By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
EVERETT — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen admits that redistricting helps.
The redrawn 2nd Congressional District no longer includes the conservative block of eastern Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. In addition, it now includes areas of south Snohomish County prone to vote Democratic.
In the primary election, the incumbent Democrat walked away from his five challengers with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Republican Dan Matthews came in second with nearly 30 percent.
Matthews isn’t letting predictions of his own defeat Nov. 6 slow him down.
He has paid for broadcast ads that accuse Larsen of running a loose ship in the congressman’s Washington, D.C., office. Larsen fired three staffers last December, an hour after learning they were drinking at work and writing about it on Twitter.
Matthews, who is a military veteran and a Boeing employee, also claims that Larsen exaggerates his record in supporting Boeing, veterans and the Navy presence in the congressional district. Larsen said he had a hand in helping land the Air Force refueling tanker contract for Boeing and in getting the USS Nimitz stationed at Everett before the departure of its sister aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln. Other local elected officials have agreed with him.
Another Matthews ad claims that Larsen’s voting record on Afghanistan keeps U.S. troops there needlessly. Larsen has voted numerous times to support the draw-down of combat operations in Afghanistan.
Larsen isn’t planning any TV ads.
In 1992, Matthews took out a $3,500 ad in the Spokesman-Review newspaper calling then-senatorial candidate Patty Murray “lazy, incompetent and unable to read a simple budget.” Murray is now the state’s most senior senator. Matthews said he would have no trouble working with other representatives from Washington state, including Murray, with whom he served in the 1980s on the Shoreline School Board.
“I can work with Patty, absolutely. I am a different person than I was then,” Matthews said. “I apologized for the ad. She has let go of it.”
Matthews isn’t letting go of Larsen’s support of the proposed Whatcom County-based Gateway Pacific coal terminal, which would mean many more mile-long coal trains traveling north on the railway tracks in his congressional district.
Matthews also supports more jobs for the people of Whatcom County and, thus, he supports the terminal. However he is critical of Larsen’s acceptance of campaign contributions from Burlington Northern Santa Fe and other coal train interests.
Matthews wants to charge, on each ton of coal, a fee that would be used to set up air and water quality monitors, as well as traffic and noise mitigations along the coal train route.
Coal trains are the hot issue in the 2nd District and many of Larsen’s longtime supporters have chewed on Larsen’s ear with their environmental concerns.
“This is a difficult issue,” Larsen said. “The main reason I support this is because thousands of people in Whatcom County are out of work. I have encouraged people who have environmental concerns to participate in the scoping process and public hearings run by those who will be making the decisions. There is a lot of work to be done before this terminal can happen.”
Larsen said he is running for re-election to help improve the economy, create jobs, keep the Navy in the district, invest in highways and bridges and find ways for young adults and those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to get the education, training and jobs they need.
“We have a lot of doorbells yet to ring,” Larsen said. “People say I am doing well, but are not taking anything for granted, regardless of how the primary went.”
Matthews said he wants to serve in Congress in order to make it easier for small businesses to survive, to make changes that limit government and to lower energy costs.
“I can’t match Larsen in money, but I can promise people that if I am elected I will be back here every Saturday for a town forum so they know I am listening,” Matthews said.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
2nd Congressional district
At stake is a two-year term as a member of the House of Representatives. The district runs south Snohomish County to Bellingham and includes Everett, Marysville, Stanwood and Island and San Juan counties. The salary is $174,000 a year.
Experience: Serving sixth term in Congress. Previously served on the Snohomish County Council and worked for the Port of Everett and the Washington State Dental Association.
Experience: Former Shoreline School Board member, Air Force veteran, retired airline pilot, Boeing pilot instructor.