By Jerry Cornfield
Republican Pedro Celis needs a spark for his congressional campaign and hopes it will come from two men who helped a Tea Party-backed candidate unseat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Zachary Werrell and Gray Delany were the only paid staffers on the campaign team of Republican David Brat who defeated Cantor in Virginia’s June primary in one of the biggest political upsets in congressional history.
Now the Republican strategists are working for Celis and aim to generate a similar level of electricity for the Redmond Republican who faces long odds in his race against incumbent Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene in the 1st Congressional District.
Werrell, who managed Brat’s campaign, will occupy the same role full-time for Celis. Delany is the new communications manager.
How this political union came about – did Celis recruit them, did Republican officials insist Celis accept them or something else – is open to speculation.
“I can’t comment on the circumstances,” Delany said Tuesday.
They signed on after Celis’ underwhelming performance in the Aug. 5 primary in the district with a constituency stretching from the Canadian border to suburbs in east King County. It takes in towns and farms east of I-5 in Snohomish County.
One of their first challenges – and maybe a key reason Werrell and Delany are on board – is to shore up Celis’ credibility among conservative Republicans who view Celis as too moderate and too much a tool of the party establishment for their tastes.
Celis made it through the primary on the strength of support from voters in King and Whatcom counties. He finished fourth in Snohomish and Skagit counties, meaning he was the third favorite Republican in those counties.
Look for Werrell and Delany to rework the playbook for reaching voters and recast Celis as a candidate focused on trimming the federal deficit, rewriting the federal health care law and tying DelBene with the policies of President Barack Obama.
“Suzan DelBene represents the status quo,” Delany said. “Pedro is an innovator, a breath of fresh air.”