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Reichert versus Burner, Round 2
Nearing the Nov. 4 general election, Reporter Newspapers asked the candidates for U.S. representative in the 8th District – the incumbent, Republican Dave Reichert, and Democrat Darcy Burner – about some of the issues that are on constituents' minds, and about the claims the candidates – who are in a rerun of their race two years ago that Reichert won narrowly – have been making about each other.
The district includes Covington, Maple Valley and Black Diamond among other eastern King County and Pierce County areas.
Here's what Burner and Reichert said:
The economy is the No. 1 concern she's hearing about, she said, adding her plan to restore the economy and people's faith in it includes:
• "We have to stimulate the economy and give permanent middle-class tax cuts." She'd double the standard deductions, double child tax credits and make sales tax deductions permanent.
• "We have to make investments to help grow the economy." Investments in roads and transportation, schools and education, new technologies and new green industries would provide jobs in the short and the long term, she said.
• "We need real fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. We've seen our rainy-day fund being shipped to Iraq instead of investing in schools, roads and technology." She supports a pay-as-you-go plan to make officials live within their means, just as average households must.
With regard to healthcare, Burner said it's imperative to give every American access to health insurance. Even those who have it "are struggling to pay the premiums and being nickled and dimed," such as having "a co-pay to see the doctor, then another co-pay for a prescription and yet another to go to a lab," she said. "We have to bring down overall costs. Insurance companies' profits and overhead are half of what is spent in the healthcare system, and that's incredibly broken."
Another problem, said Burner, is that many don't cover preventive care, causing people to wait until they're sick before they seek treatment. "Covering care to keep people healthy is more economical. Other countries spend half of what we do, with better outcomes and fewer problems," she said.
On education, Burner – the daughter of a public-school teacher and the parent of a kindergarten student in a public school – said that to ensure the best education for every child, "we have to have resources" and "keep students, parents, teachers, schools and administrators accountable." Most of all, Burner noted, she prefers that "good teachers get paid more and bad teachers don't get paid to teach our kids."
Responding to her opponent's claim that she lacks experience, Burner said, "The real question is he's got to be effective doing the job — that's what people are looking for." She said her background in the private sector (as a manager at Microsoft) and knowledge of economics have given her the skills to be effective in Congress.
Reichert "has demonstrated he can't do the job, ranking 401st out of 439 members of Congress, below people who can't vote in Congress. You'd get more effective representation in American Samoa or Guam. It's a changeable thing."
Burner also believes Reichert is "not really hearing what the middle class needs or wants." In addition to his views on the economy, "100 percent of the time, he's voted with the president on our Iraq plan — he has no plan for ending the war in Iraq," she said.
On the economy, Reichert said, "People should recognize government is a place where we should be looking for people to be gathering facts — on how we got here. How we got here will lead us to the solution." Mentioning his experience as a former King County sheriff, he emphasized the need to "gather facts, opposed to a $700 billion bailout with no strings attached."
On Burner's plan for fixing the economy, Reichert said she is "using sleight-of-hand in her plan to give $4,000 to middle-income families." He said that as one member of 435 in the House, "you must have agreement, support on the floor in the House, then the Senate. It has to come back with a vote. She's not giving anybody a tax cut. When you talk about the economic crisis, the first thing is to have an investigation into the legislative process and come up with the root causes."
He said the system needs "reform and transparency – a system that holds people accountable. In a free country, burglars are arrested, taken to jail, held accountable. In a free market, we must still have rules and regulations. Someone who takes your credit card needs to be held accountable. I think we were going along so well, people got so comfortable, people became lax in their practices."
Some consumers weren't honest about their income when applying for mortgages, he said, "but there are people who were targets of predatory systems."
Reichert added that he favors new energies "to provide jobs and be environmentally friendly and conscious, but also one of the things to kick-start our economy."
Regarding healthcare, he said, "We have to have a safety net for those who can't afford it. The government needs to do this."
Some have suggested a universal healthcare plan like those in Canada or Great Britain, but, "people from Canada are coming here because they don't have choice of doctors. Insurance companies have too much say in the medical care people receive," Reichert said. He said lack of healthcare and lack of education are intertwined in causing many of the problems in our society. He described a "very clear cycle" of families struggling and having to make choices like, "'do I buy food tonight or do I send my child to the doctor?' The cycle is financial strife, a low-paying job which often leads to alcohol, drug abuse, domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, kids running away."
Reichert added that he personally lived that way, hiding in closets with his siblings and using pillows to drown out the sounds of their parents fighting.
"All people have high potential. We need to make sure kids are educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics," he said, adding that he supports increases of Pell Grants, scholarships and early-childhood education programs and noting that he is endorsed by the National and Washington Education Associations (NEA and WEA ), which is "unusual for a Republican."
"In both education and healthcare, it's all about prevention — putting people first, preparing them for the global economy," said Reichert.
Responding to Burner's claims that he is "ineffective," he said, "She has been distorting my record — it's the only way she can win this race." Reichert said that since first being elected to Congress in 2004, he has passed eight bills, nine amendments and two resolutions, with five of those bills and six amendments being passed as a member of the minority party. He also said he was the sixth freshman congressman in history to be a subcommittee chairman, leading the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology just nine months after taking office. "If that's not effective, what is?" Reichert asked.
ABOUT THE CANDIDATES
Reichert was born in Minnesota, the oldest of seven children. He moved to Washington in 1951 and graduated from Kent-Meridian High School in the Kent School District and, later, Concordia Lutheran College in Portland, Ore. He and his wife, Julie, have been married more than 35 years and have three adult children and six grandchildren. He's a former member of the Air Force Reserves.
Burner was one of five children in a military family that lived in several small towns throughout America. At Harvard University, she earned a degree in computer science and economics. She worked at software companies in Boston, Mass. and San Francisco, Calif. before she and her husband, Mike, parents of a 5-year-old son, returned to Washington in 1998. She was a manager at Microsoft from 2000 to 2006.