Repulican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert and Democratic challenger Darcy Burner engaged in their first official debate of the 2008 election season at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center on Wednesday.
The two 8th Congressional District candidates showed only nuanced differences in some areas – including immigration, gun control, and health care – but Burner distinguishing herself from the incumbent with an undeniably pro-choice stance on abortion.
Her comments on the subject drew the only outburst – a rash of applause from at least two tables – in an event where audience members were expected to remain silent.
Reichert addressed the topic of abortion by promising a hands-off approach in matters dealing with Roe v. Wade.
“It’s a non-issue for us in Congress,” said the congressman from Auburn. “We haven’t taken a vote on pro-choice/pro-life, and we won’t take a vote. It is an issue that has been decided by the United States Supreme Court.”
Burner used several opportunities in the debate to blame the current economic situation on existing lawmakers, repeatedly calling for new faces in Washington, D.C.
“We are at a time of tremendous danger in this country,” Burner said. “We got into this mess because of tremendous recklessness, and we can’t afford that any more.”
Reichert turned the argument around by noting that Democrats now hold a majority in Congress.
Both candidates said they oppose the government’s $700 billion bailout of the financial industry.
However Burner accused Reichert of being a part of the problem, even suggesting that he had pushed for deregulation of the financial markets in an op-ed piece that ran in the Puget Sound Business Journal in August.
Reichert claims he never specifically called for deregulation in that article (www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2008/08/11/editorial4.html).
“What I’m for is the free market,” he told The Reporter. “We’re in the 21st Century economy, but we’re running on 19th Century rules and regulations, so we need to modernize and reform.”
Reichert suggested that Congress should hold hearings with experts and come up with legislation that addresses the root cause of the financial-market problems.
“I’ve talked with people who’ve been in the financial world for 30 to 40 years, and they don’t know the answers as to how we get out of this mess,” he said. “Nancy Pelosi admitted she doesn’t know if this (bailout) is going to work, but she voted yes anyway. I think that’s an irresponsible vote.”
Reichert voted twice against Congress’ bailout packages.
The Republican candidate distanced himself from the Bush administration in some of his comments after the debate, specifically talking about the government’s ability to manage a $700 billion bailout.
“I’m like everybody else in this country,”he said. “I have a low level of trust in the administration at this point.”
The two candidates clashed over taxes in the usual Democrate-versus-Republican way, with Reichert accusing his opponent of wanting to raise taxes and Burner promising to protect the average citizen from any potential increases.
“I will cut middle-class taxes,” Burner said. “Let me repeat that again: my plan cuts middle-class taxes to put money back on main street where it belongs.”
Burner also said she would support pay-as-you-go spending practices to prevent the government from overreaching.
Reichert countered with this: “Pay-go is a great concept, but there are only three ways to make it work. You can raise taxes, you can make drastic cuts, or you can borrow more money.”
Another point of contention in the debate was the Iraq war.
Burner admitted that there has been progress in the last year, but she gave all credit to General David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and allied troops rather than the Bush administration.
“They have made progress despite this administration, not because of it,” she said.
Burner has authored a 36-page plan to end the war in Iraq, which she says 62 other candidates have endorsed. The document is available at her web site (www.darcyburner.com).
Information on the Reichert campaign is available online at www.daveriechertforcongress.com.
The two candidates showed virtually no difference of opinion in regard to gun control and the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Both said that detainees should be subject to the human rights guarantees of the Geneva Convention.
They also agreed that citizens should be able to keep guns.
Burner noted that she was a victim of stalking during her college days, and she recalled that police had recommended purchasing a handgun and learning to use it.