Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 23, 2012

Whatcom Republican County Convention

Last Saturday, I attended the Whatcom County Republican convention expecting to see the same sort of public-spirited party rallying that I saw at the Caucuses back in March.

What I got was a very different event.

Stickers for the Unity Ticket

Sure there was some of what you would expect; speeches and political broadsides, but underneath it all was a tense struggle between two warring factions. On one side, there was the “GOP Majority – Unity” ticket, an agreement between the Romney, Gingrich and supposedly, the Santorum campaign to elect a specific slate of delegates that were chosen by party leadership. On the other side, Ron Paul supporters and Santorum supporters who didn’t want to play along. Both spent most of a beautiful Saturday afternoon struggling to elect delegates to the State Convention.

Only one side succeeded.

But first, the speeches. By the time I arrived, Kim Wyman was just wrapping up her speech. She is the current Thurston County auditor and is running to replace Sam Reed as Secretary of State. You can read about one of her opponents, Kathleen Drew, in my article here. She took more than a few swings at “the three Democrats” in the race. ““My opponents have literally no experience for the job. My opponents wouldn’t get a job interview because they are so unqualified.” Next up was Art Coday, the doctor running against Maria Cantwell, who talked about giving Cantwell a pink slip. Doug Ericksen served as a Master of Ceremonies and gleefully introduced each speaker.

Shahram Hadian for Governor

By far the fiercest candidate to take the stage was Shahram Hadian. He is running for Governor, joining heavy weights Rob McKenna and Jay Inslee. Hadian, an Iranian immigrant, Christian convert and preacher brought his booming voice to a cheering crowd. “By the grace of God, I became a citizen after waiting 16 years to do it legally. By the grace of God, I became a follower of Jesus Christ after leaving Islam. By the grace of God, I can stand before you and utter those words and know that we are safe . . .  yet.” Each one of those lines brought loud ovations from the crowd. “I am deeply concerned of our lost of freedoms,” Hadian continued, “We are on the verge of a dictatorship forming in our federal government.”

He proceeded to tick off a whole slew of hot button issues. “We need more parental responsibility in our educational system, not more money.” As for the economy? “The Department of Ecology is killing our businesses.” He took swings at the Democrats for “redefining marriage” and forcing pharmacists to violate “their own conscience.” He wrapped it up with a rather clever turn of phrase. “We say God bless America, but I think it is time for America to bless God. I covet your prayers.”

Jason Overstreet took the stage. “The legislature has become the play thing for a few people.” He noted that he had been in Olympia for only a year and a half, but has now participated in four special sessions. Following that up was Vincent Buys. Buys said that he hadn’t heard from many people like those in the room because “you are busy working and raising a family. The people I hear from ask me how we are going to raise more money.” Buys gave a big thank you to Doug Ericksen, who he credits as a “role-model” and a “political genius.”

After the speeches was the usual hoopla of rules committee presentations, credential reports, and record keeping. Bill Geyer was elected as the chair of the convention, and before long the convention was dividing into Congressional Districts to elect their slate of delegates.

A deputy Sgt. at Arms allowed me to snap this picture after demanding to see my press pass.

One thing I want to mention is the party leadership took security very seriously. They literally tapped off the convention floor and stationed guards at the entrances so that only those with credentials could make it to the floor and vote.

While all this was going on, I had a chance to sit down with Dan Matthews who is running in the 2nd Congressional District against Rick Larsen. That interview should be up later this week.

The election of the delegates was tightly controlled. At first, the party leadership was not going to let the potential delegates make speeches, but after some grumbling, short speeches were allowed. Former county councilman Ward Nelson coordinated the speakers for the 1st Congressional district.

While the potential delegates were making speeches, the “Unity” ticket held up large signs with the delegates numbers on them to communicate who was the official approved candidate and who was a Ron Paul supporter.  The Paul supporters gave some very impassioned speeches, many of the supporters describing how Paul had awakened a passion for politics and the importance of sticking to your principles. The Unity ticket folks spoke of the need to beat Barack Obama and how Romney was best positioned to do that.

I spoke with James Milord, a delegate who supports the Unity ticket. He approved of it as a deliberate attempt to shut out Ron Paul. “The Ron Paul campaign has a large anarchic component to it. It is organized very much like the Democratic party.” I asked what he meant by that and he elaborated. “It is highly organized, the main thing is connectivity. The Ron Paul campaign is really well connected, but I don’t consider Ron Paul to be a Republican.”

Unity Ticket supporters communicate with the crowd

Johnny Weaver, one of the lead organizers for the No Traffic Cams group, was there as a delegate for Ron Paul and was extremely frustrated. “Sam Crawford and the leadership shut us out. They are railroading us.” Another Ron Paul supporter described the chaotic scene in the 2nd Congressional district where Sam Crawford shut down a number of complaints over the rules from Paul supporters.

When the dust had settled, the Unity ticket had won. In the first round of balloting, eight out of ten of the unity delegates had been elected (including Kathy Kershner, a delegate for Romney answering my unanswered question from the last caucus).

In short, the fix was in. By running as a slate, the Unity delegates were able to block the Ron Paul delegates, keeping a united front against his organization. The Unity ticket discreetly distributed flyers, and held up large signs with their candidates ballot numbers on them.

Flyer from the Unity ticket

The Ron Paul campaign communicated through mass texts and whispered conversations in the hallway. The whole affair was a mix of tension and tedium, but at the end of the day, many Paul supporters left dejected. “I don’t know if I am coming back,” said one lead organizer. “I poured my heart into fighting for Ron Paul, and my own party turned their back on me.”

Below are a few more pictures from the event. 

Many candidates expressed their support for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project.

Yard Signs EVERYWHERE!!!

Get your t-shirt today!

My favorite truck parked outside

Did I mention the Ron Paul people made a GIANT COOKIE!!! I mean, come on, how can you argue that?

Vincent Buys addresses a fundraising letter to supporters. I always appreciate a candidate willing to get his hands dirty with campaign work.

Watch out Kathy! That adorable Elephant is sneaking up on you!

Judicial candidate David Grant gave a speech touting his Republican endorsements and implying his opponents were Democrats.



  1. Nicely done, thanks for taking the time to determine the facts. It’s too bad our local paper doesn’t have your sense of professional integrity.

    • Thank you! I feel the Herald is swamped with so much, and with the budget cuts devastating their newsroom, it is often difficult for them to get the whole story before the deadline. I see myself as a supplementation to their work, not a replacement.

  2. I’d like to note that the Democrats don’t run their caucuses or conventions this way. If 36% of the delegates in attendance support candidate A, then candidate A delegates will elect from among their own 36% of the delegates going forward. Over the course of the Precinct-LD-Congressional level caucuses, delegates are persuaded, candidates drop out, delegates don’t show up, etc, and the percentage each candidate has will shift.

    The Republican rules are basically winner-take-all. They allow for a majority or a coalition forming a majority, to elect, or capture, all the delegates at stake, if they are organized like what happened at the Whatcom County Republican Convention. Question is, will the Ron Paul supporters vote for Romney in November? I remember the nice man who showed up at the Dems office to help the Obama Campaign in 2008, and he let it be known that he had supported Ron Paul for president originally. I suspect he gave the Republicans a try, and came away disillusioned.

  3. Good reporting Riley. Fair and to the succinct.

  4. Thank you for your honesty, it’s very refrshing. I would like to ask any readers out there if they know how on earth the “GOP Majority” knew the Numbers on the Ballot Key before they were distributed. Those “Unity” slates we passed out before anyone even entered the seperate Council District rooms.

    Isn’t Party/Candidate Collusion Illegal?

    • Depends on your party. Lots of political organizations have a “non-interference” policy, but some don’t.

  5. It’s over, get over it. Move on to phase two. I always enjoy the convention, it’s a chance to find out how liberal, or illiberal your allies are.

  6. Natalie is correct. The rules allow it to be tanamount to winner-take-all, so I would hope that the GOP state party would either change the rules ot officially winner-take-all and stop pretending to be proportional, or change the rules to the delegates being elected within their own candidate groups, so that the coalition method could not disenfranchise the true proportions. make up your mind, GOP state party.

  7. Jayson, to me, after about the second vote: “We got our a**es handed to us.”
    Organization counts in politics.

    Pics of the convention, including an appropriate one of Jayson:

  8. It was a disheartening day to see the tactics of the republican heads and their sheeple on Saturday. Riley, it is unfortunate that you were not in the the 2nd district voting to see your favorite person sam crawford in action. He was completely out of order in his behaviour and treatment of the Ron Paul delegates and to anyone else that questioned the pre-ordained slate. He was damn rude all day long.

    • I wish I could have been. I tried to enter after the first round of balloting but was shut out. The 1st let me stay, take pictures and report.

  9. And by the Grace of God should anyone pretending that such ill-chosen words would elevate their status to an official government voice be stuck firmly in their pulpit where such nonsense is welcome.
    Never have a group of people that live such an unGodly life been so firmly dedicated to the hypocrisy religion allows them through sermonizing proper behavior to others.

  10. Thank you for the great report, a far better read and better reporting then any of the so called local news media. I thank you for the picture of the cookie, My wife poured her hart into that. We, the Ron Paul supporters all poured are hart into what we believed in. I have come out of this cycle even more disenfranchised by the party then I have ever been before. The GOP is not about the people.. They firmly showed its all about them and the greed. I don’t mind loosing the fight, but loosing to cheaters is what bothers me. The new face of the GOP is young, becoming more active and more organized. Tired of the status-Que.

    • I would have been persuaded by the cookie! BTW, the Democratic party is all about the people. Sometimes it’s chaos but that’s just how people are. You are welcome to join us 😉

  11. There was no mention in this article about the mention of the UN Small arms treaty, or Agenda 21. 2 speakers talked of these key critical issues, wish these things would come to light. Also “At first, the party leadership was not going to let the potential delegates make speeches, but after some grumbling, short speeches were allowed” NOT TRUE, Delegates in the second district were not aloud to say anything but their name and who they support, but with the unity group using the winner take all method, a speech would have been pointless.

  12. And by the way, Whatcom County has a population of over 200,000. Only 2160 went to the caucus. So if you went to the GOP Caucus you are the 1%.

  13. When you add this all up, the choice for Romney is a choice to preserve big military expenditures, even if that keeps us trillions in debt. Romney isn’t even trustably a social conservative on abortion, gay marriage, or healthcare. Repeat : the difference between Romney and Ron Paul : Romney will preserve war overspending, but be unreliable on social issues.

    The Santorum and Gingrich supporters would rather go with Romney who wrote Obamacare, flip flopped about abortion and Gay Marriage, and is shakey on conservative Christians’ most key issues. Why? to preserve overspending on killing people (and making new enemies in the process) ?. That is all that the Santorum people would have lost out on (the war part) by allowing Ron Paul his rightfully earned percentage of delegates. I am shocked that Luanne would place war over her Christian values, and allow Romney more delegates than he earned.

  14. The quote of the day was ” lead to the slaughter by sheep”, I would add there were plenty of wolves too. It’s nice to know who they are. Maybe the sheep will wake up and remove the wolves, if not then the peoples true shepherds are ready too.

    • I couldn’t have said it better Jayson.

  15. Excellent report. Thank you very much

    • Great reporting Riley. Objective and thorough.

      As many of my fellow Paul supporters aware of before the convention, any candidate or coalition that has a 51% majority (i.e. “unity” slate) can vote as a block to fill every delegate slot with supporters of their candidate. This is how Paul supporters successfully elected 75% of the Whatcom County delegates to state in 2008. However, in 2008 they did so peacefully, following convention rules, and WITHOUT limiting free speech on the caucus floor.

      The most disturbing aspect of the 2012 convention was the County Council member Sam Crawford’s conduct inside the the 2nd council district’s caucus. The first point of order Mr. Crawford raised as we took our seats in the caucus was to eliminate the right of candidates for state delegate to give nomination speeches. The measure was then passed, albeit not in compliance with Robert’s rules of order, limiting speeches to: 1.) name 2.) ballot number 3.) presidential preference. At one point a candidate who made a brief, one sentence, remark about Dr. Paul was threatened by Crawford to be removed by the sergeant of arms.

      I saw the delegate speeches as a crucial opportunity for us Paul supporters to reach out to members of the GOP base, who we rarely come into contact with in our normal social and political endeavors. This opportunity for consensus building was eliminated at the soonest opportunity by Crawford, in a similar manner to the County Council meetings.

      These actions may have scored you points with the ignorant sheeple at the GOP convention, Crawford. But rest assured you’ll regret this in election year 2014.

      You picked the wrong people miss with, bud….

  16. Sorry for all the spelling and grammar errors. I’ve had far too much time to stew about the whole crooked process and the incompetence of the “GOP majority”.

    High heart rate + ranting= incoherent jibber jabber

  17. Great coverage of the convention. I would have described the Unity clan as a bunch of cheaters and liars and one blond drunk. Romney and Obama are exactly the same. Too bad none of these dunderheads will ever do any research to find that out. They are the lemmings to be feared for sure. They just blindly follow orders without ever questioning them. Those idiotic hats just made it more apparent that there was nothing underneath. The opinions expressed are not Ron Paul’s, not the group’s, but mine individually. Something the Unity clan will never understand.

  18. […] the Whatcom Republican county convention last Saturday (see my write-up here), I had a chance to sit out on the lawn with Dan Matthews who is running against Rick Larsen to […]

  19. […] week, Sam Crawford has taken to the Bellingham Herald Politics Blog to defend his actions at the GOP County Convention. After a few shots at the “crocodile tears by the Ron Paul supporters”, he offered up […]

  20. As a young voter who was disillusioned by the Caucus, thank you for the post mortem of the convention. Your local politics coverage is very needed, and I hope to meet you in person and buy you a beer one day.

    • I will gladly take you up on that.

  21. […] about joining the Libertarians? I know that they haven’t been as politically successful as you would like and locally the Whatcom Republicans worked to shut you guys out, but think to […]

  22. […] of Deborra Garrett’s opponent, David Grant, made a somewhat partisan appeal to the Whatcom County Republicans at their convention in April, how does Garrett feel about […]

  23. […] young conservatives that are very involved in the party. But with efforts like those at their county convention to shut the young, energized, Ron Paul supporters out of the process, they might find it difficult to keep those voters on their side of the […]

  24. […] position, this race has developed a rather partisan divide. David Grant showed up at the Republican county convention to plead his case as a Republican running for office, and then got endorsed by the Whatcom […]

  25. […] 23rd, at 10am in the Environmental Science building, I will be debating Whatcom Republican chair Luanne Van Wervan on the Politics of […]

  26. […] Whatcom County Superior Court Judge: Deborra Garrett. Read my interview with her here, and her opponent, David Grant, making nakedly partisan appeals to the Republicans here. […]

  27. […] with a whole team of inspired young voters) worked tirelessly on the Ron Paul campaign before having their team shut out at the Whatcom County Republican convention. However, that hasn’t stopped his momentum. Currently, he is the […]

  28. […] was clear that it had the votes to pass, then she switched to supporting it. Last year, she was a national Republican delegate for Romney and has been heavily involved in Republican party politics for the last four years. She cut an ad […]

  29. […] younger conservatives. Locally, this conflict was highlighted when they were were shut out of the County Republican nominating convention in 2012. It seems as if I’m not the only person interested in this […]

  30. […] views are much farther to the right than most in the State-wide party would be comfortable with (Van Werven was a big Santorum supporter last year) but those qualities are not nearly as important as staying on message and raising […]

  31. […] strife between the younger libertarians getting involved in the Republican party, and the older, more social issue focused, conservatives that make up the party leadership. Down in Alabama, their state party is stumbling over the same […]

  32. […] The question is, will they be competitive? In the past four years, a number of hard right candidates have picked up significant support from Whatcom County. In 2012, the county Republicans sent several Santorum delegates on to the state level, and Rob McKenna’s opponent on the right, Shahram Hadian, received a warm welcome when he visited our corner of the state. […]

  33. […] This is the same Van Werven who at a public forum in 2011 accused our County Treasurer of having an affair, and endorsed a gubernatorial candidate that believed that the biggest threat to Washington State is radical Islam. […]

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