Whatcom County’s political future began to take shape on May 16, as candidates for the 42nd legislative district formally began their campaigns.
Candidates vying for state representative positions in the 42nd district will face off in the primary election on August 5. Four candidates have announced their intention to run for the Position 1 seat being vacated by Jason Overstreet, who recently announced he would not be seeking a third term.
Republican candidate Bill Knutzen officially filed for his candidacy on May 13 for the district. Knutzen previously served as Whatcom County Councilmember at-large from 2010 to 2014, until he lost to Rud Browne. He cites the experience of working with the council as a strength contributing to his campaign.
“I’ve experienced first-hand how what happens in Olympia directly affects our economy here in Whatcom County,” Knutzen said in a press release. “I and my fellow council members were often frustrated by unfunded mandates and regulatory impacts imposed on us by a legislature seemingly out of touch with the needs of local citizens.”
Fellow Republican Luane Van Werven served as the vice-chairwoman of the Washington State Republican Party. On June 2, she announced she would be stepping down to focus on her campaign for the state legislature. She served as the interim chair of the party after the resignation of Kirby Wilbur last June, but lost a bid for chairwoman to Susan Hutchison in August. A Lynden native, Van Werven has a history of rallying grassroots support behind Republican candidates.
“I have always urged others to step up and make a difference by running for office,” Van Werven said in a statement on her website. “Well, this time I am taking my own advice.”
Satpal Sidhu, the former dean of Bellingham Technical College’s school of engineering, is the sole Democratic candidate in the running. Also vying for the state seat is first-time politician Nicholas Kunkel, a 27-year-old running as a Libertarian. Kunkel has experience working in natural resource management and has served on several ecological preservation committees in Whatcom County.
In the Position 2 seat for the house of representatives, Republican incumbent Vincent Buys will face Democrat Joy Monjure, a former city councilmember from Everson. Since Monjure and Buys are the only candidates running for Position 2, they will not be included in the August primary.
Bellingham attorney Seth Fleetwood will challenge incumbent Doug Erickson for the position of state senator in the 42nd district. Fleetwood has previously spent eight years on the Whatcom County Council and four on the Bellingham City Council, and will be running as a Democrat. Erickson is currently serving his first term on the senate after spending 12 years as state representative.
The 42nd legislative district represents much of northern Whatcom County, including Blaine, Birch Bay, Point Roberts, Ferndale, Lynden and parts of Bellingham. The general election will take place on November 4.