Tensions ran high Friday when congressional candidates Suzan DelBene and John Koster faced each other in two different television studios.

Share story

When congressional candidates Suzan DelBene and John Koster faced each other in two different television studios Friday, they quickly veered off talking points and started shooting accusations at each other.

Tensions are high in the close 1st District race, with attack ads on the air and voters beginning to return their mail-in ballots.

Koster, a Republican with tea-party ties, and a former state representative who is serving his third term on the Snohomish County Council, sought to moderate his positions.

DelBene, a former Microsoft manager who ran the state Department of Revenue for 13 months, tried to fend off criticism her methodical personality is too flat for Congress. She was more aggressive than Koster, especially during the second debate of the day, at KCTS.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

The newly drawn 1st District runs from Redmond to the Canadian border.

“John Koster has crossed the line. He has been sneaking around my house taking pictures,” DelBene told KING-5 political reporter Robert Mak, referring to a photo on the Koster campaign website of her house in Medina. “It’s frankly creepy.”

Koster’s assistant campaign manager said the campaign used a photo found on the Internet.

When DelBene criticized Koster on KING-5 for voting against five state budgets as a legislator, Koster said his votes “are easier to explain than the nine votes you missed,” referring to elections DelBene skipped before entering politics.

“You don’t have a perfect voting record, either,” DelBene shot back.

When DelBene used a KCTS question about the war in Afghanistan to bring up Koster’s comments that too much public assistance leads to laziness, Koster said: “I won’t address the cheap shot. It had nothing to do with the question.”

At KCTS, Koster turned a question about money in political campaigns into a chance to remind voters DelBene is a multimillionaire.

“Speaking of millions and millions of dollars put into political contests,” he said, “you only have to look across the way here for millions and millions of dollars.”

DelBene repeatedly brought up Koster’s conservative social views, while Koster called questions about his views on abortion “a distraction” in a campaign where voters are concerned about the economy.

DelBene said Koster would “absolutely” be in a position to affect abortion policies and other aspects of women’s health in Congress. In an ad she started running this week, she calls his social views “scary.”

“My personal beliefs are my personal beliefs, but the law is the law,” Koster replied. “Abortion on demand is legal.”

Koster sidestepped a question about climate change. In the past, he has said he doesn’t believe humans play a role in global warming, although he acknowledges the planet is warming.

“I think climate change has been happening since the good Lord created this Earth,” he said. When Mak asked him whether he thought there was a human cause, he said: “We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our environment.”

Up Front with Robert Mak airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on KING-5. The KCTS debate will air Monday at 1 p.m.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.