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’s 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.

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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2 replies on “Suzan DelBene cruising in early returns; redrawn 1st District looks safely Democratic”

  1. 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. 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!

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