Politics Blog

Fleetwood's State Senate candidacy gets attention from state GOP

The State Senate race in Whatcom County's 42nd District is already getting attention from the Washington State Republican Party.

In a recent press release, the state party and its chairwoman, Susan Hutchison, used some strong words in attacking Democrat Seth  Fleetwood's decision to move back into the 42nd District to challenge incumbent Republican Doug Ericksen.

Among those words are "dishonestly" and "illegally." 

"Seth Fleetwood is pretending to reside in a district where he does not live and never has," Hutchison said in the press release.

In fact, Fleetwood says, he lived in the 42nd District for many years until a 2012 redistricting moved his neighborhood into the 40th District.

The Republican press release says Fleetwood "dishonestly and illegally changed his voter registration to the 42nd" when he decided to challenge Ericksen.

Fleetwood, an attorney, said his actions complied with the law.

"My legal obligation is to have a primary residence in the 42nd District at the time that I file my declaration of candidacy with the County Auditor," Fleetwood said in an email. "As I searched for a residence to move to, in late April,  I was offered a home in which to reside, in Birch Bay, and was in the process of moving there when a better opportunity to establish my primary residence presented itself closer to my work.  I have since signed a lease agreement for an address in Bellingham in the 42nd District at which I presently reside."

"I live in the 42nd District, and will continue to, and this is my right," Fleetwood said.

The legal residency requirements for legislative races are spelled out in the state Constitution. They do not appear difficult to meet.

County Auditor Debbie Adelstein said the constitution requires a legislative candidate to be registered to vote in the district within 30 days of the election -- in this case, the Aug. 5 primary.

Asked if the state GOP has any intention of mounting any kind of legal action to back up the harsh language in the press release, GOP spokesman Steve Beren replied, "The action is the press release. Nothing beyond that at this time."

Fleetwood, a former Bellingham City Council member, also served two terms as at-large representative on the Whatcom County Council.