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Originally published July 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 17, 2007 at 9:17 PM

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State Sen. Rodney Tom enters congressional race

During his campaign kickoff on Tuesday to become the 8th District's next congressman, Democratic state Sen. Rodney Tom never mentioned his...

Seattle Times staff reporter

During his campaign kickoff on Tuesday to become the 8th District's next congressman, Democratic state Sen. Rodney Tom never mentioned his primary rival by name.

But Tom, a former Republican from Bellevue who switched parties in 2006, tried to make clear contrasts between himself and Democrat Darcy Burner, who declared her candidacy in March.

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, a former King County sheriff, has held the seat since 2004. Last year, he faced Burner, who had no previous elected experience. Touting his long law-enforcement career, Reichert repeatedly referenced Burner's lack of public service.

Out of 251,383 votes cast, Reichert won by about 7,341.

It didn't take long for Burner to re-group for a second effort. So far, she has raised nearly $230,000 since Jan. 1.

Tom, a Republican representative in the Legislature, became a Democrat and defeated incumbent State Sen. Luke Esser, who is now chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.

With Democratic Reps. Deb Eddy and Larry Springer beside him, Tom said, "I take experience off the table. I force Dave Reichert to run on the issues."

Tom, who held the event at Renton Technical College, stressed that he had local roots, born in Eastgate and attending the University of Washington. Burner grew up in Nebraska and moved to the district a few years ago.

In an interview after the event, Tom said Burner's lack of experience was the biggest reason she lost.

"I think Darcy would make a great congressperson, but experience matters. This election is really about replacing Dave Reichert and who has the best shot at doing that," he said.

A spokesman for the Burner campaign dismissed the importance of a political resume.

"If by experience people mean career politician, Darcy Burner is not that," said Sandeep Kaushik. But Kaushik said Burner has important advantages this time around: name recognition, fundraising prowess and campaign experience.

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Asked about the 8th District race, Josh Kahn, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said Reichert was in a strong position to be re-elected.

Democrats had the best election cycle in a generation in 2006, he said, and Burner still lost.

"She simply was not ready to be a congressman. She was not able to pass the credibility threshold," he said.

As for Tom, Kahn said: "He's not a guy who's that serious. He has not had major accomplishments."

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or afryer@seattletimes.com

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