Darcy Burner has run two unsuccessful races for Congress, but her stances on health care, peace and open government have won her rave reviews from progressives. Now she’s running for the open 1st District Congressional seat that includes most of Whatcom County outside Bellingham.
The influential Daily Kos blog provided a flattering view of Burner in November 2011, when it appeared that the First District would be a safe seat for Democrats. But when the actual map-making was done, the 1st came out looking more like a tossup, with Republican-leaning areas of Whatcom County added to the mix.
But Burner isn’t deterred.
She’ll be visiting Whatcom County voters this weekend. Among other things, she said she’ll talk about agricultural issues. She thinks farmers who find ways to add value to their products should get federal encouragement. (Example: turning local milk into artisan cheese.) She also wants to support manure-to-methane power generation, which already has a small foothold here.
She’ll likely be asked about the Gateway Pacific Terminal project, proposed for the deep-water port site at Cherry Point. As of now, the primary cargo would likely be coal, and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents all of Whatcom County under the old district map, endorsed that plan as a jobs creator almost as soon as it was announced.
Burner is taking a more cautious approach. She says she has talked with advocates on both sides of the issue. She said the prospect of generating more jobs from an underused deep-water port site is “intriguing,” but she isn’t willing to accept environmental degradation in return.
She would also prefer an export terminal that handles multiple cargoes.
“It would be great if we were transporting grain from eastern Washington,” Burner said. “I don’t know how real that is.”
Burner is convincingly passionate and animated when she discusses the need for more openness in Congress.
As legislation moves through the review process, every change in that legislation should be tracked, Burner said. As things stand now, key wording can be altered in a bill at the last minute, and there is no guarantee that those responsible can be identified or held responsible.
She also wants committee hearings to be live-streamed and available for public review, so that interested citizens can watch lobbyists slipping suggested questions to committee members during hearings. Burner says the hardware to record every hearing is already in place, but committee chairs are not required to use it.
“The process needs to be opened up,” Burner said. “We need a Congress that can’t be bought and sold … A tremendous amount of what’s wrong with our government can be fixed with more transparency and accountability.”
Burner already knows a great deal about the workings of Congress through her job as executive director of ProgressiveCongress.org. She left that post in November 2011 to start her Congressional campaign.
“Virtually everyone I’m talking to on both sides of the political spectrum believes that Congress is broken,” Burner said. “The rules are rigged against the American people.”