Washington’s 1st Congressional District race one of most evenly divided in nation

Trudi Inslee, right, and Sen. Patty Murray, center, campaign for Suzan DelBene in Bothell on Oct. 21. DelBene is running for the vacant 1st Congressional District seat against John Koster.  - Matt Phelps, Bothell Reporter
Trudi Inslee, right, and Sen. Patty Murray, center, campaign for Suzan DelBene in Bothell on Oct. 21. DelBene is running for the vacant 1st Congressional District seat against John Koster.
— image credit: Matt Phelps, Bothell Reporter

The 2010 United States Census resulted in a shift of 12 congressional seats across 18 states, including Washington. But the new 1st Congressional District, which includes Bothell, Kenmore, Kirkland and Redmond on the Eastside, is one of the most watched races in the country.

The race pits Republican John Koster, who is in his third term on the Snohomish County Council from Arlington, against Democrat Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft executive who lives in Medina.

The district stretches from the Canadian border down to I-90 and Medina and covers 6,600 square miles. To put that into perspective, it is nearly as big as New Jersey at 8,722 square miles and bigger than Delaware, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia combined (4,245 square miles).

But it is not the size that has caught the eye of national news media such as the New York Times and political party leaders, such as former Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The New York Times recently called the district one of the most evenly divided politically in the nation.

The old 1st District fell constantly into the Democrats column. But a SurveyUSA poll for KING 5 News in Seattle released Oct. 23, showed a dead heat with DelBene narrowly edging Koster 47-44 percent. But those numbers are within the margin of error.

With the race so close, some heavy hitters have visited the state in support of each candidate. United States Sen. Patty Murray attended a rally at DelBene’s headquarters in the North Creek area of Bothell on Oct. 21.

“(The district) was designed to be 50-50 and this is a historic time for this district,” said Murray, who grew up in Bothell. “But I predict that after the race it won’t be considered a swing district.”

Murray said that she knows how important it is to get voters to the polls.

“I remember a Bothell mayor race that was won by one or two votes,” said Murray, who is the senior Senator from Washington first elected in 1992.

Along with Murray, DelBene has had national Democratic leaders such as Pelosi, Congressman Steny Hoyer, who has represented Maryland for 30 years and South Carolina Congressman Jim Cyburn on the campaign trail. Koster has had Christie, Georgia Congressman Tom Price, M.D., talk radio host and son of President Ronald Reagan, Michael Reagan, along with Congressman Dave Reichert campaigning for him.

“It really is one of the most evenly divided in the nation and that is great,” said DelBene. “We need more districts like this one.”

The Reporter did not receive any response to multiple interview requests and phone calls to the Koster campaign.

The campaign rally for DelBene also included the wife of former 1st Congressional District Rep. Jay Inslee, who vacated the seat to run for Governor. Inslee won re-election in 2010 with 57 percent of the vote against challenger James Watkins.

Because Inslee vacated the seat, 1st District voters will get to vote for DelBene or Koster twice during the general election on Nov. 6. The first is to fill the final few months of Inslee’s term and the second is to fill the seat for the next congressional term.

This is the second time that both Koster and DelBene have run for Congress. Koster ran for the 2nd District seat in 2010 but lost to Rick Larsen 51.1-48.9 percent. DelBene ran against Reichert in 2010 but lost 52.1-47.9 percent.

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