Politics plays role in ‘nonpartisan’ races

Conservative Sequim group in forefront

PORT ANGELES — Political groups on the left and right are weighing in on Aug. 3 primary and Nov. 2 general election races, giving a partisan flavor to nonpartisan contests.

Among them are the Sequim-based Independent Advisory Association, whose reach stretches into Jefferson County; Clallam County Democrats, left-leaning Sequim Indivisible, the Sequim Good Governance League and, in a likely scenario, Jefferson County Democrats.

None except the Good Governance League are political action committees.

As nonpartisan contests, candidates do not state their party affiliations.

But those political leanings are still coming out in the primary.

The IAA, the most active among the bunch, bills itself as a “conservative-populist” group on its restoreclallam.com website.

“We consult and advise them throughout their campaign, mostly in the early stages,” co-principal Donnie Hall, who has helped manage the efforts of Republican candidates, said last week.

“Our people do cover a spectrum, as far as political definitions go, that is right of center,” he said.

The IAA seeks “to bring back government that empowers the people to promote prosperity and resolve societal harms by harnessing public funds in a limited, responsible manner in concert with a robust private sector,” according to its “core community values.”

It calls for “protecting society’s most vulnerable through common sense public policies.”

The IAA’s list of “our candidates” at its website includes Sequim City Council candidates Daryl Ness and Patrick Day, as well council members Keith Larkin, Sarah Kincaid and Mike Pence; Sequim School Board candidate Virginia Sheppard, and Port Townsend City Council candidate Sky Hardesty-Thompson.

Hall said he sought out candidates or they contacted the group.

Hall said he and IAA co-principal Jim McEntire, a former Republican aspirant for state representative and a candidate this year for Olympic Medical Center hospital commissioner, met with IAA-backed candidates recently and discussed their common political thread.

“We kicked around the term patriot, but we didn’t like that because it’s a national term and we’re not about national politics.”

The description they liked?

“Jim McEntire suggested ‘small p’ patriotism,” Hall recalled.

“If you are willing to consider solutions and they sound like common sense and you are willing to put hard work into advancing the community, then I’m interested.”

Asked about the IAA’s website name and what needed to be restored that was lost, Hall said the word may have been ill used.

“I definitely feel like Sequim is thriving, and let’s let it continue to thrive,” he said.

“In Port Angeles, the sentiment among people is they need to restore a sense of safety downtown,” Hall said, a theme embraced by IAA-backed Port Angeles City Council primary election candidates.

Those embracing that theme are IAA supported candidates Jena Stamper, John Madden and John W. Procter, as well as Jason Thompson — who is not affiliated with the IAA or any other group, he said. All of these have as among their top issues addressing homelessness, crime and drugs.

Thompson said the IAA candidates do not entirely share his views.

He said his key issues are affordable housing, parks and recreation improvements and small business support as well as crime. His stand on homelessness is that it is necessary to have a place for the unhoused to go, such as a high-barrier shelter space.

Hardesty-Thompson said he reached out to Hall for campaign advice with his Port Townsend City Council race.

“I would consider myself as a centrist or populist,” he said.

“I had no idea that Donnie was a conservative. “

Hardesty-Thompson’s primary-election opponents are Libby Urner Wennstrom, vice chair of Jefferson County Democrats; and Tyler Vega, a member of Jefferson County Democrats and acting vice chair of the state Progressive Party.

Wennstrom said the party is not endorsing a candidate in the primary but may after the election.

“If it’s me and there were a Republican [opponent], absolutely,” she said.

Being up front about party affiliation in a nonpartisan race “is helpful to people assessing what are the differences between the two candidates,” Wennstrom said.

Hardesty-Thompson does not identify as a Republican but is “independent at best,” he said Friday.

“I think it’s important to just focus on that and remain as nonpartisan as possible.”

The Sequim branch of the nationwide Indivisible movement, Indivisible Sequim, asks potential members, “Do you agree with the Indivisible Sequim principle that Trump’s and his enablers’ agenda is racist, misogynistic, authoritarian, and corrupt, and must be stopped?”

The group is supporting primary election candidate Rachel Tax for a Sequim School Board at-large position over Kristi Schmeck, Derek Huntington and Virginia Sheppard, and Olympic Medical Center at-large hospital commissioner candidate Heather Jeffers of Sequim over opponents Karen Rogers and Steve Blackham.

Jeffers “seems to be the genuine article for that position,” Indivisible Sequim page co-administrator Alex Fane said Friday.

“She wants to see that all health care needs can be met on the Peninsula so people don’t need to go elsewhere, and she believes the hospital should provide all services authorized by law, whatever they are.”

Jeffers was endorsed by Clallam County Democrats.

She said the IAA is grooming Republicans to take over no-party-preference offices.

“They are trying to make nonpartisan positions partisan, which I don’t agree with.”

McEntire told Jeffers in a May 25 email that he is backing her opponent.

The Port Angeles-based Committee for Common Sense City Council’s Facebook page is providing a forum for IAA candidacies and Adam Garcia.

“They introduced Stamper to us,” Hall said.

Stamper did not return a call for comment Friday.

Former Port Angeles City Council candidate Martha Ann Cunningham, the page administrator, would not comment on the group.

“It is what it is,” she said last week. “There’s nothing hidden about it.”

“Citizens want a council who has a common-sense interest in making the city safe, livable, and prosperous,” her page says.

“We would like candidates who are less interested in a political ideology and more interested in working for the above goals.”

The page recently touched on national racial issues, decrying “class-dividers” and “race-baiters”

“If you keep telling me you are in a special group because of your class or race, you are telling me you are not American,” the posting said Thursday. “We are all American-Americans. If we let Class-dividers and Race-baiters win, there will be no America.”

Another post that criticizes the city council’s support for a progressive tax structure as “not what we need,” and urges more focus on local issues.

Garcia, running in the primary against appointed incumbent LaTrisha Suggs and challenger John DeBoer, said the page helps him get the word out about his candidacy.

Procter, running against appointed Mayor Kate Dexter, said the many posts on the page that feature his photo and his message — “I would just like to see our town cleaned up,” he said Friday — are not posted by him.

“Those are the ones I put on Facebook on The Real Port Angeles [Facebook page]. I’m OK with it.”

Procter said Hall approached him about getting IAA help, and that he appreciated the assistance.

“I didn’t know what a rack card was,” he said.

“I know they’re conservative.”

The Sequim Good Governance League is supporting appointed Sequim City Council incumbent Rachel Anderson, elected incumbent Brandon Janisse, and challengers Vickie Lowe and Kathy Downer in the Nov. 2 general election.

The group registered as a Political Action Committee on June 24 and will spend funds on advertising its slate of candidates, not on direct funding to candidates, Treasurer Dale Jarvis said Saturday.

Nicole Hartman, the group’s secretary, said the League focuses on transparency and “good governance” such as open decision-making. Candidates it supports do tend to focus on favorite Democratic Party issues such as affordable housing and social services, although some lean conservative, she added.

“We’re trying to keep as nonpartisan as possible,” Hartman said.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.