Green Party candidate Howard Pellett of Guemes Island is challenging Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, for state representative, although they don't disagree on major policy issues.
Both want to promote renewable energy. Pellett, 73, supports incentives to businesses and consumers to produce and purchase alternative energy systems such as solar panels.
Morris, 48, said he helped create programs that have improved opportunities for alternative energy in the state. That's been his bread and butter over much of his 16 years in the state House, representing the 40th Legislative District. The district includes south Bellingham and southwest Whatcom County.
Morris was a lead legislator in enacting "integrated resource planning" for power utilities. That bill encouraged utilities to consider all energy options as they look for ways to meet growing demand.
"It leveled the playing field with renewables so they could compete on a cost basis with coal and natural gas," Morris said.
Both candidates are wary of the proposed Gateway Pacific export facility at Cherry Point that would primarily ship coal to ports in Asia.
Much of the controversy about the port involves local impacts such as train traffic and coal dust. Pellett is more concerned about global affects.
"What's been unsaid at this point is the effect of over 100 million tons of coal being burned annually in Asia someplace and the effect of that on greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Pellett said.
Morris said he is monitoring the state review of the coal terminal project to make sure there are enough opportunities for public participation. He also has called for a federal review of the five or so coal shipping terminals proposed for Washington and Oregon. He said review from the federal government would enable environmental protections to stand up better to challenges.
Morris has raised $56,810 in campaign contributions as of Monday, Oct. 15. Pellett is exempt from reporting his contributions to the state Public Disclosure Commission because he is raising less than $5,000. He says he takes no more than $100 from anyone and accepts no money from corporations. He said that is the strongest contrast between him and the incumbent.
"I feel that is something that may make him accountable to corporations rather than individuals," Pellett said.
Morris dismissed the idea.
"I get donations from all sides of all sorts of different issues. They respect the fact that I'm fiercely independent," he said.
Rep. Kristine Lytton, a Democrat from Anacortes also seeking re-election in the 40th district, is unopposed despite a name next to hers on the ballot. Brandon Robinson, a 25-year-old ex-Marine who gave no party preference, announced his withdrawal from the race before the primary but remains on the ballot.
For more on this race, including the candidates' answers to specific questions about the utility district, go to our Local Elections webpage. In our online voter guide, you'll also find information and responses from candidates in other races on the Nov. 6 Whatcom County ballot.