The Gristle

The Divisions Between Us

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

THE DIVISIONS BETWEEN US: With margins continuing to narrow and automatic recounts in last week’s election assured as supporters for all candidates chase remaining ballots that were unsigned or improperly submitted or otherwise spoiled, the takeaway lesson for Whatcom County is (once again) every vote matters. Voter turnout in this county in this nonpresidential election year was a whopping 76 percent, one of the highest in the state and certainly the highest among the most populous counties in the Puget Sound region. Despite that turnout (or more likely because of it), just 72 votes separate incumbent Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen from his challenger, Democrat Pinky Vargas in recent counts. Outcomes in the lower House races are only slightly more firm, with remaining uncounted ballots unlikely to flip those results.

While it was certainly a partisan election, results tantalizingly suggest other forces at work as well.

In an election characterized as the Year of the Woman—with record numbers of women and women of color filing for office—some portion of local voters responded to that, marking down their ballot with that preference, without regard for affiliation by political party. Sharon Shewmake was an excellent candidate in every aspect and campaigned powerfully against incumbent Rep. Vincent Buys. But something else in parallel was at work to explain the performance of the senior House member Buys in comparison to that of his colleague, Rep. Luanne Van Werven. Republican Buys received about 500 votes fewer overall than Republican Van Werven against her opponent, Justin Boneau, while Buys’ race generated more votes overall than Van Werven’s.

Differences in preference across the chasm of the rural/urban divide were also tremendous, as they’ve been in every recent election.

Bellingham voters strongly preferred Pinky Vargas over Doug Ericksen in the 42nd Legislative District. She gathered nearly 73 percent of the vote in those precincts. Sharon Shewmake performed similarly well, earning 74 percent and a majority in all but one of Bellingham’s 31 precincts that fall in the division of the 42nd LD.

“It’s nice to finally have a representative of Whatcom County’s largest population center back representing Bellingham in Olympia,” Mayor Kelli Linville commented on Shewmake’s apparent victory over Buys. Buys had defeated Linville when she was a state representative in the ferment of Tea Party upset in the midterm elections of 2010, bringing the revolution full circle.

Bellingham voters also had fewer problems overall in comparison to county voters and those across the state on the notion of taxing themselves to achieve beneficial policy results.

The Bellingham Low-Income Housing Levy, an extension of the 2012 Home Fund, passed powerfully at nearly 67 percent. The fund to address issues of housing insecurity for lower incomes passed in all but four of Bellingham precincts.

The city bucked state trends as well.

While a citizen’s initiative to price carbon pollution failed by 56.4 percent in statewide totals, Bellingham voters supported the carbon tax Initiative 1631 by an aggregate of 67 percent in all but a handful of precincts.

Bellingham voters rejected what was easily the most cynical measure on the Washington ballot, a saccharine effort financed by the sugary drink industry to forestall a soda tax. Initiative 1634 does nothing to unwind a current tax on soft drinks in Seattle, but prevents other cities in Washington from considering similar economic incentives against the consumption of unhealthy foods. The soda industry spent more than $22.1 million to crush an effort that no other city in Washington was even contemplating or proposing.

While their scheme worked and Washington voters supported I-1634 by 55.4 percent, Bellingham voters held a different view and rejected the measure by 60 percent.

Bellingham voters did find themselves in alignment with county voters and those across the state on other non-pocketbook initiatives to curb gun violence and hold police accountable in shooting events.

The latter measure, Initiative 940, passed by a sizable margin across the state. In Bellingham, I-940 saw overwhelming support, where city police already undergo de-escalation training and trauma counseling similar to that proposed in the measure.

Undoubtedly, legislators in Olympia will have sufficient support next session to perform a supermajority override on certain known deficiencies of I-940 that were addressed in their own bill—ESHB 3003—that was placed on hold by the courts pending the outcome of the election. The changes approved and memorialized in ESHB 3003 last spring have met the approval of both law enforcement professionals and the original sponsors of Initiative 940.

As the Gristle alluded to earlier, Bellingham voters seem to have fewer issues overall with the challenges and demands of life within populated urban areas than (understandably) do their rural counterparts, who more strenuously resist matters of regulation and taxation. The urban/rural divide is very likely a more durable, measurable division than even party affiliation—particularly as more and more independent voters reject the dysfunctional squabbling of organized Democrats and Republicans as insufficient to address the real problems at center of American life.

There’s another facet of the urban/rural divide that deserves recognition, however, and that is it is simply easier to canvass and knock on doors neighborhood-by-neighborhood in a city than is possible mile-by-mile in the county.

While candidates and activists did an extraordinary job in this election of “getting out the vote” in remote areas that typically don’t see canvassing efforts, the simple fact is doors get knocked on more often in Bellingham and voters hear appeals in a much more personal way. GOTV is cited as the single most effective instrument in an election, and the dividend it pays is a more progressive outlook where every vote matters.

FCC Advent
Past Columns
Paradigms in Collision

November 28, 2018

Leftover Turkey

November 21, 2018

The Map is the Territory

November 7, 2018

Climate Kids

October 31, 2018

What The Market Won’t Bear

October 24, 2018

As Above, So Below

October 17, 2018

As Below, So Above

October 10, 2018

A Civil Disagreement

October 3, 2018

Zombie Pipeline

September 26, 2018

Too Little, Too Late

September 19, 2018

Open Secret Disclosed

September 12, 2018

Consent of the Governed

September 5, 2018

Let the People Decide

August 29, 2018

3-in-1 Oil

August 22, 2018

A Deeper Dive

August 15, 2018

Blue Wave Stalls Offshore

August 8, 2018

Mountains of Our Efforts

August 1, 2018

Vote

July 25, 2018

Events
Today
The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Winter Wear Drive

11:00am|Upper Skagit Library

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

MVHS Holiday Concert

7:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Birding Adventures

9:00am|Skagit Valley

Valley Crafters Holiday Bazaar

10:00am|Deming Presbyterian Church

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers

10:00am

Gifts from Our Gardens

12:00pm|Healthy Connections Room

 BHS Showstoppers

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

English Country Dancing

1:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

The Best Bad Things

7:00pm|Village Books

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Spanish Brass Christmas Concert

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Astronomy Meeting

7:00pm|Whatcom Educational Credit Union

History Holiday Open Mic

7:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Noel Noir

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Annie

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

2018 Gift Guide
Tomorrow
The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Winter Wear Drive

11:00am|Upper Skagit Library

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Birding Adventures

9:00am|Skagit Valley

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers

10:00am

Valley Crafters Holiday Bazaar

10:00am|Deming Presbyterian Church

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Noel Noir

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Annie

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Wild Things

9:30am|Connelly Creek Nature Area

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am|Sunset Square

Hot Cider and Cool Art

10:00am|Morgan Block Studios

Story Time with the Grinch

4:00pm|Village Books

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Drayton Harbor Shell-abration

4:00pm|G Street Plaza

Tasting and Tour of Lights

5:00pm|Eagle Haven Winery

Saving Christmas Town

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Dances of Universal Peace

7:00pm|Center for Spiritual Living

Reeb Willms and Caleb Klauder

7:00pm|YWCA Ballroom

A Charlie Brown Christmas

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

Eager Beaver

7:00pm|Village Books

Northwest Ballet Theater presents The Nutcracker

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

My Three Ghosts, LOL-apalooza

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

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Saturday
The Giving Tree

10:00am|Village Books

Winter Wear Drive

11:00am|Upper Skagit Library

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Birding Adventures

9:00am|Skagit Valley

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Valley Crafters Holiday Bazaar

10:00am|Deming Presbyterian Church

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers

10:00am

Miracle Pop-Up Holiday Cocktail Bar

4:00pm|Swim Club

Noel Noir

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Annie

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

A Christmas Carol

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Pacific Arts Market

10:00am|Sunset Square

Hot Cider and Cool Art

10:00am|Morgan Block Studios

Story Time with the Grinch

4:00pm|Village Books

Tasting and Tour of Lights

5:00pm|Eagle Haven Winery

Saving Christmas Town

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

A Charlie Brown Christmas

7:00pm|Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth

My Three Ghosts, LOL-apalooza

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Northwest Ballet Theater presents The Nutcracker

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Coast Salish Winter Festival

9:00am|Lummi Gateway Center

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Bellingham Childcare and Learning Center

Breakfast with Santa

9:00am|Eaglemont Golf Course

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am| Depot Market Square

Gingerbread Houses

10:00am|Semiahmoo Resort

Holiday Craft Bazaar

11:00am|Deming Library

Mostly Magic with John Walton

11:00am|MBT's Walton Theater

Sleighbells RIng

12:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Fairhaven Winterfest

12:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Seasonal Side Dishes

1:00pm|Chuckanut Center

Arts and Ales Holiday Market

2:00pm|Aslan Depot

Port Tasting

2:00pm|Siefert & Jones Wine Merchants

Bellingham Community Chorus Holiday Concerts

2:00pm|St. James Presbyterian Church

Comet Sense Signing and Talk

2:00pm|Studio UFO

Altai Kai workshop and concert

2:00pm|Alternative Library

Noel Ensemble

3:00pm|Jansen Art Center

Bowman Bay Holiday

4:00pm|Bowman Bay

Firehouse Holiday Party

5:00pm|Firehouse Arts and Events Center

Tamale Dinner Fundraiser

6:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Vaudevillingham

7:00pm|Cirque Lab

A Holiday Wish for Paco

7:00pm|Blaine Performing Arts Center

Blue Adobe Comedy

7:00pm|Blue Adobe Bar

see our complete calendar »

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