Bellingham City Council candidate Eric Bostrom, best known for his signs condemning the LGBTQ+ community, has received $300 from the Whatcom County Republican Party, inciting concern from local officials and community members. Bostrom is running for the Bellingham City Council at-large position.
Bostrom has frequented both Red Square and downtown Bellingham. A June 23 Facebook post featured Bostrom holding one of his typical signs reading “Fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, God will judge.”
Bellingham City Council President Michael Lilliquist said the Whatcom Republicans’ decision to fund Bostrom is concerning.
“I can’t help but think that the local Republicans are making a mistake,” Lilliquist said in an email. “Either the local Republican party does not know Mr. Bostrom’s history as an inflammatory, hostile kind of Christian protester, in which case party leaders need to do their homework before they act; or they do know about his past, in which case they have aligned themselves with a nasty kind of extremism that most Americans reject.”
“I can’t help but think that the local Republicans are making a mistake. Either the local Republican party does not know Mr. Bostrom’s history as an inflammatory, hostile kind of Christian protester, in which case party leaders need to do their homework before they act; or they do know about his past, in which case they have aligned themselves with a nasty kind of extremism that most Americans reject.”
Michael Lilliquist, Bellingham City Council President
Whatcom County Republican vice chair Karl Uppiano sent a statement regarding their funding decision in an email.
“Our decisions to support candidates are geared towards encouraging tolerance for diverse opinions, and giving voters some alternatives,” Uppiano said.
In an emailed statement, the Bellingham Racial Justice Coalition criticized the Whatcom Republicans’ funding of Bostrom’s campaign.
“To support such views misconstrues the right of all people in the U.S. to freedom of expression, and coopts the meaning of diversity. The public overwhelmingly hears the views of the wealthy, like the Republican Party, over the voices of people of color, the poor and other marginalized people,” the email said. “True freedom of expression is when we respect marginalized people, by not silencing them and not supporting racist, bigoted viewpoints that threaten and suppress marginalized voices. The Republican Party’s support of Bostrom is another action in suppressing and silencing marginalized voices in our community.”
In an October 2015 Facebook post, Bostrom posted a picture stating “MORE MUSLIM MALES = MORE RAPES,” saying people’s daughters were in jeopardy.
The Whatcom Republicans posted a statement on their website on July 15 about who they are supporting for the 2017 primary elections. They identify Bostrom as the city council member at-large candidate to support because he represents the values of the Whatcom Republicans. When asked what values they are referring to, Uppiano declined to elaborate further.
Bostrom said his street preaching on campus and downtown, will be separate from his campaign for the two-term nonpartisan position.
“When you work for the city council, you’re working for the city,” Bostrom said. “I’m not there on the city council to preach to people and describe who goes to hell and who doesn’t, this is idiotic. I am there to help the city solve their problems.”
Bostrom also compared his campaign for Bellingham City Council to that of a black man running for office in the South during the ‘60s.
Rev. David Weasley, youth pastor at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, questioned how Bostrom would separate his theology from his politics in the role of city council member.
“I wonder about what it would be like for him if an issue came up where his theology was in conflict with his duty as a city council member,” Weasley said. “Looking at some of his campaign interactions, like on their Facebook page, who knows how representative that is, I saw a stated willingness to engage in issues but I’m not sure how well they were hearing folks’ actual concerns.”
“When you work for the city council, you’re working for the city. I’m not there on the city council to preach to people and describe who goes to hell and who doesn’t, this is idiotic. I am there to help the city solve their problems.”
At the Bellingham City Council meeting on February 13, Bostrom spoke against sanctuary cities during public comment period. He held a sign reading “illegal=ILLEGAL=NOT LEGAL NOT GOOD.” He also said that Trump supporters should be included in a resolution passed by the city affirming commitment to marginalized peoples.
Bostrom identifies himself as a Republican and is affiliated with the party. He was elected as the Republican precinct committee officer for the 225th Precinct in Aug. 2016.
“I am a Republican precinct officer, which is an elected position, it’s not a real big deal, but I was elected on the ballot last August and I won in the precinct that I live in,” Bostrom said.
An affiliated group, Republican Women of Whatcom County President Gail Pappacostas declined to comment on the Whatcom Republican’s contribution to Bostrom’s campaign.
Bostrom has also has received $100 from Harbor Lands, a licensed general contractor company owned by Joel and Barbara Douglas, residents of Bellingham for over 60 years and the current owners of Fairhaven Lairmont Manor, a historic estate used for public and private community events. Joel Douglas has also served on Republican County Board as well as being elected to the Water District Board, and in 1996 was named Whatcom County Republican of the year.
Joel Douglas said he is Bostrom’s friend of around 30 years.
“He’s absolutely one of the most genuine people I know,” Douglas said. “Boy I tell ya’, if he gets elected, we got a gem there,” Douglas said.
Douglas said they intend to donate more to Bostrom’s campaign in the future.
With $2,463 total in campaign contributions, Bostrom trails his opponents in fundraising. As of July 17, incumbent councilmember Roxanne Murphy leads with $9,605, followed by first-time candidate Jean Layton with $3,582 in contributions.
The two candidates who make it through the Aug. 1 primary election will continue on to the Nov. 7 general election.