Democrats crowd the primary in newly redrawn 1st Congressional District

The most competitive congressional race in Washington this year comes in a newly redrawn district. The new 1st Congressional District will run from Redmond all the way up to the Canadian border. It’s the seat that Jay Inslee recently vacated to run for governor.

Ballots are already in the mail for the August primary election that will narrow down the crowded field of candidates. Under the state primary system, the top two vote-getters go on to the general election. Since the new district is seen by most as right down the middle politically, the only Republican in the race, John Koster, is expected to make it through the August vote. 

So, it’s a battle among the remaining five Democrats for that second slot. Based on the most recent independent poll, it’s becoming a two-way race between a pair of candidates who have each run for Congress before. 

Suzan DelBene is a former Microsoft manager and most recently was head of the state Department of Revenue. Darcy Burner, also a former Microsoft manager, most recently worked in Washington, D.C., for the Progressive Congress Action Fund. 

“If there is one thing I want to be identified with,” Burner said at a Wednesday candidate forum on the Microsoft campus, “it’s this idea that we need to restore government of, by and for the people, not government of, bought and paid for by large corporations and multimillionaires.”

DelBene repeatedly cited her modest background during the forum. “I was able to get a great education and go to college because of student loans, financial aid, work-study programs,” she said. “And that great education helped me to have a great career and be in a position to be able to take care of my family.”

Another person getting attention in the race is former state Rep. Laura Ruderman. It recently came out that her mother funded a super PAC with more than $100,000 to run negative ads against her opponents. 

“I’ve knocked on over 5,200 doors and I hear day after day after day (about) families with lack of access to health insurance,” she said. “That’s what I’d like to be known for.”

The two others in the race are Darshan Rauniyar, who owns his own tech business, and state Sen.  Steve Hobbs from Lake Stevens. 

“A lot of people talk about being independent,” said Hobbs. “A lot of people talk that they will go against their own party’s special interest. I can tell you, and you can look at my record, I have done that on numerous occasions.”

Rauniyar hopes to change the polarized nature of Washington, D.C.  “I want to find like-minded congressmen and senators to form a caucus, a new caucus, and then build that caucus to bring about the change,” he said. 

A sixth candidate, Independent Larry Ishmael, didn’t attend the forum. 

One of the big stories of this campaign is the money being contributed by DelBene. She’s already contributed over $1 million to her own campaign, which has allowed her to purchase a lot of TV ad time and send out several expensive fliers. Burner, who has the highest name recognition of any of the Democrats, seems to have lost the most ground as DelBene’s spending has ramped up.

“She did what the 1 percent often do, she made the wrong decision, and she decided to try and buy it,” said Burner.   

But DelBene defended her spending. “People want to hear what the candidates represent, what their values are, and that’s what our campaign has been doing,” she said. 

Primary ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 7.