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Three running for Rick Larsen's congressional seat

In the race for the 2nd Congressional District held by U.S. Representative Rick Larsen since 2000, Republican Rick Bart and Democrats Doug Schaffer and Glen Johnson are hoping to grab a ticket to ride all the way to the nation's capitol this year.

The 2nd Congressional District includes parts of King and Snohomish counties and all of Skagit, San Juan, Island and Whatcom counties.

When Doug Roulstone decided not to challenge Larsen, Bart decided to run on the strength of his 12 years as sheriff of Snohomish County - in 2003 he ran unopposed for that office.

"The problem is that Congress is not working, not responding to the needs of the people," he said.

Bart is a Sedro-Woolley native and a graduate of Mountlake Terrace High School, knows the district well and believes his experience as sheriff and generally moderate views are just what are needed in the district.

One of his top priorities is cutting the federal deficit. He targets two programs needing serious review: Social Security and Medicare.

"I've said repeatedly that if those programs aren't taken into the 'Congressional Garage' for repairs soon, both programs will be wiped out by 2019 and 2041 respectively," he said. "People are starting to respond."

He added the problem becomes even worse now that Social Security is running a surplus right now.

"Instead of investing the extra cash making sure the program is there for our kids and grandkids, Congress is spending the surplus on other government operations," he said.

He supports drilling for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and favors a set timeline for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

He also supports the Second Amendment, noting he owns a shotgun given him when he was 12.

"I cherish my right to own my guns and will always fight to make sure this freedom is never taken away," he said.

Larsen considers himself a moderate, as well. He's focusing his campaign on issues he believes concern those in his district: agriculture, veterans services and trade.

Larsen emphasized his ability to meet the district's needs by working with veterans and local law enforcement and searching for ways to create jobs and transportation projects that can keep our economy moving.

Last month, Larsen helped secured an 11 percent increase in funding for the Veterans Administration, including $3.8 billion in funding for mental health, post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury care.

Larsen cites as a major accomplishment his work designating 106,000 acres of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as the Wild Sky Wilderness Area last spring.

On Iraq, he originally voted against the war in 2003 and wants a phased pull-out of the 140,000-strong U.S. military presence by working closely with Iraqi officials to get them to shoulder more of the burden.

"Stability should be our goal; democracy and freedom are the administration's buzz words but they aren't realistic," Larsen said. "More troops should be re-positioned on Iraq's borders, repositioned to strategically vital areas like Afghanistan or Africa or brought home."

Though the ballot states that Schaffer "prefers the Democratic Party," he considers himself an independent.

"More and more I find myself agreeing with Republicans on economic policy issues," he said. "Frankly, I'm a free market capitalist. The Democrats are inclined to universal healthcare which I support. But they want the government to run it and I oppose that."

Instead, Schaffer said the patient is the customer and should be able to exercise his own judgment.

"I prefer a system where the patient pays into a 401K or 'flex' plan."

He knows that Larsen has a huge lead and Bart is well known in the district. But he said that he's shooting for those independent voters whose mind isn't made up yet; he wants to split the vote.

He expressed some bitterness that the Democratic Party is backing Larsen.

"He's the incumbent and they made it clear he would be their candidate," Schaffer said. "I see myself as offering the best of both worlds."

Johnson has been a farmer for 40 years and is proud of it. And he freely admits many of his votes on issues would have been the same as Larsen.

"The biggest difference between us is that I would have drafted bipartisan legislation to make our food supply safer," he said. "As we spend more money to transport our food we will see an ever-escalating cost to our most basic of needs. My opponent has ignored my pleas to promote the concept."

Johnson added that the economy needs an overhaul, arguing that the country has continued to drift into an unholy alliance with the military.

"A military-based economy is not only unsustainable, it's pretty stupid," he said.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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