U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen is not a great orator, nor the kind of leader that you expect to inspire massive changes in the American system.
But he is a darned good U.S. Congressman.
Just ask the hundreds of workers at Intalco whose jobs he has worked tirelessly to preserve. Or ask the Whatcom County veterans who can travel to Mount Vernon instead of Seattle thanks to Larsen's work to help get a clinic opened in his district. Ask the Boeing workers who want to hold on to jobs and not lose them to unfair tax-supported competition from Airbus in Europe. Ask the military people in Everett and Oak Harbor who know that Larsen has always supported full funding for their missions, increasing the chance they will come home safely. Ask those concerned with the U.S.-Canada border about the funds he has helped land for more staff and more equipment. Ask the police and sheriff's office officials who have had his backing in the battle to halt the spread of methamphetamines in our communities.
There are complaints to be made about Larsen, a Democrat from Lake Stevens: He may not ever become a powerful enough leader in his party to push for the fiscal discipline he says he believes in, for example.
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But we find Larsen to be a intelligent, pragmatic, moderate Congressman whose positions fairly represent the majority of the citizens of Washington's 2nd Congressional District.
That may not sound sexy. But it's what representative democracy is all about. We suggest voters re-elect Larsen for another two years in the U.S. House.
Larsen's challenger in this year's election is John Koster, R-Arlington, who lost to Larsen in the same political race 10 years ago. Given the general "throw the bums out" mood in much of the nation, Koster would appear to stand a better chance of winning this time than when he lost by about 5 percent in the 2000 election.
But we don't believe Koster has the right ideas. We were surprised to hear him tell us in our editorial board meeting that although he has "no desire to privatize Social Security," he still thinks that it would be best for future generations to have private investment retirement instead of the federal plan. Given what has happened in the past five years, it's hard to imagine anyone still believes in the idea that the nation's retirement should be tied to Wall Street.
Koster also said he believes having a balanced federal budget is a must, which makes sense. But he then went on to talk about tax breaks he would like to see passed in order to stimulate the economy. He also would reauthorize the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003.
How would Koster balance a severely out-of-balance budget while keeping lower tax rates and adding new breaks? He said there are going to be "draconian" spending cuts. We are not sure voters in his district will support those cuts when they actually start happening.
There is also the not-so-small issue of Koster's stance on social issues. He has never made any excuses for his strong stance against all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest. We believe that stance is out-of-touch with the large majority of citizens in the 2nd District. Koster said he did not consider social issues to be part of the discussion in this election because everyone is so focused on the economy. There's no doubt the economy is atop voters' lists. But he will still be in a position to make change on the full range of issues.
We find Koster's positions, whether on abortion or the economy, make him less likely to be a good representative in Congress than Larsen. Larsen is the right choice for a community full mostly of moderate people who value the kind of non-glamorous hard work that Rick Larsen provides.