Posted by: sweeneyblog | May 6, 2014

The Whatcom Republicans’ Huge PCO Advantage

As filing week is just around the corner, I thought it would be prudent to take a look at one of the least appreciated offices up for election this year, the office of a Precinct Committee Officer or “PCO.” In doing so, I found that the Republicans in Whatcom County have done a fantastic job of recruiting PCOs, outnumbering the Democrats by more than 2-to-1. What does this mean? Read on, my friend.

What is a PCO?

PCOs often serve as volunteers for vital party functions

PCOs often serve as volunteers for vital party functions

The Precinct Committee Officers are the backbone of every local political party. They are elected by the public on the primary ballot as the official party representative from their precinct (usually a precinct is no larger than a small neighborhood or a small neighborhood’s worth of people out in the county).

These are unpaid positions but essential to the functions of local political parties. They elect party officers (chair, vice-chair, etc), vote on the platform and vote to endorse candidates. Informally, they serve as the grassroots volunteers, knocking on doors and making phone calls, although campaign managers on both sides of the aisle will tell you how difficult it can be to coax a cantankerous PCO into a volunteer shift.

Each precinct can elect a Republican and a Democratic PCO, although often these volunteers come forward in off-years and are then appointed by the sitting chair of their respective party. Sometimes, there is not even an election because only one person filed for the office.

A Sea of Red

I went through and took a look at the PCO lists available on both parties’ websites to assess the current state before a fresh wave of PCOs file. The results were staggering. The Republicans have 132 PCOs serving, from precincts as diverse as the rural Lynden suburbs to the heart of Bellingham. The Democrats have only 68 PCOs, less than half of the Republicans. Even more shocking was the fact that 35 precincts in Whatcom have neither a Democratic nor Republican PCO – no one filed for either side.

Below are the maps of my findings.

PCOs in Bellingham

PCOs in Bellingham

PCOs in Whatcom County

PCOs in Whatcom County

There are 75 Republican PCOs, 35 vacant precincts, 11 Democratic PCOs, 57 precincts with representatives from both paries

132 Republican PCOs total

68 Democratic PCOs total

What Does This Mean?

Does it mean that the Whatcom Republicans have a better connection with their grassroots? The mighty ground game that flipped the County Council to Democratic is strong evidence that filled PCO slots do not necessarily translate into grassroots support. Is it simply that Democratic voters, while passionate at the polls, are disengaged from the day-to-day functions of their party? Perhaps. It is an interesting dimension and I welcome your own theories below.

A Call to Arms

No matter the electoral ramifications, this should be a clarion call to everyone who is frustrated with politics. Think your political leaders are too timid, too confrontational or just too incompetent? Run for PCO and kick them out. The levers of power, at least on the local level, are within your grasp. You can rewrite the party platform to include your favorite issue, you can propose resolutions to pressure local elected officials, you can work to deny incumbent endorsements or secure them for your favorite politicos.

In other words, it gives you an inside track on local politics. How do I know? I’m the official Democratic PCO from precinct 219 (“the fightin’ 219!”). Come join me in the trenches of improving our county.




  1. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    • I think you might have had “climate change” adherents in mind.

  2. I guess that is proof the Republicans are smarter than the Democrats.

    • *facepalm

      • *From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

        A facepalm (sometimes also face-palm or face palm) is the physical gesture of placing one’s hand flat across one’s face or lowering one’s face into one’s hand or hands.

        The gesture is often exaggerated by giving the motion more force and making a slapping noise when the hand comes in contact with the face.

        The gesture is found in many cultures as a display of frustration, disappointment, embarrassment.

        Thanks for sharing your “true” feelings.

  3. Given how profoundly the Democrats defeated the Republicans last election here, if they ever heed Reilly’s call to arms there won’t be many Republican office holders in Whatcom County. What the dems need again to motivate their base is another divisive environmentalist issue like the potential fracking of the “Bellingham Play”. But then again, given the increasing gap between the rich and the poor, growing world tension, and increasingly fascist mainstream politics, I am beginning to believe that even a Socialist candidate could take the 42nd LD. If the Democrats really reach and energize their base, start including people of color in positions of strength, adopt 1930s style New Deal rhetoric, wrap.up the working class, the students, the farm workers, the tribes, the environmentalists, the liberal professional classes….

    For me, the question is how flexible and energized can the “big tent” become? Because the Republican party is doing anything but ” the big tent”.

    • Most Democrats in the US Congress voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

      • I’m sorry, that’s blatantly incorrect.

      • I meant More not “Most”.

      • That’s a very different statement. You were making the case that a majority of Dems voted against – and that’s just not true.

      • Nowhere did I use the word majority, I stated that more voted against it percentage wise (2-1) than the Republicans.

        So, you are saying that the “majority” (now I used it) of the Republicans voted against it also?

  4. Republicans do tend to run in organized groups and that’s not always a bad thing since it makes serving kool-aid much easier and keeps the bus driver from leaving anyone behind.
    Half of 132 Republicans would be 66 Democrats so things aren’t as dire as our Host has calculated.
    Democrats need only take a page from the GOP playbook and begin to parrot the popular notions that have made Leprechaun Economics, Rail Unsafety, Lobbyist Pandering and Climate Stability such lightning rods of Deeply Held Belief for the informed Whatcom county demographic.
    You can’t lose telling voters what they already know.

  5. Riley, you need to read the link more carefully: the figures show the Republicans supported the bill 2-1 vs. the Democrats.

    By party

    The original House version:[19]

    Democratic Party: 152–96 (61–39%)
    Republican Party: 138–34 (80–20%)

    Cloture in the Senate:[20]

    Democratic Party: 44–23 (66–34%)
    Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

    The Senate version:[19]

    Democratic Party: 46–21 (69–31%)
    Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

    The Senate version, voted on by the House:[19]

    Democratic Party: 153–91 (63–37%)
    Republican Party: 136–35 (80–20%)

    • It’s probably also important to note that most of the democrats that voted against it were southern democrats, who after Ronald Reagan branding would be classified as Republicans by modern platform standards.

      • Irrelevant, they were registered as Democrats at the time.

  6. Hey Riley, I’m looking for a good Bellingham/Whatcom precinct map so I can see in which district my friends and I love. Have any links you could share?

  7. PCO’s be darned! The way to win votes in the county (as well as in town) is to have candidates get out and TALK to the PEOPLE! Not take corporate money to buy their way onto the ballot! Candidates can kill two birds so to speak, they can avoid the filing fee and get their face out there by gathering signatures to get on the ballot… Not to mention maybe finding out what their constituents ACTUALLY WANT!

    • Good advice but the Democrats won’t do while Tom Steyer is writing the checks.

  8. […] filing week, I took a look at this vital elected office and found that Republicans had a huge (2 to 1) advantage in PCOs. Now, after the dust has settled, […]

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