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"Larsen, Koster compete for Congress"

"A big time lapse symbolized the divide between the two men who seek to replace Jack Metcalf as 2nd District congressman.Metcalf, the Langley Republican, chose to term-limit himself, giving up the position after three terms. Hoping to fill his seat are the man he endorsed, Republican John Koster, and Democrat Rick Larsen.Both candidates are from Arlington. Koster was a dairy farmer turned state legislator, while Larsen was employed by the state Dental Association before becoming a member of the Snohomish County Council.At a recent candidates forum sponsored by the North Whidbey League of Women Voters, Koster was the first to speak and left abruptly afterward. Larsen did not make it to the event, but has been in Oak Harbor a handful of times during the campaign season. His mother was raised in Oak Harbor.Koster is a staunch conservative who voted against every state budget during his time in the Legislature and is strongly pro-life. Larsen describes himself as a moderate, with a pro-choice position on abortion, for example. One area of agreement between the two candidates is on strict gun control, which both oppose. “I’ve taken NRA (campaign) money,” Koster said. “I believe in responsible gun ownership — enforce the laws concerning guns.”Larsen told a South Whidbey Kiwanis audience earlier this month that he is in favor of background checks in gun stores and gun shows, and wants to keep guns away from violent offenders, but he is against gun licensing and registration.Koster told a crowd at a recent League of Women Voters forum on South Whidbey that Americans are experiencing the highest income taxes since World War II. He described it as “an unsustainable level of taxation,” and claimed that federal regulations cost $100 billion annually to implement. Department of Education spending comes with too much paperwork and too little trickles down to the schools, he said.On Social Security, Koster would like to see people able to invest a portion for a higher rate of return, and he wants to see the spending of Social Security money stopped during years when there is an excess. “There will be 77 million of us baby boomers looking for Social Security benefits,” he said. “Stop spending those dollars.”Koster said voters are at a “crossroads” where they have to choose between more or less government control in education, health care and retirement. “Do you trust bigger government or do you trust people?” he asked.At the same event, Larsen hewed to the Democratic Party line of paying down the national debt with the anticipated surplus while offering “targeted tax cuts to middle class families.” He sees a bigger federal role in Medicare by providing prescription drugs to the elderly, and would like more federal money spent on education. “We need an education system that catches up with our kids,” he said, after using his 4-year-old son as an example of someone who is already printing Disney characters off the Internet.Both candidates bring their families into the debate, Koster boasting of grandchildren while Larsen alludes to growing up in a large family headed by a power line worker of modest means. "

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