Suzan DelBene. Photo via Wikipedia
Suzan DelBene. Photo via Wikipedia

This could turn out to be an interesting political race to watch, and it speaks to the growing power of the technology industry in Washington state.

Two former Microsoft employees are set to face off in a political battle this fall for the seat in Washington’s First Congressional District.

Suzan DelBene — a 52-year-old former executive who worked at Microsoft in marketing roles from 1989 to 1998 — captured the seat in 2012. Now, the incumbent will face Pedro Celis, a 54-year-old Mexican immigrant and former Microsoft distinguished engineer who according to The Seattle Times plans to announce his candidacy today.

Celis, who studied computer science at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Studies and the University of Waterloo in Canada, joined Microsoft in 1998 where he worked in the SQLServer Group, later taking on a senior technical role on the Bing team.

The First Congressional District is an oddly shaped and economically diverse district, stretching from the Canadian border south to encompass large portions of the tech-heavy Eastside suburbs. Those include Redmond and Kirkland, as well as the high-end community of Medina where Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates lives.

Pedro Celis
Pedro Celis

The Seattle Times calls the First Congressional District a “swing district,” pointing out that it represents the best chance for the Republicans to gain a seat. Celis, a Republican, plans to attack DelBene over her support of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — as well as her support of increasing the federal minimum wage.

Celis co-chaired Mitt Romney’s primary presidential campaign in Washington state, and he is the past chairman of the Washington State chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. He retired from Microsoft in 2012, and now serves as a board member at Plaza Bank.

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  • Joshua Maher

    Amazing how many softies go into politics… Why does Microsoft breed politicians?

    Does the culture at Microsoft breed politicians?

    Perhaps there were aspirations of public service prior to joining Microsoft?

    Or maybe after working for Microsoft for so long, there was a burning desire to affect broader changes on society…

    • Christopher Budd

      I think some of it is just sheer numbers. Microsoft has been around long enough now that a significant number of highly educated, driven, successful people can claim at least some time there. I suspect in another 15 years you’ll be able to ask the same question about Amazon.

      But too, I do think, popular images to the contrary, there are a lot of people who can cite time at Microsoft on their resume who are genuinely interested in doing good. Many people who have worked there have done so for that reason. And when we look at Gates’ work and all the charitable giving that Microsoft and its employees have done over the years, it’s pretty impressive.

      Lest this sound like I’m waxing too poetic about the good of Microsoft, another piece too is that it’s a highly political environment these days. I worked on Capitol Hill as an intern in college and can attest that Microsoft when I left was as full of maneuvering as that place. So there are also people who want to take the skills they honed there and apply them elsewhere.

      In short, it’s like life in general: it’s a complicated answer.

  • SeattleHokie

    The answer seems simple to me. If you want to run for office, you have to have money.

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