Thursday, September 07, 2006

Local Politics: US Rep (D & R)

So while I'm popping through the Voter's Pamphlet and checking out the candidates, I'd like to direct you to the fact that Shelly in Seattle is doing the same, starting at the Non-partisan races and working up. She's up in Kirkland, so some of her local races will not jive with mine, but she's handling the same state-level offices and is worth checking out for another voice.

So. US Representative, 8th District of Washington. No flurry of minor candidates here, but rather two candidates without competition, though each has been so anointed for different reasons.

First, the incumbent, Dave Reichert (R). First-termer, and therefore, like Maria Cantwell, supposedly vulnerable. He's kept the first commandment of politics: For god's sake don't embarrass us. Indeed, in an political party where corruption is rife, personal misbehavior is tolerated, and federal indictments are increasingly common, he has kept his nose clean and his chin up. Two years back he was recruited by the party for the position, and after dispatching the Democrat then-anointed (a talk-show host - what were they thinking?), was installed with a subcommittee chair and the general note to keep his head down, his profile low, and vote the way he was asked to.

Reichert's problem at the moment is that the people who have put him there are currently horrendously unpopular. To his credit he has chosen to dance with the guy that brought him, and doing so at a time when a lot of politicians, trying to keep their jobs, are fleeing from the President and his band in droves. He has chosen to fundraise with the President, the Vice-President, and in the coming weeks, with Karl Rove. Each time he does it, he does raise more money. For the Democrats. But you have to admire the determination and loyalty.

Congressman Reichert's voter notes are pure boilerplate - He's been honored to represent us, a brief resume of the work so far, several reminders that he was Sherrif (protector role), an amusing statement about standing up to Big Oil (which everyone seems to be doing this day - If I they stand against me, will I be able to get record profits?), and a polite thank you. Pretty typical stuff, but then he's not running against anyone in this race, and by the time we get to the general, the info here will be overrun by events of the campaign. Much like the man - low risk.

His opponent is anointed by the Democratic apparatus by a different path. Darcy Burner is not "of the body" of the local Dems - not one of the locals. About a year ago, the Dems were not thinking seriously about the 8th as a swing district, and whoever took up the run would be more of a sacrificial lamb. Into that environment comes former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner, who through strong grassroots and Internet fundraising, managed to move aside the usual suspects and become, much the surprise of those in charge, the anointed flagbearer for the Dems in the 8th. At the same time, faith in the dominant national party has dropped through the floor, and the 8th has moved from "safe Republican" to "toss-up" - indeed, a recent poll just put Burner in front of Reichert for the first time, and this is while she is still introducing herself to the electorate.

Burner, as benefits the challenger, comes out swinging. Lays out her story - army brat, microsoft manager, mom, self-made woman. Then she hits the issues in a series of italicized points. Accountability. Real support for the troops and vets. Standing up to Big Oil (told you - all the cool kids are doing it). Protecting Social Security. Improving Education. Each a heading with a punchline. Simple and direct. Reads like a Power Point presentation.

I have a warm spot in my heart for Burner, in that she fought her way to the table and gained her sole position on the ballot, as opposed to being recruited by a group of supposedly wiser heads (As I mentioned last time - they ended up with a radio talk show host). She's a fistfull of new ideas at a time when everyone is realizing that the old ones aren't working out. Her fundraising has been prodigious, though Reichert, other than his taxpayer-funded carpet bombing of pamphlets, has kept his powder dry. He's saving up his cash and his support from the mainline Republicans, for the big fight.

And it looks like its going to be a big fight.

More later,