More money pours into Whatcom election coal fight
Whatcom County Democrats find themselves in an unusual position with less than a week to go before a quartet of important county council seats are decided: Party-endorsed candidates have a 3-to-2 advantage in fundraising over their more conservative opponents.
And the two sides together are on course to a million-dollar race in a county with only 205,000 people. Nothing remotely close has happened in the state’s far northwest corner, and it’s all due to coal. A race for part-time employment (council members earn $21,000 a year) has become a national news story because it could ultimately decide whether the county hosts the nation’s largest coal-export terminal.
The terminal needs approval by public agencies — notably including the Whatcom County Council — and its backers have plunged $198,500 into the races. That amounts to 55 percent of the $358,376 contributed to the four GOP-endorsed candidates: incumbents Kathy Kershner and Bill Knutzen and challengers Ben Elenbaas and Michele Luke.
The largest contributors are Cloud Peak Energy and Global Coal Sales at $50,000 apiece, $32,000 from Houston coal baron Corben Robertson and his wife, and $12,000 from SSA Marine, developer of the proposed coal terminal. Earlier in the year, SSA also sent $40,000 to the Washington Republican Party; BNSF Railway added $14,500.