Suzan DelBene is acting like she wants to clear the field. In February, almost two years before Eastside Republican congressman Dave Reichert will stand for reelection, the former Microsoft executive announced her intent to take him down. Though a political newcomer, she then posted early fundraising numbers that give her a bigger war chest than Reichert—based largely on her own donation of $200,000. When asked, DelBene spokeswoman Kelly Evans said she didn't know of any other Democrats who are think about getting into the race.
That's surprising, though, because it's not hard to find Democrats who are pondering alternatives to DelBene. They're concerned that her profile—politically untested former Microsoftie—overlaps too much with that of failed two-time Reichert challenger Darcy Burner, whose losses were heartbreaking for Democrats looking to swing the 8th District into liberal hands. They're also alarmed by the news, first reported on The Stranger's blog, that DelBene failed to vote in nine elections over the last four years (including the 2006 general election, when the seat she now wants was up for grabs). "Logic dictates that a person who hasn't been voting is going to have a virtually impossible time getting elected in the 8th District," said state representative Chris Hurst (D-31), who represents the southern portion of Reichert's district. "You don't really get past that issue."
State senator Rodney Tom (D-48), who represents the northern portion of the district, and briefly entered the 8th District congressional race in 2007 before bowing out to give Burner a clear shot, said that DelBene's voting record is "going to hurt her." He added: "I just think that Congress isn't a place where you start your political career... Not only have I voted in elections, but I have literally thousands of votes that I've taken on issues, and people can know where I stand."
Neither man would say whether he's decided to challenge DelBene in the Democratic primary, but both names are on the lips of Democrats who say the field is far from cleared. "If Rodney Tom decided to get into this race in November or December, he'd have plenty of time," one prominent Democrat said. The political calculus is apparent: Tom, a former Republican, could appeal to conservatives in this swing district, and Hurst, a former police detective, could neutralize the law-and-order appeal of Reichert, a former King County sheriff.
Evans said potential challengers "will have to evaluate" DelBene's high early fundraising numbers, but Hurst, who said he gets appeals from Democrats to run on "an every-other-day basis," scoffed at the idea that DelBene's money would intimidate him. "If I announced for this race, I could make two phone calls, and within 24 hours that amount of money would look like a joke," he said.