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Last night, the Bertha Knight Landes Room in Seattle's City Hall was the venue for the first big forum of candidates for Washington's open First Congressional District.  It may seem odd that the event was held in a location that is not within WA-01's new boundaries (in fact, none of Seattle is in the reconfigured CD).  The reason is that the forum was sponsored by the Metropolitan Democratic Club of Seattle, which does have some influence beyond the city and the county.

The great majority of the numerous candidates for the House seat attended the confab.  In alphabetical order, the participants were:

  • Darcy Burner (D, Ames Lake), the 2006 and 2008 candidate in WA-08, former head of ProgressiveCongress.org, and a director of the Netroots Foundation
  • Suzan DelBene (D, Medina), the 2010 candidate in WA-08, former Microsoft exec, recent head of the state's Department of Revenue
  • Roger Goodman (D, Kirkland), three-term State Representative in LD-45, environmental lawyer, former Congressional staffer
  • Darshan Rauniyar (D, Bothell), engineer, entrepreneur, immigrant from Nepal
  • Laura Ruderman (D, Kirkland), nonprofit executive, former three-term State Rep from LD-45, 2004 candidate for Secretary of State
  • James Watkins (R, Redmond), 2010 candidate in WA-01, businessman, former FDIC staffer
Yes, that's right ... a Republican spoke before the MDC in bluer-than-blue Seattle!  

The other three candidates were absent.  One Democrat (Steve Hobbs, Lake Stevens, State Senator from LD-44) cancelled at the last minute.  Neither Republican John Koster (Arlington, candidate in WA-02 in 2000 and 2010, former State Rep from LD-39, Snohomish County Councilmember) nor Republican-turned-independent Larry Ishmael (Issaquah, 2006 and 2008 candidate in WA-01, environmental economist) ever intended to attend the forum.  I would characterize those three individuals as, respectively, Conservadem, Teahadist, and Inconsequential.

Former Governor and Congressman Mike Lowry was the moderator.  Each candidate got to respond to six questions, as well as make closing remarks.  Below the squiggle are my notes on the forum.  For the record, I took no photos during the event (my cellphone doesn't sport a camera).  Also, I didn't start detailed notes until nearly the end of answers to Question 1:

Q1:  What would you do about the housing crisis and those who have lost their homes?
  • All five Democrats spoke of freeing up money for refinancing, forcing banks to deal instead of foreclose, maintain or increase the social safety net.
  • Watkins -- After a few GOP-in-Seattle jokes, decried the Federal budget and the "uncertain climate" for business (IOW, regulations)
Q2:  What will you do in Congress to foster energy independence?
  • DelBene -- Emphasized advances in technology for storing renewable energy.
  • Goodman -- I'm an enviro lawyer, I know it's going to be really difficult.  Even a Manhattan Project-style program would hardly make a dent in use of petroleum for transportation.
  • Rauniyar -- {I have no notes}.
  • Ruderman -- Deadset opposed to fracking and Keystone XL.
  • Watkins -- Loves Keystone XL, getting energy from friends instead of enemies.  Go for natural gas everywhere (IOW, pro-fracking)
  • Burner -- Wants her son Henry to have a chace to live in an energy-rich world.  Scalable energy savings, from individuals to communities to the nation.
Q3:  Define "fair taxation".
  • Goodman -- Change the tax code to reward businesses that keep jobs here, and bring jobs back.
  • Rauniyar -- {No notes.}
  • Rudenman -- Everyone who makes a profit pays taxes.  Fairness is when the higher the income, the higher the percentage.  Uses her synagogue's dues structure as example.  {That's a flawed analogy -- the wealthy pay a larger amount of dues if they choose to, but it's probably not a higher percentage of income.}
  • Watkins -- Flat tax.  Shows a "Perot chart" showing relative amounts of tax paid by income level.  {Ignores the fact that the 1% control an even larger proportion of all-sources income than they pay in taxes.}
  • Burner -- The tax on work should not be higher than the tax on wealth.
  • DelBene -- A fair tax is a progressive tax.  The complicated tax code is an advantage for big companies, as they can buy advice on finding loopholes.
Q4:  Does the US economy need more stimulus?  Even if it would increase the national debt?
  • Rauniyar -- No need for another stimulus, because of its effect on the debt.  Jobs, jobs, jobs.
  • Ruderman -- Get people back to work, through targeted projects, Obama's proposed infrastructure bank, etc.
  • Watkins -- GOP boilerplate.  Stimulus was a corrupt failure and government interference.  Cut regulations, so it's as easy to start a business here as in Vietnam.
  • Burner -- The stimulus did help, quotes a GOP mayor who said the infrastructure improvements enhanced quality of life.
  • DelBene -- Businesses succeed because there's a government-provided foundation of infrastructure, much of which has been left to rot.
  • Goodman -- Describes Washington state initiatives he wrote, says the stimulus was insufficient, should have been much bigger.
Q5:  Should the US invade Iran if they keep trying to go nuke?
  • Ruderman -- Democracy has actually destabilized the Middle East, fostering new anti-Israel attitudes that will need to be watched closely.  {She deflects, ignoring Iran.}
  • Watkins -- In many ways, I agree with Laura (bet you didn't expect me to agree with a Dem!).  In short, we need their oil, and we can't afford a war.
  • Burner -- Mentions her family members who fought in Iraq, that she's an Air Force brat.  We can't be the world's policeman, instead build on what goodwill we retain.
  • DelBene -- If we haven't learned about the folly of invading a country by now, shame on us.  She lived in Iran as a kid (during Shah), knows the people are embarrassed by their "leaders".  Use non-military means, like sanctions and economic pressure.
  • Goodman -- Today's Iran arises, in essence, from past US policies (kill Mosaddeq, to Shah, to Khomeini reaction, to Ahmadinejad).  Should try using America's diplomatic strength for a change.
  • Rauniyar -- Don't even think of attacking unless Iran represents a real threat to the US.  Open direct channels to Iran, as was recently done with Burma.
Q6:  Do we need major immigration reform?  How would you accomplish it?
  • Watkins -- Secure the borders.  Cut regulations on guest workers.
  • Burner -- We're all immigrants, the US was built on open borders.  Treat everyone fairly, make a one-time invitation toward citizenship for undocumented, a great good-faith step would be passing the DREAM Act.
  • DelBene -- Immigration is a Federal issue, get states out of it.  Pass the DREAM Act.
  • Goodman -- As long as there's a Drug War, the border can't be secured, only regulated.  Pass incentives for earning citizenship, removing all discrimination within the process.
  • Rauniyar -- I'm an immigrant myself, so I know it can be done.  Immigration enriches the nation.  Pass DREAM Act.
  • Ruderman -- The issue's bigger than undocumented workers.  For instance, H-1B visa holders aren't allowed to bring in same-sex spouses.  Make the process fair and positive, instead of discriminatory, martial, and vindictive.

After the question rounds, there were several audience questions.  I tuned them out, since as always most of the "questions" turned into one-favorite-issue statements by the audience members.  Following the audience participation, each candidate was asked to close with some mention of what they'd do to cure the ills of Congress and its dysfunction.  There wasn't much different there, as everyone had one spin or another on playing well with others.

Listening to the final statements, I wrote one-line summaries for each of them:

  • Watkins -- Hey, you were nice to me!  Maybe we can do it again at a GOP confab.
  • Ruderman -- Trying everything she can to build up her lefty bona fides.
  • Rauniyar -- He isn't yet ready for the big-time, need to move beyond platitudes.
  • Goodman -- Overemphasizes his resume, willing to go boldly left.
  • DelBene -- Very, very careful.  Tiptoes around her statements, emphasizing experience and thoughtfulness.
  • Burner -- Paints herself as a regular, family-based liberal (which she is, even if the media may not agree).

Afterward, Goldy (now at The Stranger) and Erica C. Barnett of Publicola were in agreement that the other Democrats generally tried to be the anti-Burner.  They all emphasized their accomplishments, which are generally easier to describe and explain ("I won my elections"  "I was a bigshot in an agency you've actually heard of") than Darcy's.  I thought Roger Goodman actually staked out some positions to Darcy's left.

To me, it's a sour note that this forum was held in the heart of another Congressional District (WA-07).  Very few in the audience live in WA-01, so for most attendees our only skin in the game is financial, voluntary, or politically geeky.  The forum started at 5:30pm, so even the WA-01 residents in attendance were probably Seattle-based workers.  Despite their half-hearted protests to the contrary, the MDC is very Seattle-centric,  However, I think they could have tried to find a suitable venue in Redmond or Kirkland (Mount Vernon or Lake Stevens, well away from the perceived taint of Seattle, would have been even better).

This Congressional race will be eagerly followed across the county.  Whether you live in the new First District, in an adjoining CD, elsewhere in the state, or even more remotely, keep your eyes peeled!

Originally posted to Peace Tree Farm on Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 04:20 PM PST.

Also republished by PacNW Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  candidate forum tip box (7+ / 0-)

    If Publicola is to be believed, James Watkins was so traumatized by speaking before Democrats that he's dropped out of the race.

    Will update if confirmed.

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

    by N in Seattle on Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 04:18:19 PM PST

  •  Watkins (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle, FlamingoGrrl

    I want to remind our non-Evergreen friends that the idiotic voters here won't let us actually have primary elections - we are a Top Two state so it's not a surprise a Republican would've attended.

    •  it probably wouldn't have mattered... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FlamingoGrrl, princesspat

      Apparently, Watkins dropped out of the race this afternoon, endorsing Koster.

      I really doubt Watkins could have gotten anywhere close to enough votes to finish ahead of all the Democrats.  Koster's a shoo-in to finish first (creating all sorts of hissy-fits from unknowledgeable Dems), so the battle is for the most votes among the 6 Democrats.

      As it already was.

      Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

      by N in Seattle on Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 04:40:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I appreciate your note taking (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle, princesspat

    I'm not in this district but I'm definitely wowed by Darcy and Delbene ain't no slouch either!

    Scott Walker's Wisconsin: in Milwaukee's poorest corners infant mortality is higher than that of the Gaza Strip, Colombia & Bulgaria.

    by FlamingoGrrl on Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 04:50:44 PM PST

  •  Nice summary. Thank you! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle, princesspat

    It's great to read the content of Democratic debates.  Put their substance up against the GOP's rhetoric and it almost gives ya goosepimples being on our side.

    Go Darcy, say I.

    -

    •  thanks for reading, Bill (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princesspat

      Bring some friends over next time.  :-)

      Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

      by N in Seattle on Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 05:17:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks from a WA-01 resident (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle, princesspat

    From someone who lives as far away from Seattle as is possible in this district, I appreciate your summary.

    Our silly top two primary scares me.  Koster scares me.

  •  Thanks for the report..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    N in Seattle

    Do you have a prediction re who will win the seat?

    Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

    by princesspat on Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 10:28:53 PM PST

    •  way too early to tell (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      princesspat

      They all have to figure out how to advertise in Whatcom and Skagit, how to attract those voters.  They also have to figure out how to speak to both urban and rural populations -- farmers and fishermen along with the programmers and professors they're accustomed to.

      Money will also be a big factor.  The contributions generated by Laura, Roger, and Darshan may look impressive now, but once Darcy (national netroots) and Suzan (self-funder) make their first FEC reports we'll see what real funding looks like.

      Meanwhile, Darcy has a new poll showing that she has vastly more name recognition than any other Dem, and that her favorables are very good as well.  Suzan probably has polls going too, but I don't know whether any of the others have the $$ to do polling.

      Bottom line -- in the Top Two, Koster will finish first.  Which Democrat comes in second is still anyone's guess.

      Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -- K.Marx A.Lincoln

      by N in Seattle on Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 11:17:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A quick look at Koster's website (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        N in Seattle

        makes me worry.....http://www.kosterforcongress.com/

        After the narrow victory in Rick Larsen's last election I no longer feel Whatcom County is safely Dem.

        They all have to figure out how to advertise in Whatcom and Skagit, how to attract those voters.  They also have to figure out how to speak to both urban and rural populations -- farmers and fishermen along with the programmers and professors they're accustomed to.

        Thanks again.

        Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

        by princesspat on Sat Jan 28, 2012 at 08:16:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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