KCTS 9 Connects/First Congressional District - July 20, 2012

1st Congressional District - July 20, 2012
  • KCTS 9 CONNECTS

First Congressional District

A discussion of the candidates in the running for the Washington State First Congressional District seat.

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About the Episode

This week, we discuss the Democrat dust-up in the First Congressional District race; a SuperPac attack, a candidate's mother who funded it, and words of admonishment from U.S. Senator Patty Murray to knock off the intra-party squabbling. We look at how and why all this happened, the potential impact on the First Congressional District race, and the latest polling in this hotly contested race.

Watch the Full 1st Congressional District Debate

Enrique Cerna:
Until this week, the race for the newly redistricted first congressional district has been fairly low key. It's probably been best known for the large number of candidates vying for the job, seven altogether, five of them are democrats. There's Darcy burner, she's run for congress twice before in the 8th district, losing both races to republican incumbent Dave Reichert. Suzan DelBene is a former Microsoft vice president and former director of the state department of revenue. She also lost to Dave Reichert in 2010. Steve Hobbs is an Iraq war veteran, a state senator, and one of the founders of the so called roadkill caucus in the legislature. Darshan Rauniyar is making his first run for public office. Laura Ruderman served three terms in the state house and ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state in 2004. John Koster is the only republican in the race. This is his third run for congress. He lost twice to democrat Rick Larsen in the second district. Koster is presently in his third term on the Snohomish County council. And Larry Ishmael is the only independent in the race. He was a professor of economics at northwest university in Kirkland. He's run for congress before as a republican, losing both times to Jay Inslee in what will soon be the old congressional district. Now, the new district covers three counties, Whatcom, Snohomish, and king, and runs north to the Canadian border and south just past north bend along I 90. It's considered a swing district, meaning either party could win there. This week, the first district race took a bizarre turn when it was revealed that a super Pac attack ad targeting Suzan Del Bene was paid for by the mother of fellow democrat Laura Ruderman. Last Friday before that disclosure, DelBene confronted. Ruderman about the attack during the taping of a KCTS 9 league of women voters candidate debate.

Suzan DelBene:
Right now, you have one of those super Pacs, a Karl Rove type super Pac supporting your campaign. And it's associated with friends of yours. And you always say you have a loud voice and will be a loud voice in congress, but you've been incredibly silent on this. And yet this is an opportunity for you to oppose and denounce what's happening as well as say you think it's time that this needs to stop. And I just wanted to know if you are willing to say that.

Laura Ruderman:
I... Don't know anything about it. I was surprised as anybody else. I have said over and over that I support a constitutional amendment to say that corporations are not people. And that money is not speech. I don't take to denouncing other people's campaign tactics. When your campaign hit, ah, Ms. Burner's campaign on what happened at net roots nation, I didn't denounce that. When she hit your campaign on saying that you were going to join the new democrats, not the progressive, I didn't denounce that. I let everybody run their own campaign.

Enrique Cerna:
We turn now to our insiders round table to talk more about this democrat dustup and what it means in the race for the new first congressional district. Joining me now, political strategists Cathy Allen and Chris Vance, also here Josh Feit, editor and reporter for the online news publication, and Joel Connelly, columnist for the Seattlepi.com. Well, is this bizarre or what, what has happened with all of this?

Cathy Allen:
It's got to be summer. You have to assume that everything is going to be absolutely crazed when the ballots start to drop, which they have, so now, everything is going to be crazy.

Enrique Cerna:
So how does this play out? Does this hurt Laura Ruderman completely that she's...

Joel Connelly:
You had a potential collision where negative ads against DelBene denouncing, you know, paid for by Ruderman's mother were about to run cheek to jowl with ads by rude,man featuring Ruderman's mother. The activities of mama Pac led to a certain amount of confusion, a denunciation by senator Patty Murray, and finally Laura delivering the message, that famous innocent commercial, mother, please, I'd rather do it myself.

Chris Vance:
Enrique, what you have to remember here, this is not a normal election. This is not one person against another with a big turn out. This is a crowded ballot, only half the people are going to vote in the primary, and of those, half of them are going to vote for John Koster, the republican. So we're talking about one quarter of the voters are going to split among five candidates. You're talking about very small numbers. I'm not sure any of it matters. It comes down to positioning and how people see you, and are they used to you. It's a very hard thing to judge.

Cathy Allen:
That's why it's so bizarre.

Josh Feit:
Ironically, she's actually going after the wrong candidate. So the independent expenditure is focused on Suzan DelBene, but the frontrunner is Darcy Burner. So if Laura Ruderman wants to make it through, she ought to be chipping away at Darcy Burner. One of the four pieces mentioned burner, but there's another one coming for DelBene that's going to hit this week, and that's against DelBene again.

Enrique Cerna:
Let me bring in some statements. Ruderman, after all of this, she had denied upfront there that she didn't know anything about it. There was supposed to be a television ad that was supposed to come out, and it was supposed to come out yesterday, and she said she was calling on progress for Washington the Pac to take down the television ad, she wants to encourage voters to visit her website, see the positive messages about her positions on issues that her campaign is talking about. Now, patty Murray also had, as you mentioned, she issued a statement in all of this. She was not happy with both. She said this, the shadowy super Pac attacks in the first congressional district race represent an unfortunately ugly, apparently democrat versus democrat assault, and I hope they stop. As democrat, we shouldn't allow ourselves to be pulled into a messy fight funded by anonymous interests. And she challenges all the democrats in the race to engage in a healthy, vigorous exchange of ideas during the primary campaign. This election, she says, should be who will fight for the middle class, who will be the most effective in congress, get the economy back on track. No place for this type of anonymous assault against other democratic candidates. And we know it's not anonymous now. Now, all of this kind of pre empted the fact that Ruderman was coming out with a television ad. Let's take a look at that ad. It's actually quite nice and it features her mother. Let's take a look.

Laura Ruderman:
My mother, my father, my sister, my two sisters in law. In just three years, they've all battled cancer. One sister in law died. I'm Laura Ruderman. And like protecting the president's health care law, no matter what challenge your family faces, in congress, it will be personal to me. My mom calls it her dance with cancer. And it's lasted two years longer than we thought possible. I approved this message for her.

Enrique Cerna:
Now, does this pre empt the message of that ad?

Cathy Allen:
I think so. I think this is amazingly interesting, and to Josh's point, I think it was very strategic that they go after DelBene, obviously, Ruderman figured out that it was easier for her to get votes from DelBene than Darcy Burner, who is the more progressive liberal in the race. It makes you feel sorry for Laura, oh my God, the mother is dying of cancer, that's horrible. And then you look at this and you automatically forget any of the sins and you look at this as somebody who is just in the middle of a fight for cancer and a mother who loves her daughter.

Joel Connelly:
I wonder if all of this is an inside the 405 beltway controversy. You have a sprawling district all the way from Carnation to the Canadian border. Candidates have to go to ground to connect with it. All the multiplicity of polls that we've seen show no democrat higher than 17% so far, while the formidable republican, John Koster, is waiting with more than 40%. I again wonder what the ultimate impact will be of this and which of the candidates would really be catching on among the voters of the first district who live outside the 405 beltway.

Enrique Cerna:
Well, let's talk about this district. Because it's really unique in the sense that they're all unique in their way. But we're talking about three counties, as you mentioned, it stretches from Canada down to actually along I 90, past North Bend there. There's the tech side of it. And kind of that urban side of it. There is also the rural side of it. Who has the advantage in something like this?

Chris Vance:
This is to me the big story, and this has been lost in this democratic battle. We've now seen a series of polls in this district. And what they've shown is John Koster beats all the democrats. And some of the polls by a fairly wide margin. And the polling shows this district is more republican than people thought. I'm ready to call the first a lean republican district and Koster the favorite to win it.

Josh Feit:
Yeah. The thing here is with all the focus on Ruderman, Del Bene, and Burner, the candidate who actually might have the best chance for the democrats is Steve Hobbs.

Enrique Cerna:
And he had a poll come out this week.

Josh Feit:
And it shows him sort of even with Burner and DelBene and Ruderman, with Burner and DelBene, although two other polls don't have him there. But he's someone who's beaten a republican twice, he unseated a republican in 2006. And he's a real good fit for the district. But he's getting lost in all of this.

Cathy Allen:
Yeah. And actually, what you see is also the money wars are such that by far, the most money is DelBene, then second is Burner, then third is Ruderman. All of these things notwithstanding it shows that there is still a long ride, I believe that Koster's too conservative for the district. I also believe that any of the three women right now are too progressive for the district.

Joel Connelly:
Let me say something. As somebody who grew up in northwest Washington, you have two things running against each other. First of all, the visceral hostility to the government, which Koster clearly represents. Secondly, all sorts of demands on the government. Whoever was the congressman in that area in the old second district had to become a master in child labor laws for the people working in the strawberry fields and so on. So Koster may be a tad bit too conservative, but he's clearly part of the district, and he's a son of the district, and he used to be a dairy farmer.

Chris Vance:
It's conventional wisdom that John's too conservative for the district. But he's been elected to the Snohomish County council from this district. He came close twice in the old second for congress, which was much less republican. John might be too conservative for the extreme southern King County end of the district but most of the people in this district don't live near the Microsoft campus. They live farther north.

Cathy Allen:
And the primary will be different than the general from the point of view that we are not expecting that huge outcry of folks that are 18 to 34. But in general, it is my prediction that how the 18 to 34 year olds go in congressional district one is exactly who wins.

Joel Connelly:
Also, I think Josh's point is a very good one. Hobbs has a base. Hobbs has a base in Snohomish County, which is right in the middle of the district. And quite often, in contests like this in the past, the person with the base gets the nomination.

Enrique Cerna:
So who right now on the democratic side might be smiling with all of this stuff with Ruderman?

Cathy Allen:
Got to be Darcy Burner. I would say Darcy Burner ends up getting those people that think that Laura is trying to do something sneaky, or people who are affected by some of the things that mama Pac said about DelBene. Darcy Burner picks up some of this. Or I think it's possible Steve Hobbs can do that.

Chris Vance:
I think Steve Hobbs is the horse on the out side moving up fast, who may win this thing in the end.

Enrique Cerna:
How does Hobbs, I guess, if he is the person that, he hasn't got as much publicity as the women in, the three women in this race on the democratic side. What does he have to do to, I guess, try to get himself in the money when he doesn't have that much money.

Cathy Allen:
Cathy: He has to win the lottery. He's got to find some money.

Joel Connelly:
He has a potential thing. And it was in the Bellingham Herald. Namely, that we used to have Giants of Dan Evans, now, he says we have the Michelle Bachmanns and the Dennis Kuciniches in Congress. Something that's going to cause outcry. But he says it's time to elect somebody that's able to work out society's compromises.

Josh Feit:
That's the thing about Steve Hobbs. While he's conservative in that way for a democrat, he's also socially liberal, and he's real proud of it. And he makes a real case to people in his district that he fought in Iraq along with gay soldiers, so he was one of the outspoken proponents for the gay marriage bill. His district voted against R 71, and he proudly said look, but I stood up for that. He has some real integrity and would make an interesting match against Koster, who is very homophobic.

Chris Vance:
Well, all right, that's a personal attack. But look... No, I don't agree with that. But in terms of money, no, steve Hobbs doesn't have a million dollars, but you don't need a million dollars to win a low turn out election. Hobbs has some money in the bank. And if he's targeting it well, it might be enough.

Josh Feit:
Hobbs doesn't have much in the bank. He has $98,000 on hand and the others are 200.

Enrique Cerna:
Well, John Koster, who is really just sitting back.

Cathy Allen:
You're smiling, yeah.

Enrique Cerna:
See who's going to vote themselves off the island here. Who's he hoping for?

Chris Vance:
Any of the three liberal women.

Cathy Allen:
I'm saying he wants Darcy Burner, that's who I think he wants.

Enrique Cerna:
Because it's the most opposite of him?

Joel Connelly:
And also it's the most separate. Remember, she's promising to end the Afghanistan war, not provide the traffic circles.

Josh Feit:
And her own poll, which ending Afghanistan war showed 4% of people's concerns, yet her own statement leads with I'm going to bring home the troops from Afghanistan, which is a very strange disconnect.

Joel Connelly:
And a strange thing for a freshman member of the house to do.

Enrique Cerna:
But of the women, who would steve Hobbs want to run?

Josh Feit:
DelBene because she has so much money.

Chris Vance:
Money will not be an issue for Koster. The national republicans will be here with buckets of money.

Enrique Cerna:
All right. Last night, a lot of talk about the arena at city hall, as the city council, I believe also from the King County council members were there as well, they heard a lot from those who are in favor of the arena, all those Sonic fans. They also heard from the port and there was a letter that Tay Yoshatani, the port president, sent to the city council this week, in which basically he has stated again that traffic is a big issue, they don't like it. But he also said this: We are further concerned that early legislative action by the Seattle city council to preapprove an arena in Sodo and a binding agreement of the parties as outlined in their proposed memorandum of understanding would prejudice the outcome and constitute a prior action, unlawfully restricting the city's full exercise of the state environmental protection act authority. Discussions between the city and arena opponents apparently have been underway for more than a year, yet these proponents are asking to do this in a few weeks. He's saying let's have an analysis and environmental studies. For him to come out and say this.

Cathy Allen:
Which is usually a gutsy move. Usually the elected port commissioners are doing all the moving and shaking. But for him to come out and say, you're railroading this, and we don't like it, and stop it. It's pretty serious.

Joel Connelly:
No fast break.

Cathy Allen:
No fast break on this.

Josh Feit:
And that's the point that environmental lawyer Peter Goldman made. There is this sort of momentum problem that they signed this MOA and then all these things happen. But we're not giving them money. But then if you can't say no now, how are you going to say no after you sign this agreement? And some of the things have been done and some haven't. And the environmental impact statement comes back and there's problems. And people are going to be real stuffy at this point.

Chris Vance:
The first time we talked about this, I mentioned there were problems here that could arise with SEPA and the growth management act. And lawyers can file all sorts of litigation to make it impossible for you to issue bonds and move your project forward. There are some real problems here. Litigation will kill this thing, even if the councils vote for it.

Cathy Allen:
I do believe it's pretty close, this heart is not beating very long. I have to say that I see that the energy to stall and to literally nitpick at this is the death nail.

Joel Connelly:
It's not necessarily stalling. What they're looking at is the fact that the port faces competition from as far away as Charleston, South Carolina, that other entities, the Canadians are putting millions and millions of dollars into Prince Rupert in Vancouver. Cargo goes where cargo can move. If cargo cannot move, it will go elsewhere.

Josh Feit:
I have to disagree a little bit here. I don't understand the study here how 42 games a year in the evening, in the evening sort of are going to upend the port. I think the thing that Cathy is pointing to, the anti stadium feeling, which is unfortunate, because I think it's not politically honest is what's really happening here is the council cannot stand Mayor McGinn. And this has become political. This has become we are not going to give Mike McGinn a victory. Whether you like the stadium or not. And I think that's unfortunate. Because I think this is a deal, it's got some guarantees that are much better than other sports stadium deals. But because this has Mike McGinn's name on it.

Cathy Allen:
It's his Hail Mary pass and the council doesn't like it.

Enrique Cerna:
You used to be on the King County council. Where does this leave him? He's been right in there.

Chris Vance:
I also said that what needs to happen here at some point, the process needs to end, and the county executive and other leaders need to go to council members and say it's time to shut up and vote. Enough, enough talk. It's time to vote. You've got all the information you're going to get. And it's time to take a vote. And at least in the King County courthouse, I think Dow is popular. And it is important for him to go down there and say I need your vote on this.

Josh Feit:
Although the county commitment is not as much as the city.

Cathy Allen:
That's true.

Josh Feit:
It's like $12 million versus...

Enrique Cerna:
On another issue which Mike McGinn is involved in, and this also involves the city attorney, Pete Holmes has sent a sharply worded letter to the mayor saying that the legal strategy that he's negotiating on the reforms with the department of justice, putting the city on the verge of a civil rights lawsuit that could have some real bad consequences. Were you surprised by that letter?

Cathy Allen:
I was surprised that it didn't come sooner. But I also said this is the first time when I actually sat back and said, oh my gosh, Pete Holmes could be running for mayor too. I thought it was very interesting. The fact is, is that this whole D O.J. thing and the fact that he's not relying on his own attorney is kind of weird anyways. But it goes back to the point that everybody on the one side of the city council and the elected Pete Holmes, the fact is that they are very much not in the same category as McGinn. These guys are like oil and vinegar now.

Joel Connelly:
You've got two people that are intimately familiar with police conduct issues. Pete Holmes, the city attorney, and Jenny Durkan, the U.S. attorney. If these two brains were put together, they would be able to resolve this. But the curious situation is that the mayor has the ability to screw things up until the lawsuit is file. And at that point, Holmes has more power in the situation.

Cathy Allen:
That's true.

Joel Connelly:
I just wish you had a flip situation, where Holmes was at the table for the city now.

Enrique Cerna:
By the way, Josh, whenever that happens at KCTS, the first time anybody's done it at the round table, a $5,000 donation to KCTS 9. We'll collect it later.

Chris Vance:
Contrast this mess at the city, be where you've got the city's attorney telling the city's executive that you're screwing it up, versus how King County handled the DOj investigation of the jail.

Cathy Allen:
Night and day.

Chris Vance:
Yeah. Night and day, and looks like amateur hour in the city hall.

Enrique Cerna:
In the Governor's race, it was reported, revealed that an aide to Rob McKenna had sent out some derogatory tweets with the elderly and also Asians. Asian community is really up in arms about this. Also, McKenna's staff didn't, um, they took their time in how they handled this. And eventually, the aide decided to resign. But was there a problem with the way Rob handled this in the sense that, you know, he didn't act quickly?

Josh Feit:
Yeah. I think it's not a huge issue, but I think it shows he should have been more definitive about it and it was a little odd when the second story came out and they were dealing with it, and she hasn't been fired. I thought that was strange. And it made McKenna look less sort of gubernatorial than you'd expect from him.

Cathy Allen:
I don't know. I thought that he's a dad of daughters that age, and as we all know, that I don't know of a person who has a child that didn't say, see, I told you what could happen with those tweets, you could get in trouble.

Enrique Cerna:
I've had those conversations.

Josh Feit:
And the tweets, it was dramatic. So it makes a difference.

Cathy Allen:
And actually, as I was explaining to a number of people that I know of color, the passion for this issue far outweighs the compassion for the woman herself. And I thought, initially, I was much more compassionate and thought, you know, this is not a fireable offense. It is something that you learn from and you make her go work with their Asian supporters. However.

Enrique Cerna:
Yeah, in that age range.

Chris Vance:
I immediately texted my son and went down the hall and talked to my daughter and said, be careful, everything you put on the Internet is going to be seen by a college admissions office someday.

Cathy Allen:
Or the public.

Chris Vance:
McKenna had a couple of bad days. I feel sorry for the young lady. I think the McKenna campaign wanted to try and ride this out, but politics are a tough business. And eventually, you have to cut your losses.

Enrique Cerna:
Okay. We have about a minute left. And big bucks rolled in this week for the charter schools initiative. What does that mean?

Joel Connelly:
It means that they've got three, they raised $3.3 million already. And the billionaires unite.

Cathy Allen:
Yeah.

Joel Connelly:
And they have united. And the fourth time may be a charm for them.

Cathy Allen:
Yeah.

Chris Vance:
It remains to be seen whether or not the WEA and the NEA will put money against this. If they do, they can match and surpass that.

Cathy Allen:
Not too many places where you find Wal Mart and Bill Gates on the same line of a $100,000 plus donor.

Josh Feit:
And the WEA, obviously, it's their big issue, but they're backing up the Inslee campaign and I don't know how they match.

Enrique Cerna:
Plenty. You know, for summer, there's a lot going on here.

Cathy Allen:
I know. We haven't even mentioned the sun was out!

Enrique Cerna:
Where. The thunder's there, that's for sure, and the lightning. You guys stay dry, hopefully it will be a nice weekend. And enjoy yourselves very much.

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08/04/12

4 counties!!!

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