Local Election

DelBene seeks ‘common sense solutions’ in D.C.; challenger Sutherland says he’ll ‘fix gridlock’

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene at Alcoa in 2012. She faces Republican candidate Robert Sutherland in the Nov. 8 election for Washington’s 1st Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene at Alcoa in 2012. She faces Republican candidate Robert Sutherland in the Nov. 8 election for Washington’s 1st Congressional District. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene faces a familiar foe in the Nov. 8 election for Washington’s 1st Congressional District seat – Republican challenger Robert Sutherland also ran against her in 2014.

DelBene joined Congress in 2012 when now-Gov. Jay Inslee resigned to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. Since then, the Democrat from Medina says she has been working to fix the gridlock in Congress.

“I work with my colleagues across the aisle to find the areas of agreement so progress can be made” she said.

Touting her achievements of the past year, DelBene points to her amendment to a bipartisan opioid bill and her work on legislation to protect American citizens’ electronic privacy.

“Working together, we can find common sense solutions and make investments that have a great return,” she said.

Sutherland, an Air Force veteran who served on the Snohomish County Republican Party Executive Committee, spent a large part of his life researching cancer therapies and DNA treatment in the Seattle area as a scientist.

“Both these roles are service roles and I do not fully buy into the right-left, poor-rich divisions and boxes that are so prevalent today. I want to bring that mentality to D.C. and fix the gridlock between the right and left,” he said at a mid-October candidate forum in Bellingham.

Trade issues

The 1st Congressional District extends south from the Canadian border through parts of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties, and is one of the most trade-centered districts in the state.

Both DelBene and Sutherland have strong views about trade development in the region.

“Trade, especially in Washington state, is critically important. No matter who we trade with, we need to make sure it benefits American jobs and economy,” Sutherland said at the forum.

DelBene is undecided about the Trans Pacific Partnership touted by President Barack Obama. Sutherland is against the TTP. “Hardly anyone in Congress is supporting it anymore,” Sutherland said. “My opponent did not just want to vote for it, but always wanted to fast track it. We need to have separate trade agreements with everyone. This one-size-fits-all (approach) rarely works.”

DelBene agreeds that trade is a critical issue for the region.

“Not only is Washington the most trade dependent state, but the First District is one of the top 10 most trade-dependent districts in the country,” she said. “I will continue to push for trade deals that are good for Washington workers, the environment and human rights. I will also continue to push for greater enforcement against violators of trade rules that negatively impact our workers and our economy.”

Climate goals

From an energy perspective, DelBene said the 1st District has great potential to be a leader for green energy and technology.

“We must build a new economy based on clean and renewable energy sources while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. That’s why I helped introduce legislation that sets a goal of more than 50 percent clean-energy use by 2030,” she said.

Sutherland echoed similar thoughts on climate change, but questioned DelBene as to why funding for the sciences has been cut by Congress.


While agreeing that swift immigration reform was needed, the two candidates differed on how many immigrants and refugees can come in.

“The refugees who are seeking asylum in our country are primarily women and children,” DelBene said. “We absolutely should be helping people who are fleeing violence.”

Sutherland agreed that “we are a nation of immigrants,” but added that the U.S. government cannot make policy based on emotional issues when it comes to refugees.

In the Aug. 2 primary election, results showed DelBene with 53.5 percent of the votes while Sutherland was second with 31 percent.

DelBene's stance on the TPP trade agreement was corrected Nov. 1, 2016.

Javaria Khan: 202-383-6011, @javariakh