Posted by: sweeneyblog | June 17, 2011

Full Report from the Whatcom Dems Endorsement Meeting

Hello Loyal Readers,

It was a long night for Riley Sweeney, the Political Junkie, but here is the full report of the Dems endorsement meeting. It is going to be a very long article, and although I have peppered it with pictures, it still is a long article so you might want to consume it in bite-size chunks.

As you may know, the event was held at Norway Hall, which fits 200 people comfortably. Luckily, we weren’t too concerned with being comfortable because it was PACKED. The dinner held before the meeting drew tons of people (we ran out of food!) and was a huge hit.

     We opened with the usual pledge of allegiance, and the approval of the Agenda. Before we could approve the Agenda, Dan McShane stood up and moved to suspend the rules so that David Stalheim’s name could be added to the ballot. For further discussion of why this was necessary, read the excellent post on Latte Republic. Short version, David Stalheim is a federal employee, which means he cannot ask for a partisan endorsement, but it does not bar the Whatcom Democrats from giving him their endorsement (which is their right under the first amendment). So Dan McShane asked that we suspend the rules, it required a 2/3rds majority vote and easily passed. After David Stalheim’s name was added to the ballot, we proceeded.

Steve Schuck, our membership chair and fantastic organizational guru, gave a brief report on the fantastic numbers of people who joined the party in the last month (over 100 new members) the swelling ranks of Whatcom Democrats (over 800) and the hundreds of people in the room right now (just over 300 people).  After that, we launched right into the candidate speeches. He closed his speech with the line, “When Democrats win, everyone benefits.” Doug Ericksen, who was sitting in the front row, looked vaguely queasy at this line.

County Executive Race

Doug Ericksen had asked for our endorsement, and as such, we gave him three minutes to make his case. He talked at a very rapid pace, looking out on the crowd nervously. Someone heckled at the back but was quickly shushed. The oddest moment was when Ericksen didn’t move the microphone close to his mouth before talking and someone said “LOUDER!” in the back so he fiddled with itbefore saying “Something’s wrong, has Shane been playing with the Microphone” Yes, Doug Ericksen, threatening a local citizen journalist with arrest is always hilarious to joke about. He talked about the need for heavy industrial at Cherry Point and how he looks forward to working with SSA to making that happen, but he would not be writing them a blank check. He talked about the EMS system, and how our current system is just fine and we should keep it.

   By comparison, Tom Anderson presented an uneven plodding candidate statement. Clearly an engineer rather than a public speaker. He said, “Running for office is not an evening or weekend project, I’m in this to win.” He laid out his priorities, stressing the need for early and frequent public involvement.

Dan McShane took to the stage after that to speak in favor of David Stalheim. “Although my time on the council only overlapped with David’s for a month, I can tell you he is the best Planning director we ever had.” He made the point that Stalheim could connect with the other cities in Whatcom. “I hear people talking about how if we can just fix the county, things would be better. Well, he can’t fix the county in everyway but he would bring the county together with the cities to work for economic development . . . and clean drinking water.”

County Sheriff

After that, we moved right into the Sheriff’s race. First on the stage, Bill Elfo, our current Sheriff. After citing his Whatcom Democrats endorsement from 2007, he rattled off a whole series of numbers showing declining crime rates, and then introduced his main focus if he was re-elected: Gangs. That’s right. Tracking down and eliminating the leadership of local gangs.

By comparison, Steve Harris delivered a fiery speech, “I’ll go beyond vague promises, and political pandering. We need a downtown urban jail, near social services with 500 beds or less. If it is full, I would stop arresting non-violent offenders and look for alternative solutions to incarcerations.” He talked about his work as a labor leader (he is the former president of the Deputy’s guild). When a questioner pressed him on the guild’s previous endorsement of various Republicans (including noted Domestic Violence Supporter Kathy Kershner EDIT: Kathy Kershner has asked me not to use this term. I am referencing her vote to cut funds from Domestic Violence prevention in Whatcom County, I will get a response from her on this issue soon ) he responded that the Guild is democratic, they vote on who to endorse, just like the Whatcom Democrats. He then cited their endorsement of Al Jensen last year, and noted he attends both events.

However, Bill Elfo was asked the question, “Have you given any money to the Republican Party?” and he said “I am not a member of the Republican party, I work with leaders on both sides and attend both events.” Unfortunately this dodges the question, because Bill Elfo has a history of giving money to the Republican party locally. In the past seven years, he has given $690 to the Whatcom County Republicans and precisely $0 to the Whatcom Democrats. You can find that information here on the PDC website.

County Auditor

J Lynne Walker spoke asking for the endorsement. She was excited, almost giggly as she lurched through her speech. Talking about the delight in public service she found working as Kelli Linville’s legislative aide, and the joys of serving the previous mayor of Bellingham. Her focus is in energizing people to be active in the processes. Urging skeptics to take tours of the ballot process and getting citizens off the bench on election integrity.

Tim Douglas stood up to tell everyone the Debbie Adelstein, who was in the room, by the way, did not believe in asking for or receiving partisan endorsements. J Lynne Walker responded that she was asking EVERYONE for their endorsements: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Green Party. Everyone.

Mayor of Bellingham

     Kelli Linville lead off with talking about her involvement in the party, serving as a representative in the 42nd. “I represented a very difficult district with a D behind my name, because I ran on Democratic principles.” But she noted, there is a silver lining to every lost election and she looks forward to serving as the mayor. For the purposes of the endorsement, she said, it was clear that “both her and Dan were Democrats.”

Dan Pike spoke first about all the people he wanted to thank. “I want to thank my loving family, my campaign manager Isabel Vanderslice, thanks to the PCO’s as the front lines and thank you to all of you showed up tonight.” He said that any party endorsement should be decided on three things. Do you do the job well? Do you deliver on the party platform and do you ethically help fellow Democrats to get elected? “Bellingham is one of the best run cities in Washington,” he said. “Our residents feel prouder today of our community than they did four years ago.” He talked about his efforts to get Peter Goldmark elected in 2008, as well as Gregoire and Kelli Linville when she was running for reelection.

Someone asked about the unpleasant exchange that the city had with the county. Dan Pike said, basically, that the County agreed with the substance of the letter and that was a good thing. Kelli Linville responded that she would not have sent a letter like that to the state without first talking it over with the county and finding some common ground.

Bellingham City Council, Ward 3

Cathy Lehman crackled with energy when she stepped onto the stage. “Transportation costs take up 30% of the average budget, that is incredible. We need to bring that down.” Her key focus is revitalizing our Urban Core. “We need to be helping entrepreneurs to green their businesses while still remaining profitable.”

Barry Buchanan started out that “This is a political party but this is also a PARTY!” and consequently winning my favorite quote of the night award. He toted his endorsements, “I have been endorsed by all four labor unions that represent the city of Bellingham. All unanimous endorsements.” He is eager to restore EMS programs. He finished his speech with a brief nod to his wife, as it was their 38th wedding anniversary.

The Whatcom Democrats collected all the ballots for these races and began tabulating.

The end results were these:

No endorsement in the County Executive race although the vast majority of votes went to David Stalheim, he did not clinch the necessary 2/3rds majority. Also, two dues paying Democrats voted for Doug Ericksen. I will hunt them down and poke them with a stick, this I vow.

In the Sheriff’s race, 50% of those voting cast their ballot for Steve Harris, while 62% voted for Bill Elfo, meaning yes, about %12 voted for both candidates for endorsement. When I talked to Elfo after the results were announced he seemed a little brisk. Last election, he swooped up the Dems endorsement with little fuss, and to have Steve Harris hold him to a draw must be a little concerning.

In the County Auditor’s office, we ENDORSED J. Lynne Walker to be our next County Auditor. Congrats.

In the Mayor of Bellingham race, Dan Pike piked up 64% while Kelli Linville clocked in at 49%, meaning she might have a bit of an uphill climb for this race, or Dan Pike did a good job of mobilizing his supporters.

In the City Council race, Ward 3, we ENDORSED Cathy Lehman. This was shocking for a number of reasons. First, it was a testiment to Cathy’s campaign to be able to whip so many votes, but also to see Barry Buchanan, a former chair of the party, officially denied any representation at party election functions is strange to say the least.

There was a lot more that happened, but as we are clocking in at just shy of 2,000 words, you will have to wait till tomorrow afternoon for the rest of the details.

EARLY MORNING UPDATE: There are some races that are still close enough to warrant a recount. Whatcom Democrat volunteers are conducting a recount this morning. Hopefully we will have finalized results soon.

Looking for Part Two? Click here



  1. […] For Part One (The Controversial Races!), check out my blog post here. […]

  2. Great work Riley.

  3. Let’s be fair… Sheriff Elfo says he isn’t a member of either Party and the facts bare that out. The dates and amounts of Elfo’s “contributions” to Whatcom Republicans match up with purchasing tickets to their Lincoln Day Dinner. Sheriff Elfo also attends Whatcom Democrats events but because they are more inclusive and keep their ticket prices low, the proceeds from those events are reported to the PDC under low-cost-fundraiser rules as a lump sum rather than listing the name of each ticket purchaser.

    • That is a good point. It is possible that Elfo gives small amounts of money to the Dems and larger sums to the Whatcom Republicans. I still think it was a dodge that someone asks him directly “Do you give money to the Republican party” and he says, “I’m not a member of either party.” Doesn’t really answer the question now does it.

      • Perhaps some found it informative that Bill Elfo, Doug Ericksen, and Doug Ericksen’s campaign staff were the only ones in the entire building who had contributed like that to the Republicans. As far as I know, neither Steve Lydolph, nor Steve Harris, nor any of the other 300ish people there had given any money to the Luanne VanWerven led Republican party.

        If the Republican party sells me a hotdog for $30 to enter their picnic… is this not a contribution? Do they not spend that money defeating Kelli Linville and electing Vince Buys? if $690 of Elfo’s money was spent that way, perhaps the members of the Whatcom Democrats would like to know that. Dinner event or no Dinner event.

  4. Seems that the interest in Elfo, and possibly other Non-partisan candidates is all about MONEY! I would like to know more about their values – like Do they subscribe to Republican/Tea Party ideas of “killing government as we know it?” and Do they support changing planning and zoning rules, etc. to allow “urban sprawl” in Whatcom County? The Republicans seem to be VERY organized in Whatcom County. I answered survey questions of a poll I’m sure was instigated and paid for by THEM – and used by Doug Erickson for his statement about what he wants to do if elected to County Exec. – priority for many people, me included, is to preserve the rural, farming culture of the county.

  5. Riley, Thank You for taking the time to report on the meeting. You must be paid extremely well to spend so much of your own time reporting on politics… Wait, I forgot that your a “junkie” and would probably pay for a political fix. Just remember that wedding vows aren’t campaign promises…

    I don’t fault my opponent for his political ideology, I fault him because after almost nine years in office, employee morale is down, the solve rate is down, the number of deputies on “patrol” is down. On the other hand, political pandering is up, jail population is up, the number of command staff members is up, and apparently the number of roving gangs is up…

  6. Riley, the statement that I am a domestic violence supporter is obnoxious and inflamatory and entirely untrue. You are a bright young man and I really expect more from you than resorting to this kind of ridiculousness. If you would like to discuss this with me, please do so, if you would like to have a serious debate about any vote I’ve taken, I’m happy to meet with you and discuss the issue. Until you do that, I will ask that you cease calling me a domestic violence supporter.

    • I actually would really like to get an explanation for your vote to cut Domestic Violence funding from Whatcom County. I will give you a call tomorrow when I’m free and so that we can get a good response. I understand it can be frustrating that I keep bringing up that vote, and I would love to know why you voted the way you did.

  7. […] point you towards the write-up I did when Harris and Elfo came to the Democrats endorsement meeting here in which I discuss the two candidates. Also, here is a recent Herald article comparing the three of […]

  8. […] who will continue to show that leadership!”) and in his speeches (see my write up from the Dems endorsement meeting).  This is a hot button issue in our community, drawing large crowds to public meetings and […]

  9. […] 2011, I gave you a blow-by-blow report of the event and I plan to do so again this year. As we approach the day, I figured it would be a […]

  10. […] Vincent Buys to oust Linville. Rather than simply return to her antique furniture business, Linville decided to run for Mayor of Bellingham barely edging past incumbent Dan Pike in a campaign that can at best be described as […]

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