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.
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.