The Good, the Bad, the Ridiculous
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Our local election is coming up and (no surprise here) I have an opinion or two. I don’t have enough print space to cover every contest, so I’ll mention just a few that I find especially interesting.
Whatcom County Council, At-Large Position A.
Challenger Kamal Bhachu—a Trump supporter, anti-vaxxer, and conspiracy theorist—can be a hard guy to track down. He pops up in right-wing-friendly venues, but otherwise keeps a low profile, dodging interviews and ignoring questionnaires. His campaign website is an information desert, and when he does talk to the public it’s in meaningless feel-good cliches. These methods have in recent years been a favored technique of many local ultra-conservative candidates: quietly spread the word among the true believers but keep your scarier ideas to yourself when out in in the public at large.
The incumbent, Barry Buchanan, has a long history of community involvement and has previously served on the Bellingham City Council. He has an impressive resume of accomplishments on County Council, which you can peruse on his website. His endorsements list is a Who’s Who of respected public servants and community leaders. There would be no logical reason to replace him with a guy whose modus operandi is so obvious that he might as well have “Right-wing Stealth Candidate” tattooed on his forehead.
Whatcom County Council, District 3.
Speaking of stealth, this brings us to the District 3 incumbent, Tyler Byrd. My initial exposure to Byrd was four years ago at a City Club political forum when he was making his first bid for office. Byrd flatly refused to give direct answers to questions from the audience, insisting that this would only divide and polarize us, while he wanted to bring us all together, find common ground, rise above politics—you know the shtick. After a few minutes of this, the guy sitting next to me muttered, “What a bunch of BS.” That turned out to be a pretty accurate assessment, as a survey of Byrd’s voting record reveals. He had a conservative agenda from the start, and political kumbaya moments were never part of the plan. It’s time to kick Byrd out of the nest.
His challenger, Rebecca Lewis, has some solid ideas for meeting current problems, and an important list of priorities which are available on her website. She also has wide support from an impressive array of respected public servants, extending all the way to Congresswoman Suzan DelBene and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. She would be a refreshing change.
Bellingham City Council, Ward 6.
Incumbent Michael Lilliquist has probably annoyed half the people in Bellingham by his seemingly uncontrollable need to demonstrate that he’s always the smartest guy in the room. In all fairness, he frequently is the smartest guy in the room. He’s a policy wonk who does his homework, and even when I’ve disagreed with him, I’ve had to acknowledge that he argues from the facts as he sees them, and not from emotion or ideological rigidity. Lilliquist’s voting record is, in most cases, a reflection of that of the full council, which is positioned center-left, a solid place from which to govern.
The challenger, local activist Eve Smason-Marcus, is running way to the left of Lilliquist with a campaign that is a virtual checklist of the proper progressive position on just about every issue one could possibly think of, but Smason-Marcus is a political tyro, untested in public office. In these difficult times I’m not in the mood for rolling the dice, so I think I’ll stick with Lilliquist, the wonky pragmatist.
Bellingham City Council, At Large.
More than one person has told me they are so impressed with both candidates—Kristina Michele Martens and Russ Whidbee—that they wish they could somehow vote for both of them.
I have to give the edge to Whidbee though, who has a 40-year history of community engagement and service that Martens just can’t match. Also, as a professional financial advisor, Whidbee would bring to the council a high level of financial expertise, which is not a bad thing to add to a group that oversees millions of taxpayer dollars.
An interesting sidebar: Martens and Whidbee are both African-American. Over in the city’s fourth council ward, Skip Williams, also African-American, is running unopposed. This means that the city council, which in its entire history has never had an African-American member, will now have two. Gee, do you think maybe it’s about time?