I had the chance to hear Rodney Tom speak before the 48th District Democrats last week, and while he touched on education and the Iraq war, he led off his nascent stump speech by arguing that the primary race was mostly about beating Dave Reichert. One of his main critiques of Darcy Burner’s 2006 campaign was her relatively poor showing in Pierce County, where she garnered only 42.6 percent of the vote. Tom argues that he is a better fit to this more conservative, blue collar part of the 8th Congressional District. (Apparently because these voters strongly identify with wealthy, Lexus-driving, Medina realtors, I guess.)
The Tacoma News Tribune picked up on this theme yesterday with an article titled “Pierce vote important to Reichert challengers.”
Last year, as she prepared to challenge Republican Dave Reichert for the U.S. House, Darcy Burner said it would take significant Pierce County support for her to win.
She was right. Burner received only 304 fewer votes than Reichert out of over 200,000 cast in King County. But the Pierce County part of the congressional district remained loyal to the Republican, giving Reichert some 7,000 more votes than his Democratic challenger.
Hmm. I know this may sound counterintuitive, but the fact is, Burner lost the race in King County, not Pierce, where despite losing by more than 7,000 votes, she came pretty damn close to meeting or beating expectations. It was the King County results that proved disappointing, and a look back at previous elections explains why.
In 2006 Burner captured 42.6 percent of the vote in Pierce County, more than any other 8th CD Democrat since 1990. In 2004 by comparison, Dave Ross received only 39.1 of the Pierce vote, less than a half-percent better than the best effort by the much maligned Heidi Behrens-Benedict. Burner knew that to beat Reichert she had to do substantially better than previous Democrats in Pierce County. And she did.
In fact according to campaign insiders, Burner’s 3.5 point improvement over Ross (and nearly 7 point improvement over the ten-year average,) was right on target. All it would have taken to win the race was a very attainable 51.8 percent of the vote in the more Democratic King County portion of the district. But it didn’t happen. Late absentees broke decidedly towards Reichert, and Burner ended up losing King County by a few hundred votes out of over 200,000 cast.
Clearly, Tom is more conservative than Darcy, but then so was Ross, and to argue that this somehow makes Tom more electable simply isn’t supported by the facts. Burner did relatively well in Pierce County, a Republican stronghold, and with high name ID, increased turnout and presidential coattails, she’ll likely do even better. Unless, of course, I’m totally underestimating Pierce County’s Lexus-driving Medina realtor vote.
And one more balloon to burst before I go:
Tom supporters note the anti-Republican wave that swept the nation last year and say Burner had her chance to ride it to victory.
What a load of crap. Republicans held 232 House seats going into the 2006 election, and only 22 incumbents lost. Only 22. The GOP poured everything it had into defending Reichert; Karl Rove made WA-08 his number one target. And yet a total unknown with no prior campaign experience came within a silver hair of defeating “the Sheriff.”
Underestimate Burner at your own risk.