- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2006

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Washington’s 8th Congressional District is emblematic of this year’s battle for Congress, with Democrats working their hardest to link Republicans in power to President Bush.

Darcy Burner says her chances of ousting freshman Rep. Dave Reichert — and giving the Democrats a seat in their bid to recapture the House — are good because state residents are weary of the president.

“George Bush has taken this country in the wrong direction, and Congress has an obligation to stand up to him and fight for the people of this district,” Mrs. Burner said.

Mr. Reichert is one of the Republican centrists in Congress and reminds voters at every opportunity that he is not afraid to be an independent voice for their needs.

“He has bucked the party and leadership many times, which is no small feat for a freshman,” said Carol Beaudu, Mr. Reichert’s campaign spokeswoman.

For example, he voted to overturn Mr. Bush’s veto of a bill authorizing embryonic-stem-cell research and has opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and many other top Republicans have come to the state to campaign for Mr. Reichert, making him an easy target for Democrats who call him “rubber-stamp Reichert.”

When White House strategist Karl Rove visited on behalf of Mr. Reichert last Friday, Mrs. Burner received more than $50,000 in an online counter-fundraiser.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat facing her own re-election campaign, hosted the online drive, calling the race one of the country’s most “hotly contested.”

“There’s a major political upset in the making here in Washington state, one that could tilt the balance of power in Congress to the Democrats,” Miss Cantwell told supporters.

“They know they can’t afford to lose this seat, and they are pulling out all the stops: George Bush has been here, Dick Cheney has been here, and now it’s Karl Rove’s turn.”

Mrs. Burner isn’t shy about tying Mr. Reichert to the president, and said she was not surprised to see the race generate national attention.

“We’ve been working hard to make it that,” she said. “About nine times out of every 10, when the president tells him to do something, he gets in line and says, ‘Yes, sir.’”

Mrs. Burner, 35, is a former Microsoft executive and mother to a toddler. She was raised in a Republican military family and is married to a veteran who served in Iraq. She has never run for political office.

She said Republicans have lost the ideals for which they once stood, such as fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Reichert, 56, a former sheriff who was in the Air Force Reserve, says on his Web site that he is a man of integrity who “transcends partisanship.”

Mr. Reichert garnered 52 percent of the vote when he won the open seat in 2004. His strengths are his independence and his role as chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on emergency preparedness, science and technology, Miss Beaudu said.

He authored the 21st Century Emergency Communications Act, which passed earlier this year by a vote of 414-2.

“The biggest issue is our security and our preparedness, and that’s what’s the congressman is campaigning on,” she said, noting that the state is one of the closest to North Korea. “People know him and trust him.”

Miss Beaudu cited an August poll showing Mr. Reichert winning by a large margin, while the Burner campaign references a poll from two weeks ago showing the Democrat with a three-point lead over the incumbent.

Each candidate has raised more than $1 million in the race, which has made the “battleground” lists used by both parties, but only Mrs. Burner is running television ads so far.

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