Where's the political diversity?

The BBJ has come down with a bad case of election fever.


As you can see with our extra D section this month, we’ve teamed up with the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce to ask our local candidates a seemingly endless list of business and growth questions. Although a few of them groaned about the length of the questionnaire (while some of us are writers for a living, I’ve heard that there may be one or two of you out there who don’t enjoy it very much), almost everyone suffered through it and produced thoughtful answers.

Not all of the answers could be included in this issue — otherwise we wouldn’t have room to print anything else — but you can find all the answers, verbatim, on our website. I urge you to take a look before making any voting decisions.

One of the advantages to working at a newspaper is getting to talk with these folks face to face as they come into our offices and as we see them at various functions around town. Some candidates have been here for many years and are intimate with Bellingham’s political process, while others are from outside the system or the area and bring new perspectives. Some feel like they’re taking a crash course on all the issues facing Bellingham, from growth to protecting our watershed, while others are so full of details and analysis that it’s a civic lesson just talking with them. It’s always interesting to me to see the diversity in experience that candidates have.

But speaking of diversity — or lack thereof:

While all of these candidates are, I’m sure, excellent individuals, I must express my disappointment that out of 18 Bellingham City Council and mayoral candidates, only one — Louise Bjornson, an incumbent — is a woman, and all of them are white.

I’ve had several discussions about this subject in the last few months, and there seem to be some common themes emerging.

While some potential women candidates said they simply don’t have the time to run a campaign or work full time as mayor, for example, others mentioned that the political and media environment in Bellingham does not lend itself to friendly races. There is the frustrated belief that strong female candidates would not get the support of either the media or other political and business leaders. For some, the struggle is not worth it.

While this may or may not be the case, the facts speak for themselves — women and minority challengers simply did not apply. What this says about our community is up to interpretation.

At this point, there’s no need to cry over spilt milk. For those of us who would like to see more female and non-white faces in politics, however, there are always future elections. I, for one, am planning to keep a sharper eye out for potentials — people who have a flare for debate, the charisma of a strong leader and a good head on their shoulders.

To me, a healthy political system is a diverse political system. I’m hoping that next time we’ll see a little bit more variety.


Vanessa Blackburn is the editor and publisher of The Bellingham Business Journal. She can be reached at vanessa@thebellinghambusinessjournal.com.

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