republican base, which contains the most xenophobic members of Washington’s population: far-right wing paleoconservative extremists who don’t like immigrants.

Celi’s poor showing is just the latest indication that the Republican Party continues to have a big problem on its hands: it is hostile and unwelcoming to new Americans and people of color. That doesn’t bode well for the party’s future.

America is an increasingly a non-white nation; before long, whites will be a minority of the population. Despite this shift, the Republican Party is becoming more xenophobic, not less. The caucus Pedro Celis is seeking to join just passed two pieces of shameful legislation out of the House of Representatives that would mandate more forcible deportations – even of children.

Suzan DelBene voted against those bills and delivered a strong speech in opposition. Pedro Celis, on the other hand, had nothing to say about them (at least not that we could find; we checked his website and Twitter feed).

The Republican Party itself has recognized the peril it faces. “We must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party‚Äôs appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only,” concluded a five-member panel of the Republican National Committee following a review of the 2012 presidential election, which was won by Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

Since that report was produced, the Republican Party has shown a total lack of interest in working with either President Obama or the Senate on comprehensive immigration reform. It finally became so embarrassingly obvious that John Boehner decided he needed to bring a bill to the floor of the U.S. House for a vote. But once again, he was foiled by the Tea Party faction of his caucus, who demanded – and got – a pair of bills that are breathtakingly draconian, stupid, and mean-spirited.

Republicans may not want to admit it, but Suzan DelBene is well-liked and well-respected by her constituents. She’s not afraid to tackle tough issues; her work to rein in the NSA has been especially important. She is responsive and eager to connect with constituents. Case in point: After stepping off her plane from D.C. this past weekend, she was off to tour the The Root Connection with constituents and local elected officials from the Woodinville area.

Suzan’s concern for her people shows. She has spent many days in the Oso area offering an empathetic ear to people displaced by the horrific mudslide last spring. At her election night party tonight, she was introduced by the mayor of Darrington, who repeatedly praised her as an exceptional leader in a heartfelt introduction.

Thanks in no small part to Suzan’s strong work ethic, it looks like the 1st Congressional District will be staying in the Democratic column for another cycle.


  1. Posted August 6th, 2014 at 8:02 AM | Permalink

    That may keep GOP money out of that district, but let’s not take anything for granted. Hopefully Suzan, who I really admire, will run the campaign like she’s a few points behind.
    After Cantor’s defeat a few weeks ago, it’s hard to predict anything in politics these days.

  2. Ed
    Posted August 6th, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

    Suzan lucked out. Celis seems to be a nice man, but his team ran a horrible campaign.

    It didn’t help that the state GOP is inept. Guess they forgot to tell voters Celis was their anointed candidate.

    Good luck to Suzan in the general!