DelBene Challenger Hires Tea Party Wunderkind as Campaign Manager
Pedro Celis brings in David Brat's campaign team.
The Everett Herald reports that Pedro Celis, the Republican hopeful who squeaked through August's top-two primary (he edged out a Tea Party Republican) has hired a celebrity campaign team: Wunderkind Tea Party strategists Zachary Werrell and Gray Delany, the duo that made history by helping their candidate, David Brat, beat GOP majority leader U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor in Virginia's June primary.
Celis is running against NSA-watchdogging freshman U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) in the swing district that stretches from the Microsoft suburbs in King County north through Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties to the Canadian border.
Celis, a Mexican-immigrant and former Microsoft success story, helped push the state GOP to pass a local version of the DREAM Act earlier this year. The legislation makes children of undocumented immigrants eligible for state college assistance. The Democratic banner issue had been blocked by the state GOP for several sessions until Celis, a major Republican contributor, reportedly put the pressure on the local GOP caucus.
The irony, of course, is that Prat's campaign throttled Cantor for being too liberal on immigration reform ("amnesty")—and after Brat's election, pundits declared immigration reform dead in the upcoming Congress. (Celis' slim defeat of bona fide Tea Party candidate Robert Sutherland—after being tapped by the GOP establishement—raised questions about racist overtones in the GOP's base. The Everett Herald speculates that Celis has brought on this pair of Tea Party smarties to help energize an important bloc of the GOP equation that wasn't in his corner during the primary.)
Werrell's conservative positions surfaced on his Facebook page where, for starters, he made fun of liberals by saying it was inconsistent to condemn George Zimmerman while also supporting abortion rights.
Here's that bit of talk-radio provocateur expertise, via the Philadelphia Inquirer
He asked, "Can someone who was outraged that George Zimmerman was found not guilty of 'SOMETHING ANYTHING' and who is simultaneously pro-choice explain the logical dissonance there? Ie. Why its not ok to kill someone who is banging your head into concrete but its ok to kill someone for simply existing who, through your conscious actions, you brought into the world?’”
And though it reads mostly like youthful contrarian baiting, also on Werrell's FB page: He said he wanted to abolish the FDA; he said there is a "War on Boys!"; and he said parts of states that feel underrepresented should be able to secede. "I derive that opinion from our first foundational document—the Declaration of Independence. What say you?” he wrote.
"This is evidence that he's committed to shoring up his Tea Party base."—DelBene campaign manager Viet Shelton
DelBene has a tenacious smart Alec as a campaign manager as well; her communications director Viet Shelton is taking time off to run her campaign. Shelton, in his early 30s, is a longtime Democratic operative with a fondness for political warfare. He clearly relished helping DelBene defeat Netroots favorite Darcy Burner in the 2012 Democratic primary.
Asked about Werrell, Shelton told me: "We've been saying for months that he [Celis] is way too conservative for the 1st [Congressional District]. This is evidence that he's committed to shoring up his Tea Party base."
Celis, who was in third place for the first two days of counting after the August 2 primary, finally secured a spot in the general getting 16.45 percent to Sutherland's 15.61. Rep. DelBene topped the seven-candidate field with 50.67 percent of the vote.
DelBene, with a net worth of at least $23.9 million, put nearly $3 million of her own money into her 2012 victory over Tea Party candidate John Koster. DelBene has raised $1.7 million so far this time (with none of her own money yet) and has $1.1 million cash on hand. Celis has raised $428,000 with $240,000 cash on hand. He's put $60,000 of his own money into the race.