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Admitting uphill challenge, ex-sheriff Bart hopes to replace Larsen in Congress
By Jeff Van Derford
South Whidbey Record
It isn’t easy running for office against a popular, four-term congressman.
As Nov. 4 fast approaches, Republican Rick Bart is, in the main, upbeat about his chances to unseat U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Bellingham, in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties, as well as parts of King and Snohomish counties.
Upbeat, but realistic.
“Actually, I’m doing better than I thought I would,” Bart said. “As we get closer, things have picked up for my campaign.”
Bart said that volunteer support has been a big help, but he has concerns about fund-raising.
“That’s been a disappointment, for two reasons,” Bart said. “First, I’m running against a well-financed incumbent and, second, the money in the district is going to the governor’s race, for Dino Rossi and Christine Gregoire.”
Bart is a Sedro-Woolley native and a graduate of Mountlake Terrace High School and Seattle University. He knows the district well and believes his experience as sheriff and his generally moderate views are just what are needed in the district.
Bart was the top cop in Snohomish County for 12 years, running unopposed in 2003.
He said he’s been going to any public event in the district that invites him (although he's missed two candidate forums on San Juan Island), and has been doing some serious door-belling and visiting local chambers of commerce.
“And football games. I went to one in Bellingham last Friday and plan to be at South Whidbey High School on Oct. 24,” he added.
Why that particular game? “My daughter is a cheerleader for Archbishop Murphy and I try to support her and the team wherever possible.”
Bart said the two issues of real concern to him are Iraq and the economy.
“I’m a veteran, and my two sons were in the Army and Air Force,” Bart said.
“It’s time we get out of Iraq — not cut and run like the Soviets did in Afghanistan — but by a solid plan that will work while protecting our troops as they withdraw. We can’t abandon the citizens there.”
He added that the war’s huge financial drain is having a terrible effect on the nation’s economy and considers that a withdrawal is the right thing to do.
And he would have joined the 228 members of Congress who voted against the $700 billion rescue of the financial industry. The problem, he said, is the national debt.
“If we pass this bailout, our grandchildren will be stuck with the tab,” he said. “A huge debt that can only be solved by raising taxes or cutting government programs, but it requires members of Congress to make unpopular decisions.”
Bart said the bailout is too much money and there’s no structured plan to pay it back.
“There’s an element of unfairness at work here,” he said. “This won’t help the little guys out there, the ones struggling to keep their jobs and the families losing their homes.”
As for the national stage, Bart supports John McCain, chiefly because of the Republican candidate’s Vietnam experiences.
“When a man goes through those tough times, it gives him an understanding about himself and the world that Barack Obama lacks,” he said.
And he likes Sarah Palin. “I’m a hunter and sportsman and it’s refreshing to see someone who feels the same way on the ticket. She’s bright and positive and has my respect and admiration.”
But, then so does Joe Biden, who Bart said has always supported the state’s law enforcement agencies. “He’s a man of integrity.”
And finally, there’s the senator from Illinois.
“Barack Obama is a great speaker and personable, but I’m just not comfortable with his level of experience. But if he’s elected, it certainly would be a historic moment for America,” Bart said.
Larsen, of course, has been in the thick of the financial crisis; he voted in favor of the big bailout.
“I’m disappointed that this critical legislation failed to pass the House,” he said after flying home the Monday after the vote.
Larsen said he and his colleagues will go into session again to try and restructure the package.
“This is serious business, a huge crisis that will take patience, stability and a certain calmness from the nation’s leaders,” he added.
He said Sen. McCain has called for a whole new financial plan, but Larsen thinks the current plan is the way to go.
“The money will be released in installments. First, $250 billion to purchase debt and buy equity in the companies involved,” he said.
The second part, authorized by the president, will be $100 billion and the final $350 billion will have to be authorized by Congress. “It takes a long time to disburse that kind of money, and chances are it won’t be complete until the next administration takes over.
“The first bill was just three pages long,” Larsen said. “The one we voted on was 110 pages, filled with taxpayer protections, stronger oversights, limited compensation for CEO’s and minimizing home foreclosures.
“It would have banned golden parachutes and exorbitant bonuses for Wall Street executives who participate. It would have provided help for families who have been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. It would have ensured that taxpayers get a fair return on our investment and benefit from any future profit, and it would have provided strong oversight and prohibited any conflicts of interest.”
Larsen said the next step is to reform the regulatory system, and the man to oversee that process is Barack Obama.
“Obama as president would be better for this country over a man whose party oversaw deregulation, lack of oversight and little enforcement of what laws are left,” he said.
Larsen added that it will be the average American — those who pay their bills on time and have built a good credit standing — who will suffer due to Wall Street’s errors and lack of regulation by the Bush administration.
Time spent on the economy hasn’t hurt his campaign.
“I have a great staff and they’ve been working hard,” he said. “By Nov. 4, we’ll have rung 45,000 doorbells in the district. We haven’t slowed down a bit.”
Larsen was born and raised in Arlington and was first elected in 2000 to represent Northwest Washington in the U.S. House of Representatives. Larsen has served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Small Business Committee, where one of his top priorities has been to help create family-wage jobs in the region.
He’s always considered himself a moderate. He’s focused most of his campaign on issues he believes concern those in his district: agriculture, veterans’ services and trade.
He emphasized his ability to meet the district’s needs by working with veterans and local law enforcement, and searching for ways to create jobs and transportation projects that can keep the economy moving.
Last summer, Larsen helped secure an 11-percent increase in funding for the Veterans Administration, including $3.8 billion in funding for mental health, post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury care.
Larsen cites as a major accomplishment his work designating 106,000 acres of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as the Wild Sky Wilderness Area last spring.
On Iraq, though he originally voted against the war in 2003, Larsen prefers a phased pull-out of the 130,000-strong U.S. military presence by working closely with Iraqi officials to get them to shoulder more of the burden.
“Stability should be our goal; democracy and freedom are the administration’s buzz words but they aren’t realistic,” Larsen said. “More troops should be repositioned on Iraq’s borders, repositioned to strategically vital areas like Afghanistan or Africa or brought home.”