By Steve Guntli
The dust has settled, the votes are counted and the results are largely unchanged: Republicans and incumbents won the day in the November 4 general election.
Americans voted to hand the house over to the Republicans, while simultaneously embracing liberal pet causes, like legalizing marijuana, raising the minimum wage and protecting reproductive rights for women.
Whatcom County voters reflected a lot of these same trends, opting to approve stricter gun control measures and maintain excise taxes on recreational marijuana, while Republican candidates swept the slate.
Doug Ericksen will serve a second term as district 42’s state senator, after defeating Seth Fleetwood 59 to 41 percent. In state representative races, Satpal Sidhu lost the position 1 seat to Luanne Van Werven 56 to 44 percent, and incumbent Vincent Buys cruised to a third term in position 2 over opponent Joy Monjure 58 to 42 percent.
The position of charter review commissioner is strictly nonpartisan, but results showed that candidates endorsed by political parties fared much better in the election than unendorsed candidates.
Of the 48 candidates running for seats on the commission, 22 were unendorsed by either party. Those candidates generally fared worse than their endorsed opponents, with Yvonne Goldsmith the only unendorsed candidate to win a seat.
Republicans continued to ride their momentum from election night, as county Republicans endorsed eight of the charter review commission front-runners. Of the 15 candidates likely to join the commission, only six were endorsed by Whatcom Democrats.
In district 3, which includes Blaine, Birch Bay, Point Roberts and Lummi Island, four out of five winning candidates skew conservative. Eileen Sobjack, Richard May, Goldsmith, Jon Mutchler and Wes Kentsch earned the largest percentage of the vote, with only May affiliating with the Democratic Party.
Goldsmith, though unendorsed by any particular party, has a history of supporting more conservative causes. Whatcom County Republicans president Charlie Crabtree said Goldsmith didn’t ask for an endorsement.
Elsewhere in the county, Ferndale voters rejected a one-cent gasoline tax that would raise $178,000 per year for road improvements. The measure failed 59 to 41 percent. This is the second time Ferndale voters have rejected the tax; it failed in a 1993 special election by a similar margin.
Lynden narrowly approved a $1 million bond for restroom and parking lot construction at Bender Fields, passing the measure 51 to 49 percent.
Jeffrey McClure was reelected public utility district commissioner in district 1, defeating opponent Bob Burr 59 to 41 percent.
Most judicial candidates this year were running unopposed, with only two contested races. Charles W. Johnson defeated Eddie Yoon for Washington Supreme Court Justice position 4 by a wide margin, 71 to 29 percent. For supreme court justice position 7, Debra Stephens beat John Scannell by an even wider margin, 76 to 24 percent. Mary Yu and Mary Fairhurst took the other open Supreme Court slots, and Dave MacEachran coasted unopposed to his 11th term as Whatcom County’s prosecuting attorney.
Overall, Whatcom County had a much higher voter turnout percentage than the national average. Fifty-eight percent of the county’s 127,280 voters came out for the election, while the nation itself had only 36.6 percent voter turnout. According to U.S. News and World Report, Washington state had the biggest drop in voter turnout between the last midterm election in 2010 and 2014 in the country.
True to form, Point Roberts voted overwhelmingly Democratic, a result not reflected in the rest of the county, the state and the nation.
According to Whatcom County elections office data, the majority of Point Roberts votes were cast for the Democrat candidate in every legislative race. None of those won at the county level, though Suzan DelBene handily held on to her seat in U.S. House of Representatives.
Point voters overwhelmingly supported more comprehensive background checks for firearm purchases and smaller class sizes for K-12 education.
While he didn’t earn a spot on the county’s charter review commission, local resident John Lesow certainly got the support of his community, receiving 244 votes, more than twice those cast for other candidates with the exception of Richard May and Chris Johnson, both of whom Lesow supported.
Where the Point did mirror the rest of Whatcom County was with stronger voter turnout than the national average, which will break the low-turnout record held since the 1940s. While estimates put national voter turnout at just under 37 percent, 51 percent of Whatcom County and Point Roberts voters cast a ballot.