It wasn't the money, or lack thereof, said state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, explaining why he abruptly ended his campaign Wednesday to...

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It wasn’t the money, or lack thereof, said state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, explaining why he abruptly ended his campaign Wednesday to represent the Eastside in Congress.

But Tom was clearly wowed by the numbers posted by his Democratic rival, Darcy Burner, who lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in 2006 and wants a rematch next year.

Tom said he raised a total of about $200,000 since entering the race in July, but Burner brought in about $122,000 from 3,200 people in four days, right around the time President Bush visited Bellevue for a Reichert fundraiser.

“You have thousands of people giving twenty, thirty bucks. It’s how campaigns should be run,” Tom said.

Returning his focus to the statehouse, Tom said he would personally pay all campaign debts to date and refund his contributors.

Although confident he could beat Reichert, Tom’s decision left Burner the odds-on favorite to be the Democratic candidate in 2008, though the filing deadline isn’t until next June.

For Burner, Tom’s departure won’t change much. She said Wednesday that she had always focused her campaign on the general election, and she won’t alter her approach.

That worries state Rep. Deborah Eddy, D-Bellevue.

Eddy introduced Burner at a Democratic rally last October at Bellevue Community College but she was an early supporter of Tom, a former Republican who switched parties last year.

He ran for Congress as a moderate with a record of public service.

Eddy said she was surprised by Tom’s announcement, but in conversations with other Democrats in recent weeks she said there were persistent questions about whether he could win the primary.

Primaries bring out the party faithful, said Eddy, and “Darcy was more left wing than he is.”

However, the 8th District, which stretches from Duvall to Eatonville, is not as liberal as Burner is, Eddy said, and that could spell trouble in a race against Reichert. While Burner is popular among left-leaning bloggers, that may not translate to the average voter.

“One thing that worries me is she has not naturally gravitated to more nuanced positions,” Eddy said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get perspective or distance from the net roots. They can create a lot of smoke.”

Last month, Burner released a video that lashed out against congressional Democrats who voted to re-authorize a wiretapping surveillance bill favored by the White House. She routinely lambastes the administration’s Iraq policy.

Burner said she labels herself a “practical progressive” with business experience and a respect for open markets. Before running for Congress, she was a Microsoft manager.

“I think in more normal times, I would be seen as a more moderate Democrat,” Burner said.

She said her ability to raise money, much of it on the Internet, is proof that she is running a grass-roots campaign, empowering everyday people to get involved in the political process, not just the tech savvy.

The greatest distinction between Tom and Burner was their respective job histories.

When he entered the race, Tom said he possessed something Burner didn’t: a résumé of public service.

Tom, a Republican representative in the Legislature, became a Democrat in 2006 and defeated incumbent state Sen. Luke Esser, who is now chairman of the Washington State Republican Party.

“I take experience off the table. I force Dave Reichert to run on the issues,” Tom said in July. “Experience matters. This election is really about replacing Dave Reichert and who has the best shot at doing that.”

On Wednesday, Tom downplayed questions about Burner’s record.

“When people look at experience, what they are talking about is leadership. She is showing some real leadership and that’s what people are looking for,” he said.

Burner herself said she expected her political opponents to question her background but felt confident that voters would look for other characteristics in a candidate.

“What they are looking for is good judgment and the ability to work hard,” she said.

Alex Fryer: 206-464-8124 or afryer@seattletimes.com