Posted by: sweeneyblog | May 14, 2014

Interparty Struggle Breaks Out in the 42nd

Last week, we broke the news that our local gold-enthusiast turned state Representative Jason Overstreet was no longer seeking reelection, leaving an open seat in the 42nd. Soon after this, former county chair and state vice-chair Luanne Van Werven declared for the seat.

Digging into the story, it was clear there was some sort of internal power struggle going on within the local Republicans but I refrained from speculating since I had no further evidence.

Bill Knutzen

Bill Knutzen at the Freedom Foundation training

However, yesterday’s news broken by KGMI and covered by the Bellingham Herald announced that former County Councilman Bill Knutzen would also seek the open seat, facing off against Van Werven, his former party chair and lead supporter when he was on the council.

Bill Knutzen, a cell phone salesmen with ties to the farming community in Whatcom County, was elected during the Tea Party surge in 2009, beating long-time incumbent Laurie Caskey-Schreiber. However in 2013, the flying fickle finger of fate returned and booted Knutzen for local businessman Rud Browne during the anti-coal terminal wave that swept the county.

Usually, the Republicans in Whatcom show a united front, only showcasing their divisions when it comes to Ron Paul supporters or the County Executive race last year, however, this could potentially divide the local party as effectively as the Pike versus Linville race did to the Democrats in 2011.

Do Knutzen and Van Werven have large policy differences? Doubtful. You can read my interview with Knutzen here, and this exchange over marriage equality from last year shows how he approaches social issues.

So it sounds like this primary fight will be decided by the better organizer, and on that count, Van Werven has a running start. Her years of experience as a fundraiser and volunteer recruiter will serve her well in this race. She, at least, will not have to use Burma Shave signs out on the Guide-Meridian.

It should be noted that there will be a Democrat in this race (UPDATE: Maybe, the person who I thought was running is not, could be anyone’s game at this point), and Nick Kunkel has already declared as the Libertarian. In other words, Seth Fleetwood and Doug Ericksen may just be the least interesting thing going on this cycle in the 42nd.



  1. Luann and Bill trying to out-conservative each other, while Nick lobs accusations at both that they’re the tools of corporations and only he knows the true Libertarian solution — abolish the government, leave the Constitution, and let people duke it out with each other in the courts (and here we all, right and left, thought the forefathers were brilliant).

    You should be selling tickets, Riley.

    • That is a gross misrepresentation of what I consider the libertarian ideal. I’m certainly no anarchist. I believe that Libertarianism in today’s world ought to start with social issues and that the best way to do so is to understand that the most important private property is one’s body.

  2. This is very informative as well:

    • The same thread where when you realized that I wasn’t running against Fleetwood and that I and many Libertarians are supporting him. After that bit of confusion was settled we actually agreed that personal sovereignty and the idea that “every man is king” is a cross-party lines ideal that brings Libertarians and Democrats together.

      • Huey Long, dems, Nick. His campaign slogan was, “A chicken in every pot!” Not exactly a Libertarian mantra.

    • That is where I have to disagree with you Terry, I believe every family should have a “chicken in their pot” or if they don’t eat meat, some quinoa in their pot, or whatever they want in their pot. If we can break down barriers to individual expression and entrepreneurship while at the same time removing corporate influence in government we can level the playing field and allow for everybody to fairly go after that chicken!

  3. I imagine the schism began with some w/in the Tea Party yelling, “Go, Jason go!” when he was threatening wrack and ruin to the university. The more mainstream faithful—folks like Ralph Munro—were aghast that he’d crap on an economic powerhouse and important mainstay for the community. There are still some Republicans who put on suits and attend luncheons and think about charitable giving. They play golf on Sundays rather than fear the Lord and clean their AKs. Others wear funny triangle hats and white hose and pretend they’re in the 18th Century.

    LuAnne has carved out a respectable position for herself as one of the centrist party faithful organizers. She seems respectful rather than contemptuous (and simultaneously ignorant) of state law, a process person. A Munro type. So I can only imagine Bill was egged into action by a more fulsome froth.

    • And you probably wear a Commissar’s hat.

    • A reasonable assumption. There is a significant proportion of the Republican party that is ready for something else, while Overstreet may not have had all the answers, he was an exception to the Republican establishment. There is another option for Republicans that don’t like big government, Libertarian. There is another option for Democrats who believe in private property rights, especially the body, Libertarian.

  4. Hey Riley,

    Surely I’ve told you this before but when Bill Knutzen had worked for a while with my son at Bellingham Cold Storage he used to steal people’s lunches. Maybe he’s the right one for the job. Best, Judith

    • Better than stealing from people in the form of tax dollars like the Democrats do!

      • steal
        1. take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

        If your the government it’s not stealing.

      • @ Anagor Marsh – maybe it is since WA has voted to require a super majority for tax increases several times now with the Democrats removing it as soon as they could.

      • Not the way our constitution is structured, in Washington Initiatives are on par with laws passed by the leg. So they can remove any law they would like with majority unless it’s in the state constitution.

        But I catch your point with it not being very respectful to the “will of the people”

      • Funny how the folks who profess to love the Constitution so very very much are also so very very eager to change its fundamental structures. A good read shows a lot of thought went into what should require supermajorities and what should not. The power to enact legislation (and fund it) by simple majority is essential to the function of [small r] republican democracy.

  5. although in the particular case, if you want to impose a requirement that requires 66% approval for passing a type of law, I personally think you should need 66% approval, it seems like a violation of minority rights …..but that’s just me.

    • It actually does require a supermajority vote to change an essential structure of the state constitution, one reason why **cough** the Leg has, doggone them, “Failed to Enact the Will of the People.” It’s hard. Not even the People can set it on fire. Part of the genius of the document.

      Things that should be hard to do are made hard to do. And we probably should perhaps reflect on why other parts that are less hard to do were made that way, as well.

    • The state Supreme Court BTW has held forth on the essentials of the supermajority requirement and of its corollary, conditions where supermajority requirements would impede the state’s ability to legislate on behalf of citizens. A requirement that strips the Legislature of the ability to fund a law also strips the Legislature of the ability to *enact* a law, and thereby cements in place a particular and peculiar view of the function and purpose of elected government.

      Tim Eyman’s nonsense would have been gunned down more than a decade ago, but funnily enough no one took his basic assertions to court…. because the reality is no one who had judicial standing (ie, the Legislature) was all that eager to raise taxes and could live with the restriction. ***Gasp!!!***

      The Supremes:

      “This court has consistently stated that, ‘the legislature’s power to enact a statute is unrestrained except where, either expressly or by fair inference, it is prohibited by the state and federal constitutions….’

      “The plain language of article II, section 22 states in relevant part, ‘No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage … a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.’ By providing the words their ordinary meaning near the time of ratification, the provision essentially states that a bill cannot become a law upon any condition less than receiving more than half the vote…

      “Under a commonsense understanding, any bill receiving a simple majority vote will become law. No language in the provision qualifies that requirement by stating a bill needs “at least a majority vote…

      “…the framers were particularly concerned with a tyranny of the minority. This preference for simple majority rule is evident from the very language of the constitution, which required only a simple majority vote for ordinary legislation and reserved a supermajority vote for special circumstances. The seven supermajority requirements in the original constitution were all relegated to special circumstances, not the passage of ordinary legislation? These circumstances included expelling a member of the legislature or overriding a veto. Thus, the framers were aware of the significance that a supermajority vote requirement entailed and consciously limited it to special circumstances; the passage of ordinary legislation is not one of those.”

      Read it all:,d.cGU

  6. So do we have a Democrat running for Overstreet’s position or not?

    • He will arise today.

      • If he does arise, the progressive social agenda cannot win in the 42nd. A democrat, since the redistricting, cannot win in this district. A libertarian, particularly a libertarian with a social agenda absolutely can.

      • Nick, I’ve run the numbers and I respectfully disagree. President Obama and Sen. Cantwell both won the 42nd, and they have pretty progressive social views.

  7. NK — I’m interested in what you base your “prediction” about a Democrat not able to win in the 42ndLD.. How about giving us some more information as to how you came to that conclusion.

    • 46% of the 42nd LD votes Democrat. Libertarians often take some of the swing votes out of the picture for the primary. At the end of the day it is a 54% Republican district. Swing republicans would more likely vote libertarian than democrat.

  8. Let’s assume it IS possible, it would be a snowball’s chance. The democrat party would be better off taking their agenda to the roulette table though. The democrat party can win the 50% of their agenda (social issues) with 100% certainty. Instead the democrat party would rather take the 10, maybe 20% chance of winning 100% of their agenda? This is assuming of course that even the republican vote remains divided among two republicans… I have considerable doubts that both republicans will make it to the primary, consolidating their votes and strengthening their position post primary.

  9. […] thirteen precincts have contested Republican races. With a potentially brutal primary between Knutzen and Van Werven heating up this year, you can see this battle played out on the microcosm of PCO […]

  10. […] Meanwhile former legislative candidate, and frequent commenter on this blog, Nick Kunkel is planning on running in the 5th district against incumbent Terry Bornemann. Kunkel, a libertarian, got squeezed out in the primary between Satpal Sidhu and Luanne Van Werven last year. Bornemann has not indicated if he is going to run for reelection or not – I’ve heard mixed reports. […]

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