Incumbent Larry Helm won a second three-year term on the Whatcom Conservation District, according to an unofficial count released today, Monday, March 16, by the district.
The race was close. Helm, a Republican precinct committee officer who had the backing of his party, defeated the Democrats’ preferred candidate, Joy Monjure. Helm had 2,053 votes (51.1 percent), and Monjure had 1,964 (48.9 percent). Another 265 ballots were invalid, according to a district press release.
The Conservation District received more ballots in this race than any other — almost three times as many. This year, the obscure district election became yet another opportunity for the ever-competitive county Republicans and Democrats to face off. Helm, a cattleman, is a conservative who said in a campaign statement that government regulations interfere with the business of farming. Monjure, who farms her rural property and runs a farm market, emphasized protecting habitat and water quality.
The district offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers conserve natural resources, particularly water quality in the streams that run through their land.
The ballot count will remain unofficial until certified on May 21 by the Washington State Conservation Commission. This countywide election is different in an essential way: It is run by the district itself, on practically no budget, rather than the county Auditor’s Office, which exists in part to supervise most county elections. People on both sides of this year’s election said before Election Day, on March 10, that the district election process is “defective” (Monjure’s word) and needs to be improved.
If the auditor were to take over this election, county Republican Chairman Charlie Crabtree said, the election would be better publicized.
“I’m all for this election going through the Auditor’s Office,” Crabtree said.