In The Seattle Times editorial board meeting Wednesday, 1st District Congressional candidate John Koster, a Republican, said he voted against five of six state budgets as a lawmaker in the second half of the 1990s because he hadn’t had a chance to read them. Koster’s explanation is important as he seeks to make himself a palatable candidate for moderates in the 1st District, which runs from Redmond to the Canadian border.
His opponent, Suzan DelBene, has called him extreme. Koster is working his way toward the middle, scoffing at the term Tea Party and saying that, though he is conservative, he would be willing to work across the aisle to get things done in Congress.
In the taped interview at The Seattle Times, Koster said:
“My opponent is kind of taking me to task a little bit, because when I was down in the state Legislature, I didn’t vote for five out of six budgets. And there’s a good reason for that. I won’t vote for legislation I haven’t read. The way it works in the Legislature, we’re supposed to have that budget on our desk in time for us to read that. That didn’t happen most of those times … if I don’t have time to read it, I won’t vote for it.”
But a fundraising letter Koster sent out during the Congressional primary in 2000 offers a different explanation. On the second page of that three-page letter, Koster wrote:
“My opponent is a nice fellow, but the truth is, he votes like a liberal — and his voting record from his days in Olympia tell the story. On fiscal issues and cutting the size of government we differ. While I was voting NO on budgets that expanded government, my opponent was consistently voting YES. In fact, his YES votes on budgets that I voted NO on expanded state government by $3.5 billion in only four years!
Koster clarified in a Friday interview that “there were two reasons.” One was that he hadn’t had a chance to read the budgets, and “one is we were elected to reduce the size and scope of government, and that means reducing spending,” he said. Five of six budgets didn’t do that, so he voted against them.