Meet Suzan DelBene


I don’t even remember why, in 2010, I decided to learn about the person running against Dave Reichert in the WA-08; I didn’t live anywhere near the 8th Congressional District. Whatever it was that compelled me to visit the Suzan DelBene for Congress website, I’m glad I did. At the time her website had been up longer and there were videos about Suzan and her family and experience. My first and enduring response was that I wished I lived near the 8th CD so I could volunteer for her campaign. I was that impressed. I still am.

The District

Well as the Redistricting Gods would have it, Medina, WA, where Suzan lives, has now become part of the new WA-01 Congressional District. It’s a huge district geographically, and bears only a surface resemblance to the current 8th. It’s the large blue-shaded district in this map that extends up to the Canadian border. I have to hand it to the redistricting commission. They got all ten districts within 10 people of having the exact same population. To accomplish this in the 1st CD, they created a true swing district, which is one of the most evenly divided districts in the country. Do I live in this district? No, but I can literally see it from my house. I’m spittin’ distance from the boundary. That means I get to volunteer for Suzan DelBene’s campaign!

Another critical difference between this new 1st CD and the previous district where Suzan ran for office in 2010 is that this seat will be one of the three vacant seats in the State. The current Representative for the 1st is Jay Inslee. He is running for Governor now. The other vacant districts are the newly created WA-10 down by the State Capitol of Olympia and the WA-06 vacated by the retiring Norm Dicks.

There is no ‘popular but legislatively ineffective former Sheriff’ as incumbent for her to face this time. It’s a wide open race for the six Democrats in the primary field, all vying for the privilege of running against John Koster, the Republican. Washington State is a top-two state. That means for every office except the President, only the top two vote-getters from the primary move on to the General Ballot. We don’t declare parties in Washington State either, so instead of a (D) next to her or his name, it will read: Prefers Democratic Party.

There is no large urban city in the new 1st. The population centers of Kirkland, Redmond and Bothell are all suburbs of the Seattle-Bellevue metropolis. They are built like suburbs and the people think like they live in suburbs. The rural areas are mountainous, fertile farmlands and recreational. Not surprisingly, the key to this district is the Independent voter. In the words of Tim Ceis, of one of the two Democrats on the panel that drew these new districts: “…the district cries out for a centrist. It’s a very moderate district. There are some extremes on each end, but the majority of it is really quite smack in the middle.”

The Ideal Candidate

Enter Suzan DelBene. She has the very good fortune to have already been branded as a moderate. In the Seattle Times endorsement of Suzan in October, 2010, they proclaimed, “Time to give DelBene, a smart moderate, a chance.” I couldn’t agree more. I think the American people have completely lost their patience with anything that looks even remotely extreme, especially when it comes to Congress. Independents want nothing to do with someone who rigidly conforms to Party lines. Moderates and Independents are hungry for representation that is more concerned with solving our many problems in this country and in our districts. They’re thoroughly fed up with hard line Party politics that don’t allow for achieving compromise to reach viable solutions. This is a premise the Republicans understand, which is why in 2010 so many of the Tea Party candidates ran as moderates. This is why Presidential candidates, after running to the left or right during primaries, know they have to come back to the middle to appeal to the rest of the Nation. This is why the Republican John Koster will try to portray himself as a moderate. Luckily, this is ground onto which Suzan DelBene has already staked her flag within viewing and listening distance of the main population region of the new 1st. It would have been difficult to live in the technology-centric population center in 2010 without hearing about Suzan, so she enjoys name recognition with a large swath of the new voting population.


Socially liberal and fiscally conservative, Suzan’s ‘no sudden moves’ approach will appeal to Independents. At a time when the Middle Class is increasingly coming under attack and struggling in this country, Suzan firmly believes in creating sustainable economic opportunities for Americans in general and her constituents in specific. Her wheelhouse is business, both small and large. She gets business and she understands finance and tax reform. She knows how to create jobs and has a keen eye for effective policies. She’s also decidedly pro-labor.


We NEED more women in Congress. With the resignations of Olympia Snowe and Gabby Giffords, the population of women in Congress has now fallen below 20%. This is one of the best opportunities to do something about it that we have. Suzan is pro-choice and a mother. She understands how to successfully navigate a male-dominated environment, having been one of a handful of female top executives at Microsoft.


From her website:
Beyond her private sector experience, public service has always been central to Suzan's story. It is a key reason she decided to seek public office in the first place. She was an advisor to Global Partnerships, a microfinance nonprofit focused on providing needed loans to help create economic opportunities for people living in poverty. She has worked with the YWCA to build programs to provide transitional housing and job training to women and families struggling to get back on their feet.
We need tax reform now more than ever and we have an opportunity to send someone to Congress who actually understands the system. Tax reform isn’t just a bumper sticker for Suzan. After her campaign to unseat Dave Reichert in the WA-08, she was appointed to Governor Gregoire’s Cabinet as Director of the State Department of Revenue. In coverage of her announcement to seek the open seat in the newly drawn 1st Congressional District, it was noted that “…she worked on streamlining taxes for small businesses and on a tax amnesty program that brought in more than $340 million in state and local taxes.” Suzan DelBene actually knows how to read a budget! Look no farther than the 112th Congress for evidence of how rare a quality that is.

New Democrats

Being represented by a New Democrat is nothing new to two segments of the new 1st CD. Kirkland, Redmond, Bothell and Woodinville are already represented by Jay Inslee, who caucuses with the New Democrats. All of Whatcom County that has been placed in the new 1st is currently represented by Rick Larsen, a proud New Democrat.

The New Democrats are the pragmatic leaders in Congress. Some familiar names can be found in the list of those who caucus with this coalition: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Steve Israel, Adam Smith and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as well as Governor Christine Gregoire, former Governors Granholm, Sebelius and Napolitano.

They have a shared interest in growing our economy and protecting workers with a focus on technology and innovation as a means to achieving that growth. They share the President’s goal to create a stable economy that is built to last for generations. Suzan DelBene in particular favors regulating Wall Street and even advancing an up-to-date version of the Glass-Steagall Act to reign in banking excesses. What is a key factor here is that the New Democrats are seen as Centrists. No matter what our personal politics might be in this case, the district has been drawn to elect a Centrist. One such New Democrat has already proven that his Centrist message is powerful enough to defeat John Koster. That would be Rick Larsen, who defeated John Koster in the WA-02 in 2010. The 2nd CD is just as technology-centric (Boeing) as the new 1st (Microsoft). New Democrats in Washington specialize in representing the Technology industry. Plain and simple, Suzan is a natural fit for the 1st Congressional District.

The Big Picture
In 2010 I looked into my political crystal ball and envisioned myself working my behind off to re-elect the President at this point in the 2012 cycle. Then the 112th Congress happened and it began to dawn on me that one of the best ways to assist the President was to help provide him with a Congress he could work with in his second term.

Make no mistake, the fight for this seat in the 1st CD is going to be brutal. The 1st is part of the DCCC’s Red to Blue program:

“The DCCC’s Red to Blue program highlights top Democratic campaigns and races across the country, and offers them financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support.”

There will be an avalanche of outside money pouring into this race from outside the State of Washington. Perhaps even from outside the United States. SuperPacs will run amok in this district, most likely from both sides.

The primary race is going to be very lopsided. With only one Republican and six Democrats, the Democrats are going to be spending their money early and often trying to gain that coveted spot on the General Ballot. It was posited recently that once the General campaign begins, the Democratic candidate will be broke and the Republican will be flush. That might be true for the other five candidates, but will it be true for Suzan DelBene? I’m not so sure. Suzan’s fundraising prowess is already on display as she announced on her Facebook page that she had already raised over $200,000. This is significant because she’s only been in the race less than two months. This places her in a close third in total fund-raising behind two candidates who have been running since last summer. It was announced that none of this money is from self-funding. Plus her donor base is growing as she continues to prove herself a worthy and capable candidate with that all-important moderate credential. The need to fund-raise is just as critical for Suzan as the others, but being able to help her own campaign stay solvent and carry out the expensive task of actually raising more money without creating more debt is vital. It costs money to raise money, and Suzan won’t be caught flat-footed in that regard.

The economics of this asymmetrical race is the upside for the Republican. The downside for the Republican is that he has a moving target. The Democrats have a fixed target. They all know who the ultimate opponent will be. The Republican doesn’t know who his opponent will be. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

It’s a Democratic year. The general voting public has a very low opinion of the Republican Congress. President Barack Obama, a far more popular President than the media lets on especially in Washington State, is at the top of the ticket. There are two wedge issues that will appear on the ballot, both of which will attract the youth vote: Legalizing Marijuana and the Right Wing’s well-funded challenge to making marriage equality the law of the land. Washington State doesn't have barriers to voting, so the vote totals are going to be big. Big voter turnout helps Democrats. One would think this alignment would support the election of a fire-breathing liberal to Congress from the 1st. Democrat’s dream right? Ask Alan Grayson from the Florida’s 8th how that worked out? He was elected in a big Democratic year and then promptly lost the next term to a Republican. Looking at the Big Picture dictates that we look down the road at what happens during mid-term elections. Remember mid-terms, when it’s much harder to get young people to vote? When it is much harder to get Democrats to vote? It just isn’t enough to elect a Democrat into the new seat in 2012. That Representative has to be able to win again and again, in off years and when the landscape isn’t as favorable as it is right now. Suzan DelBene’s appeal is in line with what Independents look for in a candidate. They make the difference in a swing district.

I like Suzan’s campaign style, too. She’s not flashy; she doesn’t rely on rhetoric to convey her message; she doesn’t go for the low-hanging fruit of applause lines in the friendly confines of gatherings of Democrats. I get the sense that the person she presents to the Democrats is the same person she presents to the Independents and interested Republicans. She’s smart…very smart and well spoken. It’s clear to me that she sees the big and the small pictures in life. She possesses local savvy and the ability to grasp a global outlook, something a Representative in Congress must have to succeed.

Suzan’s campaign is easily as worthy of our support as Elizabeth Warren’s. She will be an excellent member of Congress and make Democrats and Washingtonians proud. I hope you will consider donating to her campaign, and if you live in the 1st CD, I hope you will vote for her when your primary ballot arrives in July. We need her name on that General Ballot if a Democrat is to win that open seat.

In the fight against the War on Women, it’s most important to remember that the real battle ground is the U.S. Congress and State Houses and Governor’s Mansions, not the airwaves of shock radio. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize of taking back the House of Representatives, retaining the Senate and electing more women to Congress and Government in general. We cannot afford to let the outrages distract us from the real work of electing Democrats to represent our values in this Country.


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