Democratic U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene faces six challengers in the race to represent District 1 in Congress for the next two years.

District 1 includes areas of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties. DelBene, of Kirkland, has served eight years in the position.

DelBene is the only candidate who described the COVID-19 pandemic as the greatest challenge for the winner of the race come the General Election in November.

“The biggest issue facing our country is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy and health care system, and the disproportionate impacts it has had on communities of color,” DelBene said in a written statement provided to the Skagit Valley Herald. “We must ensure our families, workers, small businesses and frontline responders have the resources they need to endure the public health crisis.”

The four candidates challenging DelBene who responded to the Skagit Valley Herald come from diverse backgrounds and hail from Redmond, Snohomish and Bellingham. For each, a win in November would mean their first time being elected to a government office.

Derek Chartrand, of Redmond, is a Republican running on a platform to call for term limits and interrupt the “career politician” system.

“Politicians should work for and be accountable to YOU, the voter,” Chartrand said.

He said he has pledged to serve no more than eight years if elected in an effort to make way for “fresh blood” and new ideas to cycle into Congress.

The other candidates — Steven Skelton of Snohomish, Matthew Heines of Redmond and Justin Smoak of Bellingham — share a disdain for the party divide in Congress and Washington state’s communities. One is Libertarian and the others independent.

Skelton, a Libertarian, said while Democrats and Republicans argue repeatedly over what is best for the masses, he doesn’t believe it’s the government’s role to determine what’s best for someone else’s life, and that he wouldn’t be restricted to voting based on party values.

“I’m the candidate dedicated to defending all of your freedoms all of the time,” he said. “I’m the only candidate not beholden to the party machinery.”

Heines shared a similar sentiment.

“As an independent, I don’t have to toe any party line. I can make the best deals for the State of Washington,” he said.

Heines also stated his background — including experience with childhood poverty, military service, international travel and as a teacher — makes him well positioned to understand and fight for the people.

Smoak said getting independents into office is past due.

“There have only been three independents with no previous party affiliation elected to the House of Representatives since 1949. Should I be elected, the message that Washington state and America are tired of business as usual would be sent loud and clear,” he said. “The one thing that still unites our divided country is our collective lack of faith in the federal legislative branch to look out for ordinary citizens.”

DelBene, meanwhile, said she has shown she can work across the Democrat-Republican divide.

“I have a proven track record of getting beyond the partisan bickering and successfully working on issues ... such as addressing the public health crisis,” she said.

Candidate Robert Dean Mair did not respond to email or phone requests from the Skagit Valley Herald and candidate Jeffrey Beeler did not provide contact information when he filed for candidacy.

* See the candidates' full questionnaires.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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