Local Republicans are once again dismissing Darcy Burner, but they do so at their own peril.
As a no-name newcomer with zero electoral experience, Burner came within a shiny white hair of defeating name-brand incumbent Dave Reichert. Ask any experienced politico worth their salt (of either party,) and they’ll tell you the race could have broken either way in the final weeks of the 2006 campaign. It broke towards Reichert. And there are lessons to be learned from that.
Burner is nothing if not smart, and you can be damn well sure that she’s learned those lessons. And as her 2Q fundraising numbers prove, she’s also a damn hard worker.
Over at u(SP), Eric Earling says that’s it’s too early for me to be crowing about Burner’s record fundraising, but let’s put those numbers into perspective. Burner didn’t start raising money until March, giving Reichert a four-month head start (coming out of the campaign with a six-figure debt, Reichert never stopped raising money)… and yet she still beats Reichert $185K to $160K in cash-on-hand, the all important figure by which DC insiders judge the health of campaigns.
Last year the Reichert campaign never pre-released its quarterly numbers, even while Burner was making headlines for her surprising totals, but this time around the other guys blinked, rushing to match Burner’s announcement of a $200K quarter (yes, a WA state record for a challenger) with a $244K quarter of its own. But the cash-on-hand disadvantage is such an embarrassment that one Democratic politico laughed that “the idiot” who made the decision to release it won’t be with the campaign much longer. (I hear John McCain has some job openings.)
What do strong Republican fundraising numbers really look like? IL-10, in the suburbs just north of Chicago, is a competitive district somewhat comparable to WA-08, in which 3-term incumbent Rep. Mark Kirk got quite a scare from netroots challenger Dan Seals. After slipping by with only 53-percent of the vote, Kirk has transformed himself into a fundraising machine, chalking up $617K in 2Q for a comfy $1.1 million total cash-on-hand. Those are the type of fundraising numbers one might expect from Reichert, given his 51.5 to 48.5 percent squeaker. And you wonder why I’m crowing?
Earling knowingly points to a quote from the Seattle P-I, in which “other Democrats” criticize Burner for failing to defeat Reichert in a Blue Tide year, and for repeating the same campaign themes as 2006, but those “other Democrats” are those backing undeclared
Republican Democratic challenger Rodney Tom. That’s okay. They’re entitled to their rhetoric. But they’re wrong.
Burner, like the other second-tier Democratic challengers, was a sacrificial lamb in a grand strategy in which all of the first-tier and most of the third-tier Democrats won. She played an instrumental role in the Democrats taking control of Congress, drawing heavy Republican fire in a district the R’s hadn’t planned on seriously defending. And yet she came within a few thousand votes, and a couple tactical decisions, of winning. Had she responded to Reichert’s derisively sexist “job interview” ad in kind — had she nailed Reichert on his fundamentalist opposition to reproductive rights (both abortion and some forms of birth control) — it would be Burner who was posting Kirk-like numbers in defense of her incumbency.
As for Tom, the presumed “Democratic” challenger, he’s in for a shock. In 2006 my fellow bloggers and I took great joy in launching withering attacks on Tom’s opponent, the much-hated state Sen. Luke Esser. Tom didn’t ask for our support back then, and he shouldn’t this time around either, because he ain’t gonna get squat. No doubt, he’s a nice enough guy, and a helluva lot better than Esser, but he has a voting record as a Republican legislator that’s not going to endear himself to many 8th CD Democratic primary voters. Talk about great blog fodder.
And for all Tom’s misreading of the 8th District (you know, that the best way for the Dems to defeat the Republican Reichert is with another Republican,) general election strategies don’t mean a damn if you can’t find a path to the general election. Burner is gonna kick Tom’s ass. That’s a fact. She’s smarter, she’s harder working, and with likes of Dan Kully and Sandeep Kaushik on board, she’s assembling a killer team with a killer instinct.
That said, run Rodney, run! It’s good for Burner. Keeps her looking over her shoulder. And it helps build cred to crush a state senator early in the campaign. All I ask is that you bow out gracefully next April when you’re trailing by 20 points in the polls, and $700K in the bank.