Posted by: sweeneyblog | August 14, 2013

State Republican Party Throws Money at Whatcom Races

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.

Interim State GOP Chair Luanne Van Werven

Interim State GOP Chair Luanne Van Werven

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.



  1. Isn’t “Whatcom Wins” a county Democratic Party apparatus to support (I won’t say “prop up”) the more progressive county council candidates? The state Dems might not be involved in our county council races, but the county Dems are, to a much greater extent than the county GOP. There’s no shame on either side (and sound strategy on both sides) for a larger party organization to focus on our county council elections this year.

    • Actually, both the County Dems and the County GOP have hired staff and set up a campaign office, but both of those are local organizations helping get their people elected, rather than a state-wide organization throwing money at one little corner of the world.
      In fact, as you can see on the PDC, the County Republicans have raised and spent more money this year by over $10,000 on local election work.

      So I don’t think it is at all accurate to say that the “County Dems are, to a much greater extent” involved. I would say both county parties are involved, but the state party is only involved on the Republican side.

  2. In looking at the PDC filings it seems the Democrat Candidates are doing quite well with contributions – and with spending, too. As for involvement – I don’t know really anything about the Whatcom Republicans except that Michelle Luke has been way ahead in her sign placements – and has BIG signs placed in strategic places. Can’t say I saw much happening with the Blitz sign placement the Coordinated Campaign told us was going to happen. What I do know is THEY need more volunteers to make phone calls. That’s what really takes organizing. No matter what else, getting Candidates names and faces, values, etc. out in as many ways and places as possible is what it is ALL about. We need to win all the County Council seats.

  3. Are you sure van Werven is the sole reason for the donations? PIT and BNSF each gave state Republican party $10,000 and money has been transferred to the county level. Not sure money wouldn’t have started funneling into the local elections from the state level regardless of who chair is. (Sorry, you do seem to have a crush on van Werven.)

    • I don’t think Van Werven is the sole reason – at first I thought so but the timing is off. I was just noting that this is highly unusual, the state party so rarely sends money down to this minute a race.

      I’m looking at the third party money (PIT, BNSF) in next week’s article

      • Yeah, well, I predict we’ll be seeing a lot of unprecedented spending on the county council races this year (and next).

  4. The biiiiiiiiiiig money — IE — we won’t “see” until the ads start running in October just before ballots are mailed. That will be way ugly. (Not sure why your host website is picking up my ancient tjwprf registration, but this is Terry.)

  5. I’m appalled at all the Ben Ellenbaas signs I have been seeing in Whatcom County. I had the unpleasant experience of sharing the same workplace as Ben before I retired and he was an obnoxious Teabagger before they even got a following…YUK!

  6. […] took a closer look at the Republicans running for the 42nd legislative district. Luanne Van Werven, former Republican state party chair, is running against former county councilman Bill […]

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