Democrats Suzan DelBene, Laura Ruderman, and Suzan DelBene are battling it out for the chance to run against Republican John Koster for the 1st CD seat.
Burner took an early lead, with strong support from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party (see this article) and from out-of-state netroots supporters.
But when Burner tweeted comments critical of President Obama (as reported here), most of the state party establishment, including Governor Gregoire, Rick Larsen, and Microsoft-friend Ross Hunter, fell behind DelBene.
Then Laura Ruderman’s mom launched attack ads against DelBene, which seemed to be working against DelBene, for a while. But Ruderman came under criticism for the ads; Democrats shouldn’t fling mud at other Democrats, people said. In the end, the ads probably backfired on Ruderman.
Now DelBene is spending over a million dollars of her own money on advertizing. The spending seems to be working. On her facebook page, Suzan DelBene wrote, “New independent poll shows us continuing to build momentum! We now lead all Democrats in the primary by 4+ points. Plus the poll highlights that voters want the focus to be on jobs and the economy.” It’s followed by a link to KING 5 Poll: TV commercials boost DelBene in 1st District race.
But there is reason to believe that many of the accusations in the Ruderman ads are accurate, as explained by Seattle Times reporter Jonathan Martin in his July 17 article about Suzan DelBene. Judith Shattuck, chair of the Washington State Progressive Caucus, summarizes the situation like this (quoted with permission):
The image her campaign projects, ”the quietly competent fixer for middle-class America,” as Martin labels it, is tarnished with the false claims of Del Bene’s narrative of herself as an up-from-the-bootstraps hard worker. The time she describes as “her family torn apart” is a central anecdote in Del Bene’s biographical TV ad.
But, as reported in the Seattle Times, by Martin, the ad “doesn’t mention that she grew up skiing in Vail, or attended an elite Connecticut boarding school — Choate Rosemary Hall (President Kennedy attended Choate.) Neither does it say DelBene’s stepfather found work as a pilot in Iran. DelBene got plane tickets to Iran for Christmas. And she attended Reed College in Portland, one of the nation’s most expensive private colleges.”
Further, it appears that the smear campaign connected to Laura Ruderman has its facts straight. One of the hit ads says of Del Bene’s work at money-losing tech startups — “She got rich, while workers lost their jobs.” Neither startup turned an annual profit. Nimble was sold for less than $10 million after receiving $30 million in venture capital. Drugstore.com, which was sold to Walgreens for $429 million last year, employs about 240 at its Bellevue headquarters.
According to Martin, “DelBene worked after college as a football referee, and [she] credits it with training her to make quick decisions with limited information.” Really? She sees this as a qualifying trait for a congresswoman?
Del Bene went back to Microsoft in 2004 to take a senior leadership role in marketing the mobile smart-phone division. Market analyst Sid Parakh, has remarked it was “an absolute lost opportunity’ for Microsoft, which today holds less than a 5% share of the iPhone market and attributes this to a lack of focus and vision in DelBene’s term with the division wrote Martin.
Many who know her were surprised by her change in focus to politics. She didn’t seem all that interested in politics and rarely even voted. In nine years, before taking on Reichert in 2010, she voted only 8 out of 20 possible opportunities.
But will DelBene’s money help her against Republican John Koster. As Martin says,
Worth an estimated $53 million, according to a Seattle Times analysis of her financial-disclosure reports, DelBene donated just $3,500 to federal candidates between 1990 and 2006.
She spent nearly $2.3 million of her own money against Reichert, and has put $1 million into her current campaign. It gives her an edge, but isn’t a sure path to victory.
In 2010, 47 of the 58 federal candidates who spent at least $500,000 of their own money — including DelBene — lost their elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The trend prompted headlines about the “myth of self-funded candidates.”
Most progressive activists continue to support Burner, believing that DelBene is a corporatist Democrat. Indeed, DelBene took no action to rein in Microsoft tax breaks when she was head of the Department of Revenue. (See How Dems Ross Hunter and Suzan DelBene helped Microsoft avoid taxes.)
Furthermore, DelBene has stated that she plans to caucus with the New Democrats (the “centrist”, corporate group of Dems) and not with the Progressive Caucus; see this video.
The fact that centrists Christines Gregoire, Rick Larsen, Ross Hunter, and Adam Smith endorse her is more reason to think that she’ll be centrist, not progressive.
On the other hand, the policy positions stated on DelBene’s campaign website are quite progressive. And DelBene isn’t the only ex-Microsoft executive in the race. Both Burner and Ruderman, are ex-Microsoft executives too.
Politics is a lot like marriage. You don’t really know what you’re getting until you take the plunge and commit. Will DelBene follow through with her progressive-sounding pronouncements? Or, like too many Dems, will she work with the corporate wing of the Democratic Party?
The evidence available to me suggests that Darcy Burner is the best bet for people wanting a real Democrat who will server the interests of the People and not the interests of the 1%. Her willingness to state the truth, whether about the President or about the NRA, her experience running ProgressiveCongress.org, her ability to rouse and enlighten a crowd, and the evidence against DelBene shown above, lead me to prefer Darcy Burner over Suzan DelBene.