Politics Blog

Whatcom political parties endorse candidates

The ballots for the Aug. 4 primary are out, and party endorsements are in.

Most but not all Whatcom County residents should get a primary ballot in the mail. Races on the summer ballot include Ferndale mayor, Port of Bellingham commissioner, County Council member and school board posts in Bellingham and Blaine.

All local seats outside of precinct committee officer are nonpartisan, but endorsements by the political parties — particularly the Democrats and Republicans — evidently have a lot of influence in the outcome of local elections. When the races are big enough, the parties’ money is a major factor, too. For an example, see the 2013 County Council races.

The Whatcom County Democrats endorsed candidates at their June meeting. Paid-up party members could vote on the endorsements, and a candidate needed to get a two-thirds vote (54 out of 83 ballots cast) to get the nod.

Here’s a rundown of who did and didn’t get the Dems’ endorsements:

▪ County executive: no endorsement. Incumbent Jack Louws was in the audience at the June 18 meeting but was not seeking the party’s support, according to Mike Estes, a former party chairman and a current precinct committee officer who voted at the meeting. Challenger Joy Gilfilen spoke to the crowd seeking the endorsement but did not get the two-thirds support she needed, Estes said.

▪ County Council District 1 (south county): Todd Donovan was endorsed. Four people seek the seat being vacated by political veteran Pete Kremen, who is retiring from public life after 31 years in various offices, including the past four on the council. Emily Weaver also sought the party’s endorsement. The two more conservative candidates, Bruce Ayers and Theresa Sygitowicz, were not present and did not go after the party’s endorsement, Estes said. This race is on the primary ballot.

▪ County Council District 2 (Lynden, northeast county): Satpal Sidhu and Kathy Kershner don’t face off on the ballot until October, but Democrats took care of business last month by endorsing Sidhu. No surprise there; Sidhu was endorsed by the Dems in his unsuccessful race against Luanne Van Werven for the state House in 2014. Sidhu is a self-described centrist who shuns political labels but he knows where his bread is buttered; he attends campaign events of other Dem-favored candidates and walks with the party in community parades.

▪ Port of Bellingham District 3 (Ferndale, northwest county): Bobby Briscoe was endorsed over current Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen and former Ferndale Council member Lloyd Zimmerman. All three had sought endorsements, former Whatcom Democratic Party Chairwoman Natalie McClendon said.

▪ Bellingham School District (Tony Wallace, Quenby Peterson, Jono Manion): no endorsement, though all three had sought endorsements, McClendon said.

▪ Ferndale City Council Position 3 (Keith Olson, Christopher Lee, Glenn Stewart): no endorsement.

▪ Ferndale City Council Position 4 (Matthew Durkee, Paul Ingram, Teresa Taylor): Taylor endorsed.

The following endorsements for city of Bellingham do no more than burnish the resumes of these candidates, four incumbents and one newcomer who are all unopposed:

▪ Mayor: Kelli Linville

▪ City Council Ward 1: April Barker (will take Jack Weiss’ seat).

▪ City Council Ward 3: Dan Hammill

▪ City Council Ward 5: Terry Bornemann

▪ City Council at-large: Roxanne Murphy

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Republican endorsements:

Whatcom Republicans also set their endorsements in June. They announced their picks on Thursday, July 16, possibly to coincide with the release of primary ballots.

I couldn’t reach party Chairman Charlie Crabtree before posting this.

The Republicans made endorsements in four races overall, three of which have primaries. The party selected two candidates on the County Council ballot, Ayers and Sygitowicz.

“Former Bellingham City Councilman and businessman Bruce Ayers is a strong candidate with extensive knowledge of the jail project and the comprehensive plan update. Theresa Sygitowicz, nurse and rancher, is also competing in this race making it a four-way primary. The central committee voted to support both of these candidates during the primary,” the Republican statement said.

Republicans liked Jon Mutchler in a five-way race for Ferndale mayor. Mutchler might have had competition for this endorsement from Carol Bersch, who along with Mutchler is both a current Ferndale Council member and a Republican.

“Also receiving unanimous support was present Ferndale City Council member and Charter Review Commission member Jon Mutchler,” the statement said, followed by some words by Crabtree: “The Whatcom Republicans couldn’t be more pleased with Jon’s choice to run for Mayor of Ferndale. We are confident he will do an excellent job for the citizens of Ferndale.”

In the Port of Bellingham race, Jensen was picked over Briscoe and Zimmerman. From Crabtree’s prepared statement: “Jensen’s business experience combined with his experience as mayor of Ferndale make him a perfect candidate for the Port of Bellingham. We couldn’t be more pleased that he is stepping into this race.”

The Republicans weighed in on one race that won’t appear until the Nov. 3 ballot, choosing former party officer Kershner over Sidhu:

“We are pleased that former County Councilwoman Kathy Kershner is again seeking election to the County Council for district two. Kathy brings strong leadership skills to the position as well as extensive knowledge about the jail project and social service programming. Kathy received a unanimous vote of support from the central committee.”

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The Whatcom Libertarians:

No endorsements yet, but the county Libertarian Party will hold a candidate forum after the primary election, county party Vice Chairman Nick Kunkel said.

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The Whatcom Greens:

The Green Party announced its primary endorsements around 5:20 p.m. on Monday, July 20 — shortly after this post was first published:

“The Green Party of Whatcom County made endorsements following the candidate Forum it hosted last week. Todd Donovan was endorsed for County Council District 1 and Quenby Peterson received the endorsement for Bellingham School District, Position 2. Both votes were unanimous.

“A straw poll completed by all attendees — party members and nonmembers alike — also showed unanimous support for Ms. Peterson. In the County Council race, Professor Donovan was tied by Emily Weaver, with Theresa Sygitowicz finishing third and Bruce Ayers finishing fourth.”

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Any updates to this information will be posted here.

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