Koster deserves to tackle challenges in Congress

Voters in the 2nd Congressional District have seen a long campaign to fill the seat Jack Metcalf is vacating. The two main finalists, Republican John Koster and Democrat Rick Larsen, have performed well during a grueling contest.

As election day nears, both men remain viable, articulate candidates. Voters, though, should find John Koster the stronger choice on the basis of maturity, life experiences and a keen grasp of the essential issues demonstrated throughout the campaign.

Certainly, it has been somewhat to our surprise to see Koster handle himself so well after sometimes-contentious service in the Legislature. But he seems to have a fresh awareness that his own tendency to be pugnacious can block dialogue and problem-solving. He’s known for his religiously oriented conservatism. Without abandoning his views, he has to push himself to work with a broad spectrum of Congress and not slip too comfortably into the ready-made home of conservative Republicans.

In building bridges across party lines, Koster will have some strengths, however. One would be the Washington delegation’s own tradition of cooperation on issues of regional concern. Metcalf’s work with Democrats on a pipeline safety bill is just the latest example in a shining tradition. Perhaps more importantly, Koster brings his own engaging personality and an ability to speak his own mind respectfully — and with flashes of humor — to people who disagree with him.

On a broad spectrum of issues — ranging from abortion rights to tax policies — this editorial board can find significant, even gaping differences with Koster. On his Internet site, he even has an item that expresses his opposition to executive orders usurping the powers of Congress, a concern that is genuinely not mainstream.

Larsen’s positions represent a moderate kind of Democratic viewpoint that would naturally tend to reflect a larger spectrum of the district’s population. Larsen has proven himself an extremely capable member of the Snohomish County Council. At age 35, he has a bright career ahead of him in politics if that is where he chooses to continue putting his energies.

Koster, though, brings a refreshingly different background that is far from that of a career politician. His lengthy experience in farming certainly puts him in touch with the rewards and challenges many people face in trying to operate an independent business. He will bring a ready voice to their issues.

As the campaign ends, Koster has continued to maintain focus, clarity and patience. Those traits will all be badly needed in the overly partisan environment of Congress. Koster, who is 49, also appears remarkably energetic and determined to represent the district and its interests well in D.C.

To be successful, Koster will have to tackle issues such as transportation with a passion that is just as strong for transit as for the roads he probably leans toward. He will have to find ways to be as genuinely independent as his campaign boasts. To do so, he must represent the views of as broad a spectrum of his constituency as possible. On budget issues especially, he will have to learn to be as comfortable saying yes to a reasonable congressional compromise as he has been saying no in the Legislature. He will have to be both intensely energetic and patiently bipartisan in working with other members of Washington’s congressional delegation and with the people’s elected leaders in cities and counties at home.

Those will be big challenges. We think Koster has shown the ability to tackle them.

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