This year’s election for the 1st Congressional District of the U.S. House offers a rematch from two years ago with Sultan Republican Jeffrey Beeler challenging the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, as she seeks her fifth term.
The 1st District encompasses eastern regions of Skagit and King counties and the eastern Snohomish County communities of Darrington, Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.
DelBene has been the district’s only representative since its boundaries were redrawn for the 2012 election. DelBene, a Medina resident, previously served as director of the state’s Department of Revenue and was at Microsoft for 12 years, including time as a vice-president for global sales, marketing and mobile technology.
Beeler, a Snohomish County resident since childhood, has been elected three times to Sultan’s city council and owns a glass-cleaning business.
As he did two years ago Beeler backs traditional Republican stands, including fiscal responsibility and support for the Trump administration’s economic policies; protection and promotion of jobs; greater border security and immigration reforms.
In a joint interview with The Herald Editorial Board, Beeler expressed frustration with the general response — especially that coming from Democrats — regarding the coronavirus pandemic, faulting a lack of planning for a public health crisis that forced rushed decisions amid a crisis. Pointing to the preparation undertaken by Sultan, Beeler said the city administrator told him that Sultan is in its best financial position in years.
A lack of planning for a pandemic, he alleges, resulted in unfocused quick fixes, such as efforts to extend stimulus payments, supplemental employment benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program that provided benefits to individuals and businesses where he believes they were not necessary.
DelBene, however, defends those efforts — as provided by the Cares Act that passed Congress and the Heroes Act that passed the House but has not been addressed in the Senate — as necessary to seeing families, small businesses and communities through the pandemic.
That there was too little advanced planning for a public health crisis is a point well taken, but it’s an indictment that should be shared among past and current administrations, at all levels of government and by both parties. And while more careful consideration could have prevented some abuses, particularly those seen with Paycheck Protection Program funds going to a few less-than-deserving businesses, the majority of those funds were necessary and needed promptly to keep businesses afloat and paychecks coming to employees until businesses could more fully reopen.
Further, Beeler’s criticism of stimulus payments and unemployment benefits ignores the good that money did, not just directly for recipients, but in supporting small businesses by helping families make rent and mortgage payments and patronize local restaurants, grocery stores and other shops, thus supporting local economies.
Beeler also sought to criticize DelBene for a lack of bipartisanship, claiming that signing onto legislation with Republicans wasn’t enough. That claim, however, also falls short.
DelBene has gone further than simply signing onto bipartisan legislation. Among the 26 bills for which she was the prime sponsor during the last two years, according to an analysis by ProPublica, 10 of her bills had support from both parties; three of them with substantial backing from Republicans:
One bill, now before a health subcommittee, would improve seniors’ access to care, and has 115 Republican cosponsors, along with 126 Democrats.
Another, now before Ways and Means, for which DelBene is a committee member, would revise an affordable housing tax credit. Of its 223 cosponsors, it is backed by 76 Republicans.
A third, regarding expansion of access to mental health telemedicine, has backing from 14 Republicans among its 33 cosponsors.
DelBene by writing sound legislation has demonstrated an ability to work with her own party as well as those across the aisle.
DelBene and others in the Washington state delegation, were able to celebrate a bipartisan victory this summer, one sought over the course of several years, especially by DelBene. The legislation permanently renewed funding — at the level originally intended by Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson when he wrote the legislation more than 50 years ago — for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides grant funding for public lands and park acquisition and development through the payment of royalties for offshore oil drilling. In addition, the Great American Outdoors Act also assures $9.5 billion in funding to address a backlog of maintenance work in the National Park Service and other public lands.
During her tenure in the House, DelBene has been a valued voice on issues related to foreign trade, labor and employment, technology, consumer privacy and data protection and health care.
It’s on that last issue where DelBene’s past work and experience might be most needed next year in Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court, with a likely shift coming to a more conservative court, is expected to hear arguments in the coming term regarding a challenge of the Affordable Care Act by Republican attorneys general, a case that could overturn Obamacare and its protections for those with pre-existing conditions and for millions who have coverage through Medicaid.
If the ACA is thrown out, DelBene’s knowledge of the law and its provisions will be necessary to help restore its protections and health care coverage; if preserved by the court, she and others can help shore up a program that has seen its effectiveness sapped by four years of the Trump administration’s attacks.
DelBene, during her four terms, has shown herself to be an able legislator and responsive representative for district constituents. Voters in the 1st District should return her to her House seat.