Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 7, 2012

Interviewing Suzan Delbene

This is the fourth in a series of interviews I’m doing with candidates for the 1st Congressional district. You can read my first impressions of these candidates, as well my interviews with Laura RudermanRoger Goodman, and Darshan Rauniyar. I will gladly interview any candidate running for office this year, so if you would like an interview, please email me here.

Suzan Delbene brought a quiet but direct energy to our interview. “I’m a workhorse, not a show horse,” she said, echoing her line from a recent labor forum. “We need more workhorses in public office, people getting involved in the details of crafting good policy.”

An interview with Suzan Delbene

Delbene has a rags to riches biography. Her father lost his job as an airline pilot when she was growing up, and the family just scraped by. When Suzan graduated college, her parents moved in with her because they had nowhere else to go. Since then, she worked her way up the ladder to become an executive at Microsoft, a candidate for Congress in 2010 and then most recently, head of the state Department of Revenue.

Which brings us to 2012, where she is running for the newly created 1st district. “I’m running because I believe strongly that we need to stand up for the middle class. Today, I don’t think we are giving people the same opportunities and chances. The previous generation invested in us so we could have those opportunities, and I don’t think we are doing that today, we are letting that fall apart.”

Without missing a beat, she dives right into the economy. “My number one priority is getting this economy back on track. How do we do that? First, we need to get our financial system on a sound track, so that people feel their investments are secure. We need to implement a modern Glass-Steagall Act, that would separate investment and commercial banking.” Without diving too much into policy, she discussed about the community aspects of the Great Recession and how her experience helps.

“I know what it is like to start a small business, you need to know how the real world works before you craft policy, so you know how it has an effect. My experience is unique. In my personal experience, its not just an issue of money for families, it is pride, it is confidence and building a steady economy makes our communities stronger.”

She talked about the need for better, updated policies that reflect a changing economy, before moving on to one of my favorite subjects, infrastructure.

Suzan Delbene

“Infrastructure, is actually two issues,” Delbene begins. “To help business build a strong economy, we need to invest because they build their business model on top of infrastructure that we provide for them, but education is part of our business infrastructure.” She cited the need for an educated workforce, and how thoroughly intertwined the issues of economic growth and investment in education are. “[Education and infrastructure] are things we have invested in the past and it is much cheaper to keep them going. Not investing is just going to create a worse problem for us down the line. That’s not just policy, that’s a smart budget decision.”

But what about education specifically? At first, Delbene highlights the obvious, “Our education is underfunded,” before moving to the technical, “Early learning is critical. If we can get kids on track there, that determines their success through their education. Every dollar spent in early learning saves us seven dollars later on helping kids get caught up.”

As for K-12, she notes that we have had lots of debates about it but, “we haven’t made it a priority yet.” When we got to higher education, Delbene once again tied it back to economic growth. “These are institutions that have given us vital economic growth, they provide the great new ideas for the future and create new economies. Investment in basic research turns into business ideas and you can track that. We can show how we have prospered from those investments.”

I asked her about the proposed Cherry Point terminal and she gave what I am beginning to describe as the basic boilerplate answer. “I see that the permits just got submitted, we need a thorough review and we have to let that process happen. It is an economic opportunity, yes, but we need to understand the impacts before we do anything. There is a process in place and we have to let that happen.”

Considering what happened at our last meeting, I asked about marriage equality and Delbene reiterated her support. “I support marriage equality, I supported it in my last race and was endorsed then by the Equal Rights Washington and the Human Rights Campaign, and host of other gay rights groups.”

I asked her about her position on foreign policy, considering that the whole realm of foreign affairs has not gotten much attention this campaign. “I’ve traveled around the world,” she begins, “We need to live our values in our foreign policy, there is so much we can do, being proactive with aid and helping people out. I’d like us to think long-term and proactive, not reactive, we should be able to help people out and get them on the right path before our alternatives becomes military. We don’t think strategically or long-term enough.” But, like clockwork, the conversation shortly returned to the economy. “We can’t even make a budget decision that isn’t even more than a few months ahead.”

What does she describe as her biggest strength in this campaign? She immediately cited her strong fund-raising where she has pulled in over $340,000 in the last quarter. Delbene attributed that to her strong listening skills and her business experience. She also touted the her recent labor endorsements from the Machinist and Aerospace Workers 751, and the Teamsters No. 28.

However, the big news that we are breaking here on The Political Junkie is that Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen has endorsed Suzan Delbene for Congress. Jensen, a bit of a local political maverick, represents the largest population base of the 1st Congressional District that is in Whatcom County. Here’s a picture of them taking a walking tour of Ferndale.

Gary Jensen with Suzan Delbene

So what was my impression of Suzan Delbene? She is a great deal stronger in person that she is on the stump. She has a quiet, thoughtful presence, and a dogged persistence to staying on a message that resonates with people (“Jobs, Economy, Business,” wash and repeat) which is something I can admire as a former campaign manager. She is definitely racking up endorsements from some heavy weights, and her cautious, steady approach contrasts greatly with some of her Democratic opponents (see tomorrow’s interview with Darcy Burner). She might be just the right fit for this new 1st Congressional District, and Delbene’s opponents underestimate her at their own peril.



  1. gotta respect someone who understands Glass-Steagal, and it’s importance.

  2. OK, I like what I’m hearing so far…

  3. First, she has not pulled in $340,000 in the last quarter. $100,000 of that is leftover from her own personal millions that she shoveled into her failed 2010 congressional race. That does not go without saying. I believe that Laura Ruderman has raised the most money *for this race*.

    I love Gary Jensen, but lefty lefties should be aware that Gary’s endorsement track record is not a belwether for Democrats (ie he endorsed the slate of conservative “property rights” candidates for county council in the 2009 election that lost control from Democrats).

    For “electability” one might think that it is a bonus that DelBene may appeal to corporate types, as she has pledged to caucus with the DLC corporate Dems in congress if elected, not with the progressives as Darcy Burner and Laura Ruderman would.

    Riley’s coverage is good here, as it reported what she said, but if this were a wikipedia article, it may have been cited for POV.

    • But this ain’t wikipedia. I’m going to do a whole post fact-checking and sharing deeper insights on all the candidates once I finish but I wanted to interview them all first, in their own words, in some depth you don’t see elsewhere.

    • Okay, call me needing some help with reading comprehension if you don’t agree, but my take on the article linked in this interview says that the 97k she transferred from her previous campaign is in addition to the 341k she raised in 11 weeks, leaving her with 314k in the bank.

      Nicely done, Riley. Yes, she is a quiet powerhouse. Love the pictures!

    • Huey, don’t let facts get in the way of your opinion. DelBene raised over 340k this quarter in addition to transferring over 97 from last cycle. DelBene has never said anything about the DLC as far as I am aware, and has only pledged to caucus with the New Democrats (where she will be joined by Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, and formerly where Jay Inslee caucused).

  4. What better way to ‘feel your investments are secure’ than to issue commercial bank licenses to investment houses overnight so that the taxpayer and The Fed discount window can bail them out after their gambling losses?
    Glass-Steagall will never be resurrected in our lifetime and even the tepid repairs now under consideration leave the worst parts of
    ‘investment banking’ untouched.
    The answer is a new form of community banking which sidesteps the loose morality of too big to fail.

  5. I am very disappointed at these premature endorsements of Delbene. We have at least two excellent Candidates in the race at this time with Burner and Rudermann. I hope to endorse one of them after the primary and “Not Delbene. ” We have had enough of these New Democrat Coalition individuals acting like K-Street Republicans.
    I understand that Rick Larsen has been making calls on behalf of Delbene convincing some of our supporters in the area that Delbene should be the candidate primarily because she can finance her own campaign. What a pathetic reason to support a candidate. You wonder why we have the terrible representation we do? Well that’s it! With the added unethical meddling by the DCCC calling around to freeze out the other Candidates encouraging large donors Not to Donate to Burner and Rudermann or others. This is another reason why the democratic leadership has become so corrupt. Rick Larsen Vice Chair of the New Democrat Coalition has been getting away with anti Democratic opinion and principles since he started being the hard core politician he is. I hope Gary and Others Think hard and long and hopefully change their stance on this Delbene endorsement at least until after the primary so we don’t add more New Democratic Coalition politicians thus keeping the approval rating of congress and the Democrats in the bowels of disgrace. There is fundraiser for congressman Larsen tomorrow night that I hope those who go will hold him accountable for some of the most anti American citizen votes in history. In my honest opinion he should be primaried and sent home for the damage he and the New Democrat Coalition has caused to our Democracy. At the least I encourage those who do attend NOT TO DONATE to Rick Larsen and let him use the lobbyist money he has worked so hard to get.

  6. […] these candidates as well my interviews with Laura Ruderman, Roger Goodman, Darshan Rauniyar, and Suzan Delbene. I will gladly interview any candidate running for office this year, so if you would like an […]

  7. […] Delbene, candidate for Congress in the 1st and recent interviewee of this blog, scored two big endorsements in the  last couple of days. First, Gov. Gregoire then […]

  8. […] of these candidates, as well my interviews with Laura Ruderman, Roger Goodman, Darshan Rauniyar, Suzan Delbene and Darcy Burner. I will gladly interview any candidate running for office this year, so if you […]

  9. […] in the Big Names — Suzan Delbene: Microsoft Millionaire and former Dept. of Revenue director Suzan Delbene has built an air […]

  10. […] Delbene, Burner, Ruderman, Hobbs and Rauniyar – This has been an extremely polarizing race, with self-funders, controversial NRA statements, MamaPAC’s, you name it. I have had the great pleasure of interviewing almost everyone for this seat, and the only advice I am going to offer is that you vote for the candidate best able to take on John Koster in the general election, because at the end of the day, all five of these candidates would be better than John Koster. Now each of these candidates is employing a different set of campaign tactics to win the race, so vote who you think will be the most effective against Koster. […]

  11. […] Democrat and McKenna with Republican, that Inslee’s numbers will grow. Polls also show that Suzan Delbene’s slew of television ads (funded by her dumping 1.9 million dollars of her own money into the […]

  12. […] do you feel about Suzan Delbene‘s chances in November? “Suzan Delbene will win because she brings the right mix of […]

  13. […] “Top Ten” list of “Reasons we need new representation in the 42nd LD”. Suzan Delbene made a powerful speech about the need for progressive and pragmatic leadership in the house. […]

  14. […] District have been receiving a push poll. They start out innocent enough, “Do you support Suzan Delbene?” but quickly start throwing negative information at the listener. In this case, all the […]

  15. […] and supportive allies in state government is essential, and yes, charter schools are garbage and Suzan DelBene is way better than that guy who compares illegal immigrants to cattle, but this Referendum is way […]

  16. […] the Budget committee, another strong choice for someone with his business credentials, and our own Rep. Suzan DelBene (D) was placed on the Judiciary committee. At first, I was perplexed by this choice, but seeing […]

  17. […] Delbene, our new congresswoman from this area joined a host of other Democrats in taking a paycut to show solidarity with those […]

  18. […] slate of candidates representing all sides of the political spectrum. The two front-runners, former Microsoft Executive Suzan DelBene and liberal blog champion Darcy Burner, appeared to represent opposite ends of the Democratic […]

  19. […] County will be ground zero, once again, for two races with state and national consequence. Freshman Rep. Suzan DelBene will be up for her first reelection election campaign since she bested Koster for the newly redrawn […]

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