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Originally published July 11, 2012 at 5:01 PM | Page modified July 20, 2012 at 2:16 PM

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The Times recommends: Re-elect U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District

Rep. Dave Reichert has improved his performance in Congress. The Seattle Times editorial board recommends him for a fifth term.

Seattle Times Editorial

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U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert should be returned to Congress for a fifth term.

The Auburn Republican is an improved candidate over two years ago when, despite eight years in office, he was unable or unwilling to answer critical policy questions put to him by The Seattle Times editorial board. We did not endorse him then.

We do so now, despite lingering concerns about his vagueness on critical consumer protections and financial reforms and the role of the Federal Communications Commission in regulating the Internet. We also disagree with Reichert's vote Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

However, Reichert's electoral advantage this time is a weak field of challengers.

His conservative politics have found a comfortable home in a district made more rural and Republican by redistricting this year. His district shifted eastward, across the Cascade Mountains from eastern King and Pierce counties into more GOP-friendly Chelan and Kittitas counties. Reichert's votes for environmental protections and his pro-gun-rights stance fit his district.

Reichert led on funding for national parks and reserves, including Mount Rainier National Park, Wild Sky Wilderness and Alpine Lake Wilderness, and worked with Democrats on improving the Howard Hanson Dam.

He's willing to buck the Republican Party — for example, his staunch opposition to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Reichert supports free trade, a welcome position in Washington, where one of every four jobs depends on international trade. He voted for U.S. free-trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama. He has a key role negotiating the next trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Reichert needs a strong challenge, but didn't get it this time. His opponents generally are smart and sincere but would benefit from more community and government experience at a lower level.

James Windle, a Snoqualmie Pass independent, has Washington, D.C., experience, having worked for the White House budget office and House Appropriations Committee. His agency-by-agency federal audit idea is good. Born and raised in the 8th District, he moved back in May to run for office after a decade in the other Washingon.

Karen Porterfield is an Issaquah Democrat and director of development at Seattle University. Porterfield would invest in worker retraining and public education. She should gain more legislative experience in lower-level offices.

A third candidate, Keith Swank, a Seattle police officer, supports a flat tax and would have opposed the debt-ceiling increases, views that place him outside the political mainstream.

Reichert's performance has improved. He should be returned to Congress.

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