The newly drawn 2nd Congressional district traces the inland sea, hugging the coast from Everett north to Bellingham and extending west to the San Juan Islands. The saltwater is as fresh and enveloping as all the Democrats. That’s because the 2nd was mapped to be a safe district, part of the horse-trading and arms-control-style maneuvering of the Washington Redistricting Commission. As the Herald opined back in August, the Redistricting Commission has become a catalyst for protecting incumbents, and Washington’s political class (read: both Republicans and Democrats) is just fine with that.
A discussion of how to de-politicize something systemic — emulating the Iowa Legislative Service Agency, for example, which draws political lines using computer software, with population the only criterion — is for another time. This election-year’s question centers on the commitment, work and service of the current 2nd district seat holder, Rep. Rick Larsen. Larsen is a conscientious, often underappreciated lawmaker, dedicated to his district, advancing local exports, and safeguarding Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Naval Station Everett. He deserves to be elected to a seventh term.
Larsen was an early proponent of pipeline-safety legislation, coming on the heels of the 1999 Olympic pipeline explosion in Bellingham that killed three young people. Over the years, Larsen has labored on often technical business, infrastructure and agricultural fixes that benefit residents, but are tough to recast into applause lines. Funding to dredge the Swinomish Channel. Fighting to save jobs at Ferndale’s Intalco smelter. Working for better pricing models for dairy farmers.
These 2nd district victories don’t easily roll off the tongue, and they’re not as high-profile as Larsen’s signature achievement, the passage of the 2008 Wild Sky Wilderness Act. (Larsen has also exhibited across-the-aisle savvy, teaming with Alaska Republican Don Young to secure ferry funding.) Nevertheless, from his bureaucracy-slashing District Export Promotion Program, to superb constituent services, Larsen understands authentic public service in all its prosaic glory.
Larsen’s non-show horse MO may have been the lure for his conservative challenger, Republican Dan Matthews. Matthews, a retired commercial pilot and Air Force veteran, laments what he views as absent leadership. Matthews is a principled, grassroots challenger, a deficit hawk, and someone who doesn’t believe that Larsen played a meaningful role securing the Air Force contract for Boeing’s refueling tanker. (There is no evidence regarding the Boeing charge. Larsen, Dicks, Murray, and Cantwell all helped.) Matthews’ forte is military and foreign policy, but he needs a more detailed grounding on issues ranging from Medicare to the federal budget. (Interestingly, both Larsen and Matthews embrace moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Who knew?)
Rick Larsen’s understated style belies a steely resolve to support the people of his district. He serves his community and his country well. The Herald Editorial Board recommends Rep. Rick Larsen for another term in the U.S. House of Representatives.