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Originally published November 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 5, 2008 at 11:49 AM

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Reichert, Burner run neck and neck in 8th District race

Reichert, the former King County sheriff, said he felt confident later returns would go his way. He wants a third term in the Eastside swing district.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Democrat Darcy Burner seems a little chagrined after 5-year-old son Henry grabbed the mic at an Election Night party to talk about the plight of polar bears.

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ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Democrat Darcy Burner seems a little chagrined after 5-year-old son Henry grabbed the mic at an Election Night party to talk about the plight of polar bears.

Congressman Dave Reichert prepares himself before going live for a television interview Tuesday at the Bellevue Hyatt.

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CHRIS JOSEPH TAYLOR / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Congressman Dave Reichert prepares himself before going live for a television interview Tuesday at the Bellevue Hyatt.

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In the 8th Congressional District, Democrat Darcy Burner was locked in a dead heat with U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, after holding a solid lead earlier in the night.

Reichert, the former King County sheriff, said he felt confident later returns would go his way. He wants a third term in the Eastside swing district.

No Democrat has been elected since the district was formed in the 1980s, but it is growing increasingly liberal and voted for Democrats for president in 2004 and 2000.

Incumbents won by large margins in the state's other congressional districts.

At a Burner campaign Election Night party in Bellevue, supporters were pumped up as early results showed Burner in the lead.

Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for the Burner campaign, expressed optimism. "But we know that it will be a couple of days before we really know where the race is going," Smith said.

The lead narrowed as King County counted poll votes into the night.

Reichert said he was not anxious and that early returns were similar in 2006.

"I feel very, very confident we're going to hold this district," he said.

Burner came within three percentage points of beating Reichert in the candidates' first contest two years ago. Reichert had a small lead last night in Pierce County, where voters comprise about 20 percent of the 8th District. In 2006, Reichert won King County by about 300 votes and Pierce County by 7,000.

Reichert said he was frustrated by the slow vote counts in King and Pierce counties. Around the country, he watched many of his former Republican colleagues lose seats to Democrats. But he said voters think of him as an independent.

"I do feel confident," he said last night. "We were here in this position early in the race last time and slowly gained ground as time went on. I fully anticipate winning King County again as we did last time, and of course having great support from voters in Pierce County."

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Each campaign spent millions this year, much of it on television advertising in the last few weeks before Election Day. Burner raised $3.7 million. Reichert raised $2.3 million. Both got plenty of support from their national party organizations and some independent groups, as well.

Burner tried to paint Reichert as ineffective and attempted to tie him to President Bush, especially in his economic policies and position on the Iraq war. Reichert supports renewing the Bush administration's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and backed Bush's temporary troop buildup in Iraq.

Reichert pointed out Burner's lack of public-service experience — she's never held elected office — and predicted she would support higher taxes.

Burner kicked off her campaign in May by publishing a plan to end the war in Iraq. Her report, which was co-authored by former military leaders, supported diplomatic solutions as a way to bring U.S. troops home.

But the focus of the campaign shifted at the end of the summer toward the economy, and the two candidates clashed over each other's tax plans. Burner put out an economic plan she said would cut taxes for middle-class families by suspending some of the Bush tax cuts and increasing the standard minimum deduction.

Reichert said Burner's plan would raise taxes for most 8th District families.

Reichert, 58, has been in Congress four years. Before that, he was King County sheriff for nine years, capping nearly 30 years in the King County Sheriff's Office. He's widely known as the man who led the team of detectives investigating the Green River Killer serial-murder case. He was sheriff when Gary Ridgway pleaded guilty to killing 48 women.

In Congress, Reichert has worked on legislation regarding law enforcement and homeland security. He has taken moderate positions on education and the environment, even earning endorsements this year by the national and state teachers unions, which generally endorse Democrats.

Burner, 37, grew up in a military family and graduated from high school in a small town in Nebraska. She attended Harvard University on a scholarship, earning a bachelor's degree in computer science with a "special field," or concentration, in economics. After college, she worked at a variety of high-tech companies, including Microsoft.

Criticized by Reichert as lacking experience, she had held no public leadership positions before her first run for office, except for a short stint as president of her homeowners association. Between her 2006 and 2008 campaigns, she also served on the Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town.

Burner's Carnation-area home burned to the ground in July, in the middle of her campaign. The fire was blamed on a faulty electrical lamp.

In Seattle's 7th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott defeated Republican challenger Steve Beren. In the 2nd District, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen won against his Republican opponent, former Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart. In the 1st District, incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee won handily, as did incumbent Reps. Adam Smith, Brian Baird and Norm Dicks.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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