The Seattle Times endorses for re-election Republican Dave Reichert for the 8th Congressional District race; Democrat Jay Inslee for the 1st District; and Democrat Rick Larsen for the 2nd District.

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Darcy Burner has improved considerably in her two years of studying and campaigning for an Eastside seat in Congress, but not enough to replace incumbent Dave Reichert.

Democrat Burner was often sure-footed in the CityClub debate in Bellevue, co-sponsored by The Seattle Times, but she has yet to prove she is best prepared to represent a district that is both urban and rural, complicated and demanding.

Republican Reichert too often plays on his role as the honest cop. But that is also a significant strength when it comes to taking votes against his party and recognizing that his district is changing into an environmental glen when it comes to federal policy. Examples include his work on Mount Rainier National Park, his support for the Wild Sky Wilderness and his refusal to buckle to his colleagues on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He’s against it.

Reichert also acted correctly in opposing legislation when Congress intervened in the case of a woman in a coma, Terri Schiavo.

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Both candidates oppose the $700 billion bailout for Wall Street, but it was Reichert who was in a position to vote no, and did so. Burner makes the case that Republican deregulation is the cause of the financial turmoil. Reichert asks for more congressional hearings and expert testimony. In this case, he is looking ahead and Burner is assigning blame.

On Iraq, Burner produced a well-crafted white paper written with retired Gen. Paul Eaton that lays out a purposeful reduction of troops and materiel from the war zone. Reichert believes in the surge strategy in Iraq and anticipates the coming introduction of troops into Afghanistan. That’s not a liberal position, but it is mainstream in temperament and reality.

On the important issue of trade, the most significant differences arise. Burner is closer to the national Democratic stance that trade must be offset with demands on other countries unassociated with trade itself. Washington Democratic representatives in Congress are consistently disappointing when they put their party’s positions above this state’s trade economy. It’s a safe position for incumbents without serious Republican opposition. But in Burner’s case, another vote stalling free-trade agreements with Colombia and South Korea is not needed.

The candidates differ when they come to big social questions. Burner is solidly pro-choice but also strongly in favor of the recent, rigorous interpretation of the right to own a gun, handed down from the Supreme Court, as is Reichert. Reichert dodges the inevitable Roe vs. Wade question, but sort of endorses sex education without being specific. Burner is getting better, Reichert is still best.

Democratic incumbent Rep. Jay Inslee’s environmental leadership in Congress is a good fit with his urban and suburban 1st District, which stretches from Bainbridge Island to Kirkland, as it wraps around the north end of Lake Washington.

As in 2006, the incumbent is challenged by Republican Larry Ishmael, whose candidacy has not gained any traction with his party or local contributors. Inslee, a veteran legislator, has developed valuable expertise on the complex issues of climate change and global warming. Inslee is endorsed for another term.

Washington’s 2nd District, in the northwest corner of the state, is well-served by Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. The district includes parts of King and Snohomish counties and all of Skagit, San Juan, Island and Whatcom counties. Larsen has skillfully balanced his district’s mix of agricultural, military and urban issues in Congress. Years of patient work to successfully create the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness capped his fourth term. Republican challenger Rick Bart, the former Snohomish County sheriff, is a respected public servant, but his candidacy never gained momentum. Larsen has earned re-election.

Monday, endorsements in congressional districts 3, 5 and 9.

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