Clint Didier is in a tight race for a congressional seat but he remained in danger of going 0-and-3 in running for public office as vote counting ended for the night on Tuesday.
And the battle cry "Vote For Pedro" only worked in Napoleon Dynamite. Democrat incumbent Suzan DelBene held off Republican challenger Pedro Celis 65,431 to 54,076 — a 55 percent to 45 percent split — to earn her second term as U.S. representative for the First Congressional District in Tuesday's voting results. In 2012, she captured 54 percent of the votes in the district, which sprawls from the Eastside north to the Canadian border.
Meanwhile, establishment Republican Dan Newhouse barely led Tea Partier Didier 46,992 to 43,958 — a 52 to 48 split — in the race to succeed retiring 20-year Republican U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings in Eastern Washington's Fourth District.
These results are preliminary with plenty more mail-in votes to trickle in throughout this week to change the outcome in Didier's favor.
Didier, 55, is widely known as the candidate with the gun giveaway for his supporters. He gave away one AR-15 rifle (the civilian version of a U.S. Army M-16,) and two Ruger LC9 lightweight semi-automatic handguns on July 4. He called for repealing Obamacare, abolishing the Federal Reserve, stopping foreign aid and removing the United States from the United Nations. He was an NFL tight end for nine years, with two Super Bowl rings earned with the Washington team. He retired from the NFL in 1990 and bought a farm near where his parents' in Eltopia. He constantly dodged reporter questions and editorial boards during this campaign.
He ran for the U.S. Senate in the 2010 primary, winning almost 13 percent of the vote to post a distant third behind Republican Dino Rossi and incumbent Democrat Patty Murray, who eventually won re-election. In 2012, Didier ran for state lands commissioner, losing with 41 percent of the vote, although he outpolled the winner, Peter Goldmark, in the counties in the Fourth District.
Newhouse is a 58-year-old Sunnyside farmer with a dramatically thicker public service résumé. He has six years as a state representative for eastern Yakima County's 15th Legislative District and four years as director of the Washington Department of Agriculture, under then-Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat. He farms 600 acres of hops, grapes and tree fruits.
While conservative, Newhouse had a wider base of support, with Didier's stances driving some Democrats and many moderate Republicans into Newhouse's camp.
Meanwhile, Mexican-born Celis, a 54-year-old retired Microsoft manager from Redmond, never could convert his rags-to-riches immigrant story into legitimate political traction. He barely survived the primary with 16 percent of the votes to DelBene's 51 percent. He apparently never caught fire among the super-conservatives or independent moderates, who ignored him in the primary. Meanwhile, DelBene had a solid grip on the left side of the First District, which was set up to be a swing district. Her helpful performance in the Oso landslide disaster shored up 52-year-old former Microsoft marketing executive's image as an effective congressional member.
Incumbents easily won in all of the state's other congressional districts.