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June 20, 2007

Two consider party challenge to Burner in 8th District

Posted by David Postman at 6:30 PM

Two Democratic state legislators are thinking about getting into the 8th District congressional primary where they would challenge fellow Democrat and netroots favorite Darcy Burner. Burner, a former Microsoft manager, has already launched her second run for the nomination to challenge Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and a recent Democratic convert, confirmed today he is seriously considering a run. He has talked to Burner about it and continues to talk to other Democrats.

Tom has also talked with state Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw, who Tom says is also thinking about getting in the Democratic primary. King County Democratic Chairwoman Susan Sheary said people have talked to her about both Tom and/or Hurst getting in the race, but she hadn't heard from either directly.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz would say only:

"Darcy Burner is running hard for Congress and I have heard there are one or more Democrats testing the waters."

Hurst, who represents parts of Pierce and King counties in the rural end of the 8th District, could not be reached. I'm also waiting to hear back from Burner.

Tom was quick to say he likes Burner. He wouldn't say anything about conversations they've had about the possibility he would run against her.

"We did talk. I guess I'd rather keep that private. I have a high regard for Darcy. Again, I keep coming back to, 'Who can best win the 8th?'

"The 8th is a moderate district and if there's a strong moderate out there, it's me. I think I share their values and I think I fit this district really well. The thing you have to remember is the 8th isn't about just winning in '08. But you have to have someone who can stay around in the long run and I think I can fit that profile."

There had been an effort to draft state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Bellevue, into the race and he was seriously considering it. But Hunter has had a recurrence of cancer and told me recently he will be going through a relatively aggressive treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

I'm focusing all my energy on this effort now, and will be for the next several months.

As a result I do not expect to get into the 8th race this year, even though I'm incredibly upset at the inept handling of foreign policy, the complete lack of any fiscal discipline, and complete lack of progress towards any reasonable kind of universal health care, a topic I have a new interest in.

Tom has had a fast rise in the Democratic party. He only became a Democrat last year. After two terms in the state House as a Republican, he switched parties in March 2006. He said at the time "the far right has complete control of the" GOP and the Democratic Party was a better ideological fit for him.

As he would in the 8th, he faced a fellow Democrat in his Senate primary. But after Tom lined up support from many party leaders, Debi Golden dropped out and gave Tom clear sailing to November.

In the general, he beat incumbent Republican Sen. Luke Esser, who now serves as the state Republican Party chairman. Tom would be in the midst of a four-year Senate term next year and could run for Congress without giving up his legislative seat.

Tom said he would make a decision within the next month. He said that he hears two main arguments for and against a primary challenge to Burner: give her a chance, or she's had her chance. The argument for Burner says she ran a strong race last year and proved herself to be a great fundraiser and deserves another shot. The argument against is that 2006 was the best possible year for Democrats and still she fell short and its time for a different candidate to try. Tom said:

"So far the reception has been very, very strong. But I guess what I'm trying to do is come in with very open eyes, trying not to hear what I want to hear. I'm trying to be very judicious about this. ... They key is we need new representation in the 8th and what is the best way of making that happen."

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