Rep. Rick Larsen (D)
Washington 2nd District
The 172 San Juan Islands, in the waters of Puget Sound at the far northwest corner of Washington, were the last part of the continental United States to be turned over to this country. These waters were great whaling grounds, and not until 1860 did the British relinquish them. Today, ferryboats ply the waters of the sound, connecting the islands to mainland Washington and to British Columbia, directly to the west. The publicly operated Washington State Ferries system has more than 26 million passengers annually. Whale-watching is popular not only with tourists, but also among scientists on both sides of the border. This is some of the most beautiful land and water of North America: the steely blue sound with green forested hills rising behind, shielded from the full force of Pacific rains by the Olympic Mountains, though still seldom dry. The little towns, on bits of level land between the water and the mountains, have the look of pristine New England villages or Midwestern historic towns but are better preserved. The stores are full of fresh produce and local seafood. The Seattle metropolitan area has marched north along the shore of Puget Sound, beyond the old lumber port and railroad terminus of Everett, with the huge Boeing plant where 747s, 777s and the new long-range twin-engine 787s are built. Sales of 787 Dreamliners have been especially strong. However, the plane’s inaugural flight has been delayed for almost two years, and concerns about its weight prompted Boeing to reduce the projected flight range for the first set of Dreamliners. To the north of Seattle are Bellingham and Blaine (named for the House Speaker and 1884 presidential nominee), on the 49th parallel, with America’s most attractively landscaped border crossing and the International Peace Arch, just south of British Columbia. Local studies have aroused fears that global warming combined with shifting ocean wind patterns will raise the water level of the sound higher than in most other areas. But for now, the region’s deepwater ports, two days closer to Asia than Southern California ports, are booming with container cargo.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 2nd Congressional District of Washington encompasses the San Juan Islands, including 45-mile-long Whidbey Island, and most of the margin of mainland along the sound and the huge Cascade Mountains, topped by snow-capped Mount Baker. The district has several military installations, including a relatively new, high-tech Navy base at Everett and a naval air station on Whidbey Island. The political tradition in most of the lumbering and fishing areas here is Democratic, while the rich agricultural areas, like the flower-bulb-growing Skagit Valley, are more Republican. Everett tends to be Democratic, some of the nearby new suburban towns Republican. Overall, this is a nearly evenly balanced district that tends to vote close to the state average. George W. Bush lost here 51%-47% in 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won the district 56%-42% in 2008.
Rep. Rick Larsen (D)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: June 15, 1965, Arlington .
Home: Lake Stevens.
Education: Pacific Lutheran U., B.A. 1987, U. of MN, M.P.A. 1990.
Family: Married (Tiia); 2 children.
Elected office: Snohomish City Cncl., 1998-2000, Pres., 1999-2000.
Professional Career: Econ. dev. ofcl., Port of Everett, 1990-91; Dir., pub. affairs, WA St. Dental Assn., 1991-98.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Rick Larsen, a Democrat first elected in 2000. He grew up in Arlington, in Snohomish County, graduated from Pacific Lutheran University and got a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota. He spent a year doing research on economic development for the Port of Everett. For six years, he was director of public affairs for the Washington State Dental Association. In 1998, he won a seat on the Snohomish County Council and later became its president. In 2000, Republican Jack Metcalf kept his promise to retire after three terms in Congress. The Democratic field was cleared for Larsen when a state legislator unpopular with labor leaders withdrew. The Republican field was cleared for conservative state Rep. John Koster when a moderate legislator failed to raise much money and dropped out. In the September all-party primary, Koster won 49%-46%. The general election became a battleground for political action committees and one of the premier contests in the nation. Anti–abortion rights groups and the National Rifle Association backed Koster, and unions and abortion rights groups fought for Larsen. Larsen said that the contest offered “a clear choice” on abortion, and he criticized Koster for referring to “our American holocaust.” Larsen won 50%-46%, doing better than his primary performance in each major county.
|Rick Larsen (D)||217,416||(62%)||($1,155,691)|
|Rick Bart (R)||131,051||(38%)||($44,576)|
|Rick Larsen (D)||98,304||(54%)|
|Rick Bart (R)||68,189||(38%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (64%), 2002 (50%), 2000 (50%)
In the House, Larsen joined the New Democrat Coalition and leans toward the center in his voting record. He voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001. After voting against the Iraq war resolution in 2002, Larsen became a staunch supporter of the military effort. But the 2006 election results led him to oppose President George W. Bush’s troop surge. “The president does not understand the meaning of the election in 2006,” he said in January 2007. In July of that year, he joined Washington’s five other Democratic House members in voting for a resolution to set a firm date for troop withdrawal.
Larsen co-chairs the U.S.-China Working Group, a bipartisan group of House members that seeks to build lasting diplomatic ties with China. In October 2007, he hosted a meeting with lawmakers and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that focused on the value of China’s currency and on intellectual-property abuses by the Chinese.
For a long time Larsen worked to have 106,000 acres in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest designated as wilderness; the House initially defeated his bill but finally passed it in 2008. The designation allows the land in Snohomish County to receive the highest level of federal protection. On other local issues, he has pushed to secure funds for upgraded border security at Bellingham and increased support for the Puget Sound ferries.
National Republicans made a play for the seat in 2006, raising money for retired Navy Capt. Doug Roulstone. But Roulstone turned out to be a weaker than expected candidate, and Larsen won 64%-36%. In 2008, Republicans recruited former Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart, but Bart entered the contest late, which hurt his ability to raise money. Larsen defeated him 62%-38%.