It’s mud-slinging season in Washington’s 1st Congressional District.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) overwhelmed her Republican challenger Pedro Celis in the August primary, taking 51 percent of the vote to his 16 percent. The candidates--both Microsoft alumni--will face off in the November general election, but in the meantime, their race is providing plenty of inter-party denigration.
Yesterday, Democrats pounced on the revelation (by Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner) that certain sections of Celis’ web page are lifted whole from Republican E.W. Jackson’s failed 2013 bid for Lt. Governor of Virginia. One example:
If there is a new source of energy that has little environmental impact and reduces the energy costs of the consumer, I am confident that the private sector will provide the necessary investments to bring that energy to market.
Celis’ new communications director, Gray Delany, worked on Jackson’s campaign (as well as Tea Party sensation David Brat's.) He says that the lifted sections discuss “core Republican issues” such as market-based energy policies.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee responded to Brunner’s story with a press release attempting to link Celis to some of Jackson’s other, more polarizing positions. For example:
Does Pedro share Jackson’s belief that…[g]ays are “frankly very sick”?
The implication, of course, is that since Celis and Jackson agree (verbatim) on energy and tax policy, Celis must also share Jackson’s views on social issues—a classic guilt-by-association tactic, as DCCC spokesperson Tyrone Gayle acknowledged.
The Celis campaign’s website does not mention gay rights or abortion. When I asked what Celis thinks about these hot-button social issues, Delany promised to send a summary of Celis’ positions but later changed his mind, saying, "We do not plan on releasing those right now."
Our second helping of slung-mud comes from the Celis campaign. According to their press release describing last night’s debate between Celis and DelBene on KSER, Celis both “slam[med]” and “hit” DelBene “on her blatant hypocrisy concerning campaign finance reform.” In the debate itself, Celis said, “I also fully support Suzan DelBene spending $5 million of her own money to buy her current seat in Congress.” The Celis campaign charges that since DelBene accepts big money from PACs, she has no business, per the post-Citizens United legislation she's signed on to, calling for limitations on the influence of money on elections.
DelBene spokesperson Viet Shelton said, "The congresswoman is committed to campaign finance reform." He added that she is "proud" to have support from liberal organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood, seletively referencing her major contributors.
According to the campaign finance tracking website OpenSecrets.org, DelBene has raised $1,789,474 (with $1,120,051 still in-hand), including contributions from SEIU, Walmart, AFT, and Costco. Via PACs, she's received about half a million dollars from business interests, about $200 thousand from labor interests, and about $200 thousand from ideological groups. For his part, Celis has raised $428,925 (with $240,153 still in-hand), including contributions from conservative groups such as Paul Ryan's Prosperity Action PAC and the conservative Eye of the Tiger PAC. Microsoft was the largest contributor to both campaigns.
Screenshot from OpenSecrets.org