Elect Suzan DelBene

Washington’s new 1st Congressional district hangs together like a Dutch colony, with no coherence or logic to lines on the map. It’s a splat resembling an inverted volcano that shoots from Point Roberts to Medina, and the Canadian border south to Kirkland.

“It’s a microcosm of America,” one candidate said. Maybe so, but it’s a microcosm that is not only rural and urban, high-tech and resource-based, but also stridently Republican and vehemently Democratic (with all stripes of Independents in between.) As we wrote back in July, the district’s freshman-to-be must exhibit the mettle and smarts to harmonize disparate economic and political interests while building a constituent-responsive office immune to partisan monkeying.

Weighing two qualified candidates, our hearts would usually fix on one of us, longtime Snohomish County Councilmember John Koster. Koster has been a hands-on lawmaker, an able conservative voice dedicated to his district, preserving property rights, and advancing the region’s vital agricultural economy.

In 2000 and 2010, The Herald endorsed Koster in his campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat. The 1st district is something altogether different, however, a demographic mishmash that demands an adaptive leadership style and willingness to challenge Washington D.C.’s ossified political culture. Our heads tell us that person is Suzan DelBene.

DelBene, who The Herald endorsed in the August primary, is a former Microsoft executive, entrepreneur, and director of the state’s Department of Revenue, well versed on issues vital to the district and the Pacific Northwest. She supports the DREAM Act as a path to citizenship (Koster has misgivings unless it’s hitched to other reforms), and spoke knowledgably about the need for a clarity of enforcement roles with the overstaffed Border Patrol in Whatcom County.

DelBene promotes a jobs agenda that emphasizes manufacturing, aerospace and high tech, simultaneously elevating the role of higher education as an economic driver. She also advocates investing more in basic research — a policy that over the long term will benefit the Northwest’s biotech and information-technology sectors.

Koster is a non-polarizing soul with some polarizing beliefs, including banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Issues of reproductive choice have zilch to do with Koster’s service on the county council, but they will inform his decisions as a member of Congress.

On foreign policy, both DelBene and Koster urge caution in the application of military force, and DelBene supports the president’s plan for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014. Koster opposes setting an artificial date, saying we should defer to the judgment of the military, not the political class.

Koster acknowledged that he probably shouldn’t have issued a partisan press release after the murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. The out-of-character statement was a cold blast that didn’t sound like the Koster we know. We hope that he takes it down from his campaign website.

The monstrous 1st is, for better or worse, a new-generation district that demands a new-generation leader.

The Herald Editorial Board recommends Suzan DelBene for Congress.

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