Candidates line up to replace Crawford on Whatcom County Council

The race to take Sam Crawford’s soon-to-be-vacant position on the Whatcom County Council is already heating up, one day after he announced his resignation.

Two prominent figures on both sides of the political spectrum — Kathy Kershner and Satpal Sidhu — announced their intent to apply for the office.

Kershner, a one-term council member until her defeat in the November 2013 elections, made public her intent to apply for the position on Tuesday night, Jan. 27 — minutes after Crawford announced his resignation. Crawford, who has been on the council for 15 years, will leave office on March 1 to take on increased responsibility at his workplace.

In a letter to the council, dated Wednesday, Jan. 28, Kershner said if appointed she would resume serving the “whole county in the true spirit of nonpartisanship.”

The perception of Kershner — and much of the reality — is that she is a conservative Republican. She served briefly in 2014 as an officer for the Whatcom County Republican Party and attended the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., as an alternate delegate.

She points to certain votes on the county council, however, to show she doesn’t just vote the party line.

Kershner supported the reconveyance, a transfer of 8,844 acres of forestland around Lake Whatcom from the state to the county, for use as a park. She also voted for a small amount of funding for RE Sources for Sustainable Communities to support a program that taught recycling in the schools. RE Sources was maligned by conservatives at the time for its practice of inspecting farms secretively for violations of environmental regulations.

On the other hand, Kershner always was a staunch defender of property rights. She attacked the anti-sprawl group Futurewise several times in public statements in 2013, saying the group was more about controlling people than preserving rural character.

Sidhu, the other aspirant to Crawford’s seat, made the political scene in 2014 during an energetic run for a state House seat representing north Whatcom County. While Sidhu lost his first-ever run for public office, he fared better than more seasoned Democratic candidates who also sought to unseat Republicans in the north county.

Crawford’s seat is up for election this November anyway, so Sidhu had been contemplating a run at it before Crawford’s announcement.

In an interview on Wednesday, Jan. 28, Sidhu said he discovered during his 2014 campaign that he had a lot of public support.

“I think my supporters would like that,” Sidhu said of his interest in joining the council. Sidhu called the council office to declare his intent, but he said the office isn’t taking applications yet.

Officials in the council office said they should have a procedure for applications by the end of this week. According to the county code, council members must appoint Crawford’s replacement within 30 days of his March 1 resignation, or the executive will make the appointment.

Active members of the two parties said council members could make the appointment political.

“It looks like we’ll lose another voice in county government,” said Charlie Crabtree, chairman of the Whatcom County Republican Party.

“It concerns me if that does occur,” Crabtree said. “I hope that the council works at it a bit and tries to be fair, and make the replacement somebody of the same philosophy as the person that’s resigning.”

“If I were them,” said Natalie McClendon, chairwoman of the 42nd Legislative District Democrats, “I would look at somebody who’s electable.”

For his part, Crawford will participate in one more council meeting, on Feb. 10, then attend a National Association of Counties legislative conference in late February in Washington, D.C.

Crawford said he will miss the job, but not the late-night meetings or the “repetitive testimony from our activists” in the county.

“In some ways, it’s hard to remember what it was like not being on the County Council,” said Crawford, who has held the office since 2000.