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Darcy Burner
This isn't the first time I've interviewed congressional candidate Darcy Burner, but a lot sure has changed since. In 2006, I was approaching the end of a multi-month trip across the country visiting the campaigns of all the "netroots-endorsed" candidates. Our crew had started on the East coast, trekked all the way back through the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains, and had finally arrived back to the Pacific Ocean for one of our final stops before election day. I didn't know much about Burner other than that she was a first-time candidate who used to work in technology and was giving incumbent Republican Dave Reichert the fight of his political life in Washington's Eighth District.

Over the course of that adventure, I got to meet many candidates and elected officials whom I admire, but Darcy was different. As I wrote five years ago:

Darcy's mannerisms are very gentle and softspoken, but still emotional and passionate, and that's what impressed me the most when I heard her speak for the first time--especially when it came to the subject of the occupation of Iraq.  When Darcy spoke of a need to change the course in Iraq and figure out a way to bring our troops home, you could hear the concern and the worry in her voice.  It's not just a talking point for her--as she explained to us in an interview after the candidate forum, Darcy comes from a military family.  Her father served.  Her brother is currently serving, as are her cousins.  This isn't just some policy abstraction; they're real people.  Her friends and relatives.  And it's a large part of why she's running.

But again, I have to say--Darcy is just such a wonderful human being.  She described herself as a two-income suburban mom running for Congress, and when all is said and done, she acts like it...but the thing about Darcy is that with many candidates, there's something that seems to separate you from them--something intangible that you can't quite identify.  But with Darcy, that doesn't exist.  She's a "regular person" who decided to do the one thing she knew how to do to help fix this country: run for office.

Things are different now. Darcy lost two heartbreakers against Reichert, but went to work organizing by founding Progressive Congress and amplifying the force of the progressive wing in DC. Now that the decennial redistricting process will almost certainly draw Darcy's home into the blue seat of WA-01, she is seeking a seat in Congress once again.

How is the district you’re running for now different from what you ran for last time?

In the redistricting process, Washington state is picking up a tenth district, a new district which means that all of the lines are being rejiggered. All of the information we have suggests that they’re taking the most Democratic part of the the Eighth District, in which I had run, and a bunch of the neighboring portions of the [old] First District, and combining them into the new First District. It’s a district that’s currently held by Jay Inslee, who’s running for Governor, so it will be an open seat, and we don’t have final lines, but it will be a fairly Democratic district.

When you ran the first two times, you were more like an outsider, an activist. Now you’ve had experience dealing with Washington through your work with Progressive Congress. What did you learn?

DC is incredibly broken. Part of the problem is a culture in which too few people are fighting for the 99% and normal Americans. It is far too easy for most members of Congress to just do what lobbyists and big donors want them to do, and far too many of them do. Obviously we have some great progressive members but there aren’t enough of them.

In previous campaigns, your netroots support was able to scare off potential opponents and generate media headlines, sometimes raising six figures in one day in online small-dollar donations. Are the netroots still capable of that sort of targeted focus, or has the movement become too normalized?

No, that definitely still happens. Just look at the case of Elizabeth Warren when she declared for Senate. She was able to raise over $3 million online, most of it from small-dollar donations.  That energy is still there, and might be even stronger.

Running for a blue open seat is a little different from running against a Bush rubber stamp like Dave Reichert. How will this campaign be different?

There are about a zillion Democrats running in the primary, some of whom are personal friends. But we have done polling and I currently lead, and actually get more support than all other Democrats combined. So we’re in a position to win this race.

You’re running at a time when women’s representation in Congress is at a low ebb. Is that something you think about?

I do think about that a lot. The greatest strength of this country is its diversity, and we need to have a Congress that looks a lot more like this country. I think it would be great if we had a Congress that was 50% women. I think we also need to have a Congress with more Native American representation, more African American representation, more Latino representation. Congress should look like what the American people look like.

Who are you most looking forward to working with in Congress if you're elected?

That would be a long list! I’ve definitely enjoyed working with Raul Grivalva. Congressman Brad Miller from North Carolina is a lot of fun. And I’m looking forward to being in there with Norm Dicks and the other great members of the Washington delegation. We’re also very lucky in Washington State to have Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell as our Senators. So there are a lot of people.

What would be your first piece of legislation?

The first vote I would look forward to making is to vote for a new Speaker. I would be very proud to have the first vote I cast in Congress be to elect Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. From the point of view of legislation, We need to do things to rein in Wall Street. We should have what’s called a Tobin tax, a financial transaction tax on Wall Street trades to dissuade the kind of market manipulation that’s so common right now.

There are people, Democrats even, who argue that the same trades would still occur, just on foreign markets.

I don’t think that will happen because US markets have a well-defined set of rules and regulations that make trading here more attractive. But the other thing that needs to happen is that we need actual criminal prosecutions for some of these fraud cases, not just civil suits. We need criminal prosecutions when bankers knowingly misrepresent the value of assets. It should be an actual crime, not just a civil suit, when they destroy other people’s assets for their own gain. It should be a crime when they sell investors things that they know are worthless and then make money betting against them. That should be a crime, not just a civil suit.

In other works, Citibank people should be prosecuted for betting against the crappy assets they sold, instead of just getting away with a settlement.

Exactly.

So, with a zillion Democrats running for this district, what makes you the one to represent the new First District?

We already have a bunch of people in Congress who play the go-along-to-get-along game. We don’t need someone else like that. We need people who will actually fight, and that’s what I’m going to do.

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