Washington’s remodeled 1st congressional district is getting pretty damn crowded with congressional candidates.
Today Democrat Susan DelBene announced her run for Congress. She joins a pack of Democrats, including Darcy Burner, Laura Ruderman, state Rep. Roger Goodman, state Sen. Steve Hobbs, and Darshan Rauniyar.
DelBene ran against Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-08) in 2010, narrowly losing. Burner has run for congress twice—2006 and 2008—narrowly losing to Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA-08) each time.
The Republicans in the race are John Koster and James Watkins. Koster ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA-02), losing in 2004 and narrowly losing in 2010. Watkins lost to Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA-01) in 2010.
Sometime in the next week, Larry Ismael is expected to formally declare as an independent candidate. Ismael ran as a Republican against Inslee in 2006 and 2008, losing to Inslee by a
3 2:1 margin each time.
It is hard to tell who the front runner is at this point. The closest thing we have to a poll is from the Burner campaign. Late last year, they ran it in the proposed first district in order to test the waters:
The pollster did a favorable/unfavorable on the possible female candidates: former state legislator Laura Ruderman, the top fund raiser in the current field; Darcy Burner; and Suzan DelBene, the Democrat who challenged Reichert in 2008, who has also talked about getting in this time.
Then the poll did a horse race check for all candidates; others include state Reps. Roger Goodman and Marko Liias, state Sen. Steve Hobbs, and Bothell business entrepreneur (and surprise fundraiser) Darshan Rauniyar.
Then there was a horse race question between Burner and James Watkins, the Republican whose going for Inslee’s seat.
The pollster released a highly abbreviated summary of the results:
- Darcy Burner has an overwhelming lead over all other declared Democratic candidates in the proposed new WA-01. In the primary election among Democratic voters, Burner leads with 47% of the Democratic vote, greatly exceeding the 12% the next Democrat receives, and is +7 points higher than the 40% garnered by the entire rest of the field.
- Among all voters in the primary election, Burner also leads all other Democratic candidates by huge margins—27% support Burner while the next closest Democrat draws just 7% of the vote. In fact, Burner draws greater support than all other Democratic candidates COMBINED (27% for Burner vs. 22% for the six other Democratic candidates tested).
- Fully 50% of Democratic voters have a favorable impression of Burner, while just 11% have an unfavorable impression, with 39% unsure. Four out of five (82%) Democratic voters who have an opinion about Burner have a favorable impression of her.
- Burner’s overall name recognition (55%) is much stronger than that of Laura Ruderman (14%).
These results must be tempered by the fact that the new 1st may not look anything at all like the polled “proposed 1st.” Also, the information missing from the polling summary may be missing for a reason.
My feeling is that Burner really is the front-runner, but its almost entirely because of name recognition following two media-intensive campaigns in years when Democrats were tuning into elections. DelBene’s run was more recent, but in a year that didn’t excite Democrats. Name recognition alone won’t translate into a win.
Burner has something else going for her. Publicola points out that she leads other candidates in fundraising*. DelBene can self-finance her campaign, but a dollar raised by a candidate is far more valuable than a dollar out of a candidate’s pocket, because it builds brand loyalty. Burner’s two month head start over DelBene may turn out to be important.
The Big Problem with so many Democrats (and some very good Democrats at that) in the race, is the possibility that two Republicans come out on top in our goofy top two primary system. With any luck, the field will start shrinking on the Democratic side, but not so much on the Republican and independent side….
*As Daniel K points out, I misread the fundraising statement in Publicola.