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Newcomer Buys Edges Out Kelli Linville After Recount

January 2011

Cover Story

Newcomer Buys Edges Out Kelli Linville After Recount

by Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney is the communications chair for the Whatcom Democrats.

After a long recount, Republican Vincent Buys edged out 15-year incumbent Democrat Kelli Linville to become the new Representative from the 42nd legislative district, which covers the upper half of Whatcom County. After a close ballot chase and machine recount, Buys held on to his lead by 149 votes.

This race garnered state-wide attention because Linville was the current chair of the Ways and Means committee, an influential body that made Linville a real power player in Olympia. She was instrumental in drafting the budget this last cycle, and was the go-to expert for many of her fellow legislators on budget issues. She used this power to secure aid for the 42nd district, bring in tax incentives and favorable regulation to entice businesses to grow in Whatcom County.

Buys, a Lynden-based contractor and rising star in the Tea Party movement, pushed a strong anti-incumbent message and was helped by the 6,000 new voters that showed up to vote for the first time in several years in Lynden and the surrounding area.

Campaign Advertising

The race itself was impressive for the sheer amount of money that was spent. Voters were bombarded by radio, television and mailer ads. Just under $300,000 was spent on this race alone (see page 8 for additional information). For comparison, $130,000 was spent in the same race in 2008 and $101,000 in 2006, according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

On Election Day, the tallies were very close, the race being within 300 votes. After that, both campaigns worked to track down challenged ballots of their supporters (ballots that were left unsigned or that the signature did not match up). The gap closed to Buys leading by 156 votes, which triggered a machine recount. The machine recount picked up a few votes that were made with a lighter pen, making the final count 149 votes.

During this time, the county auditor’s office was subject to intense partisan scrutiny and was commended for its fair and thorough approach. Luanne Van Werven, chair of the Whatcom Republicans stated she was “unhappy with the comedy of errors” from the Auditor’s office. After the count resulted in Republican Buys’ favor, she stated she was satisfied with the outcome.

Significant Moments from the Campaign

The primary results provided some election drama when Buys, who had been dismissed as a minor league challenger by most election watchers, beat Linville by more than 1,300 votes. This turned out to be a portent, as Linville narrowed the gap considerably in the general but not enough to win.

Other memorable moments included the deluge of mailers attacking both candidates; Buys contending in a forum that the answer to homelessness and hunger was to dismantle the social safety net and urge the churches to take over all responsibilities; and Linville letting off a few one-liners about Buys’ age. §

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