In one of Whatcom County's most competitive primary races, voters will be able to take their pick of 1st Congressional District representative from a list that includes a Democrat, an independent, and a handful of Republicans whose views differ about as much as their listed party preferences.
In the Aug. 5 primary election, Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene will face off against six challengers: Mike The Mover, National Union Party (the Republicans of 1864, e.g. Abraham Lincoln); Edwin Moats, Grand Old Party.; Richard Todd, no party preference; Pedro Celis, Republican; Robert Sutherland, Republican; and John Orlinski, Republican.
The top two vote-getters move on to the Nov. 4 general election, regardless of party.
Each of the candidates would support reforms to, or repeal of, the Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare," according to their responses to a Bellingham Herald questionnaire. Mike The Mover did not submit his answers.
Moats supports repealing the law altogether, while Celis and Orlinski propose replacing or reforming it.
Todd wrote that "the mandatory requirement for purchase of Health Insurance eliminates the Freedom of Choice that we as Americans have cherished."
DelBene supports expanding a small business tax credit under the law and fixing "the so-called 'family glitch'" to enable middle-class families to afford insurance.
Sutherland calls for more provider choices, and wrote that he is contemplating "eliminating the health insurance industry all together," having people pay their doctors directly.
Celis said his experience moving from Mexico to Canada and then to the U.S., where he became an engineer at Microsoft, uniquely allows him to speak about immigration issues.
To address issues with the current system, Celis wrote that he would call for improving legal immigration and guest worker programs to keep highly skilled and seasonal workers in the country.
"We want to have good mechanisms for people to come here legally," Celis said in a phone interview. "You don't want to give (undocumented immigrants) a carpool lane to give them citizenship, but you don't want to deport 11 or 20 million, it's not fiscally responsible," he said. "Basically they want freedom to work, not necessarily citizenship."
Orlinski, who bills himself as fiscally conservative and moderate on social issues, emigrated from Poland to the U.S. in 1984.
Celis and Orlinski both wrote that they favor using an electronic system to verify the status of new employees.
Orlinski also favors "several small programs in line with so called 'Dream Act' to offer long-term, temporary employment programs to meet employment needs of this country" and a "path to citizenship to limited number of college graduates, or young people willing to serve in our military."
Orlinski, Todd and Sutherland favor building a fence along the entire Mexican border, according to their responses.
Todd wrote that since the U.S. is the target of terrorist groups, "we can no longer permit our southern border to continue to remain porous."
Securing the border and enforcing existing immigration laws is necessary, Sutherland wrote.
"Tens of millions of illegal aliens have entered our Country and millions of them are dangerous, including M-13 Mexican gangs, drug cartels, Chinese Nationals, Hezbollah terrorists and others," Sutherland wrote in his response. "We need to make it illegal for US company's (sic) to hire non-US citizens or non-legal immigrants with still financial penalties and potential jail time for knowingly doing so. We can then lovingly reunite the illegals with their home Country."
In an interview, Moats said he would call to "cut off all cash flow to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, etc. - any country contributing to the immigration problem."
"If we cut off cash flow to Mexico and everybody else, we might find some cooperation with those countries in fighting illegal immigration," he said.
Moats also said seasonal worker visa programs that allow for legal, temporary labor for industries such as agriculture need to be more efficient.
DelBene is one of 199 co-sponsors on a comprehensive immigration reform bill that has not yet gone to the House floor for a vote.
"It's critical that we have a comprehensive bill," she said in an interview. "We have many different pieces of our immigration system, and if you change one piece you impact another piece in many ways."
"Farmers up here in Whatcom County said we need two things: We need a farm bill and we need immigration reform," DelBene said. "We got a farm bill passed ... and yet we've had farmers say thank you for the farm bill but we need immigration reform as well."
Washington's 1st Congressional District encompasses most of Whatcom County except for Bellingham, Sudden Valley and areas to the southwest. It also includes most of eastern Skagit and Snohomish counties and part of King County.
The Bellingham Herald asked questions of each candidate in the primary races with three or more people. Find their answers, in their own words, and compare them side by side at BellinghamHerald.com/voter-guide.
For the latest news stories on local elections, go to BellinghamHerald.com/local-elections.
Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Aug. 5. Mail them or drop off at boxes at the Blaine, Lynden or Deming libraries; Meridian Middle School; Western Washington University Bookstore; the Everson branch of Whatcom Education Credit Union; or the south parking lot of Whatcom County Courthouse.
The Ferndale drop box has temporarily moved to the front lawn of Ferndale City Council chambers at 5694 Second Ave.