EDITORIAL: Retain Larsen in Congress

Deciding that Rick Larsen should get a second term in Congress was no easy decision. His challenger, Norma Smith, is a worthy opponent, and this is the first national election we’ve had since the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For the first time since then, voters in the Second Congressional District can have an impact on national policy.

Larsen, a Democrat from Arlington, has served his district well in his first two years in office. He got himself appointed to the House Armed Services Committee, which enabled him to play an important role in defense issues. He has helped Whidbey Island Naval Air Station procure the funds it needs to improve its facilities and fleet in an era when its equipment is crucial to U.S. defense. He has helped the city of Oak Harbor retain funding needed to pursue its dream of building a city dock that could help revitalize the downtown area.

On a broader scale, Larsen has worked hard and effectively to make gas pipelines safer and protect local farmers from unfair competition. He has helped strengthen security along the Canada/U.S. border without giving in to pressure to make it part of the job of the U.S. military, which already has enough responsibilities.

Larsen was against President Bush’s massive tax cuts which, in retrospect, appear to have done little to help the economy. On the medical front, the Democrats are more likely than Republicans to provide meaningful prescription drug help to seniors, too many of whom have to decide between medicine and food each month.

Larsen’s record falters a bit for those who still yearn for another hawkish young Democrat like Henry Jackson to represent the Second District. Larsen voted for the Patriot Act in the wake of Sept. 11 and the anthrax scare, but then voted against the homeland security bill and the bill to allow the president to attack Iraq, if necessary. Voting with Jim McDermott in such cases must leave some of his constituents shaking their heads. But where it counts most — obtaining adequate funding for the nation’s security, and just compensation for service personnel — Larsen has been there fighting for the people in his district.

Any voter who wants to get tough with Iraq might be happier with Republican Norma Smith. She has spent six years as an aide to Congressman Jack Metcalf and knows her way around the other Washington. She’s a trooper, but perhaps too willing to unquestioningly follow the president into a disaster in the Middle East. On social issues, the Republicans don’t seem to have meaningful answers to our growing national health care crisis, which has hit this region particularly hard.

Overall, Rick Larsen proved in his first term that he is an effective representative. He works hard and covers his district thoroughly. Seniority is important in Congress, and changing our representative every few years means we’ll never have much influence. Therefore, Congressman Larsen should be retained.

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