SGN interviews Congressional candidate Darcy Burner
SGN interviews Congressional candidate Darcy Burner
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

"I'm feeling optimistic about my race," says 8th District Congressional candidate Darcy Burner. "The voters understand we have to change the direction of the country."

A Democrat, Burner is hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Congressman Dave Reichert in a district that includes most of King and Pierce Counties south and east of Lake Washington. Formerly a Republican stronghold, demographic changes have made the 8th District much more competitive for Democrats. Burner narrowly lost to Reichert in 2004.

Polling data seems to present a mixed picture for Washington State Democrats. Barack Obama consistently leads John McCain in the presidential race, and voters prefer the generic Democratic brand, but Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire is locked in a very tight race with her Republican opponent. A Rasmussen poll (September 9) showed Gregoire trailing Republican challenger Dino Rossi by 6%, and Survey USA (September 21-22) shows her only 2% ahead.

Burner remains confident, however. "I'm skeptical of polling numbers," Burner says. "Polls make assumptions about who will turn out. For example, polls consistently undercount cell phone-only households. Those are disproportionately younger voters and disproportionately Obama supporters."

"I'm delighted Sen. Obama is up in the polls," she continues. "I'm desperately hoping he wins. If he does, it helps other candidates, including the Governor."

Burner misses no opportunity to link her opponent with discredited Bush administration policies. "Reichert consistently voted with the Bush administration," Burner says. "Now the chickens have come home to roost."

Bruner also charges that Reichert has been a spectacularly inept Congressman. In a controversial new TV ad, she notes that Reichert has been rated 401st in effectiveness out of 439 members of Congress, even trailing non-voting delegates from American Samoa and Guam.

The day after it first aired, Reichert's campaign issued a statement calling the ad "negative, partisan, false & outrageous & shameful." Reichert claims to have passed eight bills in his three terms as a Congressman.

Speaking of her own priorities should she be elected to Congress in November, Burner names two key areas where she hopes to make a difference. "To get the economy back on track. This is urgent, and it's more than just bank liquidity. And to end the war in Iraq."

While she agrees that government action is needed to help the country out of its economic crisis, Burner opposed the proposed bailout which was defeated in the House of Representatives on Monday. "It would have transferred an enormous amount of wealth from the middle class to investment bankers," she says, "and it didn't provide remotely adequate oversight."

"We should not reward the behavior of CEOs. They failed!" she says. Instead, Burner has proposed an economic rescue plan that calls for renegotiating questionable mortgages and eventually reimbursing taxpayers for public funds spent bailing out failing financial institutions. Burner has also demanded explicit Congressional oversight of bailout programs.

Incumbent Congressman Reichert joined with most of the Republican House caucus in voting against the proposed bailout. He has not proposed any alternative economic rescue program.

A long-time opponent of the war in Iraq, Burner is the author of A Responsible Plan to End the War. Written in consultation with retired generals, some of whom had served in Iraq, and people who served in the State Department and the Department of Defense, the plan calls for the US to use diplomacy to engage Iraq's neighbors in a political stabilization program, and to help reconstruct the Iraqi economy.

"Things are moving in a good direction. Sixty candidates have endorsed the plan," Burner says. "Some elements of the plan were put into the last Supplemental Appropriations Bill [that funds the war]. Sen. Obama is talking about ending the war responsibly - even Sen. McCain is now talking about ending the war responsibly!"

Burner has also committed to support an inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that would offer federal protection to Transgender workers as well as Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals. A version of ENDA that omitted protections for Transgender workers passed the House of Representatives last year, but failed to come to the floor in the Senate.

"I haven't done the math to figure out where the votes are," Burner cautions. "A lot depends on what happens in five weeks. There are many progressive candidates [who presumably would vote for an inclusive ENDA]. Democrats are likely to do well all over the country, but five weeks is a long time in politics."

In a reversal of his previous opposition to ENDA, Congressman Reichert voted for the non-inclusive ENDA bill. Burner says she is going all-out between now and the election on November 4. "We need two things: votes and money," she says. "Every dime we take in will go to communicating with voters."

"People who want to help can talk to whoever they know in the 8th District, they can sign up to phone bank, or to doorbell, or to address postcards because we're sending hand-written postcards to every voter in the District," Burner says. "I always try to remember that large groups of people properly motivated can make change."