How the Washington State Democratic caucus worked to sabotage progressive candidates

The House Democratic caucus in Washington State supported Democrat Matt Larson over Darcy Burner in the 5th LD primary for House seat position #2.  Darcy is a strong progressive. She worked in D.C. as Executive Director of Progressive Congress and has a big following. The Democratic Caucus contributed $50,000 to Matt Larson. Later, after Darcy trounced Larson in the primary (11,014 to 5,056), the Dem Caucus donated only $20,000 to Burner.

Before the election I’d heard mumblings from a Democratic operative that Darcy was too far left, and after the election this same operative defended the caucus’s decision, saying that Larson would have been more electable.

Darcy Burner on TV

I was told by a knowledgeable source that the Democratic caucus also refused to support Jason Ritchie for state House because he refused to be critical of Darcy.

I asked Jason Ritchie about this, and he agreed that the HDCC didn’t want either him or Darcy in the caucus, so they didn’t target the races for support. He also agreed that both seats were winnable, as the district is trending blue. He went on (telling me I may quote him):

Labor allies stood behind my campaign 100%. I was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution. The problem is the HDCC and the entrenched elite who are not listening to the grassroots. Progressives and Labor need to stand together, not fight against each other, to oust the current leadership and reestablish our party as it was founded, progressive and working class champions.

Jason Ritchie for House

Here’s an early article about the caucus’ opposition to Darcy Burner, from Seattle Met: House Democrats Take Sides in Democratic Primary.

Here are details about the donations. In the 5th LD primary for House seat position #2, the Democratic Caucus contributed $50,000 to Matt Larson, Darcy’s Democratic challenger.

Democratic Caucus contributed $50,000 to Matt Larson
Darcy easily beat Larson: 11,014 to 5,056.   On Oct 10, 2016 the House Democratic Campaign Committee contributed $20,000 to Darcy’s campaign (substantially less than the $50,000 they gave to Larson).

Democratic Caucus contributed $20,000 to Darcy Burner

But Darcy lost in the general election to Paul Graves, who won 39,330 votes to Darcy’s 33,838.

In the other 5th House race, Jason Ritchie was the only Democratic primary candidate.  Republican Jaye Rodney beat Jason Ritchie 37,772 to 34,954 in the general election. That was even closer.

Fact is, the caucus (especially Frank Chopp) tends not to like progressive candidates.

They chose former Republican Rodney Tom over a good Democrat, leading to the Republicans taking over control of the state Senate. State Democratic chair Dwight Pelz later regretted this.

Fact is, the Democratic caucus is wishy-washy on Democratic Party principles:  Frank Chopp allowed Steve Litzow’s charter school bill SB 6194 to come to a vote; over a dozen Democrats voted for it; and Governor Inslee allowed the bill to become law. Despite its being unconstitutional!  See These Dems voted to undermine public schools, contravene the Constitution, and aid Republicans.

In 2012, after Dennis Kucinich’s seat was redistricted out of existence, he visited Washington State to investigate running for Congress here. But Pelz opposed Kucinich’s move and ridiculed him,  angering many progressives.

A similar sellout was the recent votes by Senators Murray and Cantwell against Bernie Sander’s bill to allow re-importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada. There is an effort underway among Democrats to pass a resolution, or possibly a censure, about this issue.   Yes, Trump’s upcoming inauguration is a dark day for America. No, that’s no excuse for selling out principles for the sake of campaign money from corrupt drug companies.

It’s sellouts like these that confuse the voters, cause low turnout, and contribute to GOP victories and defections to the Greens and Socialists.

Darcy Burner played a big role in fixing the Senate filibuster

Virtually Speaking reports that Washington State’s Darcy Burner played an important role in Harry Reid’s move to fix the Senate filibuster.

Click here to hear filibuster experts Joan McCarter and David Waldman’s analysis.  Listen from 10:30 to hear the discussion of Darcy’s role. Here’s an excerpt:

To me Darcy Burner was instrumental in moving us from, “Hey, we really ought to be doing this” chat in emails to “Let me introduce you to the people who can make it happen.” And from there we took off running, and we all did this work together. But it was Darcy who said, “I can make this thought become reality.” So, she deserves a giant chunk of the credit for this today.

Darcy Burner (Wikipedia portrait)

This CNN article has more detail about the filibuster change: And credit for the nuclear option goes to…

“It took a coordinated and sustained effort from an unlikely place — progressive activists on the blogosphere.”  The so-called Fix the Senate Coalition of groups and unions phoned and emailed senators. They pursued an “inside-outside” strategy of pressure from the grassroots and from insiders whom the senators trusted.

Darcy Burner on her facebook page offers this explanation of how filibuster reform came about (republished with permission):

David Waldman (aka KagroX of DailyKos) and I talked about it while I was running, and then we convinced Daniel Weise of the Ordinary People Foundation to fund roughly a year of David’s time through (in addition to his blogging at to lay the groundwork with the Senate. This is the ultimate outcome of that effort.

Lessons? (1) Small investments can make big differences if they’re strategically done. (2) Visionary donors – and Daniel qualifies – can have a huge impact. (3) We should be doing a better job of funding bloggers.

Suzan DelBene fails to file important records with FEC, faces possible felony investigation

With only a few days left in the primary race for the 1st Congressional District,  progressive champion Darcy Burner and centrist Democrat Suzan DelBene are neck and neck in the polls. But recent revelations about DelBene’s failure to file important records with the FEC may (should) decide the race.

Washington State Progressive Caucus Chair Judith Shattuck reports:

Suzan has failed to file timely and important records with the FEC.  In so doing she has violated the law and has exposed herself to a potential felony investigation.  The House Ethics committee is controlled by Republicans, but they have no reason to open an investigation unless Del Bene wins the primary.  Of course, it doesn’t matter what the final findings are, all they need are headlines that declare Del Bene under investigation for a Federal Felony.  End of race.  Koster is our Representative.

Here are some links to articles on this:

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want a teabagger like Koster representing me!  It’s crucial that we get out the vote for Darcy Burner.

Please call the campaign office at (425) 312-3279 and volunteer to help.

There will be 2 door knocking opportunities on Saturday.  One in Lake Stevens at noon, and one in Redmond at 4 PM.  The campaign office will give you addresses for starting points.  Phone banking is on going.  And, of course, your donation, no matter how large or small, will be helpful.

The Burner campaign has picked up on the story and mailed out the flier below to voters in the 1st CD.

Suzan DelBene Breaking the Law

See also

MoveOn's email in support of Darcy Burner

[This was in my email inbox this morning.]
There’s one critical primary in Washington State this year—and with just 8 days left, it’s crunch time.
The ballots are in voters’ hands, and candidates and the Super PACs supporting them are spending millions in Washington’s 1st District. But of the seven candidates, there’s only one we can count on to be a real fighter for the 99%.
Darcy Burner has been working for years to make Congress work for us—and it’s time to send her back to D.C. So our friends at Democracy for America are hosting a major Action Summit tomorrow. It’s a one-day training to teach you the most effective and cutting-edge get-out-the-vote skills—and then help you put them to use for Darcy.
The race is going to be extremely close—the latest polls have it within just a few points. Darcy’s opponents have deep pockets and are spending big to flood voters with TV ads and glossy mailers. 
So as voters are making their decisions in these last few days, Darcy will need grassroots muscle to get the message out about her work to end the war in Afghanistan and her plan to fix Congress. MoveOn members can make the difference in this race by reaching out to voters about Darcy and her work. 

Moral Politics video about 1st CD candidates

Wonder why Micosoft doesn’t pay state taxes and why Governor Gregoire and Suzan Del Bene are holding hands? If you missed last week’s discussion of the CD1 Candidates you can watch it again this evening on Channel 77 at 8:30 PM or online anytime here:
Candidates Vying for Congress in Washington’s New First District.

Gregoire endorses Suzan DelBene, repeats GOP talking points about taxes

“I know Suzan DelBene personally. I put her private sector experience to work for our state as Director of the Department of Revenue. Suzan immediately went to work to help close the state’s budget gap while easing the burden on small businesses.”

That last phrase repeats and reinforces a Republican talking point: that taxes are an evil “burden” on businesses.

Gregoire continues, “She proposed reforms to the tax system to cut red tape for small businesses, implemented an innovative tax amnesty program, and cracked down on companies [other than Microsoft!] that were cheating the state out of taxes.”

Despite all the anti-tax innuendo, Gregoire claims that DelBene will be “an effective voice for our progressive values.”

Anti-DelBene mailing from Laura Ruderman's mom

Anti-DelBene mailing from Laura Ruderman's mom

See also Darcy Burner’s latest 17 second ad and Attack ad against 1st CD candidate Suzan DelBene.

(Thanks to Erna Berghuys for scanning the fliers.)

Attack ad against 1st CD candidate Suzan DelBene

Below are scanned images of one of the anti-Suzan DelBene fliers sent out by Progress Washington, which, according to this article, was a PAC formed by Laura Ruderman’s mom, Mary Rotchschild. (Ruderman and DelBene are running for Congress in the 1st CD.)

Anti-DelBene mailing from Laura Ruderman's mom

Anti-DelBene mailing from Laura Ruderman's mom

Anti-DelBene mailing from Laura Ruderman's mom

Ruderman and her mom have come under criticism by some Democrats for engaging in mud-slinging against a fellow Democrat.  (But, Ruderman was apparently unaware of her mother’s actions til after the fact, according to Ruderman’s campaign manager.)  A nasty primary battle could aid Tea Party Republican candidate John Koster.

I’ve seen another ad by Progress for Washington that attacks both DelBene and Darcy Burner (charging Burner with being a “loose cannon” for having called President Obama a “Republican.”)

DelBene is allegedly spending close to a million dollars of her own money to fund her campaign.

I’m of mixed opinion about whether primary candidates should harshly criticize their opponents, because I’m eager to rid the Democratic Party of DINOs.  Suzan DelBene has said that, if elected, she will not join the Progressive Caucus. Instead, she’ll become a New Democrat (a centrist).  See this article and video.  And there are claims that as head of DOR, DelBene helped protect Microsoft tax breaks.  (DelBene is an ex-Microsoft executive, and her husband is a senior executive at Microsoft).  In other words, I suspect that DelBene is a corporate Dem. But the issues page on her campaign website indicates support for all the correct progressives policies:  the Buffet rule, reinstating Glass Steagall, protecting Social Security and Medicare, clean energy, repealing DOMA, protecting freedom of choice, etc.  So I suppose I would support her if she runs, though not as strongly as I’d support a more progressive candidate.

There’s still some mystery about the identity of Progress for Washington. I found this website for an entity called Progress for Washington:

which was “founded by Scott White, 46th District Democrats chair Chad Lupkes and King County Democrats Legislative Action Committee co-chair Sarajane Seigfreidt.” Is that related to Rotchschild’s group?  I doubt it.  I’ve emailed Lupkes and Seigfriedt to verify and will post a summary of their response here. [See Chad’s response below: different group.]

This Seattle Times article covers the story.

The Woodinville Patch says that Laura Ruderman is asking her mom’s PAC to stop the ads.

This Democratic Underground posting discusses the mystery of exactly who’s funding the ads.

[Added 12/07/23, by way of Erna Berghuys] Open Secrets’ page on Progress for Washington says that Progress for Washington is a SuperPAC that so far in 2012 has spent $197K on negative ads against Democrats (presumably against DelBene) and $21K on positive support for Democrats.

Darcy Burner and Suzan DelBene, candidates for the 1st CD

In her 2006 and 2008 campaigns for Congress, Darcy Burner did not stake out strongly progressive views — presumably because she needed to appeal to conservatives in the southern part of the old 8th CD.

This year Darcy is sounding much more progressive, as well as being a much better speaker.

Darcy Burner on TV

But is Suzan DelBene significantly less progressive in her policy pronouncements than Darcy Burner? Suzan’s issues page indicates support for all the correct progressives policies:  the Buffet rule, reinstating Glass Steagall, protecting Social Security and Medicare, clean energy, repealing DOMA, protecting freedom of choice, etc.

Some people have made the argument that Suzan DelBene is more likely to protect Microsoft’s state tax breaks, given her husband’s role as head of the Office division at Microsoft.  This seems plausible. And people have criticized DelBene for having lots of money.

But Darcy too came from Microsoft, and if there are rich progressives, it’s a good thing to support them. Besides, DelBene is running for US Congress, not for the Washington State House or Senate.  Would she protect Microsoft in the US House?

In other words, what concrete evidence is there to suggest that Suzan will be significantly less progressive than Darcy?   [Yes, see addition below.] Is DelBene being supported by corporate forces within the Democratic Party?  Is there concrete evidence that Suzan would protect Microsoft’s tax breaks? (Perhaps it’s just fair to presume that, and perhaps choosing DelBene would expose Democrats to populist charges of elitism.) Also, if Suzan DelBene wins the primary (unlikely) would/should local progressives support her?  I presume so.   In their eagerness to support Darcy, do progressives risk alienating DelBene?

Suzan DelBene
Suzan DelBene

At this point my preference is for Darcy Burner over Suzan DelBene. But I’m not aware of any solid information that would suggest that DelBene wouldn’t be a good choice.  If you have such information, please share it.

BTW, I notice something odd.  It feels acceptable to call DelBene and Burner by their first names. I wrote “Darcy” and “Suzan” earlier.  But when talking about male candidates, it feels less acceptable to call them just by their first names. We don’t call Steve Hobbes “Steve.” We don’t call Adam Smith “Adam.”   But I have heard progressives call Dennis Kucinich “Dennis.” So maybe this is all a function of familiarity and ideological and geographical proximity. If the male candidates were local to our district and if we agreed with their policies, we might call them by their first names. Not sure…

Solid Evidence

After writing the first version this article I found the solid evidence I was looking for.

According to this article by Chad Shue, Suzan DelBene has said that she would caucus with the New Democrats.  In a video she says:

I would most likely not be in the Progressive Caucus. I would expect to be in the New Democrats Caucus. I think that’s a place that is fit for what I think needs to happen in terms of getting our economy moving and for breaking this idea that Democrats aren’t also supportive of business in our economy and I think that’s where the New Democrats have made a lot of progress.

Here’s the 52 second video.