If you like local politics, 2015 is your year to shine. After the broad strokes of 2014 (what were the issues last year? Malaise with a side of attack ads?), it is time to zero in on Washington State and Whatcom County. Before I dive in, I want to recognize the great work done over at Politics Whatcom who beat me to the punch on this article by four days.
Washington State: Although no state-level offices are up for election this year, the first four months of political coverage while be dominated by the legislature as they tackle two big issues: Jay Inslee’s climate change proposals and funding education.
Inslee’s proposal made big headlines when it debuted soon after the election but here’s a pretty good breakdown of the pros. In short, it is Cap and Trade (where polluters purchase a limited number of carbon credits detailing how much polution they can emit – credits that can then be resold to other companies). It is a free market solution to environmental protection and will face criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Funding education will continue to be a challenge. The legislature has continued to fulfil its court-mandated responsibility to fully fund education and this obstinance (highlighted by Rep. Vincent Buys letter blasting the Supreme Court) has our legislators facing potential jail time.
I suspect many negotiators on both sides of the aisle were waiting to see if 2014 would return control of the State Senate to democratic hands, but the flying fickle finger of fate (yes, a Laugh-In reference in a millennial blog, deal with it) put that chamber firmly in Republican control. With both sides resigned to dealing with each other for another two years, they may be forced to work out some sort of long-term funding solution for our schools.
Whatcom County: Closer to home, we have a whole slew of County-wide incumbents up for reelection. County Executive Jack Louws is widely expected to run for reelection, as is County Treasurer Steve Oliver and County Auditor Debbie Adelstein. Less certain is County Sheriff Bill Elfo, who’s race may be overshadowed by the proposed $100 million Bond to pay for the new jail this year.
As for the County Council, Pete Kremen, Sam Crawford and Barbara Brenner are all up for reelection this year. With four progressive votes already secured in 2013, the spectre of coal conflict may lie dormant this year, but that does not mean it will be a quiet year.
Pete Kremen, mustache enthusiast, has threatened to retire from public office before but I suspect that he will renew his commitment to the council. His years of experience allow him to skip much of the background research required for the position, letting him roll out of bed Tuesday morning (springing forth Athena-like fully clad in a suit), wander into the county council chambers and immediately begin pontificating on whatever the subject he desires. Not a bad retirement gig, all things considered.
Sam Crawford, on the other hand, barely squeaked through in his last election, surviving by a mere 500 votes against a lackluster and underfunded opponent. If a popular opponent, say a recent candidate for office, were to come out of the woodwork and declare against Crawford, he may decide to pack up his bags and call it good – setting off a chain reaction of local conservative candidates looking to fill his shoes.
Barbara Brenner is the kiwi to our Whatcom County fruit salad – you’re not really sure how it got there, or why it keeps getting put in yet it is popular with the oddest people. I would be very surprised if she bows out or faces stiff opposition. Not that she shouldn’t, Brenner hasn’t run a strong campaign in years, but right now, I doubt anyone will take a run at her.
City of Bellingham: All signs point towards Mayor Kelli Linville running for reelection. After a narrowly defeating Dan Pike in 2011, Linville has had an interesting four years in office. She has a few successes under her belt, forward momentum on the waterfront development for instance, but she has also faced some public criticism for closed door negotiations (see Costco Expansion), fights with the Roosevelt neighborhood over drastic traffic changes, and most disappointingly to me, the mishandling of Public Access television which is now neither public nor providing access to the airwaves.
However, Linville benefits from a seemingly endless supply of goodwill from the community for her years in the public eye, her natural skills as a peacemaker and an (almost) complete dearth of credible opponents. Michael Lilliquist took umbrage recently at my repeated insinuations that he may run against Linville this year but he remains one of the only people in town expressing any sort of interest.
Moving down ballot, Jack Weiss is up for reelection and may decide to bow out after several years on the council, leaving the Ward 1 slot open. As mentioned earlier this week, Roxanne Murphy is considering running for the Ward 3 seat – moving from the At-Large position to challenge newly appointed councilman Dan Hammill – a maneuver that would unleash a free-for-all as the At-Large position opens up city-wide.
Port of Bellingham: Jim Jorgensen, long-time Port Commissioner for District 3, is widely expected to retire this year, leaving his seat open for election. Local developer (and unsuccessful Charter Review candidate) Ralph Black and labor leader (and unsuccessful Charter Review candidate) Chris Johnson. Black is being supported by Dan Robbins and
Rob Fix . . . insert your own “The Fix is In” joke here.Rob contacted me to say he has not endorsed Black. I’m following up with my original source for clarification.
Charter Review Proposals: Finally, the Charter Review committee will meet and examine our County constitution. Already on the menu – switching county council races to District Only voting, a move that may benefit conservatives in the short term but could shut them out of County Government in the long-term. Any proposals put forth by the committee have to be approved by the voters this November.
That’s it for your electoral preview. If you find this material helpful, please share this post on social media or email around. We thrive on the sunshine of new subscribers.