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Sunday, October 15, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Times endorses

Reichert in the 8th

While there is a compelling reason for change in Congress, the case to replace Congressman Dave Reichert in the 8th District has not been made.

The Auburn Republican deserves re-election. The former King County sheriff has an impressive record of public service and has shown a conscience-driven independent streak that reflects his moderate district. For starters, he refused to play along with his party on the atrocious Terri Schiavo spectacle. He also opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a key part of President Bush's energy policy.

Two years ago, The Times endorsed his opponent in a race to fill the open seat created by Rep. Jennifer Dunn's retirement. But Reichert has earned our endorsement this time.

He has matured in the job and his voting on complicated issues reflects that. His experience as a first-responder has been a strength. As a freshman, he received the rare responsibility of chairing a key homeland-security subcommittee.

Opponent Darcy Burner criticizes him for changing some positions, but Reichert shows a capacity for appreciating nuance and an appetite for seeking answers himself and making up his own mind. After initially opposing stem-cell research, he investigated the issue, visiting researchers at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He sought answers, found them and changed his position.

He surprised many recently by saying he's not convinced about how much global warming is caused by human action. We are convinced it's a substantial contributing factor.

But Reichert says he's skeptical, so he's investigating. That's a better approach than adopting a ready-made ideology. He dared to be honest with the Sierra Club, whose endorsement he sought unsuccessfully.

That is Reichert's strength. He is a not an ideologue like U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, the Pasco Republican who does the bidding of House Republican leadership.

On the other hand, it is hard to discern where Burner differs from the Democratic Party line.

The former Microsoft manager is smart and argues effectively for change — if only she were running against President Bush.

Which she is not.

Burner's public-service record pales in comparison to Reichert's, a law-enforcement officer for more than three decades.

As her only public-spirited pursuits, Burner offers youth coaching and a stint on her community club board. Perhaps more troubling is her spotty voting record. She missed either primary or general election votes in four years, starting in 2000.

Burner shifts the blame again, arguing the only voting record that matters is Reichert's. Right, his matters. But voting is a fundamental obligation of every citizen. It matters that she, as an adult, didn't take it seriously.

Still more disappointingly, Burner has run a mean-spirited campaign that would make Republican spinmeister Karl Rove proud. In The Seattle Times/KUOW-FM congressional debate last week, she accused Reichert of "lying." She called him "unprincipled" and "politically crass."

Those charges ring particularly hollow considering one of Burner's approved campaign ads shamelessly obfuscates the truth about Reichert's support of veterans funding. She says he voted to cut funding for veterans services. The truth is, he voted for a budget that increases funding for veterans services but its nonbinding, out-year projections, unlikely to be implemented, look like reductions.

Besides, Reichert coordinated a delegation letter urging increases and bucked his party to support unsuccessfully an amendment to add $54 million for veterans services.

When pressed on this distinction, Burner shifts her blame again to Congress. Reichert is not Congress. He is a congressman, and the former Air Force reservist agrees veterans-services funding should be increased.

Burner understands subtlety. She grasps the distinction. She continues to push the deceptive party line.

We hope something changes in Congress. We want our government to work its way — responsibly and surely — out of Iraq.

But Burner has not made the case she will be a better member of Congress.

We know Reichert will continue his conscience-driven investigation of issues — an approach that fits his moderate, rational district. His goal should be to expand his influence and be a stronger voice for change.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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