Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 20, 2011

Notes on the Tea Party Forum last night

I was going to do a full write-up but am crushed for time, so instead you get just my general perceptions about the event last night. First of all, it was well-run. The moderator smoothly flowed the questions from the audience to the candidates and back. The volunteers did a superb job and the only thing that got out of control was one of the questioners getting rather aggressive with David Stalheim about judicial activism and the crowd booing him for his answer. Other than that, the crowd was pretty polite and genial.

The same cannot be said about Tony Larson, who took every answer as an opportunity to bash his opponent (and now my boss) Pete Kremen. I would have liked to hear more about Tony’s ideas for Whatcom, rather than snide jabs. I realize I’m not an unbiased source here, I just thought it was disappointing.

As for the other races, Sam Crawford was smooth and articulate, even giving the right answer about the Re-conveyance (which Tony sneered at as “Pete Kremen’s Park”). The people who stood out for me was Jack Louws and Tom Anderson. Jack Louws, who presented a conservative vision of government, but a decidedly less confrontational than Doug Ericksen. Doug Ericksen used many of his answers to promote the “City vs County” sentiment, talking about how people in the city don’t realize or don’t understand. Jack didn’t engage any many culture war efforts and instead highlighted his experience tackling similar challenges in Lynden. It was a pleasant contrast.

Tom Anderson is not a strong speaker. He is clearly more comfortable tackling details, so I guess my expectations for his debate performance where not too high (especially when he was seated next to smooth as smoke Doug Ericksen). However he gave a number of nuanced and articulate answers that surprised me. He got asked about the Plastic Bag ban, and after Jack Louws and Doug Ericksen both said they didn’t support it and government had no business doing anything like that (although Jack said, it is up to the people), Tom Anderson jumped in and said, “Wait a minute, we don’t make plastic bags in this community but we could make cloth bags. This could be an economic opportunity. Let’s look into it if the people want to.”  It was an interesting pivot and made a couple of people in the audience perk up their ears.

Props to David Stalheim, Christina Maginnis and Alan Black for sticking it out. It was a tough crowd and they answered the questions in line with their values.


Finally on a personal note, the candidates for Auditor and Sheriff were there working the crowd, as well as the alluvial fan of volunteers and hanger-ons. I counted maybe 15-20 people in the audience of 100 that weren’t identifiably with some particular candidate.  That is the conundrum about all the effort put into these debates. The only people who come have already made up their mind for the most part.

Anyone who wants to leave their impressions of the event last night, feel free to comment below. 



  1. That’s actually a good idea about making cloth bags here. I like it alot.

  2. It was well-run and mostly civil. One thing that I think could improve the event was to treat the positions differntly. The Executive job and the Council jobs are very differnt from one another, and should have different questions. The way the Q and A worked did not distinguish between the very different positions. Having the four Exec candidates answering each Exec question and having each of the council candidates answering each council question would have given us a chance to contrast and compare each candidate better.

  3. I totally agree with Dean Martin’s comments above.

    One point of disagreement. The crowd was not booing Stalheim for his answer. It was booing him for his refusal to answer. That got him off to a very poor start since the two conservatives after him answered the question Re: the Constitution smoothly and articulately. I hope he responds better to somewhat off the wall questions better in the future.

  4. […] all the way, but I don’t think ideas are only in one party.” However he did endorse Tea Party darling Tony Larson in 2011 and has voted with the rest of the Planning Commission to keep breaking the […]

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