Both candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat are Microsoft alums – Celis a top database software engineer and DelBene a marketing vice president. While both largely stuck to predictable partisan talking points, there were some notable clashes. (The debate airs Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on KCTS 9 and KUOW radio 94.9 FM.)
DelBene went on the offensive after Celis said he supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that closely held corporations cannot be forced to pay for certain types of contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act, if doing so goes against owners’ religious beliefs.
Celis praised the ruling and said “you should not be taking that right from companies to make those choices.”
DelBene objected, saying “I don’t believe corporations are people” and that women should have the choice, not their bosses. She asked whether companies also should be able to exclude blood transfusions or vaccines from coverage if business owners oppose those procedures. “Where does it end?” she asked.
Celis said no one is trying to prevent medical care. The only question is whether a company is forced to pay for something that goes against its values, he said, suggesting the government can cover contested procedures.
While DelBene believes corporations are not people and don’t have such rights, Celis said, “I disagree with that.”
Celis made perhaps his clearest philosophical distinction with DelBene during an audience question-and-answer period after the televised part of the debate.
Asked what the candidates would do to fix the economy and create jobs, DelBene said Congress should pass longer term federal budgets to provide certainty, and boost infrastructure spending. She cited the Skagit River bridge collapse as an example of what failing roads and bridges can cost the economy.
Celis said that response summed up the difference between the two, saying DelBene sees the solution to most problems requiring more government intervention.
“I think a big reason this economy is not doing well is because the government has been more of a problem than a solution,” Celis said. With the federal debt nearing $18 trillion, Celis said interest payments will eat up an increasing share of tax revenue. He said his focus in Congress would be on reduced spending and a simpler tax code.
The debate was moderated by Deborah Wang and Enrique Cerna of KCTS 9. In addition to airing at 7 p.m., it will be streamed on the station’s website.