Pedro Celis, a Mexican immigrant and retired Microsoft executive, announced today that he's challenging first-term U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1).

Celis is a longtime big GOP donor. His contributions include donations to a string of GOP gubernatorial hopefuls: Rob McKenna, two-time gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, and radio host John Carlson, who ran for governor in 2000. Celis also made a $2,000 contribution to defeat Initiative 1098 (the 2010 high-earners income tax).

Celis is pro-immigration reform (an issue DelBene has pushed in Congress) and lobbied his Republican allies in Olympia (Celis has consistently maxed out to GOP state senate budget chair  Sen. Andy Hill) to pass this year's legislation making kids of undocumented immigrants eligible for college financial aid. (Evidently into crossing party lines in the name of identity politics, Celis also contributed $400 to liberal Venus Velasquez's unsuccessful Seattle City Council campaign in 2007.)

Celis has criticized DelBene's support for Obamacare and for increasing the minimum wage. However, Celis—who was Mitt Romney's Washington state co-chairman in the 2008 campaign (he also contributed $500 to Mike Huckabee that election year and ended up contributing $2,300 to John McCain)—is otherwise a conservative. He's criticized DelBene's support for both Obamacare and for increasing the minimum wage.

In his announcement, Celis said: "We can continue down the path of more spending, broken government, and an out of control health care program. Or we can go in a new direction. Reform our government. Get people back to work. Put people back in control of their health care."

Here's his YouTube announcement:

DelBene's consultants quickly pointed reporters to a blog post Celis wrote in 2005 condemning Social Security as an unstable program "like those infamous pyramid schemes." Celis called for private savings accounts. Celis was on George Bush's 2004 Washington state re-election campaign committee; Social Security privatization was a failed Bush initiative.

Watch for the infighting that's plaguing the GOP nationally between the old guard and firebrands to detract from Celis' campaign; another Republican candidate, former Snohomish County Council legislative aide Ed Moats, says America is in danger of becoming a "Marxist People's Republic."

PubliCola has been impressed with DelBene's outspoken criticism of the Obama administration's position on NSA surveillance.

The 1st Congressional District was redrawn in 2012 and—stretching from the Microsoft suburbs up to the Canadian border—is thought to be some of the most stubborn swing turf in the country.

DelBene, an extremely wealthy ex-Microsoft exec herself, emerged from a pack of Democrats in 2012 (including besting netroots favorite Darcy Burner), largely by running a safe campaign that relied on generic TV ads. She went on to beat conservative Snohomish County Council member John Koster in the general after he turned up the hardline anti-choice rhetoric.

DelBene won handily, 53.9 to 46.06.


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