Posted by: sweeneyblog | December 2, 2014

City Council, Ward 3 Applicants: The Official List

Yesterday was the deadline for applicants for the vacancy on the Bellingham City Council so we finally have the official list of who is being considered for the position. I’ve added some notes and context to each name.

City Hall

City Hall

Iris Maute-Gibson – Staffer at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center. If you haven’t already, check out my interview with Iris here.

Dan Hamill – Owner of an events planning company in town and former campaign manager for Carl Weimer. Check out my interview with Dan here.

Scot Barg – Cofounder (with former mayor Dan Pike) of a non-profit kickstarter project aimed at providing “executive education sessions” around big ideas about sustainability and former employee of Parker Remick, a headhunting agency in Fairhaven.

Michelle Magee – a teacher at the Bellingham Cooperative School, also involved in the Coal-Free Bellingham movement. You can find her website here.

Andrew Reding – Current Issues and Resolutions chair for the Whatcom Democrats, policy wonk and friend of the blog. Check out my interview with Andrew here.

Richard Dean (JR) Johnson – Former owner of the Sober Rovers and current treasurer for the Columbia Neighborhood Association.

I’m doing my best to reach out to all these candidates and conduct interviews before the decision is made on Dec. 17th. Arlene Feld had been planning to apply but family commitments have caused her to drop out. If you have more information to contribute about these candidates, feel free to (politely) share it in the comments below.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 26, 2014

Interviewing Iris Maute-Gibson for City Council

Iris Maute-Gibson, applicant to the City Council seat vacated by Cathy Lehman, started out our interview on the right foot – she brought annotated maps. “The 3rd ward includes nine neighborhoods, more than any other ward in Bellingham.” She notes the ward map on the city website was not drawn to scale so she had to recreate the route, street by street.

A slew of potential council members have applied to the vacant position, and the council will make their decision at the Dec 15th meeting. I am going to try and interview as many potential council-members before then as possible. Yesterday, I sat down with Iris Maute-Gibson.

Iris Maute-Gibson for City Council

Iris Maute-Gibson for City Council

Our mutual love of maps aside, Maute-Gibson is quite serious about making a difference on the city council. “When we engage in the local level government, we have the power to make life a little better for the people in our community. We can support wraparound services, support our nonprofit community, ensure access to affordable healthcare, living wage jobs and keep our environment free from toxins.”

Lofty goals, but Maute-Gibson remains undeterred. “Council can tackle these issues by engaging the community and using a transparent process.”

Why the city council in particular? Maute-Gibson sees it as an opportunity to bring more people, specifically young people, into the process of shaping their community. “As a city council, we have the opportunity to make people feel at home, to provide a quality of life and sense of place for Bellingham . . . and to help people take responsibility for that sense of place.”

She sees the council as missing a key perspective that is needed in our city. “42% of Bellingham is between the ages of 18-35 and there are zero people on the council representing that age group. Moreover, there are several issues that particularly affect people in our age group that are not well-represented.” She rattled off a laundry list including renters disputes, dealing with high-levels of debt and supporting businesses that provide living-wage jobs.

Maute-Gibson hosts "Coffee and Conversation"

Maute-Gibson hosts “Coffee and Conversation”

Addressing her own age, she disputes the notion that her generation does not have the experience for public office. “Coming of age during the largest recession in almost a century – we have already faced some steep challenges, but our generation brings the progressive values of inclusion and a belief that we can change our community for the better.”

More directly, she sees this role on the council as a tool for change. “I’ve devoted my professional and personal career to getting to this place (council) to make a positive difference. This is not a stepping stone, nor a wild-haired idea, this is where I want to be.”

What are her key issues as a candidate? Maute-Gibson elaborates on supporting a “sense of place” for Bellingham but also the need to protect our environment. “I volunteer on the Lake Whatcom Watersheed Board because we need to do more than just protect our drinking water, we need to protect our areas of natural habitat and strengthening the biodiversity in our city.”

As a former board member of the Whatcom chapter of the Washington Conservation Voters, she sees this as a key issue for the future of our city. “We can do this by increasing the incentives for conservation.”

Buttressing this is her belief in supporting businesses that promote the values of our community. “We need more Blue/Green partnerships – more projects that support the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits.”

What does that mean when it comes to the waterfront? Maute-Gibson believes in a need to be very selective about the sort of developers that we involve in this project. “We need to maintain the environmental connectivity along the GP site.” She would work to include the voices of the whole community, especially the Lummi nation which has not played a large part in the discussion so far.

Iris with her partner, Rifka and puppy

Iris with her partner, Rifka and dog, Scooter

Speaking to the waterfront development process so far, Maute-Gibson cites difficulties facing the current council. “When I have spoken with members of the city council, most share a feeling of frustration with the end result not being what they worked for. However we need to still continue to vocalize and fight for our values.” She carries this passion on a broader scale, “You can’t give up on an issue just because we won’t have an opportunity to weigh in!”

Turning to the issue of the day, landlord licensing, Maute-Gibson sees this as an opportunity to “lessen the burden on our overworked and underfunded non-profit community.” Currently, Maute-Gibson works for the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center as their Development and Outreach Coordinator. When landlords and tenants cross swords (figuratively) many of them end up at the Dispute Resolution Center.

“Obviously, we need safe and affordable housing for everyone, and part of making that happen means implementing a strong rental registration program.” She believes this will increase engagement from renters. “When your community shows that it cares about your home and safety, then you are going to act more responsibly towards your property and your city.”

There are benefits to the property owners as well. “Landlords should want to own property in neighborhoods that increase in value and when all the rentals in your neighborhood are maintained and taken care of, that increases your property values.” She notes we need to be a leader on this issue for the state. “Bellingham has almost 10% more renter occupied homes than Washington as a whole. We have a unique demographic and that means we get to be a leader on this issue.”

Part of the reason I decided to interview Maute-Gibson first was she has been the most aggressive in publicly campaigning for the appointment. Traditionally, an appointment involves intense closed-door discussions – the traditional smoky backrooms of political legend (or four years go, for the County Council). Maute-Gibson has run a very public campaign for this office, holding weekly “Coffee and Conversation” meetings with the public about the affairs of the day and launching a website and facebook presence.

Maute-Gibson doesn’t blame the council for the process. “Councilmembers have done everything possible on a personal level to get the word out about this position. I am disappointed that the local media hasn’t contributed to that effort. I’m hopeful that by being as transparent as possible about my interest in the position, it would encourage other applicants to be out there too.”

Well, consider this local media outlet having kicked off the effort. As I mentioned, I am trying to schedule more interviews in the weeks to come and will be attending the Dec. 15th council meeting.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 22, 2014

Where are the persuadable voters in the 42nd District?

In the wake of the Republican victory in the 42nd, many local political analysts are reevaluating the 42nd – mentally moving it from “Leans Republican” to “Washington’s personal Kentucky”. I, however, don’t believe it to be irredeemable – just as I believe the 40th district (aka “Washington’s Northern California” ) may some day become competitive. It is easy to believe that these districts are giant immovable blocks of voters who vote straight ticket – but that’s just not true.

To illustrate this point, I am comparing the number of people who voted for Sen. Doug Ericksen for state senate versus the people who voted for Pedro Celis for Congress. In terms of politics, Ericksen and Celis are nearly identical and their districts almost completely overlap (the 1st Congressional District is the 42nd minus anything in Bellingham). So why did Ericksen receive 3,824 more votes in those precincts?

Which precincts? I’m so glad you asked.

Where Doug Ericksen did better than Pedro Celis

Where Doug Ericksen did better than Pedro Celis

You can click the picture for a larger view. Orange precincts are where Ericksen received at least 60 votes more than Celis, Red precincts are where he received more than 70 votes and Deep Red is where he received more than 100 votes. Just to reinforce, the colored areas are where people voted for Doug Ericksen AND Suzan DelBene.

Before I dive into the analysis, let’s look at the inverse. Where did Seth Fleetwood get more votes than Rep. Suzan DelBene? Not as many places but there are definitely a few. On a whole, DelBene received 9,054 votes more than Fleetwood in the precincts they share – but not evenly.

Where Fleetwood got more votes than DelBene

Where Fleetwood got more votes than DelBene

Similar to the Ericksen comparison, the light blue is for areas where Fleetwood received 40-60 more votes than DelBene, blue is where he received 100-200 votes more and out on Lummi Island, he received 262 votes more than DelBene.

What does this tell us? On the surface, there are over 12,000 voters in the 42nd who did not vote a straight ticket in 2014 – a heavily partisan year. That’s encouraging!

Digging a little deeper – it is clear that Seth Fleetwood’s long years of work with the Lummi Nation, as both a city and county councilman, paid dividends as did his relationships with those on Lummi Island and in Point Roberts. Conversely, Doug Ericksen picked up some DelBene voters around his hometown of Ferndale.

Clearly Ferndale, Birch Bay and Blaine remain our swing states for North Whatcom – those communities are chock full of ticket splitters. Unfortunately, this year did not give us any insight into Bellingham, with all the action focused north.

One more thing to consider when looking at places where Ericksen did better than Pedro Celis. Celis faced some serious difficulties gaining support within his party – some of which can be attributed to his race. In the primary, the Republicans nearly selected a virtual nobody over their anointed nominee, and I believe that this was because Celis is a Latino.

Pedro Celis and President Bush

Pedro is the one on the right

Did Ericksen do better than Celis because of his race? Whatcom County has a deep history of racism. In 1925, the Klu Klux Klan held one of the largest recorded rallies in Washington State history at the Lynden fairgrounds – with 12,000-25,000 attendees.

To put that in perspective, the current population of Lynden is around 12,000 people. Add to that the expulsion of the Sikh community in 1907 and the Chinese Expulsion of 1885 and you have a history of xenophobia.

I can already hear Wayne Farber contesting that this was generations ago. Does it really have an impact on an election in 2014? Well, yes. After all, Luanne Van Werven mentioned at almost every campaign speech that her family had been here for four generations, putting them squarely in the middle of that time period. In 2011, when Steve Oliver, a member of the Lummi nation, was running for County Treasurer, he was subject to racists anonymous threats.

Did racial backlash impact Pedro Celis’ votes or did Rep Suzan DelBene’s impressive work as a representative peel off some conservative voters? It is impossible to tell for sure but either way, the 42nd is not as impervious as the election results would imply.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Yes, it has been a while – I’ve been working on other projects and hadn’t had the energy to write but I’m back with this week’s Odds and Ends.

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee

First on the docket, Gov. Jay Inslee responds to Sen. Ericksen’s bluster. In the wake of his reelection, Ericksen continued to attack Inslee’s climate proposals – repeating the debunked “$1 gas tax” idea and threatening fierce opposition if Inslee attempts to make any progress through executive action.

In response, Inslee asked that Ericksen suggest solutions and, “do more than just criticize and mischaracterize.” This exchange is particularly ironic considering that Ericksen and Inslee spent a year working on the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup to craft policy solutions to climate change. The group dissolved when Ericksen and the other Republican member of the group refused to compromise on any proposals. Ericksen went on to campaign on explicit opposition to Inslee’s proposals.

To see the two of them grumbling in the newspapers at each other is a little rich. We know that Ericksen is never going to support any efforts to fight climate change – he invited a climate change denier to testify before the State Senate. That’s not even considering the hundreds of thousands he has received from the oil and gas industry. Conversely, Inslee helped raise money to defeat Ericksen this year. Short version – they aren’t buddies and that’s not going to change.

What did change recently is Rep. Kris Lytton’s job title. Rep. Lytton has been promoted, rising in the ranks of leadership in the state House to become Majority Floor Leader. In this role, she will coordinate votes, working with members on both sides of the aisle to assure that key measures have the support needed to pass through the House.

When Whatcom County elected Vincent Buys over Rep. Kelli Linville, we lost a major power broker for our county. Linville, in her role as chair of the Ways and Means committee, was able to direct huge amounts of money toward local projects. With Lytton’s star on the rise, she may be able to do the same thing very soon.

Nationally, President Obama took the largest step in a generation toward fixing our immigration system. His actions are pretty straightforward. Those undocumented immigrants who:

  • have been living here for more than 5 years
  • can pass a criminal background check
  • and are paying their taxes

are now eligible for deferred status. Once registered with the U.S. government, they are shielded from deportation while going through the standard immigration process. In short, if they are doing everything right and trying to become citizens, we aren’t going to haul them away while the paperwork is being processed. This action is estimated to help five million undocumented immigrants nation-wide.

I see this as a good step forward, but nowhere near a complete solution. The process for becoming a legal immigrant is long, convoluted and deeply underfunded. The next step would be to improve that process so those who want to become part of our community can do so.

Of course, the national Republicans are working themselves into a lather over this issue. You can almost set your clock to their outrage, however, what I found interesting is that they are not complaining about the policy itself. Instead, they are talking about the process (using executive action versus waiting for the legislature to pass something). My mother has a great saying for this, “Only a bad dancer blames the floor.”

Thank you all and stay warm out there!

Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 14, 2014

Whatcom Election Results: What the heck happened?

Note: This article will also be appearing in the December issue of the Whatcom Watch.

It was a hard election night for environmentalists, to put it mildly. In one fell swoop, national Republicans took control of the Senate, strengthened their majority in the House and picked up a slew of governors’ mansions.

It was a good night for this guy

It was a good night for this guy

Locally, the news seemed even more crushing. Environmental champion Seth Fleetwood got hammered by Sen. Doug Ericksen. Ericksen made headlines for the last two years for accepting more free meals from lobbyists than any other state legislator and blocking all climate change and oil safety legislation.

It was not for lack of trying. Fleetwood raised over $400,000 and independent groups threw in another $400,000 beyond that. In response, Ericksen raised over $500,000 to defend his seat, a majority of it coming from the fossil fuel industry and the state Republicans (with even more funding from the fossil fuel industry) threw another $467,000 in attack ads against Fleetwood.

What drew this colossal array of electoral firepower? The fate of the state Senate. Thanks to a few Democratic turncoats in 2011, the state Senate has been in Republican control for the last couple of years. They used their power to delay investments in our transportation infrastructure, not fully fund education and, as mentioned above, block all climate change legislation.

Seeing an opportunity to pick up a seat – or protect it – in the 42nd District, forces on both sides marshaled small armies of volunteers, filled the airwaves and mailboxes with political ads and filled the newspapers with angry letters to the editor.

The 42nd District, however, is a barren place for Democrats and this was a poor year to be one. The end result was Ericksen winning by 17 percentage points. So what happened? As John F. Kennedy once said, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” While raw data cannot provide us a paternity test, here are a few of the likely culprits.

  • Low Democratic Turnout: Just over 51,000 voters cast their ballots this year in the 42nd, compared to the 65,000 who voted in 2012 and 60,000 who voted in 2010. Who didn’t vote? Younger voters and those living near Lake Whatcom, Blaine and Birch Bay – in other words, precincts that lean Democratic.
  • High Republican Turnout: Meanwhile, the precincts surrounding Lynden and north Ferndale actually had more voters in 2014 than in 2012, gaining 200-500 voters each. Older, white voters turned out in huge numbers, which also affected non-partisan races, where obscure Charter Review candidates who were associated with the local Tea Party catapulted ahead of well-known union representatives, popular environmentalists and even a former city councilman.
  • The Reshaped 42nd District: In 2012, the state redistricting committee, a bipartisan group of Olympia insiders, redrew all the district lines in the state. They asked Kelli Linville if she was interested in trying to retake the seat she had recently lost to Vincent Buys, but Linville was quite content with her new job – mayor of Bellingham – and politely declined.
    The new maps

    The new maps

    With no serious candidate prepared, the Democrats ceded that territory, allowing the Republicans to redraw the former swing district so that it was even more conservative. Around 4,000 voters, mostly from downtown Bellingham and the Columbia neighborhood where cut out of the 42nd district and deposited into the solidly liberal 40th district – including future candidate Seth Fleetwood.

    And the result? A district that once elected moderates like Pete Kremen, Dale Brandland and Kelli Linville is now represented by some of the most conservative legislators in the state, according to the Washington Conservative Union.

These causes are what we can immediately identify with data. But that is only part of the story. We can tell who voted and how they voted, but we have no magic spreadsheet for the “why.” There is no perfect way of determining what factor caused people to vote one way or another, but there are always plenty of theories.

  • Poor Messaging/No Motivation: A popular theory from the national stage is that Democrats did not give their base a good reason to turnout. What bold policies were Democrats proposing to win favor with voters? What strong stances helped them stand out from their competition? Without a clear rallying point, Democrats simply did not feel motivated to turn out.However, there was a salient issue on the ballot in our state. I-594 provided for universal background checks for gun sales – a popular issue and a clear contrast between Democrats and Republicans. However, local Democrats did not merge their efforts with the gun initiative, and Fleetwood skirted the issue at the Bellingham City Club debate with Ericksen.
  • The Campaign was “too negative”: For many, the negative barrage of ads was a turnoff for engaging with this election. As local political analyst John Servais said on his blog Northwest Citizen, “I’ve known Seth for many years and feel he would have preferred to speak of his values and vision for the voters of the 42nd District. I think his advisors just pushed him into allowing that negative stuff.”The counterpoint here is that the County Council elections last year were incredibly negative – gruesome mailers of blood-soaked slaughterhouses attacked conservative candidates – but that did not reduce conservative or liberal turnout. Turnout increased in south Bellingham, however, it was due to the coal trains issue.
  • The all purpose “Thanks, Obama”: Another theory is simply Democratic fatigue. After six years of a Democratic president, the nation, and Whatcom County in miniature, was simply tired of anyone with a “D” next to her name. Like frustrated teenagers pushing the “change channel” button, every two years despondent and disillusioned voters simply vote out the party in power.  However, the 42nd has been in mostly Republican hands for years, and the incumbents won. If this was a surge of anti-establishment fever, why did we give more power to the local establishment?
  • The Strange, Unusual and Ever-shifting 42nd District: We live in an odd part of the country. The 42nd district includes aging Birch Bay, industrial Ferndale, agricultural Lynden, transient north Bellingham and gentrified Lake Whatcom. It contains Russian immigrants, a Sikh temple, a growing Latino presence and two Native American tribes. Each year, more Satellites retire to Birch Bay, more young Bellingham families move to the unincorporated county and outer Ferndale, and the city limits of Bellingham creep northward, adding more urban density with every step.

In short, while the 42nd district is rocky turf for environmental candidates, the landscape is always shifting as demographics change and public opinion shifts. Next year, we take a break from partisan politics (ha ha ha!), and elect our local mayors, councilmembers, county officials and school boards.

We will not need to dwell on the 42nd until 2016, when the presidential race will reshape the chess board once again.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Yes, I’m alive and haven’t thrown myself down a well. I’ve had electoral heartbreaks before, the hardest being 2004, I had just turned 18 and was voting for the first time . . . and that night the nation reelected George W. Bush. After Iraq.

Shots from election night, courtesy of Matt McDonald with the Bellingham Herald

Shots from election night, courtesy of Matt McDonald with the Bellingham Herald

The point is, there are good years and bad years – times to celebrate and times to mourn. Before I go full Pete Seeger, here are some early post-election thoughts.

The demographics show that very few young people, communities of color and single women voted this year. I’ll be doing the breakdown for the 42nd specifically in the coming week but generally speaking, those who voted this year were older and whiter than most registered voters. Setting aside cases in Texas and North Carolina where Republicans have been very successful at passing Voter ID laws to suppress the vote, it seems that the Democrats are unable to motivate their base to the polls on off-year elections. They deliver lopsided victories every presidential year but cannot recreate the magic.

Is this a curable problem or a function of demographics? I don’t have an easy answer. Locally, the Whatcom Democrats conducted an massive ground operation, doing the hard, door-to-door politics required to motivate voters . . . and it just didn’t work. Stay tuned for more details as I dig into the data.

In the good news column, Colorado has made so much tax revenue from legalizing and selling marijuana that they are offering a tax rebate to all their citizens. With the successful initiatives in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, DC, I imagine it won’t be long before red states start considering similar proposals.

Finally, we turn our eyes to the local elections. As I mentioned in my recent column, (or as Kathy Kershner referred to it, “whining”), we have a chance to drastically change our local government next year.

Kelli Linville at Occupy Bellingham

Kelli Linville at Occupy Bellingham

The County Council’s last three conservatives are up for reelection next year (Sam Crawford, Barbara Brenner and . . . Pete Kremen) along with County Executive Jack Louws, Sheriff Bill Elfo, Treasurer Steve Oliver and Auditor Debbie Adelstein. The county assessor is up for reelection but no one ever runs for that seat.

On the city level, Mayor Kelli Linville is up for reelection, along with Roxanne Murphy, Jack Weiss, Terry Bornemann and whoever is appointed to Cathy Lehman’s seat. Rumor has it that Jack may retire and Terry stay on another term but it is early and these things change.

In Ferndale, Mayor Gary Jensen is up for another term, along with a handful of councilmembers. In Lynden, over half their City Council is up for reelection, same with Blaine. The school districts are electing new board members and whatever the Charter Review Commission proposes will be on the ballot.

In other words, the people who make the decisions that most directly affect our day-to-day life are on the ballot next year – so take whatever lessons from this election and stuff it in a box till 2016 because we are facing an oncoming storm of local issues – where partisanship has little place.

That’s all for now, I’m going to be curling up with precinct maps and spreadsheets over the weekend and pull some sort of interesting analysis for you next week.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 4, 2014

2014 Election Night Live-Blog

Hello Loyal Readers!

Welcome to the 4th annual election night live-blog! I’m here, safely ensconced at the Mount Baker Theatre awaiting the results at the Democrats election night party. I will be bringing you local reactions as the night goes on, although I can tell you right now, there is already a somber feeling in the room as the national results come rolling in.

You can support the work we do here at The Political Junkie by making a donation hereWe are sadly camera-less today so you will have to rely on my lovely flowing descriptive text.

Lisa “Most likely to be name dropped in a Tea Party conspiracy theory” McShane has arrived. She says her focus this year is on the Charter Review candidates, “I hope we win those! They are super important!”

20141104_194358Scott Brown just made history by becoming the first candidate to lose to two different women for US Senate. In the bad news column, Kentucky just reelected Mitch McConnell.

Ralph Schwartz, Bellingham Herald reporter, has arrived. He reveals that he and Samantha Wohlfeil drew straws for who went to which political party event. Punchline? “They both were the short straw.” Aaaaaand Ralph just tweeted me.

Tony Wallace, mildly conservative charter review candidate, is feeling positive for tonight. “I didn’t see any other messaging occurring among the candidates aside from yard signs. No one went digital, leaving that open to me.” He also notes that he broke the $5,000 barrier this year, without taking PAC or coal money. “Being told by Nick Evans (Republican Political Director) to either leave Whatcom County or leave the Republican party . . . selecting him to represent their political party shows how out of step they are.” Wallace is the former state college Republican chair.

I ran to the campaign managers for Satpal Sidhu (Patrick Stickney) and Joy Monjure (Erik Goheen). Goheen, looking dapper in a brown sport coat, is a nervous bundle of energy. “There is no words to describe the feeling before the election results come in,” said Goheen. “I’m an Ocean of Zen,” said Stickney.

Seth Fleetwood on Election Night

Seth Fleetwood on Election Night

“If we lose Colorado, the Republican’s take the Senate.” “Refresh Colorado!” The crowd is rowdy but definitely subdued. Mike Estes has taken the microphone and doing his best to pump up the audience. “The three candidates this year in the 42nd are some of the strongest we’ve ever had.”

Bre, coordinated campaign manager for the Whatcom Dems, rattles off some of the numbers, citing over 60,000 calls made and 40,000 doors knocked on.

Seth Fleetwood takes the stage and is already choked up. “It has been a phenomenal effort and I can’t thank you all enough.” He gives a shout out to his campaign manager – who is currently in the corner of the room refreshing the auditor’s page.

Thank you to everyone who is following this liveblog – including Sen. Kevin Ranker:

Tensions are high as we wait for the results. Joy Monjure has arrived and takes the stage to say a few words. “I can’t believe the support and volunteerism this year, it has been amazing!” Monjure is excited, “What I have learned about this is I am going to get REALLY involved, win or lose!” She thanked her campaign manager and then her husband, in that order.

PUD Candidate Bob Burr takes the stage and solemnly intoned his thanks to the crowd. “If you are one of the democrats who didn’t support me because I’m too radical, I hope I can win without your support.”

Results I-594 come in very positive and the crowd explodes in cheers. Unfortunately I-591 seems to be passing right now, to everyone’s confusion. Suzan DelBene is walloping Pedro – to no one’s surprise.

Aaaand the results are in and everyone I like lost. A tad dramatic but all three Democratic candidates in the 42nd lost. Bob Burr lost. Charter Review only 6 out of the 15 endorsed Democratic candidates won (although my endorsed conservative, Jon Mutchler won!).

For lighter news, I asked Michael Lilliquist if he was going to announce his mayoral campaign next week. He said that is “not something to be taken lightly,” and that he is “fighting city hall over the budget every day and this isn’t funny to me.”  This is my official response.

Onto other news, the biggest surprise for Charter Review is Eileen Sobjack, darling of the Tea Party, pulling a huge lead in Charter Review district three. She did not put up big signs or campaign heavily like some of the other candidates but beat all the others.

Noted political consultant Cathy Allen is in attendance, she worked for Satpal Sidhu this year. She notes that Satpal raised over $148,000 this year, an impressive sum for a first time candidate and a great show of support.

Other local news, Blaine will remain plain “Blaine” as the voters reject the name change by a 2 to 1 margin. Ferndale shot down the gas tax. And I continue to wallow in sorrow

Me right now

Initiative I-594 won (YAY!) and I-591 lost (YAY!) but that is the long and short of our good news for competitive races this year. I’m going to head home tonight. Tune in tomorrow on KBAI 930AM at Noon for a little election analysis from me and there will be some pretty maps analyzing what happened in the coming week.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 3, 2014

Lowering Expectations

Every year, both political parties play this game where they lower expectations for election day. The idea is that if they win, they look like they beat the odds, if they lose . . . well, that’s what they were expecting. Unfortunately, at the same time, they have to keep hope alive for their volunteers who are frantically calling everyone they know to get them to turn in their ballot.

What results is a twisted message along the lines of Claudius’ speech in the beginning of Hamlet,

“Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole.”

I know at this point you are going, “WHAT ABOUT SETH FLEETWOOD!?! You go off the air for two weeks and come back with SHAKESPEARE QUOTES?!” Hang in there, I’m getting there.

Charlie Crabtree and Luanne Van Werven. Photo Credit to Dave Onkles.

Recently, former Republican Chair Luanne Van Werven and current Republican Chair Charlie Crabtree accused me of being a “political operative” for Satpal Sidhu because I had the nerve to point out how extreme Van Werven is, based on her evangelical views on how the world works and her activism over these views. Just to repeat, I am not the voice of Satpal’s campaign, simply a man with a blog and an opinion.

Now Charlie Crabtree frequently gets confused over how things are, after all, two years ago, I had to explain to him how newspapers work. He may have just gotten confused, after all, “Riley Sweeney” is very similar to the name “Satpal Sidhu” and he may have thought that I was on the ballot.

But Luanne Van Werven is a very smart woman. I’ve debated her and seen her work. She knows that I don’t speak for anyone but myself – yet she still pressed this smear into the hands of the Herald and her supporters. NOTE: Ralph Schwartz, of the Herald, rightly clarifies below that the Republicans did not pressure them to cover the story, but rather the email was newsworthy unto itself.

I try to avoid speculating on anyone’s motives, but in this case, I would guess that this is a media-savvy attempt to remind the voters of Whatcom County that she, Van Werven, is a Christian and her opponent is not. Like Claudius, she is attempting to say two things at once – be outraged at someone discriminating against her for being Christian while trying to remind everyone that Sidhu is “other”.

This is the same Van Werven who at a public forum in 2011 accused our County Treasurer of having an affair, and endorsed a gubernatorial candidate that believed that the biggest threat to Washington State is radical Islam.

While Fleetwood and Ericksen are nuking each other in the airwaves and in my mailbox, there are plenty of other dirty tricks making the rounds.

Which comes back to my theme, lowering expectations. This year, we have some top of the shelf candidates running for office on both sides of the aisle – capable politicians and passionate advocates – yet rather than a full discussion of how to best fund education, we got lies about troubles with the IRS. Instead of discussing how to best fight climate change, we got arguments over whether a lifelong resident of the 42nd district actually lives in the 42nd district. Instead of policy proposals, we got Tom Steyer, Coal Money, Lobbyist Lunches and whose God is better.

I am far from blameless. I frequently dig into the partisan minutiae on this blog but this is much larger than just a blog. Even year elections tend to be more partisan and therefore inflammatory in scope – look at the bloody battles going on nation-wide for the control of the Senate but next year, we have an opportunity to make things better on the small scale.

We deserve better, we all deserve a better. Next year, we are electing Mayors, County Officials, County and City Councilmembers, and many more. These are local people, interested in solving problems locally. Perhaps instead of the onslaught of empty character issues and blind accusations, we will have a full and robust discussion over how to best improve Whatcom.

But that would require a shift in how we discuss politics in our town. It would require a concerted effort to disseminate good information and punish at the ballot box those who refuse to discuss real issues. I leave you with this last thought from Hamlet and Polonius.

Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Lord Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Lord Polonius: I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.

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