Local Election

Three candidates are running for new Whatcom District 5. Here’s what you need to know

Here’s what you need to know about Whatcom’s 2019 primary election

With 136 public offices on the ballot this August, you’ll want to pay attention to these changes as Election Day approaches.
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With 136 public offices on the ballot this August, you’ll want to pay attention to these changes as Election Day approaches.

Three candidates are running in the Aug. 6 primary for the open Whatcom County Council District 5, the newly drawn Coast District.

District 5 covers northwest Whatcom County west of Interstate 5, including Ferndale and Blaine, plus Point Roberts, Birch Bay, Custer, Marrietta, Lummi Island and the Lummi Reservation.

Voters approved ballot measures in 2016 that changed districts starting in 2017 that created five districts with one representative elected from each district and two at-large positions elected by voters countywide.

The non-partisan, part-time position pays $31,867 annually during the four-year term.

The top two candidates in the Aug. 6 primary will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

Primary ballots will be mailed July 17. Ballots don’t need a stamp but must be postmarked by Election Day. Ballot drop boxes open July 17 and close at 8 p.m. on Election Day, Aug. 6.

These are the candidates for the District 5 Whatcom County Council position:

Jaime Arnett

Arnett, 38, is executive administrator at Boundary Fish Co., a grant writer for Animals as Natural Therapy and a member of the Blaine City Council.

Bio: She is a single mother with one son. She grew up in Blaine and her family is rooted in the fishing industry and government service. She has been a Miss Blaine ambassador, a Little League coach, youth mentor, religious education leader, and Farmers Market organizer. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Western Washington University and, before returning to her commercial fishing roots, she worked for Habitat for Humanity in both Whatcom County and Central Oregon, advocating for affordable housing solutions for low-income families.

Neighborhood: Blaine.

Funds raised: $2,690 through July 2.

Funds spent: $563 through July 2.

Largest contributors: Boundary Fish Co. donated $700, Washington Democrats made an in-kind contribution of $313.

Arnett says: “Environment. As a member of the commercial fishing industry, I have seen first-hand how we have been disproportionately affected by climate change and pollution. I believe many of these issues can be addressed at the county level through prioritization of conservation, better land-use planning, and not allowing further fossil fuel expansion.”

Endorsements: Washington Conservation Voters, 42nd Legislative District Democrats, Riveters Collective.

Website: Jaime Arnett for Whatcom County Council on Facebook

Ben Elenbaas

Elenbaas, 40, is an operations foreman at BP Cherry Point Refinery and runs a small Angus beef ranch.

Bio: He is a lifelong county resident and lives with his wife and blended family of up to four children. He attended Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, earning a with a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences with minors in environmental studies and geography. Elenbaas has worked at the refinery since 2001. The Elenbaases raise grass-fed registered black Angus cattle that they direct market locally and sell breeding stock. He served in an appointed position on the Whatcom County Planning Commission, and was elected to the 2015 Charter Review Commission where he served as the chair. He is involved in several agriculture-oriented groups and is president of the Whatcom County Farm Bureau and vice president of the Whatcom County Cattlemen’s Association. He and his wife foster dogs with Main Street Mutt Rescue.

Neighborhood: Custer.

Funds raised: $22,079 through July 2.

Funds spent: $8,970 through July 2.

Largest contributors: Emmitt Trimble of Anchor Point, Alaska; Nicholas Kaiser, Cary Clemenson and Dusty Gulleson of Bellingham; Paparoa Allison Trimble of Ferndale, BP North America Employee PAC, Phillips 66, the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council each gave $1,000. Elenbaas loaned his campaign $3,000.

Elenbaas says: “We have an affordable housing issue, a homelessness crisis, the agricultural and fishing industries are struggling. Local jobs are under attack. All this while we struggled to pass a school bond to accommodate our children’s future. Why? Is it a lack of understanding about the industries in our district? Or an extreme agenda? We deserve better. I grew up on a farm. I work at an oil refinery. I produce things that people need every day. Activists say we can’t have clean water and agriculture. They say we can‘t have clean air and thriving industries. In the world I live in we have both, we must have both. This is the perspective I will bring to the council. I will seek to facilitate land use policies that will reflect the reality that healthy economies are vital for healthy environments and communities.”

Endorsements: Whatcom County Fire District 7 firefighters (Ferndale); Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild; LiUna Local 292 Laborers Union; the mayors of all of Whatcom Counties small cities — Ferndale, Blaine, Lynden, Everson, Nooksack and Sumas.

Website: Ben Elenbaas for County Council on Facebook.

Natalie McClendon

McClendon, 64, is co-owner with her ex-husband of Turner Photographics portrait studio and nature and garden photography; she is serving her second term on the Whatcom County Planning Commission.

Bio: She is the mother of two grown children and has lived in Bellingham and Whatcom County for more than 20 years. McClendon earned an interdisciplinary degree in environmental politics and economics, with coursework in agricultural economics, from the University of Nebraska. She was a teacher in local schools focusing on at-risk children. She has volunteered with the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, PTA, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, non-commercial community radio, her neighborhood association, and as chair of the Whatcom Democrats. She has been a treasurer and managed several local election campaigns, and ran as a Democrat for the state House in 2012, losing 54% to 46% to former Rep. Jason Overstreet.

Neighborhood: Rural Whatcom County south of Ferndale.

Funds raised: $13,093 through July 2.

Funds spent: $1,976 through July 2.

Largest contributors: Eric Hirst of Bellingham gave $550, Whatcom County Councilman Rud Browne gave $500, and Lyle Anderson of Blaine gave $500.

McClendon says: “As a grandmother, I focus every day on how I can make a better world for future generations. We must meet the challenges of climate change by transitioning to a clean energy economy while also ensuring clean water for fish, farms and families, and build shared prosperity.”

Endorsements: Sierra Club, Whatcom County Port Commissioner Bobby Briscoe, Whatcom County Councilman Todd Donovan, Lummi Indian Business Councilman Henry Cagey.

Website: NatalieMcClendon.com, Natalie McClendon for Whatcom County Council on Facebook.

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Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.