Editorial: Rick Larsen merits ninth term in U.S. House

By The Herald Editorial Board

Nearing 16 years in Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat, is seeking election to a ninth term, surpassing the House tenures of 2nd District notables Al Swift, Lloyd Meeds and even Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson — though Jackson served a combined 30 years in the House and Senate.

The 2nd Congressional District takes in San Juan and Island counties and the cities and communities along the I-5 corridor in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties from Bellingham to Lynnwood.

Larsen is challenged by Camano Island Republican Marc Hennemann, who ran for Island County commission in 2014. Hennemann is retired from the Air Force, having served in intelligence in Iraq during Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Following the Air Force, Hennemann earned a masters in public affairs from the University of Oklahoma and worked as a high school teacher of civics and history.

Among his campaign themes, Hennemann said he supports veterans and the military, international trade, would seek to cut spending and lower taxes and supports the Second Amendment.

Larsen, who was born and raised in Arlington and lives in Everett, said he would focus his next term on the economy, veterans needs and the environment.

Both candidates, during an interview with The Herald Editorial Board, differed sharply on most issues.

While supportive of trade, Hennemann said he he is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 11 Pacific Rim countries and criticized Larsen for supporting legislation that authorized the agreement’s negotiation.

Larsen, like others in the state’s Congressional delegation, has expressed general support, but said he is waiting to decide on ratifying the pact until it and side agreements are presented to Congress for its review.

Both men also split on veterans’ issues. Hennemann wants to see an expansion of the Veterans Choice Act, which allows veterans to find care at private facilities if a Veterans Administration facility is some distance away. Larsen said veterans have told him they’d rather the VA improve its own delivery of care rather than be sent to a private facility.

Larsen and Hennemann also differ on the need for a gas tax to fund the improvements already outlined in the transportation bill passed this year. Larsen believes a federal gas tax increase is necessary; Hennemann opposes the tax increase, believing funding can be found elsewhere.

Larsen, who served on the House’s Armed Services Committee, has distinguished himself as a champion of veterans, frequently organizing round table discussions with vets, connecting them with resources for job-training and other needs. Earlier this year he worked with veterans groups and local government agencies to find solutions to homelessness among veterans.

Recent legislation he pushed for will provide an invitro fertilization benefit for veterans; another assured paid sick leave for veterans employed by the Federal Aviation Association.

Larsen also serves on the House Transportation Committee and is ranking member on its aviation subcommittee. Larsen pursued passage of the transportation bill and secured a total of $10 million over five years to provide funding for the state’s ferry system.

As part of his work to promote trade and jobs, Larsen sponsored legislation that assists small businesses find export markets. He also has sought legislation that would encourage vocational training and apprenticeships for students. And he sought to promote a developing industry in craft distilling in Snohomish County with a bill to reduce the tax on spirits made by small distilleries.

While some might look at Larsen’s years in Congress as an argument for term limits, his effectiveness as a lawmaker and his work to serve constituents, particularly veterans, makes an effective rebuttal. Larsen warrants re-election to the 2nd District.

Correction: An earlier version of this editorial gave an incorrect city of residence for Rick Larsen. He lives in Everett.

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