8th District race awash in ads
With strong backing from national parties, campaigns for the Eastside's 8th District congressional seat are letting loose a blizzard of...
Seattle Times staff reporter
With strong backing from national parties, campaigns for the Eastside's 8th District congressional seat are letting loose a blizzard of campaign ads that will fill mailboxes and airwaves.
The candidates, Democrat Darcy Burner and Republican incumbent Dave Reichert, and their political parties have secured $3.6 million in TV airtime — about $10 per vote expected to be cast.
The 8th Congressional District — east King and Pierce counties — has never put a Democrat in Congress, but Democrats this year are outspending the GOP on advertising.
On Friday, Burner launched a TV spot questioning Reichert's commitment to veterans. The same day, the National Republican Congressional Committee mailed fliers to voters accusing Burner, who has not run for office before, of being an apathetic voter.
"It will be a very tough final five weeks," said Zach Silk, Burner's campaign manager. "It is one of the hottest, most contested races in the country," which could help give Democrats control of the House of Representatives.
Reichert is emphasizing his three decades with the King County Sheriff's Office to contrast with Burner's lack of a public-service résumé. Reichert's campaign has reserved about $1 million in airtime, and his party another $567,000.
Burner, a former Microsoft manager, is trying to yoke Reichert to President Bush in order to turn the election into a referendum on the GOP. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has about $1 million set aside for Burner, supplementing her $965,000 in ad buys.
Ads against both candidates contain inaccuracies.
The Republicans' flier about Burner's voting record accuses her of not voting in 10 elections — three of them involving Redmond city issues — going back to 1999.
Burner has a Redmond address but lives outside the city limits and was not eligible to vote on city issues. She did, however, miss primary or general elections in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003, according to King County voting records.
"They're trying to distract people from the voting record that really matters, and that is Dave Reichert's record," Silk said. "And they don't have facts straight."
As an infant, Burner was adopted by a former Air Force radio operator, and her brother recently retired from 20 years in the U.S. Army. Her ad emphasizes her military connections and accuses Reichert, a former Air Force reservist, of breaking the "promise America makes" to service members in action by voting to "cut funding for veterans' health care."
But the votes it is based upon — Reichert's party-line votes for 2006 and 2007 budgets — do not cut Veteran's Administration health-care programs. Mike Shields, Reichert's chief of staff, said the VA's health-care budget increased 16 percent during the time Reichert has been in office.
But the VA did admit grossly underestimating the needs of returning Iraq and Afghan war veterans, forcing Congress into an emergency $1.5 billion in extra spending.
Veterans in Washington state continue to complain about access to VA health care. In the agency's most recent quarterly report, the Northwest ranks worst among the country's 21 regions in veterans' access to a primary-care appointment within 30 days of requesting one.
Shields acknowledged the VA's financial "scandal," but said it was "false and offensive" to say Reichert had voted to cut benefits.
"At best, [Burner's campaign] doesn't know what they're talking about and don't understand complicated budgeting," he said. "At worst, it is offensive to use veterans in a political smear campaign that is a lie."
Silk said the ad's "overall point" was accurate. The five-year VA budget adopted by Congress initially boosts health-care funding, but then cuts it back over future years, he said.
Veterans say "their experience is it's dramatically underfunded," he said. "Those [VA] budgets are very much a document about the Republicans' priorities for the country."
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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