Elections

Larsen, Koster in campaign fighting shape

With its constant flow of back and forth television attack ads, bitter retorts, and campaign websites that seem to focus more on opponents than goals, the race for the U.S. Congressional District 2 seat between incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen and Republican John Koster has gotten particulary nasty.

Koster

Koster, 59, is a former dairy farmer and a lifelong Republican from Snohomish County. He is a former three-term state representative who lost a close race to Larsen in 2000 for the District 2 seat, which stretches from Mukilteo north to the Candian border. He went on to secure a spot on the Snohomish County Council — the legislative body that functions like Island County’s board of commissioners — and held on to the seat for the past seven years.

Koster is focusing heavily on the economy. Indeed it’s been his war cry, and at the heart of his message is an attempt to pin the blame on his opponent.

Dominating his webpage is an economic calculator meant to represent the national debt. Every second it increases by thousands. It’s just below a tab labeled “Larsen’s Lies.” Just below that is a YouTube video that attacks Larsen’s support of the stimulus package, alleging that it is helping to create jobs in China.

At the same time Koster touts himself as a deficit-busting champion, citing a reputation he claims he earned while serving in Olympia as a fiscal watchdog. A good place to start, he says, is a national hiring and salary freeze for federal employees. But spending in all departments needs to be reined in, and that includes the defense budget.

In fact, with a federal deficit topping $13.5 trillion, Koster says nothing will be safe if he’s elected.

“I don’t know if anything is sacred at this point,” he said.

Yet Koster also favors keeping alive the highly controversial tax cuts signed into law by President George Bush in 2001 and 2003. Although he did not say how he would pay for them, he believes tax cuts are one of the basic ingredients of a healthy economy.

“It’s rudimentary economics,” he said.

Koster is also strongly critical of Larsen’s support of health care reform. He says he would seek to repeal the act and take on tort reform as well. On a similar note, he denies allegations by Larsen that he is in favor of privatizing Social Security.

“That’s just a blatant lie,” he said.

As for Afghanistan, “We have to stay as long as it takes to get things done,” Koster said.

Koster is also against hot-button topics such as abortion and gay marriage. Though he said such issues are not “what this election will turn on” he confirmed he is also in favor of the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” policy, which is currently being argued in a federal appeals court.

He says it comes down to one simple test.

“Does it strengthen our military? No, it doesn’t,” he said.

Larsen

Also a lifelong Snohomish County resident, Larsen, 45, is seeking his sixth term in Congress.

Prior to his election, he worked as a lobbyist for the Washington State Dental Association in Olympia. He served as a Snohomish County Councilman from 1997 to 2000, the year when he beat out Koster for the District 2 seat.

Like Koster, Larsen is also focused on the economy, though he seems equally focused on his opponent. He took the first shot with the recent round of television commercials, sponsoring a bit that claimed his opponent was in favor of privatizing Social Security. Larsen claimed in a recent interview with a Whidbey News-Times editorial board that it was all true and fair.

“If you can prove it, great,” Larsen said. “If you can’t, don’t say it. We’ve got it all sourced.”

If elected to another two years in Washington, D.C., Larsen said he plans to put into works a detailed agenda addressing the economy. On the top of the list is securing the Air Force’s tanker contract for Boeing. Representing about 11,000 jobs in the Puget Sound region, it’s a contract that cannot be allowed to go overseas, he said.

Larsen also wants to improve access to credit for small business, saying that banks are still reluctant to give loans. He said the Recovery Act has helped, and vowed to continue his support for government guarantees and loan waivers “until we’ve worked ourselves through the hangover of the financial crisis.”

Similarly, Larsen said he still supports Wall Street reform, but the recently passed bill is only partially complete. Rules still need to be implemented to ensure that the public will not be held responsible for the poor lending practices of hedge-fund managers.

He is in favor of some of the Bush tax cuts, and said they should be preserved for the middle class. Failing to implement them for high income earners will cost the taxpayers more than $700 billion over 10 years.

“That’s directly added to the debt,” Larsen said.

At the same time however, he promised continued support of military funding, especially money that would go to installations such as Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

John Koster

• Age: 59

• Family: Married, 4 children, 9 grandchildren.

• Time in district: Lifelong.

• Career: Dairy farmer, Snohomish County Councilman.

• Education: Associate degree from Everett Community College.

Rick Larsen

• Age: 45

• Family: Married, two sons.

• Time in district: Lifelong.

• Career: Lobbyist, politics.

• Education: Master’s degree in public administration from University of Minnesota, bachelor of arts in political science from Pacific Lutheran University.

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