EVERETT — Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen brings a battle-hardened resume and a wealth of campaign cash as he seeks an eighth term in Congress.
His challenger in Washington’s 2nd District, BJ Guillot, hopes to pull off a long-shot victory on Nov. 4, despite a shortage of experience and money. That leaves the libertarian-minded Republican relying on the appeal of an unconventional candidacy and policy differences with Larsen.
“It’s always an uphill battle when you’re fighting an incumbent,” Guillot said. “I think I do have a chance. I’m a more moderate Republican than what people have seen in recent times.”
Larsen doesn’t take his job for granted, even after winning more than 61 percent of the vote against his Republican opponent two years ago.
“I’m working hard to try to get people back to work,” he said. “The benefits of the recovery haven’t spread to everybody.”
Larsen took 55.6 percent of the Aug. 5 primary vote compared to Guillot’s 32.7 percent. Another 11.7 percent went for Mike Lapointe, an Independent candidate who championed environmental causes and the Occupy movement.
The district covers all of Island and San Juan counties, plus western Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. It includes Everett, Marysville, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Arlington, Stanwood and Tulalip.
Larsen, 49, grew up in Arlington, one of eight siblings. He and his wife, Tiia, have two sons.
He had been working as a Washington State Dental Association lobbyist in 1997, when he started his political career with a successful run for the Snohomish County Council.
In 2000, he won his first term in Congress. He now serves on the House’s Armed Services and Transportation committees.
The latter assignment, he said, gives him a prominent role drafting legislation to boost the economy through bridge and highway projects. Larsen said he’s trying to overcome partisan bickering by working quietly with Republican colleagues on aerospace and Arctic issues.
To demonstrate his environmental record, Larsen points to money he secured to help restore local estuaries and legislation to protect land in the San Juan Islands.
“No amount of posturing on an issue is going to undermine the strong record on the environment that I have,” he said.
Guillot, 40, moved to Marysville from his home state of Texas in 2011, when his wife, Samantha, took a job with the Boeing Co.
For work, Guillot develops software used by hospitals and ambulance companies.
Technology is more than just a paycheck — it’s a passion. He drives an all-electric Nissan Leaf and installed solar panels on his home. For fun, he studies astronomy and collects vintage computers such as the Texas Instruments 99/4A.
“I love cool technology, I love science fiction. I love all of that,” he said. “I think it’s really cool that you’re able to drive a car without getting gas.”
Guillot serves on the Marysville Library Board, but has no experience in publicly elected office. He lost a race for the Marysville City Council last year.
Stopping the National Security Agency from spying on U.S. citizens is one of Guillot’s top political goals. His support for the Second Amendment, closing the borders to illegal immigrants and reducing federal spending puts him in line with the mainstream GOP.
In other ways, Guillot is politically nonconformist.
He has no qualms with gay marriage or legalizing marijuana for recreational use. While highly uncomfortable with abortion, he supports preserving women’s choice to have one.
“I don’t want to see it, but it is their right,” he said.
He says he’s pro-military, but anti-war.
“We’ve been in a constant state of war since 9/11,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing for us to do, getting involved with ISIS.”
Guillot takes Larsen to task for supporting the Boeing Machinists’ vote on contract concessions. That, he said, has cost the incumbent union support.
“He’s got some issues that make him particularly vulnerable this time around,” Guillot said.
Larsen said Guillot and others have misrepresented his position on the vote, which passed narrowly in January to cut worker benefits in exchange for future jet production in Everett.
“I did advocate that a vote be taken,” he said. “I didn’t advocate that people vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ ”
Larsen said he understands that Machinists are angry with him.
“Sometimes, friends disagree, but you just have to work together on the issues that come up,” he said.
The candidates differ on the proposed Gateway Pacific coal-export terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County.
Guillot opposes the project for its potential to worsen traffic headaches in Marysville and other communities along the rail line.
Another concern for Guillot is the increasing use of trains to transport crude oil, which he said poses the risk of spills and explosions. It would be better, in his opinion, to build oil pipelines.
Larsen said he supports the Cherry Point Terminal, if it can be held to high standards to mitigate traffic and environmental impacts.
“I looked at the issue in totality and concluded that it was a good issue,” Larsen said. “It would create hundreds of jobs in a county where thousands are out of work.”
As for crude, he’d rather see trains carrying oil to refineries in his district and creating jobs.
“If they’re not refining this crude, we’re going to see more ships, more oil tankers on the Puget Sound,” he said.
Larsen wants to see freight impacts lessened through investments in roadways, more inspections, higher safety standards for tanker cars and additional training for emergency workers who would respond to a derailment.
By mid-October, Larsen’s campaign reported raising more than $774,000, Guillot’s only about $5,500.
Meet the candidates
About the job: Representatives are elected to the U.S. House for two-year terms. The job pays $174,000 per year. Washington has 10 congressional districts. The state’s 2nd Congressional District covers all of Island and San Juan counties, plus western Skagit, Whatcom and Snohomish counties, including the cities of Everett, Marysville, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Arlington, Stanwood, Tulalip and surrounding parts.
Experience: Seven terms as U.S. Representative for the 2nd District; member of the House Transportation &Infrastructure Committee and House Armed Services Committee
Experience: Product manager for a software company; Marysville Library Board