Posted by: sweeneyblog | June 9, 2012

1st Congressional District highlights a variety of campaign tactics

One of the most frustrating aspects of campaign management is that you never quite know what finally convinces people to vote for your candidate. Was it the giant yard sign near their house? Was it one of the phone calls that your volunteers made? Maybe it was that cleverly designed mailer you sent out? Or that great ad on the radio? Or maybe they just read some blogger’s online voter’s guide and  that’s what convinced them. You can never tell. Oh sure, you can do some analysis about where you sent mailers and who you called, but even then, the data is rarely conclusive.

However, we have a unique opportunity to compare the success of different campaign tactics in our own backyard this August. The candidates running in the new 1st Congressional district are all pursuing very diverse campaign strategies, and we will get to see which one is the most effective. Before I start analyzing, you can pop over to the Voter’s Guide tab where I have long interviews with all the Democrats running for this seat.


Power to the Base — Darcy Burner: Netroots champion and progressive pugilist Darcy Burner is building a strategy around winning the base. For the last six months, Darcy has been making the rounds to every little Democratic organization and giving a PowerPoint presentation. This presentation is about power dynamics within Congress, but more directly, makes the case that you need someone who understands that the rules have to change, one of the key arguments for her candidacy. She has since expanded that strategy to include heavily recruiting party volunteers to staff her phone banks. As a result of this plan, it was of little surprise when Darcy picked up the most votes at the Washington State Democractic convention. The convention is attended by the hardcore activists that make up the backbone of every local political party.

Bring in the Big Names — Suzan DelbeneMicrosoft Millionaire and former Dept. of Revenue director 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, the Washington State Labor Council, and the Snohomish County Democrats (EDIT: everyone got the Snohomish Dems endorsement). Not stopping there, she has picked up a handful of local endorsements, including Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen. No word yet on whether Pete Kremen has weighed in, but the plan is pretty clear. Pick up a bunch of big names, and then use her impressive campaign war chest to carpet bomb the area with pictures of her with her arm wrapped around whichever local mayor or Congressperson is popular in the area. However, this air of inevitability did take a hit recently from a recent SurveyUSA poll that showed her coming in third, behind Darcy Burner and . . .

The Personal Touch — Laura Ruderman: State Representative and self-described “Baseball and Karate Mom” Laura Ruderman is building a strategy around personal connection and small clutches of voters. Case in point? She held an event in Concrete. Here’s the picture. Literally, just a handful of people in someone’s backyard,  however that handful of people got a very direct access to their candidate. She is known for personally calling her constituents on a regular basis and has taken that method to the campaign trail, calling voters individually asking for their endorsement and support. The upshot? She has picked up several sole endorsements from organizations because of the direct contact with each member of the board/deciding body/etc. Will it work out or is it too much effort for too small of a return? We will see.

Conservative-ish — Steve Hobbs: State Senator and National Guardsman Steve Hobbs has built a political career around appealing to a more moderate crowd. He is one of the founding members of the “Roadkill Caucus”, a group of conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans who regularly fight for business interests on the state floor. His biggest claim to fame has been supporting the Cherry Point facility, and generally standing out from his competitors as a conservative but still democratic alternative. While this has gained him some, in my opinion, rather unwarranted praise at Crosscut, we will see if it actually generates some votes.

Not a Politician! — Darshan Rauniyar: Businessman and immigration success story Darshan Rauniyar has been gathering support as the anti-candidate. He is not a polished political mover and shaker, and his straightforward demeanor in addressing issues has appealed to some people. He also is the only candidate to fully opposed the Cherry Point facility, a move which should win him some votes. In the “post-Occupy Wall Street” era, a non-politician might sound pretty good to some people.

So which strategy will work the best? It is hard to say. Another dimension to consider is what strategy will work well in the general. Will building a base of volunteers be more effective than activating small groups of unknown voters? Will big name endorsements win out over moderate positioning? If I had to place a bet, I would say that Suzan Delbene will get the nomination, but I’ve been wrong many times before.

I think the most important thing for Democrats to consider when voting in this race is this question: Who has the best chance of beating John Koster? Because as much as you like one candidate or another, when it comes down to it, who is ready to take on the big guy in the corner and win?



  1. Technical note: You said DelBene got the Snohomish Dems endorsement. They all did… all 5, so no need to just mention it for DelBene. Furthermore the sole endorsements from organizations for Ruderman is the 1st LD, 45th LD, and King County Democrats… orgs that encompass 55% of likely Dem primary voters in this race.

    Burner is doing that thing that Dennis Kucinich does, which made his own Ohio constituents have a love/hate relationship with him. He was always off running for president and grandstanding on all the best issues, but not home serving his own voters. Darcy is off at Daily Kos Netroots and getting donor money from people in other states trying to influence who will be our congressperson. While Darcy does that, Laura Ruderman and Darshan Rauniyar are doorbelling right here in Blaine and Ferndale and other parts of the district. Delbene is tone deaf and getting volunteers from Snohomish to phone up and mispronounce our names and cities, thinking the election will win itself with her money.

  2. This is a fascinating race to me. Strong, likeable candidates that provide a real choice in style and politics. No question about which party is the most diverse. And taken as whole, which includes Koster, what a great ballot for Independents to work with.

    But I’m curious about cross over. How may Republicans are going to stray over to the D column either because they like what they see or they want to influence who the opponent to Koster will be?

  3. Laura did not get the sole endorsement of King County Democrats. She just turned in her questionnaire sooner than anyone else, so as they work their way down the list, the other candidates will get the nod, too, just not in time to put it in the voter pamphlet.

    • As of right now, Laura has the sole endorsement of the King County Dems, so what I wrote was correct. When the others get the endorsement, I will update the post.

      • Sorry, I don’t agree. The KCDCC did not vote to give her the sole endorsement. That would mean they weren’t going to even bother to endorse the other candidates. She has the lone endorsement so far.

      • As of right now, the only person listed as endorsed according to the King County Dems website is Laura. No caveats about “we will revisit”. If that changes, I will update it.

        Just noticed that Richard is the one who mentioned the King County endorsement, not me. Carry on with the quibbling.

  4. I’m not worried about Republicans trying to influence who else ends up on the ballot. It’s still a top-two race and the average voter isn’t paying the least bit of attention to this race. The majority of them will be surprised when they get the voter pamphlet in the mail. Operation Chaos almost never works.

  5. Steve Hobbs is the rural Democrat who understands aerospace and agriculture and has served in the military for over 20 years.

    Hobbs is clearly the only one who can beat John Koster in a lean Republican district. He isn’t from King County, so he can actually get voters in Snohomish, Whatcom, and Skagit, and his politics are the nearest match to the district. He even has the support of dairy farmers which is a nice slap in the face to Koster.

  6. Larson beat koster twice; any one could this time.I like Darcy. Burner is up to speed on the issues Her netroots speach was great. Definetly not Dennis Kusinick and won’t be running for President .
    Delbene’s short term revenue director appointment is nothing to brag about. I’ll bet she will send out tons of junk mail.

  7. […] Firing Squad Begin! The 1st congressional race has taken a turn for the ugly in the last couple of weeks. It started when former Dept. of Revenue […]

  8. […] 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 […]

  9. […] in the race for the 1st Congressional District seat. We outlined how each candidate was pursuing a different strategy to win in an earlier post, I will be doing a follow-up once I’ve had a closer look at the numbers, but a couple quick […]

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