Reichert, Burner spar over degree claims

SEATTLE — The race for the 8th Congressional District seat has come down to sparring over the candidates’ college degrees, as both camps raise questions about qualifications and backgrounds.

First to strike was Republican incumbent Dave Reichert’s camp, on Wednesday questioning Democratic challenger Darcy Burner’s speeches, in which she says she got a degree from Harvard University in computer science and economics.

Indeed, in her stump speeches, Burner has been talking about her qualifications as the economy continues to worsen by saying she obtained a degree in “computer science and economics” at Harvard.

However, Harvard officials say that Burner’s degree doesn’t “indicate anything for economics.”

“Darcy Burner attended Harvard from September 1989 to March 1996, her field of concentration was computer science,” Pat Dyer, Harvard’s supervisor of information services in the registrar’s office, said Thursday. “It doesn’t indicate anything for economics.”

The 8th Congressional District race, a rematch of a heated 2006 contest, remains close.

“Darcy Burner has basically presented herself as a financial expert on bogus claims, and she’s preying on people’s vulnerability,” said Amanda Halligan, a spokeswoman for Reichert’s campaign.

On Thursday, Burner’s camp struck back, saying that Reichert’s biography on the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress states he got a bachelor’s degree from Concordia Lutheran College in Oregon, and has allowed this false claim to spread without fixing.

In fact, Reichert obtained an associate degree, according to Jeanie-Marie Price, director of marketing and communications for Concordia.

However, Price added, when Reichert attended Concordia in the 1970s, the institution was a junior college and did not offer bachelor’s degrees.

“In 2005, he was honored with an alumni distinction award,” Price said.

The 8th District, which covers most of King County and parts of Pierce County, has never elected a Democrat. Burner narrowly lost in 2006. Both candidates have said the state of the economy has become the main talking point in the race.

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