The Whatcom County Republicans sent an email to its mailing list at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 30, accusing Democrat Satpal Sidhu of using “religious bigotry” to attack his opponent in a state House race, Republican Luanne Van Werven.
The email was signed by Van Werven:
“My opponent and his supporters have resorted to highly offensive tactics, like calling me an extremist, anti-woman and even using religious bigotry to their advantage,” the email says.
“Even though he has been unable to point out a single thing I’ve done that could be considered ‘extreme’ or ‘anti-woman,’ Mr. Sidhu and his supporters have nonetheless referred to me as a ‘religious zealot,’ clearly referencing my Christian faith and grounded beliefs.
“... This is a deplorable example of exactly why we shouldn't send my opponent and his colleagues to Olympia. They talk about tolerance and acceptance, then turn right around and attack me because of my faith.
“In fact, as a devout member of the Sikh faith, Mr. Sidhu should be the last person to condone attacking another based on their religion. This is hypocrisy in overdrive; it is disgraceful, prejudicial, and must be condemned with full force. It has no place in Whatcom County, or in Olympia.”
Van Werven and county Republican Party Chairman Charlie Crabtree could not immediately be reached for comment.
The email was a get-out-the-vote message to Republicans.
“We will win, but only if we get out the conservative vote before November 4,” the email says.
Sidhu, reached by phone, said he was “shocked” to hear the accusations.
Sidhu tried to think of moments in the campaign that Van Werven might have been referring to. His campaign has mentioned that Van Werven had denounced more moderate Republicans, such as Rob McKenna and Dino Rossi, when she ran last year for the state party chair. She told a group of conservative Republicans that she “was Tea Party before there was a Tea Party,” according to a mailer supporting Sidhu.
These could be cited to explain her accusation that Sidhu had called her “extreme,” Sidhu said.
“I said she had views to the right,” he said. But he added that what Van Werven did was misconstrue something he was saying about himself.
“I do not promote any party ideology or extreme views,” Sidhu said over the phone this evening, quoting one of his own standard campaign lines. “I said that of myself. She is inferring that I said she is extreme.”
As for “anti-woman,” Sidhu said he did not know where that came from.
“I have no idea how I would say to her, ‘She’s anti-woman.’”
But the accusation that struck Sidhu the most was that he was intolerant of Van Werven’s faith.
“I am so open, and my faith is so open,” said Sidhu, who is Sikh. “I have never brought religion into it. That is really very offensive.”
“I’ve been in 15 different churches where I have spoken about the Sikh faith, how similar we are, and how we should promote our community values,” he said.
“This is the first time in 30 years in this community somebody has said this to me.”
Sidhu said he saw Van Werven’s message as an opportunity for Republicans to bring up his status as a minority.
“People have said to me, I have heard through the grapevine, that there is talk going on that, ‘We don’t want to elect a brown guy,’” Sidhu said. “I’m sick to my stomach. But there has been talk like this in certain parts of Lynden and being spread by them (conservative Republicans).”
“There is an element out there already that is talking about me, about my color, being different. I have never made a bone about it. I am very proud of it.”
The Politics Blog will update with responses from Van Werven and/or Crabtree as soon as they are available.