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Larsen leading in bid for fifth term in U.S. House of Representatives

Rick Larsen - Submitted photo
Rick Larsen
— image credit: Submitted photo

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Bellingham, was coasting Tuesday to a fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, District 2.

At 8:10 p.m. Larsen was leading with 65,976 votes to Rick Bart's 41,066, according to the Secretary of State's office. Votes had been reported in Island and Snohomish counties. Elections officials were still awaiting results from King, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms. Come January, the annual salary will be $174,000. Larsen has represented the district since 2001. Barta a Republican, served three terms as Snohomish County sheriff and was sheriff when Larsen was a Snohomish County Council member.

Getting his moderate message out to voters was a challenge for Bart; the Republican Party invested its funds in races where Democrats were more vulnerable, and Larsen outspent and outvisited him. Larsen attended two candidate forums on San Juan; Bart missed both.

During this term, Larsen won passage of the Wild Sky Wilderness Act, which protects 106,000 acres of wild lands in the heart of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Wild Sky is the first designated wilderness in Washington state in more than 20 years.

Larsen pushed to get the Veterans Administration to build an outpatient clinic for veterans in San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties, and the VA is also conducting monthly clinics at Inter Island Medical Center in Friday Harbor. He has sponsored legislation to prevent and treat meth addiction.

He is an advocate of investing in America’s infrastructure and changing America’s energy policy. On that end, he voted for the release of 10 percent of America’s oil reserves to help meet demand and ease oil prices. He believes we need to switch to alternative energy sources and says oil companies should lose the domestic oil leases that they are not using.

In response to a question during a candidates forum in Friday Harbor, Larsen said he believes the U.S. has unfinished work in Afghanistan, which he said should have been America's focus all along, not Iraq.

“We need to be in Afghanistan,” Larsen said, adding that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks took root there. He said the Taliban’s influence is growing along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan will require cooperation from NATO and giving the Afghanistan government what it needs so that it can govern.

Larsen said he supports testing for accountability but that progress must be tracked per student, not per school. He said No Child Left Behind must be fully funded; he said 74 percent of the program is funded.

Bart, meanwhile, was moderate on Iraq. In an earlier interview, he wouldn't call America’s war in Iraq a mistake but did say that war should always be “the absolute last resort.” And he said Congress must support the troops “so they can get the job done.”

Regarding U.S. energy policy, he said the U.S. must “move aggressively” toward energy independence, and he supports coal shale and nuclear power as alternative sources. “We have the biggest supply of coal shale in the world,” he said. He said France derives 80 percent of its energy from nuclear power, and that Americans need “an open dialogue” on nuclear power. He also supports oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, saying that drilling would occur on 1 million acres out of a 22 million-acre reserve.

Regarding federal debt, Bart believes bipartisan work on preserving Social Security and Medicare is a necessity. He also supports a one-year moratorium on earmarks, a specified amount of money directed to a organization or project in a Congress member’s home state or district.

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