The meteoric rise of Whatcom County’s Luanne Van Werven to chair of the State Republican party had an immediate and financial impact on the races here. On July 25th, the State Republican Party donated $500 to each of the Republican endorsed candidates for County Council (Kathy Kershner, Ben Elenbaas, Michele Luke and Bill Knutzen) and $250 to each of the Republican endorsed candidates for port commissioner (Dan Robbins and Ken Bell). You can click any of the names above to see the Public Disclosure Commission filings.
Now, in a race where the candidates have raised $10-20k, this might seem like not a big deal. However, the conservative candidates have very few donors, compared their Democratic counterparts (compare Kathy Kershner’s 41 donors to Barry Buchanan’s 147 donors) which puts the State Republicans as one of the top donors to each of these candidates.
This is even more unusual when you consider that the state party has only contributed to one other candidate this year (ALEC member Jan Angel’s race for the state senate seat down in Port Orchard/Gig Harbor). Every other conservative county commissioner or councilmember across the state is out of luck. Only Whatcom County gets the special treatment.
So it must have been Van Werven’s first action as chair. Cut some checks to her home turf once she got the big chair . . . except the timing is off. The checks were written a full four days before Van Werven became chair of the state party. Her predecessor resigned suddenly on July 29th to accept a job in Washington, DC and reportedly, everyone in the party was caught off-guard by this decision. So does that mean that Kirby Wilbur decided to invest in these races? Did he tip off Van Werven ahead of time and this was part of that bargain? The more I think about it, the weirder the whole thing seems.
By comparison, the state Democratic Party has not donated any money to their endorsed candidates. You can view their figures here (just go to Locality, set it to “contains” and add “Whatcom”).
One thing remains clear: the Republicans running for our County Council and port seemed to be lagging in the fundraising department, and the state party stepped in and propped them up. That can’t bode well for November.