The two candidates running for Congress in the Second District differed in their responses to almost every question asked during a virtual forum Thursday.
The forum was hosted by the Whidbey Island League of Women Voters and Sno-Isle Libraries.
Democrat Rep. Rick Larsen is seeking an 11th term in the U.S. House of Representatives. His Republican challenger, Tim Hazelo, is looking to unseat him.
Larsen was first elected to Congress in 2000.
Hazelo, an Oak Harbor resident, is a newcomer to the political arena who has argued against electing “career politicians” and has advocated for term limits.
When asked about rising unemployment numbers, Hazelo voiced concern over the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was critical of the number of jobs lost because of the closure of small businesses.
“If the cure becomes worse than the cancer, then we kind of need to rethink what we’re doing,” Hazelo said.
“I don’t think we’re dying as a country,” Larsen responded. “I think we’re strong. I think we’re very resilient.”
He pointed to workforce development councils as a tool for identifying what jobs in the community are most in demand, and then use federal and local funding to train employees.
On the topic of policing and systematic racism, the two candidates also differed.
Larsen spoke about the importance of passing the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act,” a bill that he said will enact serious changes to how law enforcement is trained. The bill is named for a Minneapolis, Minn., man who died while a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes in a widely seen video of the arrest. The death spurred protests across the country and led to calls for changes in policing.
Larsen said that he has reached out to law enforcement, elected leaders and Black leaders in his district, and they have recommended focusing on racial bias training and establishing a registry for officers who have acted inappropriately.
“We recognize that Black lives matter, and we need to act like it in this country,” Larsen said.
Hazelo criticized the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, referring to the name of the measure as “disgraceful.”
“This is just another left tactic of making something sound all politically cool and great and hoping people jump on board and then sticking a bunch of stuff in there that does nothing,” Hazelo said.
Hazelo also criticized the question about police violence asked by a forum moderator. He claimed that the question implies that police are running around and killing people all of the time.
A former police officer for the Department of Defense, Hazelo said more law enforcement officers are “hurt and killed by violent criminals.”
Hazelo also dismissed climate change as a hoax, saying ocean rise hasn’t happened.
“The planet has been changing since it became a planet,” he said. He does, however, support the use of electric vehicles and professed a love for Tesla cars.
In contrast, Larsen provided a plethora of options to combat the threat of climate change.
“The United States needs to get back into the Paris Climate Change Accords and be a leader for the world,” Larsen said, adding that the country has the technology to take advantage of the economic growth opportunities.
He also recommends reversing the changes the current administration has undertaken to undermine the Clean Power Plan established by President Obama and investing in greener transportation.