First look at six Democrats running for Congress

Democratic voters shopping for a candidate in the 1st Congressional District enjoy plenty of choices from their party right now.

There are three men and three women in the race, and each is a slightly different shade of Democrat.

Each offers a unique tone and style and personal biography. On policies, however, they differ by degrees making it hard to discern their dissimilarities.

It only became slightly less fuzzy Friday night when the six sat on bar stools on a raised platform in the Machinists Union Hall in Everett for a two-hour forum.

As this was the first time they had shared a stage at a public event on the campaign trail, no one in the audience quite knew what to expect. Maybe a verbal melee along the lines of what we’ve seen from the Republicans running for president?

No dice. Oratorical peace prevailed as they answered softball questions in predictable fashion, stimulating a handful in the all-labor crowd to depart once the cookies wore off and the coffee urn hit empty.

With a few days to think about all that I heard, here’s my takeaway of the candidates (in alphabetical order.)

Darcy Burner, Carnation: She entered as the most liberal Democrat and didn’t disappoint by castigating, time and again, “oil barons” and “bankers” for pursuing policies of profiteering at the expense of the public good. Her claim of having met the Taliban — “and they’re not good people” — was one of the night’s most unforgettable comments. Meanwhile, she further burnished her lefty reputation this week with disclosure of old tweets in which she calls President Barack Obama a Republican.

Suzan DelBene, Medina: The race’s wealthiest candidate positioned herself as a workhorse for the middle class. Her approach paid off this week as she snagged endorsements from the Machinists and the Teamsters. Clause for clause, she delivered the fewest rhetorical blasts of any candidate in the forum. She talked about her humble upbringing rather than trumpet her money-making career as a Microsoft executive, which may provide financial stimulus for her campaign down the stretch.

Roger Goodman, Kirkland: Hard-pressed to stand out in the crowded field, this state representative argued his ability to win elections in a legislative swing district makes him the most electable. He’s a good friend of labor and achieved a solid voting record as a liberal. These days he’s also become a voice for reforming state laws on marijuana. House Speaker Frank Chopp may not want to lose Goodman and, if so, he might be able to keep him with the right committee chairmanship.

Steve Hobbs, Lake Stevens: He’s the only avowed moderate Democrat in the race and didn’t hide it. In answer to one question, the leader of the “Roadkill Caucus” said he supports privatizing jobs not tied to the “core functions” of government. That’s heresy in a union hall. They weren’t smiling when he said sometimes the right thing to do means going against one’s friends and compromising with one’s enemies. Credit him for showing up. Several in the crowd opposed his re-election in 2010 and continue fighting him now in Olympia.

Darshan Rauniyar, Bothell: He is the political newcomer who proved the most passionate throughout the evening. At times it was moving such as when the native of Nepal talked of his living the American dream and watching it disappear for others. He is a work in progress. He knows what he dislikes about Congress and now needs a clearer message on what he wants to do about it and how his skills an entrepreneur can help him get it done.

Laura Ruderman, Kirkland: This former state lawmaker won a seat in a Republican district yet is an unapologetic liberal who will not cede political turf easily. That said, she spoke honestly about why she used to think those with financial means should not receive Social Security and now believes they should. The idea behind Social Security, she said, is everyone is entitled to it and means testing would wrongly deny it to some. Ruderman is a tireless fundraiser and doorbell ringer and she’s hoping those traits pay off in the primary.

Independent Larry Ishmael took part Friday — and I’ll provide more on him in the future. The one Republican, John Koster, did not attend though he did get his share of mentions by the candidates.

They all seemed to agree on one thing — they are the best able to beat him.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at Contact him at 360-352-8623 or

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