The Republicans have gotten very extreme and an end to that is part of the importance of this election, said Darcy Burner.
by Cat Rambo
SGN Contributing Writer
Darcy Burner is seeking to unseat Congressman Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District. The heated race has drawn the attention of both parties, because the balance of power in Congress remains in question.
Burner has succeeded where others have failed, linking the Republican Representative to the policys of the White House and the Republican controlled Congress, which according to polls, have grown increasingly unpopular.
During a visit to her campaign headquarters this week, it was apparent that everyone understood that the chances for a Democratic takeover of Congress lay firmly in their hands. A constant whir of the copy machines could be heard and a flow of volunteers came and went; some taking up phones, others spreading papers out on every open surface. While a few Halloween pumpkins hung on the walls, most of the decor was red white and blue bunting and charts of the district.
Burner's success can also be attributed to her broad appeal. She came from a military family, graduated from Harvard and made a name for herself at Microsoft. Shes also a mom, who speaks about the need to improve the future for the next generation.
Burner, a well-spoken and quick presence, took a half hour to answer questions from the Seattle Gay News about her campaign and her positions on some of the issues of concern to the regions Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.
Seattle Gay News: How does your Microsoft background affect your approach to politics? Is it something that has shaped it?
Darcy Burner: It is. One of the biggest things is that Microsoft at its core is about democratizing computing and making it possible for everyone to participate. We have the vision of a computer on every desktop, in every home. You end up with applications like Visual Basic that allow virtually anyone who's interested to program, instead of reserving it for an elite and powerful few. And to a large extent that's exactly the battle we're seeing play out on the national scene politically right now. Should the power be reserved for an elite few? Or do we want to democratize that in a meaningful way?
SGN: Every season, it seems as though people say that this campaign is the dirtiest ever, but it does seem as though there is a mean spiritedness and divisiveness that has popped up in politics in the past decade. Does that match your experience, and how would you account for it?
DB: I will admit that one of the frustrations for me has been the degree to which my opponent and the Republicans send out information that is simply, obviously false. They like to cite radio shows that I've never been on, for example. That's frustrating, particularly when I'm running a campaign that is very, very principled about only saying things that are true. We talk about my background, my values, where it is I think this country needs to go, and how my opponent has actually voted. And that's enough! The voters of this district are ready to fire him based on how he has voted. And they accuse me of mudslinging for talking about his voting record.
SGN: One of the things I did when preparing for this interview was poke around on YouTube, where I found a lot of commercials for both sides. Have you consciously used YouTube and other websites in this campaign?
DB: We use every communication vehicle we can to reach voters and people who want to help us get elected. We send out newsletters. I make lots of phone calls. We send letters and direct mail to people. We use television. We use the Internet. We've had our website since I got started. It seemed like an obvious thing to do, given my particular background. As other technologies, such as blogs, have gotten more engaged, we've used them. We've done webcasts. We realized quickly that YouTube was a useful tool, so we've certainly put materials up on YouTube.
SGN: One of the charges voters have made against Dave Reichert is that he's a rubber-stamp Republican. How do you plan to avoid letting partisan politics affect you?
DB: I would love to get to a place in American politics where we have civil discourse and a real effort to work toward the good of the American people across the philosophical differences that separate the two parties. I grew up in a Republican household. I know plenty of Republicans, and the principled Republicans that I know have a legitimate perspective about the need for fiscal policy; the need for personal responsibility. Those things are legitimate. And I think that the Democrats have a legitimate counter in the need to invest in the common good. Having those two things -- people with both of those philosophies working together for the good of this country --would be incredibly constructive. Unfortunately, what we have right now is one party rule, where the Democrats can't even get things out of committee for consideration. The Republicans have gotten very extreme and an end to that is part of the importance of this election.
SGN: One of the charges Dave Reichart has made in turn is that you're not experienced enough for the position. What experiences do you have that you think would qualify you?
DB: I have pulled myself up by the bootstraps and gotten myself a fantastic education. I spent a dozen years working in some of the most critical economic engines not only in this district but in this country. I understand how we create jobs, how we deliver goods, [and] how we deliver services. And what the lives of people in this district are like. What is it like to figure out how you're going to pay for housing, and pre-school, and have both adults in a household working. How you're going to balance all of those things. Those are really valuable experiences.
SGN: You've stressed health care in your campaign, and that's an area of common to Gays and Lesbians due to discrepancies in how same-sex partners are treated. What can be done to rectify such inequities?
DB: There are two approaches, both of which I would advocate. One is that there is a crisis in the health care system generally. We have got to make sure that every American can get the health care they need in an affordable way. And that isn't the case right now. And I can go into great detail as to why that isn't the case, but I'll start with just that statement. We should make sure that happens for every American. And obviously if we solve that problem, we solve that problem for everyone. The other piece of it is that we should ensure that people are treated fairly. And obviously while we're taking steps in that direction, the Federal government has not kept up with a lot of the states in terms of things like domestic partner benefits and ensuring that committed couples are treated fairly at the Federal as well as the state level.
SGN: That segues nicely into the next question, which is whether Gay rights are something that should be determined at the state or at the federal level?
DB: Both. Because all civil rights are determined at both levels.
SGN: Medicaid rules right now are being altered so they will not fund gender reassignment surgery even when doctor recommended. What is your position on this issue?
DB: I think that medical decisions are best left to doctors and their patients, without arbitrary interference from politicians.
SGN: In July, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the 1998 ban on same-sex marrriage. What is your position on the ban?
DB: Governments should treat people fairly. Making sure that committed couples have an opportunity to get the benefits that the government provides when you go see your loved one in the hospital or inheritance rights or child custody rights are incredibly important.
SGN: In a speech in front of the Democratic National Convention, you called this current moment one of the most dangerous times in American history. Can you elaborate on that?
DB: The Constitution of this country is being undermined right now. There is a real threat to the idea of checks and balances, to separation of powers, to separation of church and state, [and] the right to due process -- those basic Constitutional values are all under active attack right now. It is critical to the future of this country that we defend those Constitutional values successfully.
SGN: How much do you think Bush's low approval rating will affect this election?
DB: Rather a lot, I think. The reason is that in this one party rule that we have right now, George Bush sets the agenda. And, so, in a very real way, the voters have a choice to face about whether they want to continue on the path that George Bush has us on or whether they want to change course.
SGN: I noticed that the Seattle Times had recently endorsed Dave Reichart. Why have they picked him?
DB: You would have to ask them, I can only speculate. But I can make a couple of observations. First, several members of the Seattle Times editorial board have the last name Blevin. And their number one issue right now is the repeal of the estate tax. And Congressman Reichart has made it clear that he fully supports the repeal of the estate tax. The only way they're likely to get that repeal is if the Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives. This race is critical to that control.
SGN: Do you have any fears about election fraud this coming election?
DB: I think all of us are concerned about the possibility. Though in this race, in these counties, they use paper ballots and scan in the paper ballots. And because we had the opportunity to do a hand recount last time and to compare the totals from the paper ballots to the totals of the ones the machines scanned, we know there was no substantial difference between the two, which suggests it is not a huge problem here or at least wasn't in 2004. That being said, we obviously need to fix the laws to elections to ensure that every valid ballot is counted exactly once.
SGN: Who would you like to see as the next Democratic president?
DB: I'll be honest, I haven't been thinking about it. (Laughs.) I've had a few other things to think about. I have met a few of the people who are considered to be contenders. I have only good things to say about any of them. It's good that the Democrats will have some good choices.
SGN: One of your campaign commercials focuses on the idea that the American Dream is slipping away and that we need to "get the dream back". What does the American Dream mean to you?
DB: People who work hard should have real opportunities to do well.
SGN: You've mentioned that the birth of your child, and the idea that you wanted a better world for him, as the main impetus for getting into politics. What responsibility do you think the individual has to get into politics? Should we all be out there getting involved with them?
DB: I think it would be a very constructive thing for this country and this world if everyone was at least a little bit engaged. I don't mean that everyone has to run for office, obviously. But being well informed about the issues and the campaigns, actively seeking out information, working on understanding at least some of the issues that you care most about in a substantive way and then doing what you can -- in your personal life, in your professional life, on a volunteer level, on a peer basis, whatever -- doing what you can to make the world at least a little bit better place than it used to be.