Sutherland aiming to unseat 2-term incumbent DelBene

Robert Sutherland and Suzan DelBene

Robert Sutherland and Suzan DelBene

GRANITE FALLS — When the year began, Republican Robert Sutherland had no plans to run against Democratic U.S. Rep Suzan DelBene.

Rather, the Granite Falls resident figured to cast his lot with state Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, a philosophical ally already campaigning against the incumbent congresswoman.

Scott withdrew in May and Sutherland jumped in, finishing second in the primary to set up a Nov. 8 showdown with DelBene. She led the August election with 54 percent followed by Sutherland with 31 percent.

At stake is a two-year term representing the 1st Congressional District, which stretches south from the Canadian border through parts of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties. It takes in parts of Snohomish County east of I-5 including Darrington, Lake Stevens, Mill Creek, Monroe, Snohomish and Sultan.

DelBene, 54, of Medina, a former Microsoft manager and director of the state Department of Revenue, arrived in Congress in late 2012. She filled the vacancy created when Democrat Jay Inslee resigned to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.

As DelBene seeks a third term, she campaigns on her record, stressing her role in passing bipartisan legislation to increase email privacy and to rein in the domestic surveillance program of the National Security Agency.

She also touts her work with Republicans to pass a federal farm bill containing an amendment steering millions of dollars into job training programs for food stamp recipients in Washington.

She’s pushed for passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would require online businesses to collect sales tax, and legislation aiding communities dependent on the timber industry, such as Darrington. And she’s been a vocal opponent of GOP attempts to more strictly regulate abortions and cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

DelBene also backs the Affordable Care Act though she acknowledges it requires some tweaks. Congress needs to “improve what’s working and fix what’s not,” she said at an Oct. 11 candidate forum at Edmonds Community College.

Sutherland, 57, ran against DelBene in 2014. He wound up third in the primary, 873 votes behind runner-up and fellow Republican Pedro Celis. Sutherland then ran unsuccessfully for Snohomish County executive in 2015.

Sutherland opposes gay marriage and abortion and wants to focus on reducing the federal debt and ensuring veterans receive the care to which they are entitled.

At the candidate forum he said he is “completely against” the federal health care law known as Obamacare, noting the “bad aspects outweigh the good.” The federal government should step back and let the free market work, he said.

On immigration, Sutherland said the nation must secure its borders “so the good people get in and (we) keep the bad ones out.” Once steps are taken to prevent people from crossing into the country illegally, then Congress can work on “good and well thought out” immigration policies, he said.

DelBene said comprehensive reform is needed now. She is a co-sponsor of a bill with broad bipartisan support that she said “would have passed if allowed a vote.”

The two differ sharply on the threat posed by a changing climate.

Sutherland said activists pushing for a tax on carbon are using a “scare tactic that we are all going to die” if we don’t take such measures to reduce carbon emissions.

DelBene said the problem is real and immediate.

“Climate change is a serious issue we absolutely must address now,” DelBene said, adding it is “disappointing” Congress isn’t talking about it.

As in 2014, DelBene is far outpacing Sutherland in fundraising.

She has collected $1.86 million in the election cycle and had $985,133 in cash on hand as of Oct. 1, according to the latest filings with Federal Election Commission. Her total includes nearly $338,000 in contributions collected between July 1 and Sept. 30, the latest reporting period.

He’s collected $18,432 for his campaign and had $5,597 available on Oct. 1, according to FEC filings.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos.

The candidates

Suzan DelBene

Party: Democratic

Age: 54

Experience: Congresswoman, elected in 1st Congressional District in 2012; former director of the state Department of Revenue; former marketing vice president for Microsoft.

Website: www.delbene

Robert Sutherland

Party: Republican

Age: 57

Experience: Retired scientist, U.S. Air Force veteran, former Snohomish County Republican Party Executive Committee, former vice chairman 44th Legislative District committee; candidate for Congress in 2014 and Snohomish County executive in 2015.

Website: www.sutherland

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