Posted by: sweeneyblog | May 17, 2014

Who Filed for Charter Review Commission?

The Charter Review Commission offers an unique opportunity and plays an incredibly influential role in how our county functions. For all the background, check out my article here. Now that filing week has closed, let’s take a look at who is running for this fifteen person committee. Remember, each district elects its own people – i.e. only people living in District 2 vote for the District 2 candidates and the top five vote getters are elected.

If you have more information about some of the people running for Charter Review, feel free to add it in the comments, below is what I know off the top of my head or was able to dig up.

District 1

Orphalee Smith

Orphalee Smith

The Known Conservatives

Dick Donahue, star of “Wealth Wakeup” a paid-for Sunday show on KGMI about financial investments that sports an official endorsement from Glenn Beck.

Larry Helm, long-time Republican party officer.

Delaine (De) Clizbe, one of the key organizers in the Whatcom Tea Party movement see update and one of the fundraisers for the pro-coal terminal PAC SAVEWhatcom last year that was funded by Gateway Pacific Terminal.

Orphalee Smith, CPA and frequent treasurer for Republican campaigns, probably sticks out in most people’s mind for her write-in campaign against Seth Fleetwood for City Council where she mailed a bright yellow pen with her name on it to city voters. I still use my Orphalee Smith pen to write notes for my blog when I’m on location.

Anthony Wallace, former president of the Young Republicans of Washington State now turned political consultant, burned a few bridges last year when he supported Mike McAuley over local conservative businessman Ken Bell. McAuley won, despite being outspent 3:1.

Other Conservatives: Gabe Martin (Logos Bible Software programmer, associated with Ron Paul movement), Kent Murphy (supported Bush in 2004).

Bob Burr

Bob Burr

The Known Progressives

Barbara Ryan, former city councilwoman and current trustee of the Whatcom Museum.

Todd Donovan, WWU professor of political science and environmentalist, has been deeply involved in a number of Democratic campaigns over the years. Also, frequent reader of this blog. (Hi Todd!)

Michele Stelovich, social services worker and union organizer with the AFSCME.

Stoney Bird, progressive rabble-rouser, involved in the No Coal movement and a number of progressive causes as an organizer.

Alie Walker, volunteer with Carl Weimer’s County Council campaign.

Bob Burr, part of the Bellingham 12 who engaged in peaceful resistance by chaining himself to railroad tracks to stop the coal trains. He also ran against Patty Murray in 2010 as a progressive candidate and ran against Roxanne Murphy last year for the City Council.

Other Liberals: Bruce Clawson, Eli Mackiewicz, Thomas Stuen, Tom Walstrom, Nancy Metcalf

Unknowns: Bob Hall (not that Bob Hall), Kevin Byford

District 2

Ken Bell

Ken Bell for Port

The Known Conservatives

Chet Dow, long-time Republican party officer and volunteer.

Ben Elenbaas, former candidate for County Council, lost to Ken Mann last year. Also, related to Jason Overstreet.

Joe Elenbaas, former candidate for county treasurer who was charged with threatening a sheriff’s deputy with a shotgun and made headlines for using a racial slur as a member of the County Planning Commission. Related to Ben.

Ken Bell, former candidate for Port Commission who lost to Mike McAuley last year. Read my interview with him here.

Larry Nicholas, until recently local chair of the Whatcom Libertarians and conservative organizer.

Other Conservatives: Matthew Weeda, Branden Brink, Cliff Langley, David Bock

Stan Snapp

Stan Snapp

The Known Progressive

Stan Snapp, former city councilman and firefighter. Currently Democratic PCO and mustache enthusiast.

Kate Blystone, former executive director of Futurewise Whatcom and current RESources employee working on water issues.

Atul Deshmane, president of Whole Energy, a biodiesel company in Bellingham and Democratic donor.

Judd Morse, Democratic PCO and frequent reader of this blog. (Hi Judd!)

Sherry Nelson, on the board of directors for the Bellingham Music Festival and local progressive volunteer.

Other Liberals: Susan Gribbin, Bob Bandarra

Unknowns: Rebecca Boonstra, Bob Johnson

District 3

Jon Mutchler

Jon Mutchler

The Known Conservatives:

Nick Evans, political director for the Whatcom Republicans and confused insurance salesman.

Karl Uppiano, Whatcom Tea Party organizer and frequent reader of this blog. (Hi Karl!)

Jon Mutchler, pastor and city councilman from Ferndale. I have him tagged as “most likely to have a political career outside of Ferndale in the next ten years.” Wicked good piano player.

Yvonne Goldsmith, Republican fundraiser and key organizer for SAVEWhatcom, the pro-coal terminal PAC from last year. See update, merely a republican fundraiser.

Eileen Sobjack, Republican party officer and also national officer with the Federation of Republican women.

Other Conservatives: Wes Kentch, Linda Cain

ruby may

Richard and Ruby May

The Known Progressives

Richard May, business owner and Blaine city planning commissioner and candidate for state Legislature in 2010. Also, has bought me more beers than perhaps any other political person in Whatcom County.

Bob Cecile, former public works director for Ferndale now project manager with the Lummi tribe and Democratic donor.

Chris Johnson, electrician and vice-president of the Northwest Central Labor Council.

John Munson, long-time labor advocate who recently has taken an active role supporting the Gateway Pacific Terminal.


Wild Cards: 

John Lesow, long-time planning commissioner who identifies as conservative but has supported reasonable land use policies over the last years, including compliance with the growth management act.

Ralph Black, local real estate mogul and occasional Democratic donor although he has supported a number of conservative candidates in the past.

That’s it for your breakdown. Obviously, with so many people, there is plenty more information to find. The next step for these races will probably be the local political parties assembling slates of preferred candidates and more than a couple forums to debate the issues. Feel free to add more information in the comments below.



  1. A lot of these folks really don’t fit along a standard conservative / liberal divide. Some you’ve noted as liberal are, rather, quite [very small l] libertarian-leaning. All might better be represented in some kind of quadrant system with an axis that measures their passion for property rights diluted by other concerns—social, economic, environmental justice, or such like.

    Sometimes the labels just don’t quite capture these folks.

    • I agree wholeheartedly but am limited but blog formatting.

      • Limited by blog formatting? Not sure what this means.

        I would like to know your definition of progressive. And buying you beers is not part of any definition. 🙂

      • Meaning that I have to break the list into digestible parts in some way or another – going by known political affiliations is as good as any other.

        What is the definition of a progressive? That’s a good question and I don’t know if I have a good answer. Instead of conservative and progressive, I could have put “Loosely affiliated with local Republicans/Democrats” but that didn’t quite feel right.

    • I completely agree Tim. Very interesting mix of people.

  2. I agree with Tim… John Lesow’s time on the Planning Commision, for example, would position either of you as right wing conservatives …albeit, he is a very nice fellow unless in one of his John “unleashed” moments.

    • Lesow is exactly one of those kinds of out-of-the-box free thinker types (sort of like Jack Petree, who is such an originalist sort of conservative thinker it’s really hard to exactly place him among modern movement conservatives… [and that’s meant as a compliment]). That’s why I think the stronger litmus is whether these candidates believe in any forces *other* than private property rights. For many, the answer is simply, honestly, *no*, no other thing matters. Period. For others, the primacy of property ownership is diluted by other factors or communitarian concerns.

    • Thanks, Jack.

      The last time I recall an “unleashed” moment was about an hour ago, when I took my dog, (coincidentally, named Jack) on his evening jaunt through the Point Roberts wood.

      Those interested in my random views can do so by going on the Northwest Citizen blog ( and clicking on “Contributing Writers” in the upper right hand corner.

      Those interested in my dog, Jack, can access his loveable mug on the Unedited Photos section of my FB page; John Lesow for Charter Review Commission.

  3. Linda Cain and Larry Nicholas are Libertarians, it is a misrepresentation to call them conservatives. They are “conservative” on some issues and “progressive” on others.

  4. Lot’s of AGENDA 21 people running this time. And that’s bad news.

    • Yes; maybe that’s the sorting bucket:

      thinks UN is omnipotent / thinks UN is inept, irrelevant

      • The UN should be banned from New York and the building turned into luxury apartments.


  5. Wow, I’m honored. Just avoiding Riley’s list of “unknowns” is a small victory in and of itself. I’ll take it as a good omen.

    BTW – the local section of the voter’s pamphlet (a product of the ’04-’05 commission) gives all candidates 100 words to answer the question “Why should I be elected to this commission?” I’m guessing our active electorate would want a little more detail — and I look forward to providing it.

    Here’s hoping for an elevated dialogue.

  6. Great article, Riley. Very informative. You’re totally earning your keep here.

  7. John Lesow is smart, thoughtful and hard working. He was often a lone voice of reason on the planning commission. For all the folks on this list he would be my choice for the top of that list of best candidates.

    • I’m trying to avoid doing endorsements this early but yes, John Lesow is fantastic and despite our policy differences, would have my vote if I lived in that district.

  8. That’s a little creepy, JG. Can we all agree to leave family members out, especially children?

    • Agreed and deleting.

    • Spoken by a true uptight Liberal with NO sense of humor.

  9. Thank you for covering this Riley. I think the Charter Review campaign will be fascinating this year. I’m really pleased to have good, thoughtful people to vote for in District 1.

  10. Seems the Conservatives (Republicans, Libertarians) have more candidates to choose from then the Progressives this time round. Also, knowing that this is being done because it is mandated for review I’m wondering what complaints there are about the current Charter? Anybody know what the issues will be or if anything really requires changing?

  11. Hi, Riley!

  12. This one Important.

    Sent from my iPhone

  13. A little bit of Whatcom County charter history.

    1977-21 freeholders were elected to write a county charter; there were 71 candidates.
    1978-A Home Rule Charter was approved by the voters.

    1985-First Charter Review Commission; there were 52 candidates for 15 positions.
    1986-The commission placed 14 charter amendments on the general election ballot; 10 passed.

    1994-There were 61 candidates for 15 positions.
    1995-The commission placed 12 charter amendments on the general election ballot; eight passed.

    2004-There were 62 candidates for 15 positions. Three withdrew too late to have their names removed from the ballot.
    2005-The commission placed six charter amendments on the general election ballot; five passed.

  14. […] that is why Riley Sweeney, 2nd Vice Chair for the Whatcom Democrats, quickly published this article on his Political Junkie blog.  Riley was so quick to discredit that he failed to do some basic […]

  15. You present yourself as a journalist, so you might take the time to do a little fact checking about certain candidates, about whom you have made incorrect assertions.

    I’ll leave it to you to do the work.

    • I’ve seen Kris Halterman’s latest post and will be responding to it.

  16. Lesow is a wild card?
    You must have been smoking, now that it’s legal.

  17. […] you wanting more, Halterman has responded to my response to her “fact-checking” of my reporting. At a certain point, it seems to devolve into a bit of a fish fight, however I do want to make one […]

  18. […] all the conservative harrumphing (yes, that’s a word) over the Charter Review candidates, do not think I’ve forgotten about the Precinct Committee Officers (PCOs). A Precinct […]

  19. […] organizer for the party, as well as the field director for Congressional candidate Pedro Celis, Charter Review candidate and by day, an insurance salesman that was unclear about the basic facts of health insurance. The […]

  20. […] the heck Charter Review is, read my article here. For more information about who these people are, check out my article here. My main criteria for this race is who will not screw up our county constitution. There are some […]

  21. […] Donovan, Todd) or a place to push an ideological agenda (See: Elenbaas, Joe but not Ben). In my usual sassy shorthand, I wrote, “Jon Mutchler, pastor and city councilman from Ferndale. I have him tagged as […]

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