The Gristle

The Fury and the Folly

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

THE FURY AND THE FOLLY: Another healthy turnout for a contested primary election, with results again drawn along partisan lines even in local races that are ostensibly and declaratively nonpartisan.

Quick takes: Kathy Kershner appears destined to strongly reclaim her seat on Whatcom County Council. Satpal Sidhu seems on track to become the next Whatcom County Executive. And Seth Fleetwood may see his boyhood dream come true as Mayor of Bellingham. Bellingham City Council is going to welcome in a new generation of members—very exciting. And Whatcom’s Coastal District 5 continues to offer this season’s most mysterious and hard-to-call political dynamic.

Statewide, this is the first contest in which all aspects of recent state election reform were in play—automatic voter registration, same-day registration, vote-by-mail, postage-paid returns.

Winners. And losers—but one loser moving into the fall is the lost robust discussion of how to govern, how best to establish responsible policy, in a strongly paralyzed political ferment where one side denies the legitimacy of governance and policy, full stop. It’s like developing a parenting plan where the father angrily denies he is a parent at all.

Another iron law of politics:

Those who lean Republican vote more dependably and more frequently than those who lean Democrat, and their votes have to go somewhere, to some candidate in support of whom they’re by default fiercely united. This is the essential conundrum and folly—the kryptonite—of the Democrats’ new passion for contested primaries.

The state’s Top-Two primary is like using a hammer to repair window glass for a more transparent representative democracy—the astonishingly wrong tool to use on the stated goal. It cannot work—by design it cannot.

Contested primaries increase voter interest and participation in elections overall—but contested primaries do not mesh well or play nice with the state’s aggressive Top-Two, which rewards unified politics on the right while punishing fractious politics on the left.

You cannot move political discussions to the left while the right holds enormous power to grapple that discussion and drag it back into their hemisphere.

The folly is on vivid display in the 40th Legislative District, where two breathtakingly excellent Democrats raised and spent $100,000 hammering at one another for a seat up for election again in just 12 months. You could not slide a wisp of paper between Sen. Liz Lovelett and Carrie Blackwood in their values, or the issues these progressive Democrats will champion and the votes they will deliver in Olympia next session.

This is a district uniquely suited and primed to welcome a robust debate among liberals. Over the past several election cycles, this district has gone 67 percent to the Democrats. But split among three Democrats, even that abundance is barely sufficient. Because the remaining third has to go somewhere.

In election night returns, it appears that the two best qualified Democrats may (barely) hold enough surfeit of votes between them that both will indeed continue on into the general election. But realize: Only a district with this superabundance of D votes could have eked out this result.

Because Republican votes must go somewhere, a mere handful of votes in future counts (with many thousands of ballots still out) could pit Liz Lovelett against a Republican who has literally wondered aloud whether jet contrail water-vapor contains mind-altering chemicals—tin-foil hat stuff.

Contested primaries clash the best and brightest in heated exchange on the Left only to produce a final fizzle against the inept, the venal, the crazed and the unsuited on the Right—Orpheus versus oatmeal. Because Republican votes must go somewhere.

The Gristle’s sour projection of election results based on candidate filings in May appears eerily on track to November—the top vote-getters for the position of county CEO will likely be reversed in the fall as the coalition of votes for progressives stack together and build on one another in the general election. Tony Larson got a large portion of his support from the persistent bloc of voters angry at the government and all its products—but they’re not the majority of all voters. They’re about 38 percent of the overall county, concentrated in districts like Kershner’s.

Something similar may unfold in District 5, where progressive votes will gather strength in unison in November.

Outcomes are more dynamic in the City of Bellingham. Seth Fleetwood strongly outperformed all other contenders, and likely progressive votes will continue to collect in Seth’s favor in the general election this fall.

We’re not sure what the answer is for a more representative political dynamic in elections outside Bellingham.

An alternative balloting concept where voters rank their candidate choices is intriguing, but fraught with its own potential for calamitous consequences—including a recipe ripe for mischief as spiteful blocs of voters rank the weakest of opposition candidates as their second favorite choice, thereby denying the opposition’s first, best choice a chance in office. Their votes have to go somewhere, to serve some purpose—even a spoiling purpose.

Likely, though, ranked choice is an improvement in shaving down the most perverse aspects of local nonpartisan elections, ensuring campaign messaging is less predictable and ballot outcomes are less assured. And our politics (given the investment building around them) are surely in need of improvement.

Past Columns
Ground Zero

August 21, 2019

Fire and Frost

August 14, 2019

Due East II

July 31, 2019

The Real Social Network

July 17, 2019

Due East

July 3, 2019

Thin Green Line

June 26, 2019

A Journeyman’s Journey

June 12, 2019

Her Story

June 5, 2019

Do Overs

May 29, 2019

E Pluribus Unum

May 15, 2019

The Millworks

May 8, 2019

State of the County

May 1, 2019

A Change in Climate

April 24, 2019

The Raucous Caucus

April 17, 2019

Dragged

April 10, 2019

Edge City

April 3, 2019

Fixing the Fix

March 27, 2019

Events
Today
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

An Iliad

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Dynamic Duos

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Fidalgo Bay Day

9:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

Lake Whatcom Park Trail Build

9:00am|Lake Whatcom Park

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Concrete Saturday Market

9:00am|Concrete Community Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market2333

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

The art of arrangement

10:00am

The Flower Festival

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Airfest

10:30am|Bellingham International Airport

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sumi Fun for All Ages

1:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Summer Jazz Combo

2:00pm|Jansen Art Center

The Poetic Apothecary with Judith Adams

3:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Summer Fun in the Park

4:00pm|Blaine's Marine Park

Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust Band

5:30pm|Heart of Anacortes

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Lummi Island Crabfest Dinner

6:00pm|Lummi Island Grange Hall

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Tomorrow
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Community Free Market

11:00am|Flora Street

Dog Days of Summer

11:00am|Whatcom Humane Society

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Big Band Bonanza

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Summerfest

1:00pm| Josh Vander Yacht Memorial Park

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

International Concerts on the Border

2:00pm|Radost Folk Ensemble

Monday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Bark Week

12:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Camp Korey Classic Golf Tournament

12:00pm|Eaglemont Golf Course

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »