The Nov. 6 election pits a congressional Democratic veteran of nearly 18 years against a candidate who wants to serve as Congress’ first elected Libertarian.
Washington’s 2nd Congressional District takes in all of San Juan and Island counties and the cities and communities along the I-5 corridor in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties from Bellingham to Brier.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, Democrat, first won election to the district in 2000. Now an Everett resident, Larsen was born and raised in Arlington, and worked previously for the Port of Everett and served on the Snohomish County Council.
Brian Luke, a Lynnwood grocery department manager, topped a field of five challengers in the primary to win a spot on the general election ballot, defeating the next closest candidate by 51 votes. Luke ran for the seat in 2016, but did not advance to the general election that year.
Luke, in the editorial board interview and a recent candidate’s forum, showed himself knowledgeable on national and international issues, informed in part by a master’s in international studies with a focus on the Middle East, and training as a paralegal. As a Libertarian, Luke presents a different challenge to Larsen than past Republican opponents, more conservative on spending issues but more liberal on issues related to personal liberty, such as national marijuana legalization.
His campaign has focused over concerns for the national debt, spending on U.S. foreign policy and the military and trade. He expressed concern over the recent Republican tax cut package, but noting the $21 trillion national debt, also sees the need to cut more from the budget on domestic spending, the military and foreign aid. Luke is critical of use of the U.S. military abroad, calling much of it a waste of “blood and treasure.”
Issues related to the military may be where Luke and Larsen differ most. The district’s Navy bases in Everett and Oak Harbor and the interests of veterans have long been a priority for Larsen, who has served for several years on the House Armed Services Committee.
While supportive of the military, Larsen has pushed the Navy on community concerns. When it announced plans to increase the number of its EA-18G Growler aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey, Larsen urged Navy officials to take residents’ concerns about noise seriously and was successful in including $2 million in the $675 billion defense budget to find a solution to quiet the Growlers’ jet engines.
Likewise, Larsen has demanded a detailed explanation from the Navy as to why it has reversed an earlier decision to return an aircraft carrier to Naval Statwion Everett, seen by civic leaders as an important economic driver for the city.
Larsen also spends significant time on the needs of veterans, both through legislation and in constituent services, frequently holding workshop sessions with veterans to connect them with job training, health care and other services.
A member of the House transportation and infrastructure committee, Larsen has made both a priority during recent terms, noting their importance to the economy of the district and state. Larsen has pushed for increased spending on transportation, specifically through a grant program for which funding was tripled for this fiscal year to $1.5 billion and including support for Sound Transit’s light rail extension to Lynnwood and Everett and Community Transit’s planned Swift Green Line.
In terms of legislation, Larsen has recently introduced bills that would fund grants for online learning, allow registered voters to sign a sworn statement as to their identity when voting, provide grant funding for school safety improvements and increase youth access to jobs through workforce training in fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Like his fellow Democrat in the 1st District, Rep. Suzan DelBene, Larsen has been a vocal supporter for Dreamers, for strengthening the Affordable Care Act, for more resources to fight opioid addiction, against the Republican-supported tax cuts that benefited corporations and the wealthy, and for the environment, parks and natural resources.
And as with DelBene, Larsen supports his party taking a greater oversight role with respect to the Trump administration, should Democrats win a majority of seats in the House on Nov. 6.
With nearly 18 years of service, Larsen has developed a keen ability for listening to his constituents and taking their concerns back to Washington, D.C. The editorial board recommends voters give Larsen a 10th term.