Bellingham man challenges Rep. Rick Larsen in primary

Larry Kalb, 55, has announced his candidacy Jan. 15 for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Kalb, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Bellingham, in the primary. - Larry Kalb for Congress
Larry Kalb, 55, has announced his candidacy Jan. 15 for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Kalb, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Bellingham, in the primary.
— image credit: Larry Kalb for Congress

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Bellingham, will have a challenge in the primary.

Larry Kalb, 55, announced his candidacy Jan. 15 for the 2nd Congressional District seat, to which Larsen was elected in 2000. Kalb lives in Bellingham, works for the Whatcom Transportation Authority finance department, and is president of Health Care for All, a statewide organization advocating single-payer health care.

Earlier this month, Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, a former state representative who ran against Larsen in 2000, announced his candidacy. Koster is a Republican.

Kalb is a former chairman of the Washington State Progressive Caucus and was twice a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He is a former board member of the Whatcom County chapter of Washington Conservation Voters.

Kalb's Web site address is

Kalb will have some help in San Juan County, which gave Larsen 72.44 percent of its vote in the 2008 general election. "I've known Larry since 2004," said Sharon Abreu of Eastsound. "I'm impressed by his values and integrity and so I'm helping him with his campaign, working with Rebecca Hellman on Lopez to help people in the San Juans get to know Larry, who lives in Bellingham."

Under Washington law, the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 17 primary — regardless of party — advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

In a press release announcing his campaign, Kalb said he disagrees with Larsen on health care reform as proposed, and on expenditures for war.

“He has handed over his political authority to legislate to lobbyists for big business and then showered them with taxpayer money to boot," Kalb said. "He’s too expensive to keep in office. The pending health ‘insurance’ legislation, which lobbyists authored, represents the largest shifting of citizens’ money to corporate interests in the history of this nation.

“Larsen continues to defer to corporate and monied interests and we, the constituents of the 2nd Congressional District, are paying for this transfer of power. He’s done this with the credit card companies, the first economic stimulus package, the emergency war funding and, most recently, with health care reform legislation.”

Regarding health care reform, Kalb said, “The people of my district want to get Wall Street medicine out of their doctor’s office, but instead my congressman pledged his allegiance to the insurance companies by giving them a profit windfall worth hundreds of billions of dollars on the backs of us taxpayers and that’s wrong. My motto is ‘Equal access, equal care — regardless of our station in life.’ I believe our money should go to getting more health care services, not making middlemen richer.”

Kalb lived in Europe for 11 years before moving to Bellingham. In Europe, he said he experienced first-hand the economic benefits of universal access to health care. “A whole layer of our economy is missing in comparison,” Kalb said. “Other nations depend on the intellectual initiative of a healthy citizenry to create domestic economic expansion, but with our health care system it retracts. And politicians always talk about creating more jobs. That can’t happen under our system of profit-based medicine.”

Kalb also differs with the incumbent over war expenditures. “We could use the $160 billion my congressman slated for more war in Afghanistan to stimulate job growth or to build a light-rail system from Blaine to Seattle. Our roads are already congested and the erosion of transportation improvement funds promises to make our air quality worse, causing more kids to be treated for asthma. A good steward of public funds would provide child care programs for young working moms and dads who struggle to set-up a household, or enable cash-strapped high school graduates the financial means to study a skill or profession of their choice, or even help those families facing foreclosure to keep their house.”

His No. 1 goal if elected: “During my tenure I will work fiercely to take down every for sale sign from the halls of Congress by supporting campaign finance reform legislation that brings sovereignty in line with what matters most to us voters, namely stable homes, secure livelihoods and protection of our health.”

“This is our home. We have a right to just governance.”

You can talk to the candidate by calling (360) 927-2729.

Larsen is from Arlington, earned degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Minnesota, and served two years on the Snohomish County Council before being elected to Congress. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Budget Committee.

Larsen — — sponsored legislation creating the 106,577-acre Wild Sky Wilderness Area, and helped win funding for the transfer of Mitchell Hill to the San Juan Island National Historical Park.

It should be an interesting campaign.

After Koster announced his candidacy, Joel Connelly reported on, "Larsen has established a solid hold on the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Mukilteo to the Canadian border. But the 2nd is designed to be a swing district.

"The district elected Democratic congressmen from 1964 to 1994. A Republican, Jack Metcalf, won the seat in the 1994 GOP landslide. Metcalf held it, with fund raising visits from then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, until obeying a self-imposed limit of three terms and retiring in 2000.

"Koster ran ahead of Larsen in the 2000 primary, but the Democrat took the seat in November.

"Larsen has excelled at retail politics: During Congress' work periods, he can be found at such local hangouts as Neil's Clover Patch Cafe on Whidbey Island. Last summer, as colleagues faced hostile crowds, Larsen presided over a peaceful town hall meeting that drew 8,000 people to an Everett stadium.

"Larsen worked to win concessions for oil refiners in the energy and climate bill narrowly passed by the House last summer. He has worked to win improved staffing and security at the U.S.-Canada border."

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