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Washington Candidates Fight for Competitive Seat

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House candidate Suzan DelBene is one of the individuals running in the Democratic primary in what will be the most competitive race in Washington state.

Burner and DelBene, who both hail from the southern end of the district, where Microsoft’s Redmond campus is also located, have plenty of Democratic company in the race. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, former state Rep. Laura Ruderman, state Rep. Roger Goodman and tech executive Darshan Rauniyar are also running.

One Democrat and one Republican are likely to advance beyond the August jungle primary. On the Republican side, Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, who lost to Larsen in 2010, is also running, as are James Watkins, Larry Ishmael and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Anders.

There is chatter that other Republicans are looking at the race, including a Microsoft executive. But Koster is the early favorite among Republicans given his organization, name familiarity and fundraising list, said Chris Vance, a former state GOP chairman.

“The conventional wisdom right now is that John Koster’s too conservative for the King County part of the district,” Vance said. “Maybe so, but he’s a perfect fit for the rest of the district.”

District Diversity

Burner said the district’s population is split in half between the suburban areas of Redmond, Kirkland and Bothell — the high-tech area where most of the candidates live — and the three large counties to the north. Larsen said he’s spoken with five of the six Democrats running, with each seeking his insight on the district’s three expansive counties, which Larsen currently represents.

“Whoever is running in this district needs to understand that there are differences between Blain and Bothell,” he said of two towns in the northern and southern reaches of the district.

In Snohomish, he said, the focus is on Boeing, the largest employer in his current district. In eastern Skagit, a jobs discussion will likely center on agriculture and broadband expansion into the rural areas. And in Whatcom, there are large dairy and berry farms that export milk and berries across the globe, as well as aluminum smelting and the potential for a bulk commodity terminal in Cherry Point that would export coal.

“So there has got to be a different approach to each of these places,” Larsen continued. “The issue overall in the district will still be jobs and the economy. But you even have to talk about it differently, depending on where you are.”

Burner has been deeply involved in liberal causes and has been a presence at the annual Netroots Nation conventions. Asked whether she can win over voters in a moderate district, Burner said a lesson from the 2010 midterms is that swing voters “are more likely to elect people who have principles than people who are squishy and have none.”

Burner said her stump speeches have all focused on jobs. But voters continue to be skeptical that anything can be accomplished with a “broken Congress.”

So she will be highlighting her experience over the past few years working for ProgressiveCongress.org, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), through which she worked with the Congressional Progressive Caucus and formed a filibuster-reform coalition.

“I actually understand what it is that is broken and what we can do to fix it, which is not true of anyone else in the race,” she said.

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