Koster says he’ll seek a 39th District state House seat

John Koster is done thinking about running for a seat in the Legislature.

He’s doing it.

Wednesday morning the Arlington Republican with a long political resume announced he will seek a seat in the 39th Legislative District. Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, holds the seat but is forgoing re-election to run for Congress.

A victory this fall would return Koster to Olympia, where his lawmaking career began two decades ago.

Koster said the reason he’s running now is no different than it was then.

“I want to serve. I feel like it’s a calling, a call to duty,” he said.

The former dairy farmer said the issues he’ll tackle aren’t much different today, either: prioritize spending, erase burdensome regulations and restore accountability to state government.

While his motivation and agenda are unchanged, the 64-year-old social and fiscal conservative said he’s not the same guy that won a seat in the state House of Representatives in 1994.

With six years in Olympia and 12 years as a Snohomish County Councilman he’s gained a clearer understanding of how decisions made in the state Capitol affect those entrusted with steering local governments.

“With age comes a little experience, and a little wisdom, and the ability to navigate issues,” he said. “And as someone that has conservative credentials and can get along with people on both sides, I think I can help bring people together.”

In a press release issued Wednesday, he described government as “too big and too intrusive.”

“Olympia politicians have gone to taxpayers to bail out their poor decisions and we’re rapidly destroying the free enterprise system that made America the most productive economy in the world,” he wrote in the release.

Koster’s announcement didn’t surprise Democrats.

“We’ve known for some time now and with great certainty that Koster was going to run,” Richard Wright, chairman of the Snohomish County Democratic Party, wrote in an email.

“Additionally of no surprise will be his typical right-wing campaign, I’m sure: anti-government and anti-tax. All whilst campaigning to become part of the government so that he can draw a taxpayer-financed paycheck.”

Koster is arguably the best known and most popular Republican in Snohomish County.

In the Legislature, he carried the torch for the party’s conservative voices in the county and around the state.

Koster then spent three terms on the Snohomish County Council, after which he joined the administration of former Democratic county Executive John Lovick in 2014.

He served as the county’s first ombudsman but didn’t get re-appointed amid concerns about his penning of an anti-union fund-raising letter for the Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank led by a former Koster campaign advisor. Koster has filed a claim for wrongful termination.

Along the way, Koster lost three races for Congress. The last, in 2012, sapped him, and he took a break from the rigors of seeking political office. The time-out is over.

“I needed a little break from politics. I’m ready to get back in the saddle,” he said.

No Democrat has entered the race, but Koster doesn’t expect to go unchallenged.

Neither does Wright.

“The people of the 39th deserve real representation that not only understands their needs, but won’t waste time with the same tired right-wing anti-this anti-that platform, which in the end gets nothing accomplished,” Wright wrote.

Such rhetoric isn’t going to faze a veteran politician like Koster, who pronounced himself fit for the coming political battle.

“I don’t relish getting into campaigns,” he confided. “But once I’m in, I’m all in.”

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos.

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