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Originally published January 12, 2012 at 12:29 PM | Page modified January 12, 2012 at 10:18 PM

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Suzan DelBene joins 1st Congressional District race

Washington State Department of Revenue Director Suzan DelBene is resigning to join the already crowded race for the open seat in Washington's 1st Congressional District.

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Washington State Department of Revenue Director Suzan DelBene is resigning to join the already crowded race for the open seat in Washington's 1st Congressional District.

DelBene, a Democrat, is a wealthy former Microsoft executive who lost a 2010 challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th District. She dropped nearly $2.3 million of her own money on that race.

In a phone interview Thursday morning, DelBene said she'll bring a "unique skill-set" to the contest, citing her experience working with businesses, nonprofits and most recently as the state's chief tax collector.

"I am running because I believe strongly that we need to get folks back to work and address the needs that the folks in the 1st Congressional District have in terms of employment and economic opportunity," DelBene said in an interview.

DelBene obviously has the ability to put millions into her own campaign. "I will do my part and I think in the end I'm confident we're going to have enough money," she said.

While she's a millionaire now, DelBene said she understands economic hardship, recalling family struggles after her father lost his job. She said she was able to succeed due to work-study and college loans.

"We're eroding those opportunities right now and we need to put them back together so people have those options," she said.

DelBene, 49, lives in Medina. She was a corporate vice-president at Microsoft and also helped found high-tech startups including She also has advised nonprofits working in microfinance.

In November 2010, she was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire as director of the state Department of Revenue. In that role, DelBene said she worked on streamlining taxes for small businesses and on a tax amnesty program that brought in more than $340 million in state and local taxes.

The 1st District seat is being vacated by Democrat Jay Inslee's run for governor. In the recent redistricting process, the 1st was redrawn as a true swing district.

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, a Republican member of the redistricting panel that drew up the map, called it perhaps the most evenly divided in the nation.

Tim Ceis, the former Seattle deputy mayor and Democratic redistricting panel member, said the district cries out for a centrist.

"It's a very moderate district. There are some extremes on each end, but the majority of it is really quite smack in the middle," he said.

The district runs from the populous suburbs of Redmond and Kirkland north all the way to the Canadian border, taking in most of Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

Already a stampede of candidates have jumped at the rare chance to capture an open congressional seat.

On the Democratic side, DelBene's rivals include: two-time congressional candidate and former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner; state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens; state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland; former state representative Laura Ruderman, and Bothell entrepreneur Darshan Rauniyar.

Among Republicans, announced candidates are: Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, business consultant James Watkins and retired Air Force fighter pilot Greg Anders.

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