Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 19, 2012

Heavyweights Endorse Delbene

Suzan 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 Rep. Rick Larsen. Endorsements can be a game changer, especially in primary races. In the general election, the partisan is too big for one person to persuade large swaths of people (although I would argue that Colin Powell had a pretty hefty impact when he endorsed Obama in 2008).

Mostly, endorsements are felt on the local level, where people do not have enough information about candidates, so they trust someone else’s judgement.  So the question remains, is this a game changer? Let’s take them one at a time.

Gov. Gregoire

Gov. Gregoire is not the most popular politician in this state. Whether it is her years of overly-cautious governing, or the brutal budgets she has had to enact, she has earned herself plenty of criticism from the left and the right. I doubt her endorsement is going to be much of a tipping point in terms of convincing people to vote for Delbene, however it will help convince donors that Delbene is the anointed candidate.

But what about Rick Larsen? Larsen used to represent a healthy part of the new 1st District, and people are used to voting for him. That said, he only won by narrow margins the last couple of years, so it isn’t the same as down in the 6th, where Norm Dicks pulls in 60% of the vote every year. Larsen had to scrape for every one of those votes, and frankly, Delbene will probably have to do the same.  So Larsen’s endorsement could help, especially among Democrats, but it is by no means a sure thing.

One of the other candidates that I interviewed said that the “Delbene campaign is treating this campaign like there are important people and unimportant people, and only going after the important people. I’m going after everybody.” A shot across the bow, sure, but a testimony to Delbene’s focus on endorsements.  She already received the endorsement of Gary Jensen, mayor of Ferndale.  Now with these heavyweights in her pocket, she is building an air of inevitability before the first vote is ever cast.

Of course, as Mitt Romney will tell you, that doesn’t always work out as planned.



  1. Neither the Governor nor Rick Larsen endorsements can come as a surprise to anyone. They are both New Democrats. Mayor Gary Jensen was a good get. So were the endorsements of the Boeing Machinists and the Teamsters. Having big endorsements in the bag makes it easier to get more endorsements. Some factions of the Right and Left might not appreciate the heavyweights, but the heavyweights look good on the resume’ that is the primary voter pamphlet. And Republicans are not going to vote for or against any of the Democrats because they’ll be busy making sure Koster is on the ballot in November.

    For the Undecideds and Independents that voter pamphlet is critical. Spend time doing voter ID and you’ll find out just how important those pamphlets are. Try listing those not-important-people as endorsements in the voter pamphlet and see how many votes the list attracts.

    I think it is naive to believe that the majority of voters make their choices using the same criteria as those of us who pay attention to politics. Our beleaguered Governor might not be popular with some who pay attention, but she hasn’t lost very much ground at all with people like me. She’s not hated like Scott Walker is; that matters.

    • Voter Pamphlets??? Will we have them this year? There were none for the 2010 primary insofar as the Senate and Congressional races were concerned except in five counties. And, budgetary problems are greater now; so, I’d be very surprised to see Congress included this year. While the info is available on the Secretary of State website, less than 1% of the voters visit it.

      Voter education is not a priority–particularly where incumbents are involved.. Pamphlet info is indeed quite valuable, but likely will be omitted again in Whatcom County.

  2. Out of district endorsements can help or hurt, they can annoy locals that they are being told what to do by people that don’t even live in their district. Further to that, the Boeing machinists isn’t just “one of the many union endorsements someone could get”, they have a MAJORITY vote on the state labor council, which means that DelBene can now sweep ALL of the union money if she plays it right… despite the fact that she does not necessarily have the most labor-friendly policies.

  3. Some of us heard the candidates when they came to a Whatcom Democrats meeting awhile ago. They all spoke persuasively, I thought. One of the important questions, to my thinking, was “Who will you caucus with, if elected?”
    Both Darcy Burner and Laura Ruderman said the Progressives, DelBane said The New Democrats. The State Dems have not yet picked a candidate, to my knowledge. Maybe doing the right thing and waiting until the primary, when the people will have spoken. But, I do know that “they” are leaning toward DelBane, possibly believing that the contenders have less of a chance because of previous losses, or something like that. Darcy was their “sweetheart” when she ran against incumbent Reichert, twice, and narrowly lost. But, Koster is the REALLY BIG issue. What a smart move from the Republicans zeroing in on their candidate, and posting his name all up and down the I-5. People won’t know anything about him BUT they will know his name. An automatic vote for the uninformed voter! URGG! Very dangerous for us.

    • It’s not like they had to put any expense into those signs. They had them left over from 2010. I wouldn’t discount the possibility that the eventual winner of the primary would be equally willing to spend money on signs. They are great advertising.

  4. I’m a strong supporter of Darcy Burner and disappointed to see these endorsements — even though, as a psychologist, I understand them.

    When the squeeze is on there is a (lamentable) tendency to move toward the center where, it is believed, is safety. The establishment tilts toward the moderates. The more ideologically focused candidates instill fear.

    Alas, there isn’t much electoral evidence to support this move. In fact, there is quite a bit of data to suggest the opposite (from the success of Tea Partyists to Bernie Sanders).

    Those with well-articulated positions do quite well, even winning over people who may disagree with them on issues but respect their passion and vision.

    And, FWIW, we’ve seen the same kind of thing happening in economics where governments shrink from stimulus measures and (disastrously) adopt “moderate” and “safe” austerity programs.

  5. How is the endorsement of a small-town mayor with fewer than a thousand voters that didn’t all support him a heavyweight win?

    • Local elected officials can be very helpful because they show that candidates have LOCAL support. Big unions and fancy names are nice, but when your neighbor, or city councilman says this is the right person then it connects with people.

      • Fair enough. But the 2245 voters that chose Jensen only had one other choice.
        This race is far different with broader implications and I’ll bet the plumber’s opinion doesn’t hold much sway outside the Fernburg metropolitan area.
        I also think voters are much less likely to be swayed by the personal choice of any one public figure since there’s always a bit of patronization to any endorsement.
        Gary isn’t what I’d call a thoughtful neutral observer at any rate.

  6. Why did you delete my post R?

    • I don’t think I’ve deleted anyone’s post recently. I’m sorry if I did. I’ll check the spam filters, but I’m not seeing anything.

  7. Justice for Maxx !

  8. […] rocket to the top of the list as the “moderate choice for a swing district” but with Delbene mopping up the money and heavyweight endorsements, I have a feeling Hobbs might continue to serve in Olympia as opposed to D.C. but it is a long […]

  9. […] Suzan Delbene has built an air of inevitability around her nomination. As I outlined in an earlier post, she has secured the endorsements of Gov. Gregoire, Rep. Larsen, a slew of state legislators, […]

  10. […] The former plumber turned politician identifies as a Democrat, endorses local Republicans and federal Democrats, was heavily recruited to run against Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Free Lunch) and now is running for Port […]

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