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Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Primary pits three relative unknowns

By Emily Heffter
Times Snohomish County bureau

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A low-budget primary to take on U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, includes only one candidate who's held elected office — and she's never had an opponent.

As a result, the primary is filled with extreme ideologies and untested plans, from three Republicans who acknowledge each would be the underdog against Larsen in November. Even the Snohomish County GOP chairwoman, asked whether any of the candidates could beat Larsen, conceded: "maybe not."

Two of the candidates are too extreme, she said.

Larry Klepinger of Bellingham proposes doing away with tax write-offs.

Glenn Coggeshell

Age: 35

Residence: Camano Island, Island County

Education: working toward a degree in business at Skagit Community College.

Work: entrepreneur

Glenn Coggeshell of Camano Island is running against Larsen in part because, according to his Web site, Larsen's votes reveal "seeded hatred against Christians and religion."

Suzanne Sinclair, the Island County auditor and the most-moderate candidate in the race, believes people for the most part want "to be left alone by their government." So while she hopes women don't choose abortion, she said she believes they should have the right to.

The 2nd Congressional District, which Larsen has served for two terms, is not a Democratic stronghold. Everett and Bellingham voters are likely to vote for the incumbent Democrat, but rural areas and smaller towns in the district lean more Republican.

Sinclair has raised almost $25,000 in campaign contributions, a fraction of the $1.2 million Larsen has. The other two candidates haven't raised any money, and Klepinger, at least, said he doesn't plan to.

Suzanne Sinclair

Age: 53

Residence: Coupeville, Island County

Education: Bachelor's degree in history from DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.

Work: Island County auditor

"I have the courage to stand up and fight what's going on in this country with political correctness without any campaign contributions," he said.

Sinclair is working hard to raise money, but she's not getting many big contributions. She remains optimistic. "As county auditor, I know you don't count money, you count votes."

Sinclair is an accountant who left her private firm to work for Island County and then, when the county auditor left partway through a term, she ran in a special election — at the suggestion of colleagues — and won the job in 1997. Since then, she's won two races to retain the position, both unopposed, and she said she's hooked on the "give and take with citizens" that comes with being in politics.

"I'm much better off doing this than pushing a pencil," she said.

Among her priorities if elected: She would lobby to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent and advocate limits on malpractice lawsuits. In her small town of Coupeville, Island County, Sinclair said doctors can't afford to stay in business because the malpractice insurance is so expensive.

Larry Klepinger

Age: 57

Residence: Bellingham, Whatcom County

Education: bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in education from San Jose State University, Calif.

Work: real-estate agent

Snohomish County Republican Party Chairwoman Frauna Hoglund said Coggeshell isn't running a "real hard campaign," but Coggeshell said he never intended to. "I'm just telling people what I am and who I am," he said.

Coggeshell ran for Everett mayor in 2001 and against Aaron Reardon — now the Snohomish County executive — for a seat in the state Senate in 2002. He lost both times.

A college student, conservative Christian and entrepreneur, Coggeshell, 35, makes his living importing granite and marble slabs from Central Asia and Uzbekistan. Recently he's been selling Ten Commandments monuments to people who want to display them in their yards.

Coggeshell said he would take a stand on moral issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, both of which he opposes. He also would push for tax relief, he said, and increase spending on border control.

"If [voters] want a true conservative, I'm their only candidate, point blank," he said. Klepinger, a Bellingham real-estate agent, returned to the United States two years ago after teaching English in Japan for 23 years. He said he was astounded by the high taxes and level of "political correctness" here. He decided to run for office, though the state Republican Party won't recognize him.

Among the changes he would push for if elected: He wants government money to go toward vouchers and home-schooling and believes active-duty men and women in the military should not pay federal income taxes. He also wants to see small businesses and people who make less than $25,000 a year exempt from all income taxes. "If everyone would pay their fair share, it would pencil out in a minute," he said.

Klepinger knows his ideas are drastic. "I think we're in a drastic situation, to be quite frank with you."

Emily Heffter: 425-783-0624 or

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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