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January 24, 2012 at 9:56 AM

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One Republican vs six Democrats? 1st Congressional District forum in Seattle

Odds are, Republican James Watkins will feel a bit outnumbered Thursday evening.

He's the only Republican candidate planning to attend a 1st Congressional District forum sponsored by the lefty Metropolitan Democratic Club of Seattle.

Because the event is to be held at Seattle City Hall, a public facility, organizers were required to invite all comers. All six announced Democrats plan to be there. But Watkins is the only Republican to confirm he'll attend, according to organizer Justin Simmons.

"I really want all those votes out of Seattle," Watkins joked.

Seattle is not in the new 1st District, which stretches from Kirkland and Redmond all the way to the Canadian border. Still, the gaggle of Democratic 1st CD candidates hope to appeal for money and support from Seattle-area Democratic activists.

All six Democratic candidates plan to attend, according to organizers. They are: former Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene, progressive activist Darcy Burner, state legislators Steve Hobbs and Roger Goodman, former state legislator Laura Ruderman and tech entrepreneur Darshan Rauniyar.

On the GOP side, Watkins was the only candidate to say yes for sure, though one other, Greg Anders of Bellingam has indicated he could show up, Simmons said.

The forum will be moderated by former Democratic Gov. Mike Lowry, and co-hosted by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and City Councilmember Nick Licata.

But Watkins, a business-development consultant who ran against Congressman Jay Inslee in 2010, said he won't be intimidated by the liberal crowd.

"If you can't stand in a room of people who are political opponents and speak rationally and reasonably, then you probably shouldn't be running," he said.

That kind of thinking could be key in the redrawn 1st, a swing district evenly split between Democratic and Republican-leaning voters.

But given the audience, the Seattle forum projects to be mainly be an event where the Democratic candidates can test their appeal to the party base.

The forum is scheduled from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Seattle City Hall, 600 4th Ave., in the Bertha Knight Landes Room.

The Republican 1st Congressional District contenders will get a friendlier audience during a debate Sunday in Ocean Shores. The event is part of the annual Roanoke Conference, an influential gathering of Republican leaders and activists.

All three announced Republicans -- Watkins, Anders and Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, are scheduled to participate in that event.


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