1st District Congress race tightens for 2 Democrats

Suzan DelBene’s million-dollar investment is starting to pay dividends for the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District race.

DelBene, who spent the money on a torrent of television ads and mailers, has moved into a virtual tie with Darcy Burner atop the pack of Democrats vying in the primary, according to a poll conducted this week by a Seattle consulting firm.

Burner received support of 12 percent to DelBene’s 11 in the survey done by Strategies 360. The other Democratic candidates — Steve Hobbs, Laura Ruderman and Darshan Rauniyar — and independent Larry Ishmael failed to get into double digits.

Overall, Republican John Koster continues to lead the race, garnering support of 36 percent, according to results provided to The Herald on Wednesday.

What the poll of 500 likely voters may reveal best is how deep a mystery most of the candidates remain to voters weeks before the Aug. 7 primary.

Twenty-six percent said they were undecided and half of those who did make a choice admitted they may change their mind once their ballot arrives this week.

“This gives us a good look before people really start making up their minds,” said Strategies 360 founder Ron Dotzauer of Snohomish. “Koster will be in the top two. That’s very clear. For the rest of the field, this race is yet to be won or lost.”

The seven candidates are vying for a two-year term in the 1st District, which stretches north from Kirkland in King County to the Canadian border. It covers rural areas and suburbs of east Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, taking in cities of Lake Stevens, Monroe, Sultan and Bothell.

With Koster, a Snohomish County councilman from Arlington, considered a lock to move on by virtue of being the lone Republican in the race, the drama centers on which Democrat will oppose him.

Strategies 360 conducted its phone survey over three nights — Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent, meaning the actual numbers for a candidate may be higher or lower by that amount. Details of the poll will be posted online today at www.strategies360.com.

Its findings represent the first independent measure of voter attitudes since a June poll done by Survey USA for KING-TV, Channel 5.

At that time, Koster racked up 46 percent while Burner topped all Democrats with 19 percent, followed by Ruderman with 6 percent and DelBene and Hobbs with 4 percent each.

Since then, DelBene, a former Microsoft vice president who lives in Medina, has pumped money into her campaign, with much of it paying for commercials on network and cable television and a slew of mailers to votes in every corner of the district.

Burner lacks the funds to match DelBene on the airwaves. Instead, this week she sent a 12-page magazine to 45,000 households and worked her widespread digital grass-roots network.

Among Democrats, Burner, of Carnation, leads in King County, which makes up nearly 40 percent of the district. She also gets the most support from voters ages 45 to 64 and who identify themselves as politically progressive, the poll found.

DelBene, is the strongest Democrat in Snohomish County by a slight margin over Hobbs, a state senator from Lake Stevens. She’s the top Democrat among voters 65 and older and those who describe themselves as moderate.

This week’s poll occurred as it became public that Ruderman’s mother had funded a political action committee behind a series of mailers attacking DelBene’s record in the private sector.

But Dotzauer said there were no measurable signs the mailers or the news about the PAC had influenced voters contacted in the survey.

Even with a large crop of undecided voters, Dotzauer said the battle among Democrats is shaping up as a tussle between Burner and DelBene.

“DelBene’s money has made a difference in the race,” Dotzauer said. “(Burner) has to do something because the momentum is not on her side.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Poll results

John Koster: 36 percent

Darcy Burner: 12 percent

Suzan DelBene: 11 percent

Steve Hobbs: 7 percent

Laura Ruderman: 3 percent

Larry Ishmael: 2 percent

Darshan Rauniyar: 1 percent

Undecided: 26 percent

Strategies 360 conducted the phone poll of 500 likely primary election voters July 15-17. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent. Percentages do not add up to 100 percent because of rounding. To read the results, go to www.strategies360.com.

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