Nick Kunkel, the Libertarian candidate for the state House seat vacated by Jason Overstreet, and Tina Sorensen, Kunkel's campaign manager and Whatcom County Libertarian Party chairwoman, sat down today (Wednesday, May 14) with this reporter to discuss their party and Kunkel's campaign.
Nick Kunkel, 27, who lives in Bellingham's Birchwood neighborhood, was like a lot of young people, i.e. disaffected with politics. He took a common route to Libertarianism -- via Ron Paul.
The presidential candidate wasn't perfect, Kunkel said, but he was "a movement in the right direction. ... That (2008 campaign) really galvanized me."
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Kunkel's work experience includes the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, working again on managing the local salmon populations.
County Libertarians have been talking about fielding candidates for public office at least since January 2013 (when they told me as much). Sorensen and Kunkel both said the time was right for a Libertarian candidate.
"People are disenchanted with the two-party system," Sorensen said.
Being a third party is like being a third wheel in Olympia. Where would a Libertarian representative caucus? Would Kunkel meet with Republicans or Democrats when it came time to discuss voting tactics?
On the one hand, Kunkel describes Libertarians "the best of both parties" -- "social liberalism and fiscal conservatism." But he distances himself considerably from what he called both parties' agendas, corruption, and buy-offs by corporate and special interests.
"I'm not going to draw party lines there," Kunkel said of his place among the House caucuses. "I'll vote as a Libertarian."
"If I join a coalition that has some agenda, how does that represent the constituents?" Kunkel said.
Kunkel said he won't take donations from corporations or special interests, so he's not likely to compete well at fundraising with Republican Party boss Luanne Van Werven, who filed today for the seat Kunkel would have. As for the free campaign tactic of volunteer doorbelling, Kunkel said he is more inclined to meet people in public than invade their privacy by coming on their properties. (That sounded fitting from a candidate whose party believes "it's about personal sovereignty," as Sorensen put it. Kunkel added, "Private property rights, beginning with one's body.")
Whatever events or methods Kunkel plans for his campaign, the candidate says either the time is right for a Libertarian to win an elected office, or it isn't.
"If your message is growing organically, you don't need to pay for it," he said.
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Bill Knutzen of Lynden is running for the same seat in the Legislature as Kunkel and Van Werven. The conservative ex-County Council member who lost to Rud Browne in the November 2013 elections sent out a press release this (Wednesday, May 14) morning.
Knutzen's press release:
Former Whatcom County Council member seeks 42nd District state House seat
Bill Knutzen, representative at large on the Whatcom County Council from 2010-2014, has announced his candidacy for the 42nd District State House seat being vacated by Jason Overstreet.
"I think my experience serving on the County Council will allow me to bring a unique perspective to the state legislature, a perspective badly needed in Olympia," Knutzen said. “I’ve experienced first-hand how what happens in Olympia directly affects our economy here in Whatcom County. During my time on the Council, I and my fellow Council members were often frustrated by unfunded mandates and regulatory impacts imposed on us by a legislature seemingly out of touch with the needs of local citizens and unsympathetic to the stresses their mandates placed on local government."
Knutzen continued: "We need representatives who understand these issues and can hit the ground running. We need less partisan bickering and more working together to solve our complex issues. There are no silver bullets, but I’ve proven I can bring people together to get things done. I can hit the ground running in Olympia to start making a difference for the people in our community."
"I’ve always been a hard worker with a servant’s heart: I’ve served children desperately needing a stable home in the Foster Care program; I’ve served our farmers by focusing efforts on policies that promote good farming in Whatcom County; and I’ve served the environment through active participation on the Puget Sound Partnership."
"My priority as Representative will be to do all I can to make the Washington State Legislature a body that is more responsive to the needs of the people it serves."
A clarification was added at 4:17 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14, and is in bold above. The idea I was trying to convey was that Nick Kunkel wouldn't compete well with Luanne Van Werven at fundraising. I wasn't talking about vote-getting. -RS