Barlean joins GOP race for Congress

Kelly Barlean is finally in.

Having hinted for months that he was interested in challenging Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Arlington, for his 2nd District Congressional seat, Barlean -- at Washington State Representative from the 10th District -- declared his candidacy as official on Tuesday.

A longtime Langley resident, Barlean will first meet Clinton Republican Norma Smith and Friday Harbor's Herb Meyer in a primary showdown later this year. Currently in his second term in the state Legislature, Barlean said Washington, D.C., is the one place he can use his background as an attorney, a former Langley City Council member and as a retired Army lieutenant in legislative matters.

"The thing that excites me the most is to fully utilize my background and experience," Barlean said Tuesday.

His announcement came almost two months after Smith's and three weeks after political newcomer Meyer declared as candidates for Congress. He said he wanted to wait until the Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court finished redrawing Congressional district boundaries before declaring. Had Whidbey Island been placed in another district based on population counts in the 2000 Census, there would have been nothing for which to run.

In his two terms in the Legislature, Barlean has enjoyed some popularity with both liberal and conservative constituents. He garnered several high ratings from the Washington Conservation Voters for his votes on environmental issues, but also worked with fellow Republicans on appropriation committees and on state budget issues.

However, last summer, a row erupted between Barlean and Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen over a rural counties funding bill. Barlean wrote a companion bill for the state house that Haugen said conflicted with hers. Both Senate and House bills failed to reach a vote.

In a press release Tuesday, Barlean had nothing good to say about the man he hopes to run against in November. He took jabs at Larsen for his opposition to fast track trade authority for President Bush, and for what he saw as inaction on most issues.

"He has not done much beyond pushing the buttons on the voting machine," Barlean said.

Barlean will begin campaigning full-time after the current state legislative session ends in early April. He said he, his wife Tara, and their three children are ready for a busy campaign.

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