Posted by: sweeneyblog | October 20, 2011

The Case for Detective Steve Harris

Detective Steve Harris

I am voting for Steve Harris for Sheriff. Several people have called or emailed me to ask why, so I thought I would lay out my thoughts here for everyone to understand.

Background: Steve Harris is a 16 year veteran of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s office; having spent 8 years as a deputy and 8 years as a Detective. He is a labor leader, as former president of the Deputy’s union. He lives in Bellingham, with his wife Lillian and their lovely children. He rides motorbikes and has a keen sense of humor. He is running against 8 year incumbent Bill Elfo for Sheriff.

Partisanship: Lots of people have googled “Is Steve Harris a Democrat or Republican?” and arrived at my website, so let’s break it down here. He identifies as a fiscal conservative, but sought both the Democratic and Republican endorsement. Bill Elfo was endorsed by the Whatcom Republicans (he has a long record of involvement with the party, having donated several hundred dollars to the party and their candidates). On the other side of the aisle, Steve Harris and Bill Elfo narrowly split the votes for the Dems endorsement with neither candidate getting a 2/3rds majority necessary.

But this brings another point, what is the partisan position on the issues of the Sheriff’s office? We are not deciding who has the best stance on a woman’s right to choose, or who would cut social services. The issues of the Sheriff’s office are not as clear cut along party lines as other offices.


Steve Harris is right on the Jail, and Bill Elfo is wrong.

This is the biggest and most direct policy difference between the two candidates. Bill Elfo supports and has championed a 600-bed jail on a site that is way out in the county and contains a fragile wetland. Steve Harris supports a downtown, 500 bed jail. According to the Right Size Jail coalition, 600 beds is way too big, and the added cost of driving prisoners to and from the jail will drive up the operating costs. Furthermore, just to prepare that rural location that Bill Elfo wants for building, we would have to spend 9 to 11 million dollars just to make it serviceable. That makes no sense. Steve Harris has the right idea; we need a jail that fits our needs, downtown which keeps costs low.

We are solving fewer crimes (percentage-wise) today than we were four years ago.

Now I don’t claim to be an expert at criminal science but when the number of crimes is going down state-wide, and the number of deputies goes up, doesn’t that mean you have more time to solve crimes? Steve Harris has made this the central focus of his campaign and you can look at all the statistics over on his site here, but the upshot is we need a fresh approach to solving crime in Whatcom, because the current approach isn’t working.

Steve Harris is against the death penalty

As he put it during the Deputy Guild debate, “I believe that no matter how heinous a crime has been committed, it is not our place to decide who lives and who dies.” In the wake of Troy Davis, I appreciate the rather thoughtful approach

Bottom Line:
There are tons of other issues, more internal issues about the day to day management of the Sheriff’s office that both candidates have raised, and I urge people to poke into this further. I just wanted everyone to know why I’m supporting Steve Harris.

Full disclosure: I should mention that back in May, Steve Harris hired my wife to shoot some of his campaign headshots, which is how I got to know Steve. This does not diminish my many other reasons for supporting Steve, I just thought I should let you know. You can hire Bryna for your photographic needs today. Check out her website here.

Check out my blog tomorrow for my full voting recommendations.



  1. Love the post. I too am a huge fan of Steve Harris. the one point that didn’t make scene to me on your post here is the “Steve Harris is against the death penalty” As a Sheriff how would that make a difference? That might be something I would look for in a Judge, but as a Sheriff I wouldn’t imagine it would make any difference.

    • True, not a huge deciding factor, but it tells me more about the values behind our sheriff department and how they carry out law and justice issues.

  2. […] Whatcom County Sheriff: Steve Harris In case you missed it yesterday, or you are reading this somewhere else, I laid out all the reasons I am proud to vote for Steve Harris here in my blog post titled “The Case for Detective Steve Harris” […]

  3. […] told him no. After the election (Elfo won in a landslide, despite his opponent receiving the coveted Political Junkie endorsement), Elfo called Murphy into his office and asked him to resign. Murphy refused. Over the next six […]

  4. […] is that Sheriff Elfo fired Deputy Paul Murphy because Murphy supported Elfo’s opponent, Detective Steve Harris for Sheriff. Murphy ran a facebook page called, “Boot Bill Elfo” but now titled […]

  5. What is Steve Harris’ position on gun control, for example I-594, which was passed last year? Would he support Federal or further state efforts to deny law abiding citizens the right to own firearms. Other law enforcement officers around the nation have gone on record as saying they will not enforce laws that violate the Constitution they swore to uphold.

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