Politics Blog

Whatcom GOP stands its ground on ‘religious bigotry’ charge vs. Sidhu

If you fight negativity with negativity, are you being negative? Or is it a double negative?

Election politics is a messy cluster. Witness Luanne Van Werven vs. Satpal Sidhu for a state House seat representing north Whatcom County.

Republican Van Werven maintains that her opponent, Democrat Sidhu, is running a negative campaign while she remains positive.

Yet it was a Whatcom County Republican Party email signed by Van Werven and sent to Republicans on Thursday, Oct. 30, that fired a particularly aggressive salvo at Sidhu, charging him with using “religious bigotry” and name-calling to attack Van Werven’s character.

“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.

Van Werven was not immediately available by phone Thursday evening, when I had this story and wanted to run with it. With a nod from my editor, I went ahead with the story pending Republicans’ responses because Van Werven’s claims seemed so incendiary.

“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,” the email says.

Republicans assert that Sidhu was the one who made statements that were out of line, calling them “outrageous attacks” in the email.

Van Werven did get back to me with a brief comment, via email, this morning.

“I’m disappointed in the negativity by my opponent but I plan to finish strong and keep it focused on my positive vision for Washington State,” she said.

The heavy lifting for the GOP response to my requests for comment was from county party Chairman Charlie Crabtree, whom I also called yesterday but was unable to reach.

“Satpal says he doesn't know where the ‘anti-woman’ accusation came from? Read the email below FROM SATPAL that he sent to supporters,” Crabtree wrote this morning in an email.

This is what Crabtree provided. It had Sidhu’s signature at the bottom:

I hope that today is a restful Labor Day for you and your family. Today is a time to recognize the sacrifices working men and women have given for our country, and the importance a strong middle class is for our society. Workers build our roads and bridges, teach our children, heal our sick, and their dedication is what makes our country great.

Labor Day, too, is the first day of the rest of the election season.

For the past four months I have been running on a platform of job creation, education, and bringing common sense, practical solutions to Olympia. I hear this message resonate with voters whenever I talk with them; just like me, they are tired of partisan bickering in our legislature and want to get tangible things done in our county. However, I can’t get my message out without your support. Your donation is crucial to winning in November.

Will you contribute $100, $75, or $50 dollars to my campaign so we can continue our voter contact efforts?

It was because of your support that I was able to come out on top in my four-way competitive primary. It was because of your donation that I was able to introduce voters in our district to who I am and what I’m running on before the primary, but there are more than 25,000 more voters we need to reach out to before November.

My opponent, a 20-year political operative for the Republican Party and anti-women groups, is known for wanting to take her party even more to the right. She was open about her extreme agenda when she was running for chair of the state GOP, and after she lost that race she decided she wants to try to do the same to our district.

I want to work for our county, not my party. I will use my educational, entrepreneurial, and business experience to find practical solutions our district needs to create more jobs, protect our water, and improve our schools. Your contribution matters, and when elected it will be people I work for, not an ideology.

Please donate as much as you are able. I hope your Labor Day is joyous and restful, and I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.

The highlight is on paragraph 6: “My opponent, a 20-year political operative for the Republican Party and anti-women groups....”

As for the “religious bigotry” claim, which as Sidhu said yesterday runs completely against the stream of the Sikh philosophy, Republicans grabbed that from a post by local blogger Riley Sweeney, who gave his election endorsements on Saturday, Oct. 25.

Here was Sweeney’s offending paragraph, in the eyes of Republicans:

His opponent, Luanne Van Werven, has spent the last twenty years spending thousands of dollars of her own money trying to block gay people from getting married and women from controlling their own bodies. She is a religious zealot, and yes, I use that term very specifically. She believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, that FDR prolonged the Great Depression and that gays and lesbians are abominations in the eyes of the Lord. Vote for the guy who lives in the real world. Vote Sidhu.

From Charlie Crabtree’s email:

The attack on Luanne for her faith is primarily from the Vice Chair of the Whatcom County Democrats, an operative whom Satpal has used to not only promulgate false information about Luanne, but Satpal even quoted the Vice Chair's false information in one of his campaign mailers. That prompted a reaction and a demand for a correction from Sen. Ericksen.

He can try to distance himself, but he can't have it both ways. He can't have his campaign emails and campaign operatives making statements like this and then refusing to accept responsibility.

For Luanne's part, she has taken the high road​ this entire campaign. She has talked about the issues and her deep understanding and unique foundation for representing Whatcom County.

I couldn’t get hold of Sweeney right away this morning, but he and I have discussed this more generally. When he blogs, he has told me, he does not speak for the Democratic Party but only for himself.

*Exhale.* We’ll start to see where the chips fall Tuesday night.