Darcy's day was in full swing even before I met her at the campaign office. She had already rallied volunteers at a Labor to Neighbor meeting and was in an animated phone conversation when I got there, having just gotten word of the Seattle Time's endorsement of her opponent, an endorsement that mischaracterized her positions and inflated her opponent's record. But the other thing you should know about Darcy Burner is that she's got a thick skin and won't be distracted from the task at hand. She finished her phone call, and moved on--putting aside the endorsement and focusing on the next task.
We moved on to a quiet Auburn neighborhood, a suburban development built in the late 80s or early 90s, all decked out for Halloween. At one house, an voter marked Independent on the campaign's walking list immediately recognized Darcy, and thanked her for coming out in the chill to his neighborhood. They chatted for a few minutes, him stumped by her asking if he had any questions for her. Apparently not too many people come to his neighborhood asking his opinion on things. He did know one, thing, he didn't like Reichert, so she had his vote. They chatted a bit, and she handed him her doorknocking lit, one side of which has a series of pictures of her opponent, Reichert, coming off of Air Force One arm in arm with Bush. "That's all the advertisment I need," the man said, pointing to one of the pictures. "Can you get rid of that guy, too?" "One step at a time," Darcy answered.
Another door opened to a very exuberant dog, which Darcy happily let jump on her nice suit. The woman who answered immediately hit upon one of the defining elements of Burner's campaign: "Your father and husband are vets, right?" When Darcy confirmed, the woman explained that her husband is a veteran. She and her husband are concerned about all the men and women coming back from Iraq to an already strained system of support for vets. She mentioned the long wait vets have for medical care, for appointments for other services. We moved on to another house, where Darcy spent about 10 minutes talking with a senior. He was undecided when she reached the door, but after talking about Iraq, about taxes, about education and Social Security, Darcy had won over another voter. "I always get them," she told. "When they take the time to talk to me, I always get them." It's not hard to believe, because Darcy has one of the most underrated traits in a pol--she listens. It sure worked on the front porches is this neighborhood.
After a being waylaid for a few minutes with a local TV news crew who wanted Darcy's reaction to a Reichert press conference on port security, we headed back to the office, we hopped on our laptops and started blogging. The geek in Darcy came out (degree in computer science from Harvard). You wouldn't believe how fast and accurately the woman can type. We were about half an hour behind schedule at this point, and her wonderful scheduler, Grace, became involved in an intense negotiating process with the two of us--"Just five more minutes, really!" She knows a lot of you by screen name, by the way. I like that in a candidate.
Finally tearing ourselves away from the blog, it was off to an entirely different kind of reaching out to the people, at a house party featuring Congressman Jim McDermott and Ambassador Joe Wilson. Wilson spoke eloquently and passionately, as always, about what's at stake for the country this election. No one knows, I suppose, at a more personal level the very destructive nature of the current inhabitants of the halls of power. But it was Jim McDermott that really gave insight to Darcy.
He talked about having her show up at his office in Seattle to tell him she was thinking about running for Congress. He gave her his usual speech to would-be candidates: you have to be willing to give up your private life for the duration of the campaign, you have to be willing to sit in a room with a telephone for days on end cold-calling potential supporters and ask them to give you money, you have to be willing to show up at every pancake breakfast and neighborhood meeting. He said this is the speech he always gives, and it scares at least 95% of candidates away. He probably could have saved the speech in this case. Darcy had already enrolled in a constitutional law course at the University of Washington law school because, she said, it's important to do her homework before she takes on a new project.
It's a characteristic noted by Seattle's other daily, the Post-Intelligencer:
Reichert has been on the wrong side of votes regarding minimum wage, tax cuts, Tom DeLay's ethics and, most recently, detention and trial of foreign detainees.
Burner, a former Microsoft manager, is as informed in her views as she is forceful in delivering them. Frankly, at a P-I Editorial Board session, it was difficult to tell who was the incumbent because her answers carried weight.
From how to balance the federal budget (and how urgent it is to do so) to how crucial it is to reduce human contributions to global climate change to Congress' role in Iraq war policy, Burner has the better grasp of the issues and the greater passion to deal with them.
Burner does the Netroots list proud. She's taken our support and expanded it to a wide grassroots campaign. She's built an impressive campaign and has made this one of the top tier Congressional races this cycle. The race is neck and neck and the GOP is desperate to hold on. The NRCC has invested $2 milliion in this race.
That's how good Darcy Burner is.