Congressional candidate Celis embraces the positive in his life story

In an online video announcing his campaign for Congress, Pedro Celis acknowledges the audibly unmistakable: “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m the guy with the heavy accent.”

He’s right.

Celis, a Republican from Redmond and native of Mexico, can’t hide it as he talks of why he wants to unseat U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., in the 1st Congressional District this November.

What might seem like an odd opening line is actually a crux of Celis’ campaign strategy: appeal to voters with his personal story, not his political agenda.

His tale is an engaging one. Celis arrived from Mexico with a bag of clothes, a box of books and an undergraduate degree in hand. In the U.S., he earned a doctorate in computer science and began a career that led him to Washington in 1998 to work for Microsoft.

He retired 18 months ago. At 55, the husband and father of four grown children said he wants to go to Congress to ensure the trail he took is preserved for others to travel.

“I have lived the American Dream,” said Celis, who became a U.S. citizen in the early 1990s. Voters “need to know who I am. My life story and the issues I care about all align with what this district is looking for.”

But why point out the accent?

“It’s a charming part of my story,” he said with a smile. “I’m not worried about the fact I’m an immigrant. I think it’s a positive, not a negative.”

State and national Republican Party leaders are banking on it and have coalesced behind his candidacy.

The National Republican Congressional Committee identified Celis as a “contender” in its Young Guns program, opening the way for loads of strategic advice and, potentially, money in coming months.

The Washington State Republican Party is unabashedly promoting Celis — and only him — on its Web page, though three other Republicans are on the ballot for the August primary.

“I’m rather surprised the state party has gone to the extent that it has to pick a favorite,” said Republican hopeful Ed Moats of Arlington.

Moats, a self-described “conservative blade of grass in the conservative grassroots,” figures party leaders don’t want views of conservative candidates injected into the campaign for this seat this cycle.

Caleb Heimlich, executive director of the state party, wouldn’t address that analysis directly.

In 2012, a conservative Republican, John Koster of Arlington, lost to DelBene, and there’s no sign the electorate in the district, which includes part of Snohomish County, has greatly changed.

“Our goal is to defeat Suzan DelBene and elect a Republican to Congress in the 1st C.D.,” Heimlich wrote in an email. “Pedro has demonstrated through his campaign that the voters are behind him with their individual support and contributions.”

Democrats, too, expect Celis to be DelBene’s opponent this fall.

That’s why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee went on the offensive early to tell a different kind of story about Celis. It’s one in which the highlight is Celis’ ties with conservative candidates and organizations and what it says about his intentions, if elected.

“Pedro Celis has spent his career supporting politicians and organizations with far-right views on social issues that are too extreme for Washington state voters,” said Tyrone Gayle of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

That makes it loud and clear this campaign is under way.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623 or jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Inclusion super important to Monroe High senior

Sarah Reeves worked to make homecoming more representative of the student population.

This dental office devoted a day to free care for veterans

All Smiles Northwest in Everett was among businesses observing Freedom Day USA.

Officials ID man shot and killed in apparent Everett robbery

Police believe the victim may have known the shooter, who drove away before the officers arrived.

Man, 60, in critical condition after Bothell crash

Police believe the driver may have been speeding when he hit a rock wall.

FBI operation arrests 3 linked to exploitation of 32 women

The sting focused on Everett and other cities in Snohomish, King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane counties.

Man arrested in Monroe Walmart robbery; second suspect flees

The pair fled in a stolen Mitsubishi Lancer with a distinctive green spray paint job.

Fugitive convict, missing more than a year, surrenders

Charles Coggins, 60, turned himself in Monday. He could now spend up to 30 days behind bars.

Elderly couple escape serious injuries in crash with train

The driver drove down tracks instead of a road, hitting a slow-moving train near Stanwood.

Former homeless camp needs needles and garbage cleaned up

The Hand Up Project will lead a volunteer effort this weekend on wooded land south of Everett.

Most Read