Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 11, 2012

Interviewing Darcy Burner

This is the fifth in a series of interviews I’m doing with candidates for the 1st Congressional district. You can read my first impressions of these candidates as well my interviews with Laura RudermanRoger Goodman, Darshan Rauniyar, and Suzan Delbene. I will gladly interview any candidate running for office this year, so if you would like an interview, please email me here.

An interview with Darcy Burner

Darcy Burner did not mince words when asked why she is running for office. “It is completely clear that our government is broken and our Congress isn’t working for the American people. The rules are rigged, not just around elections but around how our laws are made and who gets to be at the table. It’s a giant game of heads they win, tails we lose. The game is so rigged, it makes me really want to fix it.”

What exactly would you fix? I ask. “Some pieces are big and complicated, and some are bite-sized and we need to fix both. We need to overturn Citizen’s United and implement meaningful campaign finance reform.” She acknowledges that those are big tasks and gives me a few smaller options, “There are rules by which the House operates that allow lobbyists to sit at tables that the American people don’t have a seat at. Fixing those rules, mostly by increasing transparency and accountability, is the first step.”

In a crowded race, I asked Burner what makes her stand out from the competition. “In the last several years, I haven’t just talked the talk, I’ve walked the walk. When I first ran, I laid out a set of values around fighting for regular Americans, and everything I’ve done since then has been about trying to advance those values. Even after my loss in 2008, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and worked on connecting the progressive movement with Congress. The fact that I have always said what I meant, and done what I said I was going to do is the reason I’m ahead in the polling. People trust me to have their back.”

Aside from changing the rules by which Congress operates, what is your number one priority as a legislator? “Jobs, we have to fix the economy, and fixing the economy isn’t about making Wall Street bankers bonuses’ bigger, it is about making it so everyone has a fair shot.”

Darcy Burner

Other local media has tagged Darcy Burner as the Occupy Wall Street candidate, but when asked about the Occupy movement, her feelings are mild admiration. “I think that the Occupy movement did something that was widely considered impossible a year ago; they shifted the conversation in this country away from deficit hysteria to economic justice and jobs. If they can do that, it would be a mistake to underestimate them.”

Speaking of deficit hysteria, Darcy Burner earned herself an official rebuke last August from Washington State party chair and occasional Ben Kingsley impersonator, Dwight Pelz when she tweeted that Obama was a “Republican” and that she wouldn’t “give him another dime.” I asked her if her opinion of the President has changed since then. “His behavior has changed, which has helped. The day I tweeted that, he had made it clear to the press that he had put Social Security and Medicare on the bargaining as part of a grand bargain to increase the debt ceiling. As a direct consequence of us pushing back, those two items were taken off the bargaining table. Now, I’m going to continue to call it as I see it whether it is Republicans or Democrats.”

Hoping the straight talk would continue, I asked about the proposed Cherry Point facility. “I think that it is clear that developing the terminal for exporting American goods makes sense. The real question is whether it is going to make economic and environmental sense for that thing to be coal. It is clear that we are several years away from having the EIS done. We are still in the middle of the permitting process, with all of the checks and balances that are designed to see if this specific version of the project makes sense. I think that a lot will become clearer as that process proceeds.”

As for other local issues, she was ready with sharp, clear stances. Marriage Equality? “I think that when two consenting adults want to marry, we should wish them the best of luck and throw bird seed.” The initiative to license, regulate and tax marijuana (I-502)? “New cash crop for Skagit county! Now that cash crop might be industrial hemp which is allowed under this initiative or it could be marijuana. There were issues about federal preemption but I am in support of the initiative.”

Darcy Burner during the 2008 campaign

Burner has run for Congress twice before, in 2006 and 2008, against Dave Reichart in the eighth Congressional district. What does she say to critics who ask what is different this year? “You have to remember that [the Eighth] was a district that had never elected a Democrat to Congress. I was running against a guy that the Lifetime movie network was running movies about portraying him as a hero while both campaigns were going on. Under those circumstances Dave Reichart was impossible to beat. This is a very different district, different situation.” Not content to leave it there, she managed to channel Lloyd Bentsen, “John Koster is no Dave Reichart. I’ve run against Dave Reichart and you, sir, are no Dave Reichart.”

What, in her opinion, is the most dangerous thing about electing John Koster? “I’m torn between two really big things. One, here is a guy that really wants to gut Social Security and Medicare, and I actually believe in keeping the promises we make to people and delivering to them the benefits they have earned and paid for. To gut those programs would send a huge number of those people into poverty. The other thing is that I am of the radical position that women are people and they are entitled to decide for themselves how many children they want to have and when to have them.” Burner cracked a big smile. “I don’t think John Koster has any say in that decision process for any woman in the district except maybe his wife and only with her consent.”

As for education, Burner started with her nine-year-old son, Henry, who goes to public school and is in the third grade. “[Henry] is simultaneously very bright and very dyslexic, so I get to see many of the strengths and weaknesses of our education system. The teachers have been phenomenal and it is clear how hard they are working, to make sure every kid gets the education they deserve, but there isn’t anywhere close to enough funding. That’s a problem at the state and federal level.” Seamlessly transitioning from concerned mother to policy wonk, she talked about the need to fully fund the disability act, and a desire to make capital grants available in adequate levels so that communities with significant population growth can build more schools. She talked about how making free lunches available to all students has a notable effect on student learning and, she added, “it really isn’t that expensive.”  Same goes for offering social skills counseling to prevent drop-outs. “Fix the obvious things. We need to take a real look at what actually works and do more of it,” Burner summarized.

When I met with Darcy Burner, it was immediately clear to me why she is leading in the few polls that have been done in this race. She stands out from her competition as a lively and engaging candidate, flitting from a sharp jab to a solid policy position without breaking her stride. But throughout her interview, there was one exchange that stood out to me as summarizing Darcy Burner. I asked her about her foreign policy philosophy and she responded with, well, a bit of philosophy. “I have often thought to myself, when I die, if the only thing that I have accomplished is that I take the ball where Eleanor Roosevelt left it and move it a little bit farther, it would have been a life well spent.” Burner is going full-throttle this campaign, and it is so satisfying to see a strong progressive leading the pack.



  1. Darcy Burner may possibly be the best candidate, but “why she is leading in the few polls” is skewed by that fact that they were her own polls, and that Darcy is simply better known (from her two recent high profile unsuccessful runs), so of course poll respondents said “Darshan who?”, “Roger who?”… despite whether or not Darcy is the best for this race.

    Less spin = more credible journalism.

  2. I offered up my opinion about some of the reasons Darcy is leading in the polls; mainly her active and engaging attitude as a candidate. Yes, name recognition has something to do with leading in the polls but you cannot dismiss her strengths as a candidate. People come here not just for the interview but for the insight I provide.

    • I like to hear your insights on candidates, Riley. Keep up the good work! thanks.

  3. With so many seemingly qualified candidates the primary is going to be a tough one. it is true that Darcy has had her name “out there” for a few years now, and was the pick of the Wash State Dems in 2008, giving her lots of support and exposure at that time. But, can she win over Koster? Unfortunately, Koster is getting his name out – recognition and visibility – with big signs all up and down the I-5 corridor. People see the name, and really don’t know anything about him. In the 2nd CD we “ran into” him when he was running against Rick Larsen. He is certainly a true Republican – and claims to be a farmer thereby appealing to the rural conservatives. I’d say the Republicans were smart to declare their candidate so early and without another contender.

  4. […] as well my interviews with Laura Ruderman, Roger Goodman, Darshan Rauniyar, Suzan Delbene and Darcy Burner. I will gladly interview any candidate running for office this year, so if you would like an […]

  5. […] to the Base — Darcy Burner: Netroots champion and progressive pugilist Darcy Burner is building a strategy around winning […]

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