Tea party favorite Elizabeth Scott first in line to challenge DelBene

One of Snohomish County’s most conservative Republican lawmakers has quietly begun a campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene.

State Rep. Elizabeth Scott of Monroe filed paperwork May 21 with the Federal Election Commission to become a candidate and start collecting contributions.

Scott is in her second term in the Legislature and seemed assured of re-election next year if she chose to stay in Olympia.

Now it appears she wants to serve in Congress, though she had made no formal campaign announcement as of Wednesday. Scott did not return phone calls.

While it will be difficult for Scott to unseat DelBene, it will be easy for her to draw a bright line between her and the incumbent on most bellwether issues.

DelBene is a social liberal and fiscal moderate who stresses the importance of bipartisanship. Scott is a tea party favorite, an uncompromising and unapologetic conservative unwilling to cede an inch of principle for a vote.

“I ran on smaller, smarter government. And of course I swore to uphold the state and federal constitutions to protect our liberty,” she said in 2013. “If I perceive that something doesn’t fit with those criteria, I am a ‘no’ vote. I would rather be a ‘no’ vote and be wrong than be a ‘yes’ vote and be wrong.”

A random sample of their differences: Scott opposes legal abortion and gay marriage while DelBene supports both. Scott voted against raising the state minimum wage while DelBene wants to hike the federal minimum wage.

They even differ on political support for the Boeing Co., which is a major employer among their respective constituencies.

Scott voted against extending tax breaks to Boeing to secure the 777X program in Everett, while DelBene is a booster of the federal Export-Import Bank, a key provider of sales assistance to Boeing.

One of the big challenges for Scott is that most potential voters in the 1st Congressional District don’t know her. Because it’s a large district — stretching from the Canadian border through Snohomish County into suburban east King County — she’ll need to spend lots of money to change that. She’ll likely need to start raising cash now while still laboring in the Legislature’s special session.

DelBene spent in excess of $4 million to defeat a raft of Democratic opponents and Republican John Koster, of Arlington, in 2012, then another $2.3 million to beat Republican Pedro Celis in 2014. She already has $185,000 on hand for next year.

Another challenge for Scott will be corralling support from voters in the middle of the political spectrum — Republicans, Democrats and independents — who could decide the race. Many of those voters live in King County, don’t embrace Scott’s stances on social issues and thus might sit out this race or support DelBene.

Scott might not be DelBene’s only Republican opponent.

Hossein Khorram, an Iranian-American businessman from Medina, is a name circulating in the rumor mill as a potential candidate. Though less known than Scott, he’s reportedly wealthy enough to help self-fund his campaign, a bonus when taking on a multimillionaire incumbent.

And state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, is a possible candidate. He demonstrated his campaign mettle in 2014 when the Democratic Party and a coalition of environmentalists tried unsuccessfully to unseat him.

Another bonus: Ericksen hails from Whatcom County, where DelBene lost to her Republican opponents in 2012 and 2014.

Formal filing for this race is a year away, but Scott has acted to get the campaign conversation going now.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos.

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