Local Election

Eric Richey wins race for Whatcom County prosecuting attorney; Erb concedes

Wendy Setter of Bellingham, left, chats with Whatcom County prosecutor candidate Eric Richey, right, while waiting for the results of the 2018 midterm elections in Whatcom County on Tuesday evening at Green’s Corner in Bellingham.
Wendy Setter of Bellingham, left, chats with Whatcom County prosecutor candidate Eric Richey, right, while waiting for the results of the 2018 midterm elections in Whatcom County on Tuesday evening at Green’s Corner in Bellingham. For The Bellingham Herald

Eric Richey will be Whatcom County’s next prosecuting attorney, according to the second count of ballots on Wednesday night from the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.

Richey was leading with 55 percent of votes returned. He had 50,020 votes compared to 40,435 for opponent James Erb. The next count results are scheduled to be released late Thursday afternoon.

Erb conceded the race Wednesday night during a telephone interview with The Bellingham Herald. He said that while more ballots remained to be counted, he didn’t expect to be able to catch Richey.

“I’m incredibly proud of the campaign that we ran,” Erb said. “We focused on issues that are important to this community. I wish Mr. Richey the best of luck in bringing about the overdue reforms that we both talked about during the course of this campaign.”

Richey said he decided to run after Dave McEachran announced his retirement after nearly a half-century in office. Erb was approached last year to run. Both the candidates have advocated for reforming the county’s criminal justice system and now is Richey’s chance to do so.

“I feel great. I feel like Whatcom County heard my message,” Richey said in an interview Tuesday with The Bellingham Herald. “I feel like it’s now time to make the changes I’ve been talking about while continuing to protect the public.”

Richey expressed interest in starting a law enforcement assisted diversion, or LEAD, program in the county aimed at connecting people with treatment rather than incarceration for certain crimes, as well as expanding access to the county’s therapeutic courts and moving toward a no-cash bail system.

“I’d like to thank everyone for supporting me. It’s been bipartisan support and I’m so thankful that people were able to hear my message,” Richey said.

Richey couldn’t be reached Wednesday for a comment.

Results are posted daily on the Auditor’s Office website and at the Washington Secretary of State’s Office.

“We’re disappointed with the results. They’re not the results we had been hoping for,” Erb said Tuesday in an interview with The Herald.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of the campaign that we ran and thankful to the thousands of people who supported our efforts to bring real criminal justice reform to Whatcom County,” Erb said.

Richey party 2018
Supporters of Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney candidate Eric Richey gather at Greene’s Corner on James Street in Bellingham Tuesday evening as they wait for election results. Paul Conrad For The Bellingham Herald

Richey is currently the Chief Criminal Deputy and has been with the prosecutor’s office for nearly 25 years. He raised more than $108,000, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.

He has lived in Bellingham for 30 years and represents the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys on a statewide board regarding sexual assault at colleges, and runs a weekly special assault meeting for law enforcement and community members.

Richey received the endorsements of the Bellingham and Ferndale Police Guilds, Local 106 for Bellingham/Whatcom County Firefighters, Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild, Whatcom County Corrections Deputies, Lynden Police Officers Association, Riveters Collective, Sheriff Bill Elfo, Whatcom Prosecuting Attorney Dave McEachran, County Treasurer Steve Oliver, prosecuting attorneys for King, Island, Skagit, San Juan and Snohomish counties, as well as the mayors of Lynden, Nooksack, Everson and Ferndale and various members of the Bellingham School Board and Whatcom County Council.

Erb, who is currently a senior assistant attorney in the Bellingham City Attorney’s office and the city public records officer, raised more than $95,000 in the race.

Prior to working in the city’s civil division, Erb worked as a Nooksack tribal prosecutor and was assigned to a special division for prosecuting sexually motivated crimes against children in a judicial circuit in Florida.

Erb was supported by Equal Rights Washington, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the 40th and 42nd Legislative District Democrats, the Northwest Central Labor Council, Whatcom County Democrats, Young Democrats of Western Washington University, Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville, former Bellingham Mayor Tim Douglas, Port of Bellingham Commissioner Michael Shepard, as well as various current and former members of the Whatcom County Council and Bellingham City Council, and tribal council members.

How and when Erb decided to run was corrected Nov. 9, 2018.

Eric Richey, a candidate for Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney, talks about his experience at a candidate forum Wednesday, Oct. 17 at Whatcom County Courthouse in Bellingham, WA.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt