One Question

Does hiring Zachary Werrell---the Tea Party wunderkind who managed the upstart campaign that knocked GOP leader Eric Cantor out of office---signal a shift to the right in Republican challenger Pedro Celis’ campaign for US Congress?

That's what incumbent Suzan DelBene's (D-WA, 1) staff told us yesterday. "We've been saying for months that [Celis] is way too conservative for the 1st [Congressional District]," said campaign manager Viet Shelton. "This is evidence that he's committed to shoring up his Tea Party base."

But Werrell's Virginia primary cohort Gray Delany, who is now Celis' spokesperson, denies this. He told PubliCola this afternoon that Werrell’s involvement in Celis’ campaign signals nothing more than determination to play a tough ground game. “There’s no ideological shift in the campaign,” Delany says. “Zach has extensive experience in grassroots organizing.” His addition to the team will “bring in some additional horsepower” to Celis’ drive toward office, Delany added.

“There’s no ideological shift in the campaign,” campaign co-manager Gray Delany says.

Celis---a Mexican immigrant whose campaign frames him as the American Dream personified---barely defeated Tea Party challenger Robert Sutherland in the August primary.

His lack of appeal with Tea Partiers isn't surprising. Last year, he helped nudge his party to pass a longtime Democratic  issue,  Washington’s version of the Dream Act, which makes it easier for undocumented immigrants to pay for college. Still, his campaign website is light on specific policy positions, though Delany promised a press release will provide more details tomorrow.

Celis’ opponent, multimillionaire freshman incumbent Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) has deep coffers, and she scored a convincing victory in the August primary (she took 57 percent to Celis’ 17 percent 51 percent to Celis' 16 percent). DelBene has established a reputation on the house judiciary committee as a harsh critic of the Obama administration's cover for the NSA's domestic spying program. 

To have a shot at beating DelBene, Celis needs a boost. Whether Werrell and Delany can provide that boost—through a top notch field game, as they claim they're bringing, or through an ideological makeover, as the Democrats allege—remains to be seen.