Larsen still leading in race for 2nd District seat

  • SUSANNA RAY and WARREN CORNWALL / Herald Writers
  • Wednesday, November 8, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local NewsLocal news


Herald Writers

EVERETT — The political dominoes are already starting to wobble in the wake of Rick Larsen’s commanding lead in the 2nd Congressional District race, even as his opponent, John Koster, says he’s far from giving up.

By Wednesday evening, Larsen, a Democratic Snohomish County councilman from Lake Stevens, had hung on to his four-percentage-point lead over Koster, a Republican state representative from Arlington.

But there are still as many as 100,000 ballots left to count in the district, which includes Snohomish, Island, Skagit, Whatcom and San Juan counties.

"We’re not ready to concede defeat by any stretch of the imagination," Koster said Wednesday afternoon. "This district has a history of the absentees salvaging the race."

At Koster’s party in Arlington Tuesday night, incumbent U.S. Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Wash., said he thought Koster could still win. Metcalf, who is stepping down this year to honor his commitment to term limits, pointed to his own belated victory in 1996, when he trailed on election night to Democrat Kevin Quigley by more than 2,000 votes. Absentee ballots turned the race around.

"A lot depends on rural Whatcom, rural Skagit and Island counties’ absentees," Metcalf said.

But Larsen said his campaign targeted absentee voters, so he’s not too worried about any last-minute surprises. Also, unlike the presidential race, Larsen’s lead didn’t seem to vacillate as the returns rolled in throughout the night.

Wednesday evening, Larsen was ahead by 9,003 votes.

"I didn’t expect to be up by this much," he said.

All the political watchers had predicted it would be a dead heat, he added.

"I knew this was going to be really close," Koster said. "I guess I did expect it to be a bit closer than it was at the end of the evening."

Larsen wasn’t comfortable enough with his lead to call the race and discuss who might replace him on the county council, however.

The open seat in the federal race brought opportunities for newcomers at the state and county levels.

Republican Kirk Pearson and Democrat Liz Loomis competed for Koster’s spot in Olympia. Koster’s legislative term ended this year, so he had to choose which race to run for. Pearson and Loomis are involved in a tight race of their own. The winner of that race could be key to which party gains control in the state House.

County council chairwoman Barbara Cothern said if Larsen’s bid is successful, his seat would be filled from a slate of three candidates recommended by the county Democratic Party. The person, picked by the council, would serve through next year, the remainder of Larsen’s term.

Cothern said two people have approached her about the position, and she had heard of one other person who is interested. She declined to give their names.

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