EVERETT — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen barely survived two years ago in a tough 2nd Congressional District re-election campaign against Snohomish County Councilman John Koster.
This year, thanks to redistricting, Larsen no longer has to deal with Koster, who now is running in the 1st District.
While Larsen faces five challengers on the primary election ballot, the new boundaries of his district and the power of incumbency are going to make it difficult to unseat the six-term Democratic congressman, said University of Washington associate political science professor Matt Barreto.
“There is no way a candidate like Larsen is going to lose in 2012. The best possible chance to beat him was in 2010 with the Koster riding the tea party wave. And Larsen withstood it,” Barreto said. “Larsen’s district has changed a bit, so he has got to do the work of introducing himself to some different voters. But the only way he would face a possible loss is if a very well-funded and well-known person ran against him.”
The only challenger who has raised any amount of money is Dan Matthews, a Republican from Mukilteo. A Boeing pilot instructor, Matthews has collected $220,000 in donations, much of it is a loan from himself. Of course, Larsen has raised more than $1 million.
One of the primary issues emerging in the 2nd District is the proposed coal export operation north of Bellingham, but Larsen and Matthews are in agreement that it should be built. If approved, project would mean additional trains laden with coal using the rails each day through Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
The other Republican candidates in the race are John Shoop, who has a varied business background, including offering survivalist training; and Eli Olson, who manages an electrical supply distribution center. Running independently are Mike Lapointe, a former union officer and Occupy Everett activist, and Glen Johnson, a Skagit County farmer who has run for office several times.
Ballots already have been mailed and are due back by Aug. 7. The top two vote getters, regardless of party, advance to the Nov. 6 General Election.
The new 2nd district still takes in all of Island and San Juan counties, but now it’s primarily the I-5 corridor from Mountlake Terrace to Bellingham.
“I was sad to lose eastern Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, but glad to pick up parts of south (Snohomish) county,” Larsen said. “We’ve recently door-belled at 6,000 homes, and it does seem that redistricting made the 2nd more friendly to Democrats.”
Larsen counts as wins this term the bipartisan work he did to help secure Boeing’s contract with the U.S. Air Force for 767-based refueling tankers and to keep the Navy in Snohomish and Island counties.
“The No. 1 issue of this campaign is jobs and the economy,” Larsen said. “We need to move forward to improve our export environment for small businesses and meet our transportation needs so that our products can get around the world. We need to focus on the education and training of our people so they are prepared to enter our growing aerospace industry.”
Larsen needs a challenger, said Matthews, the only other candidate who has any elected experience. He served one term on the Shoreline School Board in the late 1980s.
“I am an airline pilot. I am a decision-maker. I know I can do a better job,” Matthews said. “We need action, someone who will cross the aisle to find problem-solving answers. People are tired of the rancor in Congress. I don’t look to blame red or blue, but the distrust in this country is going to kill us. We need statesmanship above all else.”
Matthews agrees with Larsen that the biggest issue is jobs for the people of the 2nd District. They also agree that the proposed coal export operation at Cherry Point in Whatcom County could provide some of those needed jobs.
Johnson and Lapointe have environmental concerns about the coal trains, and both have said they are running to be heard by Larsen.
“It’s time for politicians to stop kowtowing to the corporations and their parties. It’s a broken system,” Lapointe said. “It should not be the person with the most money who wins.”
It’s the third time Johnson has thrown his name into the congressional race.
“We could put 4 million young people to work right now working on watersheds, composting and food production in an advanced Peace Corps. Water and food should be real concerns for this country,” Johnson said. “But it’s not going to come out of tax cuts. The Republicans who make a lot of money and do not pay taxes are unpatriotic.”
Shoop, who has tea party support, said he has been branded a maverick by the Republican Party.
“Too much God and country for them,” Shoop said.
If elected, Shoop said he would fight abortion, ask for a stronger military, oppose same-sex marriage, support Israel, reduce government and fix the economy.
Olson, who calls himself a Constitutional Republican, said he supports veterans, states’ rights, the Constitution and asking banks to pay back the bailout. He is running to stop what he sees as endless unconstitutional wars fought by the United States.
“You don’t spread democracy at the end of a gun,” Olson said. “You do it with support and encouragement.”
Experience: Army veteran. Lifelong farmer who belongs to numerous regional and state farming organizations. Ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2000 and 2010.
Party: The 99 Percent
Experience: Occupy Everett organizer, former officer with United Electrical Workers Local 264, chemical dependency caseworker.
Experience: Larsen is serving his sixth term in Congress. Previously served on the Snohomish County Council and worked for the Port of Everett.
Experience: Former Shoreline School Board member, Air Force veteran, retired airline pilot, Boeing pilot instructor.
Experience: Republican Party state delegate, an electrician.
Experience: Business owner, author, survival instructor, Marine Corps veteran.