Crime

Port of Bellingham candidate arrested on charge of felony domestic assault

Nicholas Paul Kunkel, 30, right, was arrested Friday, June 2, 2017, to face felony domestic assault charges – about three weeks after he filed to run for a Port of Bellingham commissioner seat.
Nicholas Paul Kunkel, 30, right, was arrested Friday, June 2, 2017, to face felony domestic assault charges – about three weeks after he filed to run for a Port of Bellingham commissioner seat. chutton@bhamherald.com

A candidate for Port of Bellingham commissioner was arrested early Friday to face felony charges of choking his wife in a fight at their home.

Nicholas Paul Kunkel, 30, called police around 11:55 p.m. Thursday from his home on Glacier Ridge Drive, to report a fight with his wife of 2 years, according to a summary of police reports read Friday in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Kunkel told Whatcom County Sheriff’s deputies they had been arguing, and when his wife went into their baby’s room, he blocked the door with his body. She used her body weight to try to make him move, then scratched Kunkel’s face and punched him when he wouldn’t let her go, according to the probable cause statement.

The woman told deputies Kunkel had been berating her, before he choked her, shoved her onto a chair, and held her down while she held their 8-month-old child in her arms. Kunkel admitted to holding his wife by the neck, but denied choking her, the deputies reported. The child wasn’t injured. Deputies booked Kunkel into the Whatcom County Jail at 1 a.m. on suspicion of second-degree domestic violence assault and unlawful imprisonment.

Kunkel, a libertarian with a background in fisheries management, ran for state representative in the 42nd Legislative District in 2014. He took in less than 4 percent of the vote, losing in a four-way primary. Months later he campaigned for a Bellingham City Council seat, but withdrew from the race when he bought a home outside of the city, in Sudden Valley, the location of the alleged assault.

Two weeks ago Kunkel filed as a nonpartisan candidate for Port of Bellingham Commissioner Position 1, where he’s running against incumbent Dan Robbins and Michael Shepard, a college instructor of environmental studies.

On Friday in a jail courtroom, Kunkel told Superior Court Commissioner Alfred Heydrich that he was divorcing his wife.

“I can assure you, your honor, that I just want to complete my divorce with my wife, as amicably as possible,” Kunkel said at the bail hearing. “And I wouldn’t have even called the police if ...”

Heydrich cut him off: “You don’t want to start talking to me about what you did or didn’t do,” he said. Heydrich set bail at $20,000.

Kunkel said he plans to live at another home, closer to his work in Skagit County, if he’s released on bail. Heydrich issued a no-contact order between Kunkel and his wife.

Kunkel has no criminal record.

His campaign phone number wouldn’t accept calls Friday. Election Day is Nov. 7.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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