That’s a major turn of events since Tuesday’s primary election. Early returns had Celis trailing fellow Republican Robert Sutherland by a handful of votes.
Celis, who is backed by party leaders, now appears to have avoided an upset. By late Friday, he led Sutherland by more than 900 votes, polling approximately 16 percent in a field of seven candidates. The state is scheduled to certify results Aug. 19.
With low turnout in the primary and relatively few ballots left to count, Sutherland saw the gap as increasingly insurmountable, although he wasn’t quite ready to concede.
“Realistically,” Sutherland said, “this race is probably over, it’s probably been decided.”
He does take away from the race and his underdog campaign a belief that the Republican Party is becoming too liberal in response to national trends and that the voters who supported him reflect that.
Celis, 55, said that he was now beginning to focus on the race against DelBene and said he believed economic issues were what resonated with his voters.
“The issues that were coming out a lot usually had to do with the economy and the lack of growth, especially for young people,” Celis said.
Celis recently retired from Microsoft and once was chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. He is the Washington State Republican Party’s preferred candidate to face DelBene in November.
Celis, of Redmond, has raised more than $400,000, most of which he has not spent. Sutherland, a retired scientist and Granite Falls resident, raised just $4,700.
DelBene is seeking her second full term in Congress to represent the 1st District, which stretches from Seattle’s eastern suburbs to the Canadian border.
As of Friday, DelBene led the field with approximately 51 percent of the votes.
Other candidates in the race included Republicans John Orlinski with 10 percent and Edwin Moats with 4.5 percent, independent candidate Richard Todd with 1.7 percent and National Union Party candidate Mike the Mover with just over 1 percent.
In other close races, the latest tally for the 1st Legislative District had two-term Democratic Rep. Luis Moscoso trailing Republican challenger Ed Barton by about 150 votes — not changing the fact they will face each other in the general election.
In the 32nd District Senate race, Republican Robert Reedy widened his lead over Democrat Chris Eggen and looked to be heading for the general election, when he would face Democratic Sen. Maralyn Chase, of Shoreline. Reedy now leads Eggen by more than 1,000 votes. The prospect of two Democrats facing each other in the general election seemed remote.
For this primary, in which the top two candidates in each race advance regardless of party affiliation, turnout has been low, with just 25 percent of the electorate in Snohomish County estimated to have cast a ballot.
Of 417,448 registered voters in Snohomish County, little more than 106,000 votes have been counted so far.
By next week, the only ballots the county expects to count are ones with issues such as signatures that need to be confirmed with voters.