On the surface, U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) looks like he's in tune with his suburban and rural district (a district Obama carried with a relatively giant margin in 2008—57 to 42). He walks the party line on the billboard issues (no on the stimulus package, no on health care reform, no on Wall Street reform) while straying to vote with environmentalists and social justice lefties, voting with huge Democratic majorities on last year's failed cap and trade bill (it passed in the House but never made it to the Senate) and to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
He also admitted earlier this year, at a closed-door meeting with supporters, that he votes with the lefties just to keep that traction with his district. So, we're a little nervous that Reichert's independent streak might stop as Reichert gets more comfortable in his seat in the House.
But our biggest concern with Reichert is that he just flat out isn't qualified to represent his district. He's shown that he has little understanding of the Wall Street reform bill passed by Congress, some of which he says he'll try to repeal. For example, Reichert told an attendee at a recent candidate forum that he was "not familiar" with the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act—Glass-Steagall being the model for much of the reform measures and a major policy-framing bone of contention between Democrats and Republicans. The Seattle Times noted in their primary endorsement against Reichert that he opposed the reform legislation, but "could not explain what he did or did not like about the legislation." In a time when setting straight the stumbling economy is our legislators' number one priority, that's more than a little scary.
Reichert's Democratic challenger, former Microsoft executive Suzan DelBene has a firm grasp of the issues and an agenda to go with it. Her experience as an executive at the most prominent employer in her district means she's not only in tune with the economics of her district, but also capable of leadership on complicated technology and financial issues.
Like her opponent, she doesn't quite fit the party stereotype—for example, she's promised to help reign in earmarks in the Congressional budget, the kind of proposal much more often heard from Republicans than from Democrats. She also bucks President Obama by ending America's war in Afghanistan. (Benefit: It's a way to secure the budget, she says, without raising taxes.)
DelBene also second guesses President Obama on health care reform, saying of the president's supposedly historic bill: "We're not done"—she still holds out hope for the public option. She told PubliCola in an interview back in June that Congress did "health insurance reform, not health care reform," and wants to fund health industry innovation in order to cut the huge costs that continue to undermine reform. Independence from party dogma is a necessity these days, and DelBene's fits her district.
Oh, and she strongly supports the financial reforms enacted by congress, but wants them to go even further, endorsing—that's right—a revival of the Glass-Steagall Act. PubliCola picks Suzan DelBene.
For a complete list of of PubliCola's 70 picks, including our 32 No Brainers, go here.