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Port challengers out poll commissioners with over 60%

By On

The big loser in Tuesday’s election was the Bellingham Herald. Its influence took a tumble. It ignored the Port commissioner races in general and pointedly refused to even report the main issues of the campaigns. Not a word in the two months about Scott Walker’s funneling $180 million in low interest, tax exempt bonds to his employer, BP Refinery. Not a word about Doug Smith feathering his own nest with steel buildings for Port tenants. The Herald reporters made a deal with long time commissioners Walker and Smith - any political meeting or forum the commissioners did not attend would not be reported.

Meanwhile, our alternative voices for news and opinion spoke out on Port issues. The Cascadia Weekly reaches the most people and it has become the publication with the voice that voters look to instead of the Herald. NwCitizen’s readership includes virtually every political junkie and elected official in the county. Even conservative John Watts, on his Hamstertalk blog, spoke for change on the Port Commission - and he endorsed Blethen and McAuley - the two winning challengers in the 1st and 2nd Districts.

Even with Wednesdays headlines, the Herald acted like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Their headline blared that Lilliquist would be in the general election - a race that involved 1/12th of the voters. And those of us in Bellinghams 6th Ward knew he would be in; the whole issue was who would be his opponent and we won’t know that until further counts later this month. The Herald just could not print the obvious headline “Blethen out-polls Walker” or “Port challengers out-poll commissioners”. It was as if they were choking on the obvious headlines and stories in the newsroom Tuesday evening.

Blethen and Hayes were at the courthouse Tuesday evening when the results came out at 8:25 - fully 20 minutes earlier than expected. So were a small group of supporters for Port reform - those for any of the four challengers. So was KGMI radio. But no Herald reporter - and no Herald photographer. Thus we got the goofy front page picture that never should have made it to print. I spent years as a daily newspaper photographer and know well what makes the grade.

One more poke at the Herald. They have been unable to get some basic facts correct. They still list Scott Walker as having been a commissioner for 14 years, whereas he was elected in 1991 and has actually been in office for 18 years. This has been repeated in Herald stories for weeks. The Herald has many facts wrong - but so what?

All four Port challengers pledged support to the winners before the results were known Tuesday evening. All of us who have pressed for Port Reform are committed to working for John Blethen and Mike McAuley in the general election. Indeed, we had four very qualified candidates. We are delighted with the results. Blethen, as of now, has 51% of the total vote to Walker’s 36% - an unprecedented accomplishment for a Port challenger. In both races the challengers garnered landslide margins of over 60% of the primary votes - showing strong support for Port Reform by the voters.

How did it happen? First, the current commissioners have really been arrogant and have ignored the concerns of many responsible citizens. But that has been the case in other election years. What made the difference this time was we managed to get two primary campaigns and get traction on issues. Four years ago, only Tip Johnson ran against Scott Walker and Doug Smith ran unopposed. Tip made an excellent case against Walker - but the Herald ignored him, and Walker ignored him and the issues - instead spending huge amounts of money in late October on mailings and media. This year we knew we needed two primaries to get traction on the issues. The challengers got support from the alternative media. We only dared hope the challengers would garner 50% of the votes. Wow.

What next? If we citizens want to convert this temporary win in the primary election into a permanent improvement at our Port in November, we need to unite behind both Blethen and McAuley and stick with them till November. Time to roll up our sleeves and get to work for Port Reform.

About John Servais

Posting Citizen Journalist • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Craig Mayberry

Aug 20, 2009

I would like to personally thank Doug Karlberg and Ham Hayes for running.  It was a difficult race to enter and came at much sacrifice, but your tone set the stage for the upcoming debate.  Hopefully the results of the primary carry over to the general election and we get some new blood in the port commission.

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