I like Darcy Burner. She is a fire-breathing, flame-throwing, quick-witted, pit-bull progressive in the mold of Anthony Weiner or Alan Grayson. Sadly, she lost two times in Washington's 8th Congressional District to incumbent Dave Reichert. I am happy she is back in the hunt in Washington's soon to be redrawn 1st District.
The 8th District has never elected a Democrat. In 2008, Darcy, running as an unabashed liberal, had Reichert on the ropes, and would have won, but she made a fatal campaign mistake on the final stretch that cost her the election.
As the election grew near, Darcy shifted her emphasis from ending the war in Iraq to the faltering economy. In a few late stump speeches, Darcy said something like "I liked economics so much I got a degree in it". Darcy's Harvard degree is in Computer Science with a special field of economics. It is the equivalent of a minor in economics. Her Harvard professor agreed that it was legitimate to say she earned a degree in economics, but the press thought otherwise. Headlines that read "Burner lied about Harvard degree", led voters to believe Darcy had no degree at all from Harvard. Polls, and early voting, showed Darcy up five percent on Reichert at the time ballots hit the mailboxes. But an onslaught of bad press and radio talk show chicanery turned the tides, and in the end, Reichert snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
The point is, Darcy was electable in the purple 8th against an incumbent, which means she is potentially very electable in the open and presumably bluer 1st, depending on how the final re-districting lines are drawn. But to win, Darcy must first make it through the primary. That might not be easy.
First, there are lingering problems between Darcy and some of the Democratic activists. Even though Darcy worked on the Dave Ross campaign in 2004, there was a perception among the party faithful that she was uninvolved, and unconcerned with Democratic politics prior to running for office. She showed up pretty much out of the blue, announced she was running as a Democrat, then appeared at county and district meetings asking for money and grass roots support. Having never run for lower office or participated at the county, district, or precinct level, and saddled with a spotty voting record, many party loyalists were less than enthused with her candidacy. The attitude was basically, "sure, she is here now that she needs us, but where was she when we needed her?". Some of my Democratic friends, much to my chagrin, were never won over. They voted for her, of course, but didn't give money or pound the pavement on her behalf. I doubt she will get many of those votes in a primary against experienced, reputable opponents.
Second, the brutal facts are that she is a two time loser, and has never held office. This gives an advantage to her more politically successful challengers.
Another potential problem for Darcy is that her new house is currently in the 8th District, and there is a decent possibility it won't land in the redrawn 1st.
Finally, the degree dustup will come back to haunt her. I don't think anything will be made of it by primary opponents, because there isn't anything to it. But voters know that her general election opponent will make it an issue, and pair the degree fluffing with a faux pas in her first campaign where her website listed her experience with Microsoft as "executive" rather than "program manager", which is executive in nature, but was not technically an executive position within the company. Thus, according to her past opponent, she demonstrated a habit of exaggerating her credentials to compensate for what was branded as a "weak resume". Of course her resume has been bolstered by her work with the Progressive Congress, but I don't see that helping her with independent and moderate voters, and the primary is going to be about, among other things, who is the most electable in the general.
Darcy hasn't previously faced a viable primary challenger. This time will be different. There are four, very good, experienced elected or formerly elected State legislators in the race. My fellow Democratic party activist friends tend to prefer experienced Congressional candidates with a demonstrated ability to win elections.
When I add it all up, I don't see a cake-walk for Darcy.
Following is a brief primer on the competition. There are a couple of other, novice candidates, Darshan Rauniyar and Andrew Hughes, that I do not address because I don't consider them viable. I've had conversations with both of them and they are very decent guys, but I expect they won't compete financially or present any problems for Darcy.
Marco Liias: Marco is an openly gay former Mukilteo City Council member and current State Representative serving as Vice Chair of the House Transportation Committee. As a student at Georgetown, Marco spent a semester studying in Prague and traveling in Europe. He has also taken University of Washington graduate courses in public administration. In his private life, Marco was a "green" residential construction contractor, free lance reporter, and news researcher. Marco is very well liked by my progressive Democratic colleagues.
Steve Hobbs: Hobbs is definitely the studliest candidate, with perhaps the most impressive public service record of the field. He is a current state Senator for Washington's 44th LD, and decorated National Guard reservist who served in Iraq and Kosovo. He is chair of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee. Hobbs is a University of Washington graduate with a B.A. in political science and an M.P.A. from the University's Evans School. He has previously worked for the financial arm of Sears, and is currently a facilities manager for the University of Washington. Hobbs promises to work across party lines to get things done. (Admirable, to be sure, but good luck with that!)
"In order to get our country back on track we need to create family-wage jobs, invest in American infrastructure and business, and provide opportunity for young people.""
Laura Ruderman: Laura is a former State representative for six years who initially defeated a Republican incumbent in a Republican district. She left the House to run for Secretary of State, losing to Republican Sam Reed. She also lost a bid for Chair of the State Democratic Party. Laura has a reputation for being a bit of a blue-dog, and might have a hard time wrangling grass roots support from the other top tier candidates. I am, however, encouraged by this nugget from her website:
"Nor do I believe in a future in which we try to balance the budget on the backs of public employees and strip them of their collective bargaining rights. Organized labor has been part of implementing every social and economic justice policy we have in place today. Now is not the time to throw our cops, our firefighters, our nurses, and our teachers under the bus."Laura is a former Microsoft web producer, Democratic fundraiser, and is very accomplished at raising money. She is highly intelligent, well-spoken, nice looking, and an impressive retail politicker. I would not take her lightly.
Roger Goodman: A current member of the State House, Roger is a brainiac, blunt speaking environmental attorney, former lawyer for the DNC, and committed anti-drug war crusader who advocates legalization of pot. He has an A.B. degree from Dartmouth, a J.D. from George Washington University, and an M.P.A. from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He currently serves as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Roger's top priority, like Jay Inslee who is vacating the seat to run for Governor, is the environment.
"You know it's pretty clear that we are approaching a climate crisis. It's not in the headlines anymore, but it's time to sound the alarm. Frankly, I'm really sick of this phony science that tries to disprove it all; it's so clear. The snow pack is melting in the mountains, the ice caps are melting in the poles, the currents of the oceans are changing radically, there are droughts all over the world, like never before."
Roger presents a bit of a conundrum for me personally. In July, Darcy told me, convincingly, that she was not going to run. Afterwards, I jumped on the Goodman bandwagon, and have supported him. I even walked with him in a parade. I won't oppose Darcy, but I don't want to oppose Roger, either. I'm a bit tempted to sit out the primary altogether.
I should also mention that Department of Revenue Director and former Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene, Darcy's replacement as Dave Reichert's opponent in 2010, might also enter the race. The First District, although bluer than the 8th, is likely to be fairly moderate overall, which might set up well for DelBene, who is a very wealthy moderate with a stellar resume. If her Medina mansion lands in the re-drawn 1st, I think there is a good chance she'll file. She is extremely likable, and her experience in 2010 plus the ability to raise boat loads of money makes her very dangerous.
Ultimately, a Congressional race is more about money than anything else. This bodes well for Darcy, although the other two ex-Microsoft women should be able to keep pace, and DelBene could blow any of them away if she wanted to dig just a little bit into her very deep pocket.
Bottom line, Darcy has her work cut out for her. I'm convinced she would be the feistiest, most progressive Congressperson of the field, although I consider Goodman and Liias to be reliable progressives as well. I'm not as sure about Hobbs and Ruderman.
Despite Darcy's internal poll that shows she has more support than all other candidates combined, I suspect this will develop into a wild, wide open primary.
By the way, believe it or not, it is possible that no Democratic candidate makes it through the primary. In Washington, we have this really stupid top two primary system. All the candidates from all parties are on the ballot, and the top two vote-getters move on to the general election. If there are, for example, six Democrats, a Green Party candidate, an independent, and two Republicans on the ballot, Democratic vote dilution could result in a Republican vs. Republican general election. Wouldn't that just be swell.