Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 31, 2014

Whatcom Republicans Laugh Away Ericksen’s Ethical Woes

In politics, a classic technique is trying to turn a negative into a positive. After two years of bad press for receiving the most free meals with corporate lobbyists, and the surrounding ethical concerns about getting reimbursed for meals he didn’t pay for, the Whatcom Republicans are trying to play off Ericksen’s desires for free meals as a joke.

Whatcom Republicans Email

Whatcom Republicans Email

In an email blast sent out this week, the Whatcom Republicans invited their members to become part of the “I want to buy Senator Ericksen lunch” club. From the email:

Become a part of our growing community of people who want to Buy Lunch for our Senator right here in Whatcom County and Bellingham . . . Its free and easy just enter your name and e-mail to become a charter member of the club.

A couple of problems with this approach. First, as taxpayers, we already buy Ericksen lunch every day since we pay his salary. When he is in session, we pay his per diem on top of that. Normally, when you get a free meal from a lobbyist, you deduct that from your per diem, but Ericksen continues to claim his full per diem, so really we are buying him one lunch and then the special interests are buying him another lunch.

But it raises another question, one of access. Should anyone be bragging about the fact that our legislator has to be bribed with food just so he will listen to you? I would hope that our legislators would be eager to meet with their constituents outside of meal times.

I understand the intent of the Whatcom Republicans, but Ericksen’s ethical issues are no laughing matter.  You can send that message by turning in your ballot by next Tuesday.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 25, 2014

Friday Odds and Ends: Hope, Canines and Kevin

Hello Loyal Readers,

Welcome to the full swing of campaign season! My mailbox is chock-full of mailers from Fleetwood and the state Republicans (still using that stolen photo) and the radio and television are airing ads and interviews. Hence, let’s dive right in.

Once again, it looks like the Bellingham Herald has passed on providing any endorsements in the primary – preferring to fill their pages with candidate-drafted content. While I understand the economics of the decision – having a well-informed and engaged editorial staff requires time and money, neither of which the Herald has in abundance – it is disappointing to see. I would rather see the Herald endorse a slate of right-wing Republicans, at least they would be involved in the public discourse, than sit out another cycle.

Speaking of sitting it out, Representative Mike Hope (R) in the 44th Legislative District (Snohomish) is resigning his seat after committing voter fraud. He had already promised to retire at the end of this year, having been offered a juicy job in Ohio, however, when the news came out that he had been voting over there while serving in the legislature here, he resigned in a hurry. While it will have little impact for the state legislature, it is a curious sequence of events.

Nyima, candidate for County Prosecutor

Nyima, candidate for County Prosecutor

Frustrated by our county prosecutor once again running unopposed? Vote for Nyima as a write-in. Young, frisky Nyima has entered the race to challenge the long serving county prosecutor, Dave McEachran. Nyima offers a fresh perspective, and a better understanding of the importance of comprehensive wildlife and habitat policies and programs.

Nyima’s appeal is not limited to the environmental community. He promotes a sustainable business agenda, which is pro-development (for dog parks), with incentives for local merchants that offer free dog snacks and water. He promises free poop bags to all citizens if he is elected. Please vote for Nyima as a write in candidate for county prosecutor. He definitely has my vote. UPDATE: In my rush to get this blurb added, I neglected to credit Wendy Harris for her wording. This endorsement was first posted on the Whatcom Hawk although I heartily share the sentiment. 

Finally, Sen. Kevin Ranker has finished his one-year term as president of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region. The international group, composed of public officials from California to Northern Canada, worked on economic and environmental issues.

“PNWER is the best example there is of what can be accomplished when states, provinces and countries work together to advance the goals of their governments, businesses and their people,” Ranker said. “It was an absolute honor and privilege to serve as president of such an exemplary organization that will only continue to thrive under President Ramsey’s leadership.

“My time with PNWER is far from over. I will do everything I can to continue to maximize the potential of our beautiful corner of the world for the betterment of our district, our state and our country.”

This goes to show how state legislators can serve far beyond local legislation, contributing on an international level if they wish to be involved in bigger issues. You can talk with Ranker about his service with PNWER next Wednesday, the 30th, from 3 – 5 p.m. at Village Books.

That’s all for now, I have another guest post going live Monday and more results from the NWCitizen Poll coming this weekend.


Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 24, 2014

NWCitizen Releases Poll Showing Ericksen Leading Fleetwood

First public poll of the 42nd LD

First public poll of the 42nd LD

In an effort to provide you, the readers, more insight into the political world around us, I have worked with Northwest Citizen to conduct (and pay for) a poll of likely voters.

We worked with Premiere Political to put a phone poll in the field and received 85 responses from likely voters. Although it is a small sample size, we feel confident enough in these results to share them with our readers.

For the purposes of transparancy, we will always include the exact wording of the question so that you can judge the results for yourself. We have asked about a whole range of local political issues and will be sharing those results with you over the next week.  For now, we will begin with the competitive race for State Senate in the 42nd Legislative District.

In our poll of likely voters, Sen. Doug Ericksen leads challenger Seth Fleetwood by almost 6%, however a closer look at favorability shows that Fleetwood may suffer from poor name recognition.

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Doug Ericksen?
43.8% favorable, 28.1% unfavorable, 24.7% unknown

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Seth Fleetwood?
29.6% favorable, 25% unfavorable 40.6% unknown

In the race for state senate, will you be voting for Seth Fleetwood or Doug Ericksen?
31% Fleetwood, 36.8% Ericksen, 28.7% undecided

What does this mean for the 42nd race? In my view, it shows that Fleetwood has plenty of room to grow and this will be very close in November. If 28.7% of people have not decided they like Ericksen after 16 years of being represented by him, they will not suddenly decide to support him in November.

As always, share your thoughts in the comments below. In the coming week, we will be releasing the results covering the Cherry Point terminal and the 2015 Bellingham mayoral race. This will be the first in a series of polls being conducted this year by Northwest Citizen and myself, so if you wish to defray some of the cost, you can make a donation here.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 22, 2014

2014 Primary Election Endorsements

Riley Endorses . . .

Riley Endorses . . .

Theoretically, there should be a ballot arriving in your mailbox soon. I have yet to see one appear in my mailbox, but the auditor’s office assures me they are out there. Somewhere.

Anyway, I thought I should share a few recommendations for this election. There are really only two races that have something worthwhile going on in the primary this year; the race to fill Rep. Jason Overstreet’s state representative position and the Public Utility District.

For State Representative, we have four very different candidates running. There is Luanne Van Werven, the former Republican party chair with an extreme record on social issues. We have Bill Knutzen, the affable former County Councilman who recently received the endorsement of the Lummi Nation, surprising many people across the political spectrum. Readers of this blog are familiar with Nicholas Kunkel, running as a Libertarian who has made a colorful splash this year, raising awareness about Libertarian values.

Finally, we have Satpal Sidhu, former Dean of Engineering at Bellingham Technical College, business owner (LyndenBerry, Spice Hut) and a job creator.

Satpal Sidhu

Satpal Sidhu

Obviously, my descriptions tip my hand a bit but for me the choice is abundantly clear. Kunkel would make a fascinating representative and Knutzen would do an alright job but Satpal Sidhu would excel as a state representative.

Sidhu brings a wealth of technical knowledge and policy experience. His efforts on Workforce Development have been exceptional, connecting displaced workers with real wage earning skills. Obviously, he and I share a political perspective but beyond that, his expertise puts him head and shoulders above the competition.

For Public Utility District, vote Bob Burr. The Public Utility District is about to be at the center of a maelstrom of criticism as the pressure over water rights increases and the looming Gateway Pacific project prepares to hoover up every drop of spare water (and some we can’t spare) in this county.

Burr has been a passionate voice for the people. While I don’t always agree with his tactics, he has always labored for the people to protect the commons – those resources that belong to the general public. I trust him completely as our next Public Utility District commissioner.

Obviously, there are a few more races on the ballot but these are the most important this round. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 21, 2014

Battle for the State Senate: The 48th District

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

Continuing our series examining the closely fought battle for the Washington State Senate, here is a another guest post from The Legislative Junkie.

The Legislative Junkie has volunteered to give us some inside scoop on this pivotal race and while he shares my pithy writing style, he is one of the four regular guest contributors to this blog. You can read more guest posts by using the menu on the right. 

48th District


Cyrus Habib (D) vs. Michelle Darnell (R)


The 48th district reaches the richest niches of eastern King County, stretching from the eastern shores of Lake Washington to the western shores of Lake Sammamish, including Medina, Redmond, and parts of Bellevue and Kirkland. It’s voting patterns are typical of the suburban King County swing districts I’ve written about before on this blog – socially liberal, big business Democrats – the kind that are pro-marriage equality and anti-union. This Senate seat is left vacant by the retirement of Rodney Tom (R, D, “D,”- his own ego, Medina).


Since Rodney Tom’s late-2012 defection from the Democrats to become Majority Leader of the Majority Coalition Caucus (a move that gave governing power to Republicans and torpedoed much of Tom’s own stated legislative agenda), he has been a major target of the Washington State Democratic Party. His retirement denied Democrats the grudge match they were looking for, but it left the seat open for the taking by first-term Representative Cyrus Habib (D-Bellevue).

Cyrus Habib

Cyrus Habib

Habib is young (32), charismatic, and has a resume that, frankly, leaves me feeling inadequate (attorney at Perkins Coie, Bellevue Human Services Commissioner, Rhodes Scholar, editor of the Yale Law Review).

He’s been endorsed by people who don’t always find themselves on the same side: both the Washington Education Association AND education reformers like Stand for Children; both the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund AND the Seattle/King County Realtors. After winning his House race by 20 points in 2012 and raising more than $135,000 for the 2014 cycle, Habib has the seat all but locked up.

Michelle Darnell, the Republican in the race, is running an interesting, if not entirely ready-for-primetime, campaign. Her campaign rhetoric is anti-big business, focusing especially on the plight of homeowners facing foreclosure.

She’s also criticized Habib for supporting a Business and Operations tax giveaway to Boeing. However, she doesn’t mention much in the way of policy positions or solutions (she told The Stranger’s Election Control Board “I am not going to talk about specific policy.” Warning – the SECB’s response contains an all-caps incredulous vulgarity).*

Darnell’s campaign has an amateurish feel to it that I want to admire (she’s raised less than $10,000), but it’s also borderline shady (posting a blurry photo of yourself next to Kemper Freeman, captioned “Michelle standing beside Kemper Freeman, Owner of Bellevue Square” won’t fool anyone into thinking he’s endorsed you).


Habib has this seat won. It’s all over now but the voting.

*Darnell also pokes at a pet peeve of mine, saying “I know about education, I’ve raised four children.” That’s legitimately impressive, raising four children, and I’m all for including the wisdom of parents in education policy. BUT: no, being a parent (or having been a student) does not make you an education policy expert. It’s like saying, “I know about astrophysics, I see the moon almost every night” or “I know about nutrition, I eat three meals a day.”

Education policy, from curriculum development to resource allocation, is the keystone issue facing the legislature, and it’s more complicated than what someone can learn from their experience as a parent. Suggesting so distracts from the legitimate research and expertise of those who have devoted years to understanding education policy and practice – teachers, wonks, researchers, reformers, and activists. I hate hate hate this kind of appeal to anti-intellectualism.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Once again, it is time for our weekly feature, the Odds and Ends. Typically, it goes out on Friday, but I wanted to confirm a particularly juicy bit of gossip so I had to delay it to today. So let’s get to it.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charter Review candidate and local businessman/developer Ralph Black. That interview will go live next week but I was able to confirm that Black is heavily considering running for Port Commissioner next year. Current Port Commissioner Dan Robbins has already described him as “Rob Fix and I’s pick for Port Commissioner next year.”

Ballots have been sent out for the primary and as such, the Bellingham Herald has been publishing opinion pieces from all the candidates running for Rep. Jason Overstreet’s seat. At the bottom of each article, the Herald wrote a little explanation:
Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 11.49.37 AM


And they were quite wrong. The 42nd Legislative district does NOT include all of Whatcom County – it is only the northern half. Everyone south of Alabama Street is in the 40th and I would hope that our newspaper of record in this County would know that. Or at least catch the error. But no, it was wrong every single time they published an opinion piece about the 42nd.

Pedro Celis and President Bush

Pedro Celis and a friend of his

In the race for the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Suzan Delbene’s Republican opponent, Pedro Celis, is already raising eyebrows over his tense relationship with the press.

He banned press from his campaign kickoff and then sent out a “news story” complete with canned quotes to the same reporters he banned from the event. Celis already earned some scorn for his use of push polls earlier this year.

Finally, my mailbox was full yesterday with candidate mailers. Most interesting was a hit piece from the State Republicans aimed at Seth Fleetwood. Fleetwood, a lifelong Whatcom County resident, got redistricted out of the 42nd in 2012 and moved back into it before filing date. This piece took aim at that.

Attack ad from WA Republicans

Attack ad from WA Republicans

However, what I found most interesting is that they stole pictures to do it. Judy Anderson, vice-chair of the Whatcom County Democratic Women’s club snapped a picture of Seth Fleetwood and Pete Kremen in their sunglasses at Joy Monjure’s kickoff. She posted it on the club facebook page and the Washington State Republicans stole it and put it in their mailer, without asking for permission.

Side note, yes you could argue that this was a fair use exemption to copyright law but I think an attack ad falls outside the “educational or informational” use.

Either way, it is pretty shoddy behavior and if you want to push back, drop by Seth Fleetwood’s campaign and volunteer.

BIG UPDATE: Looks like Enterprise screwed up their filing – the websites that they have purchased are PRO Doug Ericksen, you can view it here. More details to come.

Enterprise Washington is a moderate pro-business group that usually supports Republicans, but this year is contributing to Sen. Doug Ericksen’s opponent, Seth Fleetwood. It is time to dive into the public disclosure records for another edition of follow the money.

Enterprise Washington

Enterprise Washington

Enterprise Washington is using the same trick employed by the coal companies last year, where they funnelled contributions through two different PACs (political action committees) so that all their mailers would not have to say, “paid for by Gateway Pacific Terminals.” In this case, Puget Sound Energy, the Building Industry Association of Washington and the Washington Restaurant Association can cut $25,000 checks to “Enterprise WA JOBSPAC”, who then turn around and donate all that to “People for Jobs, Enterprise Washington,” clearly a completely different organization.

People for Jobs, Enterprise Washington can then spend that money on a wide range of political activities. Last year, they aired some blistering ads aimed at Democrat Nathan Schlicher in Port Orchard ensuring that Republican and ALEC member Jan Angel was elected to the state Senate.

This year, they are once again engaging with the state Senate, supporting a slew of conservative candidates (Andy Hill, Steven O’Ban and Tim Sheldon) and Seth Fleetwood. You can read the filing for their expenditure here, it looks like they bought some domain names and set up a few websites in preparation for an ad blitz.

One could argue that having a functional state Senate IS the pro-business position and that Ericksen’s obstinence (or incompetence)  as committee chair is driving business groups to find a better senator for the 42nd. Enterprise Washington has a history of crossing party lines and supporting Democrats.

In 2010, they sent out mailers on behalf of Kris Lytton, who was in the middle of a three way primary with Larsen staffer Thomas Boucher and Skagit rancher Tom Pasma. Lytton solidly thumped her opposition and cruised to electoral victory that year but I would credit that to her heavy doorbelling efforts and very effective campaign message. There were some sour grapes on the left that accused her of being a corporate democrat in the disguise – a perception that quickly faded once she was elected.

How will Enterprise Washington engage in the 42nd? We will see, but for now, it looks like Ericksen is hemorrhaging support from groups he could normally count on for their support.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 14, 2014

Battle for the State Senate: The 31st District

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

Continuing our series examining the closely fought battle for the Washington State Senate, here is a another guest post from The Legislative Junkie.

The Legislative Junkie has volunteered to give us some inside scoop on this pivotal race and while he shares my pithy writing style, he is one of the four regular guest contributors to this blog. You can read more guest posts by using the menu on the right. 


The 31st Legislative District


Pam Roach (R) vs. Cathy Dahlquist (R) vs. Lynda Messner (“D”)


The 31st LD comprises exurban and rural Pierce and King Counties, nestled in the foothills of Mount Rainier. The district includes Enumclaw, Buckley, and Bonney Lake. It’s a conservative district – the only Democrat currently representing the 31st in Olympia is Representative Christopher Hurst, a conservative “Roadkill” Democrat.


The voters of the 31st seem to like their Senators like I like my candy bars – the nuttier the better. Senator Pam Roach, the incumbent in the race, is made of crazy. If you haven’t been following the continuing Pam Roach saga, then, well, I envy the journey of discovery ahead of you*. Roach has served in the state Senate since 1991, getting comfortably reelected because her politics (pro-gun, pro-law enforcement, anti-tax) match those of her district.

Sen. Pam Roach

Sen. Pam Roach

Additionally, Roach has regularly received the support of the Washington State Labor Council (she supports front-line state workers over middle management, and has consistently fought to fund the Rainier School for developmentally disabled adults).

Despite her political popularity, Roach is so difficult to work with that Representative Cathy Dahlquist (a decidedly un-crazy, likable, apparently reasonable Republican) is giving up her safe seat in the House to challenge Roach for the Senate. Dahlquist announced her candidacy by throwing some unambiguous shade at Roach: “I will be the voice for the people of my district that has been missing in the Senate for too long.”

As if the contest between Dahlquist and Roach weren’t interesting enough, there is a third candidate in the race, Lynda Messner, who claims to be a Democrat. Messner is a tax preparer from Bonney Lake who doesn’t have a campaign website, hasn’t raised any money, and waited until the last day of filing week to file. Messner seems to have posted on conservative websites (as Lynda Dabson) comments skeptical of President Barack Obama’s citizenship (“We need to focus on the big fix and have Obama removed as ineligible to hold office because he is not a citizen”), among other, uh, heterodox views.

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist

These comments have inspired Representative Hurst to call shenanigans, accusing Roach of recruiting Messner to run and squeeze out viable Democratic candidates (another Democratic candidate, Lane Walthers, withdrew from the race after Messner filed). Hurst, who has donated heavily to Dahlquist, admits he has no evidence, but Roach has been accused of similar hijinks in the past.


Predicting which two candidates make it past the August 5 primary depends on how highly primary voters value the “D” next to Messner’s name. Assuming Messner doesn’t mount a real campaign, her stated preference for the Democratic party will certainly be enough to win her some votes from low-information and/or die-hard Democratic voters.

There won’t be a lot of those in such a quiet election year, especially in a district as conservative as the 31st (for example – in the 2010 primary, incumbent U.S. Senator Patty Murray took less than 40% of the vote in the 31st, while Republicans Dino Rossi and Clint Didier combined for about 50% of the total). Both Roach and Dahlquist have raised more than $100,000, both are popular in the district, and both have cross-over appeal to any Democrats who aren’t convinced by Messner (Roach because of her union support, Dahlquist because she isn’t Pam Roach).

Regardless of the outcome of the primary, this seat will remain safely in Republican hands after the general election in November. This is one of those races best watched with a tub of popcorn close at hand.

*Kicked out of her own caucus for abusing staff. Allowed back in exchange for her vote on a budget. And don’t even think about moving her flowers (link plays sound, be careful). Note from Riley - I covered some of her unusual behavior here.

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