Reichert declares victory

U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert declared victory Monday night from Washington, D.C., where he begins work on his second term in a Congress now dominated by Democrats.

"We won," Rei-chert said simply. He's one of those rare Republicans nationwide who withstood a Democratic challenger buoyed by the nation's general discontent with the direction of the war in Iraq.

Reichert, 56, has led his opponent, Democrat Darcy Burner of Carnation, since Election Day, due to his strength in more conservative northern Pierce County. Then, on Monday, he finally pulled ahead of Burner in King County - by nine votes.

His leadership and independence carried the day in the 8th District, Reichert said.

"I think voters recognized the difference," he said. He also said that the negative TV ads run by the Burner campaign and Democrats nationally actually worked in his favor.

His margin of victory has already been about 51 percent to 49 percent overall, but the key to victory was his roughly 14-point lead in Pierce County. The election results will be certified Nov. 28.

Just after Election Day, Burner held a roughly 900-vote lead in King County, but that has slowly eroded.

Reichert, of rural Auburn, beat his Democratic foe in 2004, Dave Ross, by a similarly narrow margin of two percentage points.

Burner, 35, called Reichert Monday night to congratulate him on his victory and his next two years in Congress.

Burner has been watching the results from her home with her husband, Mike, and their 3-year-old son, Henry, who provided much of the inspiration for Burner's first-ever run for elective office.

Based on Monday's tally, The Associated Press declared Reichert the winner.

Earlier in the evening, Jaime Smith, Burner's campaign spokeswoman, had said it would be "irresponsible" for anyone to declare victory because thousands of absentee ballots remain to be counted.

Reichert, the former King County sheriff, flew back to the nation's capital Monday morning and got to work immediately. He was making phone calls to get sales-tax exemption reinstated in Washington and in other states that don't have a personal income tax.

But his victory is tinged with disappointment, too. With Democrats now in control of Congress, he no longer will chair a committee that has dealt with national security and natural disaster issues. He will remain deeply involved in those issues, he said, and hopes to remain on the subcommittee as its ranking member.

Locally, he'll work to find federal transportation dollars for the 8th District. He's also interested in energy independence and health care, especially for children.

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