It wasn’t pretty, but Republican Pedro Celis appears to have secured a spot on the November ballot against Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene in the 1st Congressional District north of Seattle.
With a new round of ballots counted Friday, Celis extended his lead over Republican rival Robert Sutherland to 922 votes.
“It appears we have won and we have work to do for the general election, so we are moving forward,” Celis said.
Although he was the choice of Republican Party leaders, Celis, a retired Microsoft engineer and first-time candidate, struggled to emerge from the primary field that included three other Republicans and two other minor candidates. He trailed on Election Day to Sutherland, a little-known retired biochemist from Granite Falls, and didn’t pull into second place until Thursday’s vote count.
Sutherland agreed there are probably too few votes remaining for the trend to reverse and put him back on top. “It looks like it’s over,” he said.
Sutherland said he hoped his campaign’s support, which came with little money or big endorsements, would show Republican leaders that many voters hunger for more conservative candidates.
As of Friday, DelBene, the incumbent and sole Democrat in the race, had 50.7 percent of the vote. Celis was in second with 16.4 percent, and Sutherland was in third with 15.6 percent.
Republicans argue DelBene’s primary numbers are underwhelming and that Celis could beat her in the swing 1st District, which runs from the Canadian border south through most of Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties to the northeast King County suburbs of Redmond and Kirkland.
In a display of support despite the primary scare, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, plans to attend a rally for Celis on Sunday at the home of a supporter in Redmond.
Tyrone Gayle, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, called Celis’ primary showing “one of the most humiliating recruitment fails of the year for House Republicans” and mocked Walden “parachuting into Washington state to prop up his campaign.”