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Two Larsen challengers not alone as candidates with criminal convictions

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Two of the candidates seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen in the fall election have criminal pasts, something that a political analyst said is not unusual these days.

The candidates for 2nd Congressional district with legal issues are a perennial contender and a Western Washington University student convicted of attempted theft less than a year ago.

They're not alone as political candidates with checkered pasts, said Nathan Gonzales of the Washington, D.C.-based publication Inside Elections.

He pointed to coal tycoon Don Blankenship, who recently placed third in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in West Virginia, after he served a year in prison in connection with an explosion that killed 29 coal miners.

"It was this almost surreal dynamic" that had Blankenship claiming that he had been railroaded into prison by anti-coal activists under President Obama, Gonzales said.

"There might be more media paying closer attention," Gonzales said by phone. "I wonder if we're uncovering those more often rather than there being more of them."

According to election documents filed May 18, Collin Richard Carlson of Marysville, 25, is running as a Democrat to represent the district that includes Bellingham, Mount Vernon and Everett.

Carlson pleaded guilty in November to attempted second-degree theft in connection with a false insurance claim after a car wreck last summer, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records and the state Insurance Commissioner's Office.

He received a 364-day sentence in Whatcom County Jail, with all but 15 days suspended, and a $700 fine. His jail time was converted to 120 hours of community service.

Court documents show that a felony charge of filing a false insurance claim was dropped in exchange for Carlson's guilty plea to a gross misdemeanor of attempted theft of up to $5,000.

"From my standpoint, it was a miscommunication that snowballed way beyond what it was intended to be," Carlson said this week.

According to court records, state Insurance Commission investigators found that Carlson bought insurance the day after a crash in a Bellingham parking lot that totaled his 2008 Ford Focus, then claimed the damage occurred the day after he bought the policy.

Investigators said Carlson told them that he must have been confused about the dates — after he was confronted with evidence supplied by a towing company and an insurance agent.

WWU spokesman Paul Cocke said Carlson is a 2015 graduate and is enrolled in a teaching certificate program through the university. Carlson said he is completing his public service and intends to teach elementary school.

He said his conviction should not disqualify him as a candidate for Congress.

Meanwhile, Larsen challenger Mike the Mover of Mill Creek has two convictions for operating an illegal business, according to news reports.

Mover, who changed his name from Patrick Shanks some 20 years ago, runs for various elected positions to draw attention to his Seattle-area moving company, according to The Seattle Times.

He's running as a moderate Republican.

Larsen, an Everett Democrat, has been elected nine times since 2000 in the heavily Democratic district. He defeated Republican Marc Hennemann by a vote of 64 percent to 36 percent in November 2016.

Three additional candidates for Larsen's seat are listed as Independent, Libertarian, and Green party members.

Under Washington state's primary election rules, the top two candidates advance to the Nov. 6 general election, no matter their party affiliation.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty
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