Koster, Larsen face off at Marysville Tulalip Chamber Candidates Forum

From left, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Snohomish County Council member John Koster answer questions and debate one another at the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum Oct. 22. - Kirk Boxleitner
From left, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Snohomish County Council member John Koster answer questions and debate one another at the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum Oct. 22.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

TULALIP — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Snohomish County Council member John Koster took aim at one another's records and campaign pledges during the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum Oct. 22.

Both candidates for Washington's 2nd Congressional district opened by touting their family ties to the local community, but with a few exceptions, that was where the similarities ended. Larsen, the Democratic incumbent, presented himself as an agent of positive progress, albeit proceeding at an admittedly slow pace, for the Puget Sound region, while Koster, his Republican challenger, asserted the need to reverse course from the national direction that he attributed to Larsen and other Congressional Democrats who have supported the Obama administration.

Larsen touted his efforts to land the Air Force tanker for Boeing, which deemed a $7.5 million investment in the local economy, as well as his support of the Recovery Act, which he credited with making possible $52 million in loans to small businesses in the area. Koster condemned that same stimulus as "a bailout for Wall Street fat-cats" and accused Larsen of joining his fellow Congressional Democrats in engaging in what Koster deemed reckless deficit spending.

"It's jeopardizing Social Security," Koster said. "The Obama Care that my opponent voted for has taken $500 billion out of Medicare."

Social Security led to some of the candidates' most pointed barbs, with Koster blaming Congressional Democrats for moving Social Security out of the trust fund and into the general fund, and Larsen claiming that Koster intended to privatize at least part of Social Security, which Larsen asserted would reduce benefits to seniors. Koster repeatedly denied that he planned to privatize Social Security, noting that Larsen had stated on KGMI that Koster had not said those words.

"You're right that Congress moved Social Security — when I was 4," Larsen said. "I did what I could."

"That just means you've had more time to do something about it, and you've failed to do it," Koster said.

Koster disputed Larsen's allegation that he favored eliminating the Department of Education, clarifying that he believes in downsizing the agency to help make it more efficient and reinvest its monies into the states and local school districts. Larsen countered by citing a June 3 statement by Koster advocating the elimination of the Department of Education, which Larsen warned against because of the federal aid that the agency supplies to economically struggling students.

The two candidates also butted heads on earmarks, which Larsen favors as long as they're awarded responsibly and transparently, and Koster believes should be halted until the budget is balanced. Koster described the earmark process as "rife with corruption" and tied to many campaign contributions, while Larsen noted that he's been posting his earmark requests online for public viewing since a year before it became a requirement to do so.

"Just last week, the Everett Senior Center was rededicated with a new kitchen, new elevator and new common area, funded through federal earmarks," Larsen said. "John, I want to thank you for coming to that as well."

While the candidates disagreed about whether climate change is man-made, both agreed on the need to research and develop alternative energy sources further for economic and national security reasons. Koster warned that "cap and trade" legislation would take American manufacturing jobs out of the country, while Larsen accused Koster of signing a pledge to support tax breaks for large corporations to send jobs overseas, which Koster denied.

Although Koster qualified that he felt setting timelines is a mistake, he otherwise agreed with Larsen about the importance of transitioning operations in Afghanistan to that country's forces and making sure they see the Taliban "as an enemy, not an option." In turn, Larsen agreed with Koster that it's harmful to small businesses to require an IRS Form 1099 to be filed for every cumulative purchase per vendor of more than $600.

"I voted to repeal that requirement," Larsen said.

"You said you read the bill twice, though," Koster said. "Why not amend it to pull that provision out?"

The candidates forum will air on Marysville Public Access Television station 21 on Comcast and 25 on Verizon from Oct. 27 through Nov. 2, at noon, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. every day. TVW will air it Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. and repeat it up to Nov. 2, which is Election Day. KCTS will embed TVW's Oct 25 airing on their website.

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