Female representation in Whatcom County elections

Street view of the City Hall July 9, 2019. // Photo by Zachary Jimenez 

By Mia Amis

In the last four years, there have been a record number of women elected into federal offices. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 40.8% of the Washington State Legislature is comprised of women in the year 2019, which is 6.8% higher than the legislature in 2015 and 2016. 

In Washington state, there are six women on the state Supreme Court, according to the Washington State Courts website, two female U.S. Senators and 10 female U.S. Representatives, as stated by the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) website.

Shirley Van Zanten was the first women to hold office of Whatcom County Executive from 1984 until 1996. In 2012, Kelli Linville was elected as the first female mayor in Bellingham. In 2019, there are now more women vying for these offices.

The Riveters Collective is a Whatcom County based corporation that was formed through “Pantsuit Nation,” a closed Facebook group that supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Along with endorsing candidates, they assist numerous other organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the Bellingham Food Bank and Animals as Natural Therapy. 

According to their website, Riveters Collective is a nonprofit organization that focuses on endorsing candidates with diverse backgrounds, who also support progressive ideals.

“It’s a good time to be a woman in an election right now,” Towhee Wean, one of the board members for Riveters Collective, said. “I feel like it’s almost a more positive thing for a candidate to be a woman or a marginalized person.”

Riveters Collective encourages and recruits more women to run for office.

Other women running for offices in Whatcom County include Karen Burke, Kathy Kershner, Natalie McClendon, Jaime Arnett and Carol Frazey. In Bellingham, women running for offices include Pinky Vargas, April Barker, Ashanti Monts-Treviska and Hollie Huthman. These candidates are running for a variety of different positions in city and county legislature.

From the report of the CAWP website, a record breaking 102 women were elected into the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, beating the 2016 elections by 17. Five of these women were elected from Washington state. As of Dec. 31, 2018, women of color represent 6.2% of the total 7,383 state legislators.

Candidates of Whatcom County have been campaigning for the upcoming election. By 8 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2019, the election results will be official.

Carol Frazey, who is running for re-election as a County Council member, is just one of the campaigning women in the upcoming election. 

“I love the job and serving,” Frazey said. “I really take each vote to heart that it affects people.”

Frazey said one of the biggest issues facing Whatcom County is in the future generations. 

“We should be putting more focus on children zero to eight years old to help them out, financially, and to make sure they have the best start possible,” she said.

Frazey is one of the candidates the Riveters Collective have endorsed this year. 

“People are more active and interested in involvement than I’ve seen them,” Wean said. 

She explained how the Riveters Collective wants to “push in” as many different voices as they can to get a more diverse group of elected officials. 

Another endorsed candidate of the Riveters Collective is April Barker. Barker is a current council member but is giving her seat up to run for Bellingham mayor. 

“Not all managers can be leaders, but all leaders can be managers. I am a leader,” Barker said. Bellingham is “We [Bellingham] are changing… We have a unique position to harness that change and build a stronger sense of community and quality of life.”

As a substitute teacher, Barker says she has a first-hand view into the issues that are present for parents and schools. 

“It keeps me rooted,” Barker said.

While being the mayor is a full-time job, Barker recognizes she will have to put her substitute teacher career on hold if she’s elected. However, she says she still has ties with the public schools as she has two children who are enrolled in the Bellingham public school district and a husband who teaches there. 

Barker said elected officials and representatives need to do the best they can for the whole community. “Together we’ll leave a legacy future generations can believe in too,” she said.

Correction: The headline on this article was changed to correct a grammatical error on 07/12/19

A correction was made on August 2 to reflect accurate information regarding the position held by Kelli Linville as the first female mayor of Bellingham since 2012.

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