Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 15, 2014

Missed the Political Junkie Livestream? Here’s the video

Last night, we packed the Varvid studios with Joy Monjure supporters and fans of political comedy for the first Political Junkie livestream. It was a great night and I really appreciate all the hard work that went into making it happen. Here’s the videos for everyone who missed it live:

As I continue to experiment and expand the capabilities of this blog, I hope to include more video features. In the meantime, ballots arrive soon and my endorsements should be out later this week.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 14, 2014

Tune in TONIGHT at 6pm for Political Comedy

Like the Daily Show but with way less talent

Like the Daily Show but with way less talent

Whatcom County has been an innovator in the realm of unintentional political comedy, tonight, I am aiming to do it on purpose for once.

Tonight at 6pm at, the Political Junkie will take to the airwaves with a live video broadcast. I will be doing political comedy as well as interviewing Joy Monjure about her race for state representative.

Tune in to find out the real reason why Rep. Jason Overstreet retired, the title to Pete Kremen’s unpublished memoirs and much much more.

See you tonight at 6pm at

Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 10, 2014

Friday Odds and Ends: Hope-Less, Forums, and Whatcom Comedy

Hello Loyal Readers, 

It is time for more Odds and Ends but first a big announcement. Here at the Political Junkie, we are always striving to try new things and explore new ways to engage you, the reader, in the political process.

Yes, that's me with a TV on my head

Yes, that’s me with a TV on my head

That is why I am proud to announce that we are producing first Political Junkie television broadcast! On Tuesday, October 14th, I will be doing a LIVE webcast of this blog, streaming video through the internet to your computer screen, thanks to the good people at Varvid.

Our goal is to take the format of The Daily Show and bring that blend of comedy, interviews and insight to Whatcom County. I will be interviewing candidates for State Legislature and providing some local comedy.

RSVP for the broadcast at and tune in!

With the self-promotion out of the way, let’s move on to the other tidbits of the day.

Those of you who missed the bombshell of a Bellingham Herald story, the Whatcom Republicans political director Nick Evans was arrested for Domestic Violence last month. He also missed his court date for a King County DUI. Evans was the lead political organizer for the party, as well as the field director for Congressional candidate Pedro Celis, Charter Review candidate and by day, an insurance salesman that was unclear about the basic facts of health insurance. The Whatcom Republicans and Pedro Celis have all distanced themselves from Evans after his arrest however he is still on the ballot in November.

The Bellingham Senior Activity Center is hosting a candidates forum next Weds, the 15th from 1-3pm. Almost all the state legislative candidates, Democrats and Republicans, have RSVP-ed and audience questions will be allowed.

Finally, remember the story of Rep. Mike Hope? He was a Republican who served in the state legislature this year but was actually living and registered to vote in Ohio. He served, collected a paycheck for 11 months even though it was illegal for him to do so. The state looked into going after him to get back the money paid in salary to him during that time but it looks like they won’t get that money back. Disappointing to say the least.

That’s all folks, back to the regular grind and I will see you on live-web broadcast this Tuesday!

Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 8, 2014

Sen. Doug Ericksen Wastes Thousands in Campaign Contributions

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Despite being in a tight race, Sen. Doug Ericksen seems to be wasting thousands of donor dollars. I’ve done some digging into Ericksen’s campaign expenditures and while the incumbent senator in the 42nd district has raised a lot of money, he has made some odd decisions on how it should be spent.

As I covered last year, smart political campaigns know that every dollar should be spent on voter contact. Of course you have to pay the bills, hire a campaign manager and throw a few fundraisers. But mostly you need to be conserving resources for ads and voter outreach.

It is the sign of an undisciplined campaign to spend money on frivolous things that won’t help win the election. People who give money to candidates would be well advised to keep an eye on these things to make sure that their money isn’t being wasted.

I haven’t given any money to Doug Ericksen this election cycle. But if I had, I would ask for it back. Here’s what I found:


Frisbees – $1050.  In general, things with the candidate’s name on them that can only be seen by one person are a bad idea. Yard signs, t-shirts and bumper stickers are a marginal investment at best. Ordering over 1,500 of these things? You’ve got to be kidding me.


Rangers Soccer, “Community Advertising” - $425.  I don’t know what one gets for $425 dollars worth of advertising with Ranger’s soccer. But it isn’t placement on their website, which lists Walton Beverage, Alcoa and Gatorade. It is worth knowing that Rangers Soccer is the local competitive youth soccer team and that Doug’s facebook page features pictures of his daughter playing soccer in a Ranger’s jersey.

I got in touch with a friend who’s children also play on a competitive team, and they said “That sounds like travel expenses. There are always tournaments and the kids have to raise money for travel expenses.  Sometimes they do a golf tournament, sometimes they do carwashes to raise the money.” It is difficult to confirm but it looks like Ericksen is using his campaign account to pay for his daughter’s soccer trip.

Meals – As was reported in The Stand, Doug Ericksen has apparently been eating out of his campaign account. He has spent over $1200 of campaign funds on meals at restaurants.

Video Equipment - $1137.90. This equipment has apparently been used to make a series of YouTube videos (see here) which are jittery, sloppy pieces of work with only 40 views. There are four other videos on the Ericksen’s YouTube channel. That means they cost $227 each. They have a a combined total of 652 views which includes his campaign staff, presumably his opponent and his staff, and me.  If you take out the people whose job it is to watch these videos and people who watch them more than once (I’m responsible for at least 4 or 5 views), he’s probably reached between 150 and 200 people, most of whom had already made up their minds. I wonder who gets to keep the equipment at the end of the campaign?


Rodeo Sponsorship – $2000 - I was willing to cut Ericksen some slack on this one – Buys bought the sponsorship too – but after uncovering all the other frivolous expenses, this had to go back on the list. $2,000 can buy a great deal of flyers and doorbelling material – to blow all that money on a banner and mention at the Rodeo seems somewhere between vain and foolish.

Parking in Ferndale - $12  For this puzzle, I had to enlist the help of former Bellingham Herald reporter Sam Taylor who is now the City Clerk of Ferndale. After some sleuthing, we determined it wasn’t a parking ticket but merely a day of parking at one of the Diamond lots in Ferndale. I’m not aware of any law against spending campaign money to pay a candidate’s parking and it isn’t a lot of money, but it sure seems like bad form.

So what is the point? I think these are symptoms of a candidate not taking a race seriously. The Political Junkie has heard rumors that he isn’t working very hard on this campaign, and this information corroborates those rumors.

By contrast, the list of expenses on Seth Fleetwood’s side is much shorter. His expenses are almost entirely payroll, printing and mailing. Of course, Seth has to run a tighter ship, he has less money and it’s hard to defeat a 16 year incumbent. He has to do more with less.

It is an interesting contrast between the two men striving to represent the increasing frugal 42nd district.

Hello Loyal Readers,

It is fall, the air turns crisp, we break out our nice sweaters and attack ads fill the air. Autumn is by far my favorite season – and let’s get it rolling with another Odds and Ends.

Joel Connelly, Seattle P-I

Joel Connelly, venerable reporter with the Seattle P-I, also attended the Tea Party forum on Wednesday and filed his own report a few hours after I did. He hit the same themes; a smarmy Ericksen contrasting with a low-key Fleetwood and the dynamic energy of Satpal Sidhu and Joy Monjure. Check out his piece, it is worth reading.

The City of Bellingham has almost selected a new planning director. Yesterday, the City held an meet-and-greet for the public, and let’s be honest, the building industry, to meet the three finalists for the position. John Servais attended and wrote a great piece about the candidates for the position and who showed up.

Finally, there is an attack ad airing on television criticizing Sen. Doug Ericksen for his views on a woman’s right to choose. I’m trying to find a copy of that so I can air it here on the blog but it is worth remembering this is not the first time Ericksen’s extreme views on women has come up. In 2011, when Ericksen was running for County Executive, he got asked at the Bill Mize forum about his record on so called “women’s issues” and his response was testy, to say the least. Shane Roth, local video enthusiast captured the audio and turned it into a humorous video below:

Personally, I have lobbied Sen. Ericksen on behalf of Planned Parenthood and found him to be dismissive of concerns over birth control and comprehensive sex education. I also know that Whatcom County, despite its conservative bent, is pro-choice so it will be interesting to see if Ericksen’s retrograde views on these issues will be enough to sink him.

Finally, to the person who shouted at me from their car, “I love the Political Junkie” yesterday while I was walking to lunch, I simply have this response:

Mainly, I was happy that they weren’t hurling rotten fruit from their car as they drove past. Enjoy the fall everyone

Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 2, 2014

Few Surprises at the Tea Party Forum

Tea Party Debate at the BIAW

Tea Party Debate at the BIAW

Last night, the legislative candidates from Whatcom County debated at the annual Tea Party debate. While the main attraction, Seth Fleetwood versus Doug Ericksen, offered few surprises, the races for state representative actually drew some very revealing responses from the candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Kris Halterman, KGMI host and coordinator for the Coal PAC last year, served as host of the event. She stressed the importance of voting, why the Charter Review is so important and introducing the moderator for the event, Richard Thorndike. Stressing their non-partisan credentials, Thorndike reminded the audience that, “The Whatcom Tea Party is non-partisan, we do not endorse or disparage any candidate or initiative.” After that, we were off to the races with the Public Utility District (PUD) race between incumbent Jeff McClure and challenger Bob Burr.

Bob Burr for PUD

Bob Burr for PUD

This race, like so many before it (2011 Bellingham Mayor’s race, 2013 County Council) is about the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. Burr blasted the PUD for “aiding and abetting shipping coal to China.” While Burr wove in some other criticisms over transparency and accessibility, he always brought it back to Cherry Point. “It is not a P – U- D, it is an I – U – D, industrial utility district, it provides water to Cherry Point and has one electricity project . . . I never would have shilled for the Gateway Pacific project and urged them to curb environmental studies in the fishways.”

McClure responded with defiant outrage, arguing that the PUD has put the discussion squarely on the side of land use and out of the hands of the PUD. “My opponent is twisting the facts to suit his political agenda and hasn’t spent the time to understand the issues of the PUD,” said McClure. He cited the PUD’s double A bond rating and several successful audits as a testament to their effectiveness.

After that it was time for the race for the seat vacated by gold enthusiast Rep. Jason Overstreet. Longtime Republican party official Luanne Van Werven is running for the seat against former Dean of Bellingham Technical College and local businessman Satpal Sidhu.

Luanne Van Werven for State Representative

Luanne Van Werven for State Representative

The contrast between the two candidates was immediately clear. In his opening remarks, Sidhu drew on his roots as an American immigrant. “I love this country, I love the american values of hard work, high morals, ethics of honesty and putting my country first. I do not promote any partisan agenda or political party.”

Van Werven instead focused on her partisan credentials. “Thank you to the tea party for putting this on tonight and for your ongoing efforts to educate our community on our issues. I understand why the Tea Party was started, we ARE taxed enough already.” Her response were met with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

The first question revolved around whether a gun owner should have to pass a test, similar to a drivers test, before purchasing a firearm. Sidhu was firm, “Yes, yes, emphatically yes, It is something that is really a responsible item. There should really be a test every 5-7 years.”

Van Werven offered similar sentiments, “For your concealed weapons permit, you should have some basic training. I felt that it was the responsible thing to do . . . while I support the right to bear arms, I think it is a wise policy to encourage responsible training programs.”

However this moment of agreement quickly faded as the candidates went back and forth over Gov. Inslee’s proposed climate change efforts. Van Werven blasted the proposals as, “complicated, expensive and will literally do nothing to reduce emissions at a time when our economy is struggling to come back from a recession. The Democrats and Governor Inslee are also proposing an income tax and an additional gas tax. For thirty years the Democrats have been in charge and the voters are ready for something different.”

Satpal Sidhu

Satpal Sidhu

Sidhu countered that Van Werven’s response was short-sighted, “These are the scare tactics. We need to think twenty years from today, everyone thinks only of tomorrow.” He offered that the same objections were made to the $0.05 gas tax back in 2003 that would have funded major repairs to our state roads.

This divide continued over the subject of education. Van Werven cited the need to fight tax increase and credited the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (the Republicans in the Senate plus two turncoat Democrats) for investing in education. Sidhu shot back that, ““It is easy to read party memos, but the reality is much more difficult. How do you find a reasonable Republican? I’ll let you try and figure that out.”

Sidhu spoke about fixing our educational system. “Our education system is fundamentally flawed, you should revisit the education system, we need to fix our education with a long-term plan. Not this gimmicks. There’s enough money to pay for it, you don’t need to raise taxes,”

Next the candidates tackled the Citizen’s United decision and the role of corporations. Van Werven offered a passionate defense of the belief that corporations are people,

“You know what, my business is a corporation. I own a corporation so I defy you to say that I am not a person with political rights. There are real faces behind that business,” said Van Werven. “I will do what I can to role back regulations on businesses . . . Right here in Whatcom County, there are people who have formed corporations and businesses that are the back bone of the county. As far as corporations, that is just a legal definition.”

Sidhu strongly disagreed. “It is nothing to do with successful or not successful, it is an artificial entity. Citizen United is not good for our country, it will hurt Republicans, it will hurt Democrats, income inequality is our biggest issue.”

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

In their closing statements, both Van Werven and Sidhu hit familiar themes. Van Werven calling for a shift of power to the Republicans as a fresh approach. “The fact is for 30 years, Seattle liberals have been in charge of our state government. Washington has been liberal for too long, and the voters are tired of one party rule.”

Sidhu stressed his business and non-partisan credentials. “America is the very best place to live in the world. There is only one candidate in front of you who has actually created jobs, who has actually balanced budgets, who actually volunteered for non-partisan organizations, who actually is the real deal. Remember that old ad, ‘Where’s the beef?’ I’ve got the beef.”

After that stirring and lively back and forth between the candidates for state representative, the Senate candidates seemed bored and frustrated by comparison. The quiet and procedural Seth Fleetwood’s soft spoken manner and polite deference was met with vigorous smarm from Sen. Doug Ericksen – who’s responses were littered with strong applause lines and humor.

Fleetwood hit his main points of criticism, Ericksen’s efforts to block all the bills relating to rail safety and his budgeting gimmicks about education. “My opponent cites the fact that they found a billion dollars for education but what he doesn’t say is that it was a bunch of one time fund transfers, we still have some of the largest classroom sizes.” Fleetwood called for the “ending of extreme partisanship.”

Ericksen, by contrast, was all personality and personal appeal, speaking at length of his daughters, his wife who is a public school teacher and how much he enjoys living in Ferndale. “We epitomize the middle class family – when the propane bill goes up, we have to cut somewhere else.” He defended the efforts of the Republican-controlled state senate citing their bipartisan leadership. This was ironic for me considering Ericksen’s rather aggressively partisan work during the session this year.

Ericksen and Fleetwood clashed over the role of corporate welfare. Fleetwood called for closing corporate tax loopholes as a way to fund education. Ericksen shot back “He calls them corporate loopholes, I call them jobs for working people because if you eliminate those tax incentives they will lay people off and that will hurt people right here in Whatcom County.”

While neither candidate delved into Ericksen’s ongoing ethical issues, they did quarrel over the latest Republican boogeyman, Tom Steyer. “I don’t have any California billionaires sending me big checks so yes, our system should be reformed.” Ericksen said about campaign finance reform. Fleetwood did not let that stand,“You are the one who has received 2/3rds of your donations from special interests and business PACs, you are the one who is getting the benefit of that, not me.”

Joy Monjure for State Representative

Joy Monjure for State Representative

Overall, their clash seemed a subdued rehash of the debates already spilling out in the public eye. Neither candidate was very engaged in the debate, simply going through the motions waiting for the clock to run out. I imagine both candidates understand that this election will be decided by getting their voters to turn in their ballots, not winning debates in front of Tea Party supporters.

However, the debate between former Everson City Councilwoman Joy Monjure and Rep. Vincent Buys more than compensated for the lackluster Fleetwood/Ericksen matchup. Buys began his remarks by praised the Tea Party for being a neutral arbitrator of political discussion. “Without both organizations supporting the Tea Party, we wouldn’t be able to have the robust discussions.” He spoke about what an honor it is to serve in the state legislature, “To realize what people have really entrusted me with, it is not taken lightly by the members down there.”

Monjure highlighted her personal connection to this community, as owner of the farm stand in Everson, as a long-time employee of the Bellingham Public Works department and a grandmother of three. After the initial remarks, the candidates dived into the thorny subject of education funding.

Buys said that he would follow the Senate Republicans lead by funding education first with any new tax dollars coming in. Monjure pointed out Buys hypocracy as an advocate for funding education.“I believe that our supreme court has mandated that we fully fund education, however my opponent has signed a letter rejecting the authority of the court, I support the constitution and I believe that our children need to be our top priority.” said Monjure. Both candidates agreed that the education system needs reforms but Monjure expanded this – speaking to the larger factors that affect learning.

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys

“Standardized testing takes up too much of our classroom time,” said Monjure. “Beyond that, children living in poverty cannot come to school ready to learn.” Monjure called for supporting our social safety net as well as funding are schools.

When it came to the Gateway Pacific Project, it was no surprise that the candidates were world’s apart. “I support a deep water port at Cherry Point, what I don’t support is coal.” said Monjure, “There are jobs to be had sure, but we should be exporting things that are helping our world, not hurting our world. I’m concerned about the safety of trains bringing coal and oil through our communities. Nine freight trains derails every month in the United States. We need to make sure we aren’t hurting our community.”

Buys took the opposite tact, seeing this project as a ticket to third world prosperity.  “If we want to look at the global impact of what is going on, nothing is more helpful than global prosperity and access to energy. Allowing access to a cheaper and cleaner energy source, helps those developing countries.”said Buys.

The last question for this round was about legislators receiving meals from lobbyists (a question clearly written with Sen. Ericksen in mind). Buys defending the practice, saying that putting limits on free meals will, “limit access for people to meet with us, we are limited to the number of times we can sit down and meet with you.” Monjure pounced on this, “I don’t know how we would be restricted from meeting with people as long as we pay for our own meals. I think it is really important to meet with constitutents. I don’t believe that people should be buying our meals, I don’t have any problem using the per diem for that process.” Buys responded that this would be a bad thing because, “What we are going to see a chilling affect from industry associations holding less events because of low attendance.” .

Dan Miller for State Representative

Dan Miller for State Representative

The final candidate debate was remarkably one-sided. Dan Miller, running against Rep. Kris Lytton, was the only one to show up, Lytton was delayed in Olympia and unable to make it. Miller compensated by often cutting himself off mid-thought and switching topics as rapidly as possible. His best moment was when he was asked about whether negotiations with public sector unions should be made public. “Sure,” said Miller with a shrug. There was a pause and then the audience cracked up at the sudden burst of brevity.

After that, they wrapped up the proceeding and urged attendees to visit with the Charter Review candidates stationed at tables in the back (pictured left). As was with year’s past, several major issues were left completely ignored by the questions and the candidates themselves. No one spoke about environmental issues beyond the context of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, very few touched on the need for better mental health services in our community or investment in workforce development and technical education.

All counted, it was a fine event. It was filmed by the Kirk family of Whatcom Works and the videos will be released on youtube when they are done. In the meantime, I hope my humble reporting will help.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 30, 2014

PeaceHealth Caregivers Rally for Fair Wages

Braving the rainy weather and complete media blackout, the caregivers from PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s hospital turned out to rally for fair wages. The caregivers, members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, protested for several hours, bringing guest speakers and trying to draw attention to their struggle.

Peacehealth Caregivers

PeaceHealth Caregivers

The caregivers union was formed in a landslide election last September and now they are negotiating their first contract with Peacehealth. The central issue is wages and ironically, health insurance. Currently most union members make $2-4 an hour behind what caregivers at other area hospitals are making and their insurance plan leaves major gaps in coverage.

Kari Henderson, Senior Lab Assistant, discovered that PeaceHealth’s insurance for employees was not up to par when she had her first child last year. “An unexpected three day stay in the hospital yielded a mountain of unexpected bills. Better health coverage would help us keep our qualified and compassionate caregivers at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.” By comparison, PeaceHealth St. Joseph’s made $39 million in profit last year.


Fleetwood speaks at Caregivers Rally

This comes on the heels of announcements that PeaceHealth will shut down their adult day care center because of “huge financial challenges” according to Chief Administrative Officer Dale Zender. Zender placed the blame on budget woes from the Affordable Care Act – saying that less people are seeking expensive hospital treatment since they now have insurance to seek preventative and palliative care earlier in illness.

The rally, while not covered by any local media outlets, did draw some attention from local candidate for state senate, Seth Fleetwood, who spoke in support of the rallying caregivers, where he was warmly received.

This struggle affects the community beyond PeaceHealth. “Our work caring for our community is what makes PeaceHealth a great hospital,” said Judy Ringkvist, a Medical Technologist at PeaceHealth Labs.  “But if healthcare costs keep going up and our wages continue to stagnate, many of us will have to find different work in order to support our families, and that hurts our patients.”

You can learn more at their facebook page here and for those of you who followed this issue closely, I’m sorry this article took this long to come out – I am working to expand our labor coverage here on the Political Junkie and whenever there is a new beat, it takes time to get it right. You can support community journalism by making a donation here.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 26, 2014

Friday Odds and Ends: Panic, Preparation and Public Access

Hello Loyal Readers,

We are counting down to the final month of campaign season so prepare for the barrage of flyers, television ads and ridiculous accusations. As always, I will help you sort out the verifiable from the conjecture. Which brings us to our first Odd and End:

According to the Whatcom Republicans - this is Freddy Kruger

According to the Whatcom Republicans – this is Freddy Krueger

Whatcom Republicans are in full-panic mode over the potential involvement of Tom Steyer in the 42nd. Tom Steyer donated several thousand dollars to Washington Conservation Voters last year and some of that money was spent as independent expenditures in the County Council races. But as I pointed out after the Democratic sweep last year, it was not the glossy WCV mailers that won that race but the efficient and well-organized ground game that turned out voters in South Bellingham. One would hope that that the County Republicans “screw their courage to the sticking-place” and try doing some voter outreach for a change.

In the other Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder is preparing to leave the White House and the top rumored prospect for his replacement is from our home turf. U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan from Seattle is on the short list to replace Holder. Durkan made headlines in the last couple of years cleaning house with the Seattle Police Department, pushing for vigorous reforms. She has been a leader on cyber sercurity reforms, and helped unravel a terrorist plot to blow up a military recruiting office in Seattle. She is also a lesbian – I mention this last because it is the least important part of her resume but would be one of the more higher profile LGBT appointments in the history of the United States.

Finally, my hometown of Olympia is celebrating the upgrade of their public access station, which just completed the conversion to High Definition. Using the funds provided by Comcast for a separate public access station, Thurston Community Television (TCTV) has been providing opportunities for locals to produce high quality television, gaining vital technical skills and documenting their communities growth for over twenty years.

Unlike the proposal by the Mayor of Bellingham which tethers our public access to a city-run television station, TCTV is a free-standing non-profit, allowing the organization the flexibility to charge membership dues, conduct fundraising and grow from a single broadcast channel to four station sharing content from around the community. Perhaps TCTV’s continued success will be a role model as we develop our video capabilities as a community.

The weather has finally returned to normal, leaving plenty of time for catching up on your favorite monster movies. I’m looking forward to that remake of Godzilla featuring our former County Executive.

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