Republican officials scoffed when Darcy Burner -- a former executive with computer software giant Microsoft but a first-time candidate for public office -- emerged as the Democratic challenger to freshman GOP Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington's 8th District. The Republicans contended Burner was a weak choice to take on Reichert, who won a close 2004 race in the politically competitive suburban Seattle district on the strength of his long tenure as the elected sheriff of King County.
But Burner's strong debut as a campaign fundraiser and her growing list of endorsements from key Democratic support groups have made it harder for her opposition to argue that she is a "B-list" recruit. Though Reichert appears to maintain at least a slight edge in the fall contest, CQPolitics.com has changed its rating on the race to its more competitive Leans Republican category from Republican Favored.
Burner got her latest boost on Monday when the Sierra Club, a leading environmentalist group, announced its support for her.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic party's House campaign arm, placed her on a short list of challengers who are receiving enhanced fundraising assistance and logistical support from the party, and is backed by the influential political action committee EMILY's List, which supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights.
Reichert is high on the Democrats' target list because his district's voters are divided almost evenly between the two parties. Reichert's record as sheriff -- which included capture of the notorious "Green River" serial killer -- enabled him to defeat Democrat Dave Ross, a well-known Seattle-based radio talk show host, in 2004 with 51.5 percent and a 5 percentage-point margin. But at the same time, a shift of swing voters gave Democrat John Kerry a 51 percent to 48 percent edge over President Bush in the 8th.
That made Reichert one of just 17 House Republicans elected in a district that went Democratic for president.
As a result, this year's 8th District race is widely viewed as one of the key contests that will measure the impact on House Republicans in marginal districts of the sharp dropoff in Bush's popularity -- and support for the war in Iraq that the president initiated -- since the 2004 election.
The rewards and risks of Reichert's ties to Bush were evident after the president attended a joint fundraiser for the candidate and the state Republican Party in Seattle in June. The event netted $400,000 for Reichert's campaign -- but gave the Burner camp the pretext for portraying the incumbent as a "rubber stamp" for the Bush administration.
It was because of the local excitement and organizing and buzz building that we added Darcy Burner to the netroots Actblue page. Once they're done celebrating, they can get back to the hard work of winning this race.
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