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Originally published Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 3:22 PM

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The Times recommends Suzan DelBene and Tim Dillon in the 8th Congressional District

The Seattle Times editorial board endorses former Microsoft executives Suzan DelBene and Tim Dillon in the 8th Congressional District.

DIFFICULT times call for more than a capable caretaker of a political seat. The 8th Congressional District needs a representative with vision, a sharp grasp of the issues and the ability to lead. The task is considerable.

With that in mind, The Seattle Times editorial board takes the unusual step of endorsing two challengers to U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, who is seeking a fourth term in the district spanning eastern King and Pierce counties.

We do not do so lightly. Former Microsoft executive and Democrat Suzan DelBene and Tim Dillon, a Republican and member of the Yarrow Point Town Council, demonstrate a depth of knowledge and have compelling ideas.

On issues ranging from the wars to the economy, three-term Republican incumbent Reichert is unstudied and comes up short. After six years in office, this is unacceptable.

Reichert opposed financial reform, but was unable to explain what he did or did not like about the legislation. The 8th District deserves someone who is faster on their feet.

Reichert voted against a new small-business lending fund, dismissing it as another bailout. But it is not. The fund is smart leveraging of $30 billion of public investment into $300 billion of credit through community and smaller banks that lend mostly to small businesses.

Dillon and DelBene zero in on a lack of access to credit as a key obstacle to creating jobs. Both support expanding loans and credit to small businesses. Both would have voted to extend unemployment benefits but are not cavalier about deficit spending.

On Afghanistan and Iraq, Reichert likens himself to a sheriff trusting his SWAT commanders. DelBene and Dillon speak more cogently about the enormous cost of the wars and the pressing need to end them.

DelBene has not held public office and has a spotty voting record, but her résumé is a narrative of leadership and vision. She was vice president for mobile communications at Microsoft and played key roles in leading two technology companies, and Nimble Technology. Most recently, DelBene worked with a nonprofit group that supports microfinance in Latin America.

Dillon has held senior management positions at Expedia and Microsoft. Differences mark the two candidates. Dillon would extend tax cuts made by the Bush administration set to expire later this year. DelBene would let them expire.

Important differences mark their positions on trade. Dillon supports the pact between the U.S. and South Korea. DelBene supports White House efforts to modify the agreement, which has been awaiting ratification since 2007.

DelBene should rethink her position in the coming months. Nearly one in three Washington jobs depends on international trade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that stalling the Korea trade pact risks losing 350,000 U.S. jobs as the European Union and Asia move ahead with agreements of their own.

Dillon says a turning point for him was Reichert's "willingness to trade core principles on the environment." He was referring to Reichert's appearance before a gathering of Republican precinct committee officers when he explained that while he toes the party line most of the time, a few select environmental votes were "certain moves, chess pieces, strategies" he used to keep environmental groups from trying to defeat him. The moment was revealing. This page's response then and now is "how cynical."

DelBene and Dillon deserve to move to the November general election and offer voters a thoughtful and informed debate on the many daunting issues facing our country.

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