From a Political Junkie: Whatcom Democrats Endorsement Meeting

Riley Sweeney reports from the June Endorsement Meeting of the Whatcom Democrats

Riley Sweeney reports from the June Endorsement Meeting of the Whatcom Democrats

• Topics: Elections,

You should really read this on my native site, The Political Junkie, because I have embeded a great many pictures from the night. Check it out please here

Hello Loyal Readers,

It was a long night for Riley Sweeney, the Political Junkie, but here is the full report of the Dems endorsement meeting. It is going to be a very long article, and although I have peppered it with pictures, it still is a long article so you might want to consume it in bite-size chunks.

As you may know, the event was held at Norway Hall, which fits 200 people comfortably. Luckily, we weren't too concerned with being comfortable because it was PACKED. The dinner held before the meeting drew tons of people (we ran out of food!) and was a huge hit.

     We opened with the usual pledge of alliagence, and the approval of the Agenda. Before we could approve the Agenda, Dan McShane stood up and moved to suspend the rules so that David Stalheim's name could be added to the ballot. For further discussion of why this was necessary, read the excellent post on Latte Republic. Short version, David Stalheim is a federal employee, which means he cannot ask for a partisan endorsement, but it does not bar the Whatcom Democrats from giving him their endorsement (which is their right under the first amendment). So Dan McShane asked that we suspend the rules, it required a 2/3rds majority vote and easily passed. After David Stalheim's name was added to the ballot, we proceeded.

Steve Schuck, our membership chair and fantastic organizational guru, gave a brief report on the fantastic numbers of people who joined the party in the last month (over 100 new members) the swelling ranks of Whatcom Democrats (over 800) and the hundreds of people in the room right now (just over 300 people).  After that, we launched right into the candidate speeches. He closed his speech with the line, "When Democrats win, everyone benefits." Doug Ericksen, who was sitting in the front row, looked vaguely queesy at this line.

County Executive Race

Doug Ericksen had asked for our endorsement, and as such, we gave him three minutes to make his case. He talked at a very rapid pace, looking out on the crowd nervously. Someone heckled at the back but was quickly shushed. The oddest moment was when Ericksen didn't move the microphone close to his mouth before talking and someone said "LOUDER!" in the back so he fiddled with itbefore saying "Something's wrong, has Shane been playing with the Microphone" Yes, Doug Ericksen, threatening a local citizen journalist with arrest is always hilarious to joke about. He talked about the need for heavy industrial at Cherry Point and how he looks forward to working with SSA to making that happen, but he would not be writing them a blank check. He talked about the EMS system, and how our current system is just fine and we should keep it.

   By comparison, Tom Anderson presented an uneven plodding candidate statement. Clearly an engineer rather than a public speaker. He said, "Running for office is not an evening or weekend project, I'm in this to win." He laid out his priorities, stressing the need for early and frequent public involvement.

Dan McShane took to the stage after that to speak in favor of David Stalheim. "Although my time on the council only overlapped with David's for a month, I can tell you he is the best Planning director we ever had." He made the point that Stalheim could connect with the other cities in Whatcom. "I hear people talking about how if we can just fix the county, things would be better. Well, he can’t fix the county in everyway but he would bring the county together with the cities to work for economic development . . . and clean drinking water."

County Sheriff

After that, we moved right into the Sheriff's race. First on the stage, Bill Elfo, our current Sheriff. After citing his Whatcom Democrats endorsement from 2007, he rattled off a whole series of numbers showing declining crime rates, and then introduced his main focus if he was re-elected: Gangs. That's right. Tracking down and eliminating the leadership of local gangs.

By comparison, Steve Harris delivered a fiery speech, "I’ll go beyond vague promises, and political pandering. We need a downtown urban jail, near social services with 500 beds or less. If it is full, I would stop arresting non-violent offender and look for alternative solutions to incarcerations." He talked about his work as a labor leader (he is the former president of the Deputy's guild). When a questioner pressed him on the guild's previous endorsement of various Republicans (including noted Domestic Violence Supporter,Kathy Kershner) he responded that the Guild is democratic, they vote on who to endorse, just like the Whatcom Democrats. He then cited their endorsement of Al Jensen last year, and noted he attends both events.

However, Bill Elfo was asked the question, "Have you given any money to the Republican Party?" and he said "I am not a member of the Republican party, I work with leaders on both sides and attend both events." Unfortunately this dodges the question, because Bill Elfo has a history of giving money to the Republican party locally. In the past seven years, he has given $690 to the Whatcom County Republicans and precisely $0 to the Whatcom Democrats. You can find that information here on the PDC website.

County Auditor

J Lynne Walker spoke asking for the endorsement. She was excited, almost giggly as she lurched through her speech. Talking about the delight in public service she found working as Kelli Linville's legislative aide, and the joys of serving the previous mayor of Bellingham. Her focus is in energizing people to be active in the processes. Urging skeptics to take tours of the ballot process and getting citizens off the bench on election integrity.

Tim Douglas stood up to tell everyone the Debbie Adelstein, who was in the room, by the way, did not believe in asking for or receiving partisan endorsements. J Lynne Walker responded that she was asking EVERYONE for their endorsements: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Green Party. Everyone.

Mayor of Bellingham

     Kelli Linville lead off with talking about her involvement in the party, serving as a representative in the 42nd. "I represented a very difficult district with a D behind my name, because I ran on Democratic principles." But she noted, there is a silver lining to every lost election and she looks forward to serving as the mayor. For the purposes of the endorsement, she said, it was clear that "both her and Dan were Democrats."

     Dan Pike spoke first about all the people he wanted to thank. "I want to thank myloving family, my campaign manager Isabel Vanderslice, thanks to the PCO's as the front lines and thank you to all of you showed up tonight." He said that any party endorsement should be decided on three things. Do you do the job well? Do you deliver on the party platform and do you ethically help fellow Democrats to get elected? "Bellingham is one of the best run cities in Washington," he said. "Our residents feel prouder today of our community than they did four years ago." He talked about his efforts to get Peter Goldmark elected in 2008, as well as Gregoire and Kelli Linville when she was running for reelection.

     Someone asked about the unpleasant exchange that the city had with the county. Dan Pike said, basically, that the County agreed with the substance of the letter and that was a good thing. Kelli Linville responded that she would not have sent a letter like that to the state without first talking it over with the county and finding some common ground.

Bellingham City Council, Ward 3 

  Cathy Lehman crackled with energy when she stepped onto the stage. She was bursting with energy. "Transportation costs take up 30% of the average budget, that is incredible. We need to bring that down." Her key focus is revitalizing our Urban Core. "We need to be helping entrepreneurs to green their businesses while still remaining profitable."

    Barry Buchanan started out that "This is a political party but this is also a PARTY!" and consequently winning my favorite quote of the night award. He toted his endorsements, "I have been endorsed by all four labor unions that represent the city of Bellingham. All unanimous endorsements." He is eager to restore EMS programs. He finished his speech with a brief nod to his wife, as it was their 38th wedding anniversary.

The Whatcom Democrats collected all the ballots for these races and began tabulating.

The end results were these:

No endorsement in the County Executive race although the vast majority of votes went to David Stalheim, he did not clinch the necessary 2/3rds majority. Also, two dues paying Democrats voted for Doug Ericksen. I will hunt them down and poke them with a stick, this I vow.

In the Sheriff's race, 50% of those voting cast their ballot for Steve Harris, while 62% voted for Bill Elfo, meaning yes, about %12 voted for both candidates for endorsement. When I talked to Elfo after the results were announced he seemed a little brisk. Last election, he swooped up the Dems endorsement with little fuss, and to have Steve Harris hold him to a draw must be a little concerning.

In the County Auditor's office, we ENDORSED J. Lynne Walker to be our next County Auditor. Congrats.

In the Mayor of Bellingham race, Dan Pike piked up 64% while Kelli Linville clocked in at 49%, meaning she might have a bit of an uphill climb for this race, or Dan Pike did a good job of mobilizing his supporters.

In the City Council race, Ward 3, we ENDORSED Cathy Lehman. This was shocking for a number of reasons. First, it was a testiment to Cathy's campaign to be able to whip so many votes, but also to see Barry Buchanan, a former chair of the party, officially denied any representation at party election functions is strange to say the least. 

There was a lot more that happened, but as we are clocking in at just shy of 2,000 words, you will have to wait till tomorrow afternoon for the rest of the details.

About Riley Sweeney

Citizen Journalist • Member since Aug 10, 2009

Riley Sweeney, raised in the Pacific Northwest, moved to Bellingham during the Bush years, worked on a cross-section of political campaigns during the Obama years, and then fled to the [...]

Comments by Readers

Gene Knutson

Jun 17, 2011


Great job of keeping us all informed. For us early to bed crowd it is great to wake up and have results. You Da Man!!!


Riley Sweeney

Jun 17, 2011

You are most welcome! Thank you for reading!


Paul deArmond

Jun 17, 2011

Not really any surprises here. 

Too bad about the County Exec race.  It’s pretty much a Republican prize at this point.  The Dems have once again split their support and ended up with a big handful of nothing.

J. Lynn got the endorsement because 1) she asked for it and 2) she deserves it.  Any explanation for Douglas acting as Adelstein’s beard?

Pike has been steadily eroding his support.  Linville has a lot of markers to collect from the Dems, more than Pike.  But the Dems are loathe to unseat incumbents they have supported in the past.  I’ve frequently heard them say things like “Democrats don’t run against Democrats,” meaning incumbency is a coronation.

The interesting thing in the Bellingham Mayor’s race is the complete reversal of Pike’s base of support from when he was elected as the “anybody but McShane” candidate.  Now he is posturing mightily over the Gateway Pacific Terminal.  Somehow he’s switched sides from being backed by the conservative/labor wing of the Dems to embracing the enviro/progressives.  Hopefully, his new supporters will get more out of him than the supporters who initially supported him.  It’s a faint hope, however, since Pike has delivered little but posturing in his entire term.

Lehman’s endorsement is a pretty telling evaluation of Buchanan’s performance on the council.

All in all, par for the course with the Dems.  At least they avoided those embarrassing dual endorsements that advertised their inability to deliver votes as an organization.  They excel in their marksmanship when formed into a circular firing squad, even if they do choose sides so well in their own circle.

The whole secret to understanding the Democrat’s endorsement process is that it is entirely internal.  The important thing is who is denied an endorsement.  This is because the party has a terrible track record of actually delivering votes for candidates.

OK, Reily.  That was the easy part.  Now let’s see you cover the Republicans’ endorsements.  You may need night vision goggles, since there’s little daylight let into that process.


Riley Sweeney

Jun 19, 2011

I would LOVE to cover the Whatcom Republican’s endorsement process some day, but I would need to seriously improve my relations with the local party before I would merit an invitation to that get-together.

To comment, Log In or Register