Undermining tribal sovereignty and stoking anti-Indianism: The 40th Legislative District Pos. 1 House race


petrish collage Screen Shot 2018-10-19 at 12.22.53 PM
Top left: Michael Petrish, photo from michaelpetrish.com – Top center: Kris Halterman, photo from smllibertyroad.com – Top right: Elaine Willman, photo from gemstatepatriot.com – Bottom center: Tom Pasma, photo from tompasma.org – Bottom right: Rud Browne, photo from whatcomcounty.us

By Sandy Robson

October 20, 2018

The November 6, 2018, general election race for 40th Legislative District State Representative Position 1, features Democratic candidate Debra Lekanoff, versus Republican candidate Michael Petrish. Parts of both Whatcom County and Skagit County in Washington state make up the 40th Legislative District (LD). The district encompasses southwestern Whatcom County, northeastern Skagit County, and San Juan County.

In early September, the Committee to Elect Michael Petrish campaign sent out a mailer to some voters in the 40th LD, promoting a September 19, town hall meeting titled, “Why Michael Petrish?” that was held at Blanchard Community Hall, in Bow, Washington. The mailer displayed a photo of Tom Pasma, advertised as a “Longtime Prominent Democrat,” who would be the featured speaker at Petrish’s town hall meeting. The photo showed Pasma standing next to a “Michael Petrish for State Representative” campaign sign displayed on a silver pick-up truck.

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Front side of Michael Petrish’s campaign mailer advertising his September 19, 2018 Town Hall Meeting, sent to some 40th LD registered voters

Pasma, a resident of Bow, Washington, had run unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for the state representative 40th LD position in the August 7, 2018, primary election. To the surprise of many Democrats throughout Skagit and Whatcom counties, in September, Pasma threw his support behind the Republican candidate for state representative for the 40th LD, Petrish, a union carpenter who works at the Andeavor Refinery, in Anacortes, rather than supporting fellow Democratic candidate Debra Lekanoff, the governmental affairs director for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. According to a press release on her campaign website, “Lekanoff grew up in Yakutat, Alaska. She is Alaska Native, part Tlingit and Aleut and of the Seal and Salmon tribes, respectfully.”

Petrish’s campaign mailer advertising his September 19 town hall meeting stated that “Michael Will Represent You, Not Special Interests.” Those special interests were identified in the mailer as  “tribal special interests.” On one side of Petrish’s mailer, in the section referencing Lekanoff, the word “tribal” was used four times.

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Back side of Michael Petrish’s campaign mailer advertising his September 19, 2018 Town Hall Meeting, sent to some 40th LD registered voters

The mailer pointed out that Lekanoff is a “tribal advocate & director of government affairs for the Swinomish Indian Tribral [sic] Community whose career has been devoted to tribal special interests.” The mailer also pointed out the number of times Lekanoff voted in the last 20 elections, pointed out that her campaign is “Funded and supported by Tribal Interest PACs,” and it advertised the assertion that she “Moved to the 40th LD 1 month prior to filing for office.”

Shedding light on Pasma’s endorsement of a Republican 

Listening to an audio recording of Petrish’s September 19, town hall meeting, at which Pasma was the featured speaker, and listening to a podcast of Pasma’s September 29 appearance as a guest on local Tea Party conservative Kris Halterman’s Saturday Morning Live (SML) talk radio show, shed some light on Pasma’s new found love for the Republican candidate. The audio recording of the town meeting was provided to The Searchlight Review by an attendee of the event.

petrish and pasma at town hall
Screenshot of photo displayed under a September 21, 2018 Facebook post on the Elect Michael Petrish campaign Facebook page. Photo shows Michael Petrish (left) and Tom Pasma (right) seated at table facing audience at Michael Petrish’s September 19, 2018, Town Hall Meeting at Blanchard Community Hall in Bow, Washington

It appears that Pasma and Petrish do not consider Lekanoff a member of the community. Pasma claimed on Halterman’s SML show that Lekanoff only moved into the 40th LD in April of this year, right before the May 14-18 candidate filing week. And, Petrish’s campaign claimed in its September mailer that Lekanoff only “moved to the 40th LD 1 month prior to filing for office.”

Both men seemed unaware of the fact that Lekanoff had actually moved into the district in the last week of December 2017, which was approximately 2 and a half months before Representative Kristine Lytton (D-Anacortes) had announced on March 14, that after holding the seat since 2010, she would not be seeking re-election because she would be retiring after her term ends this year. And, most importantly, Petrish and Pasma ignored the fact that Lekanoff has resided in Skagit County for 16 years.

At his September 19 town hall meeting, Pasma, in his opening remarks, said:

“I’m here tonight as a personal, um, friend of Michael, and, you know, I know Michael was born in Anacortes, he was raised in Anacortes, he’s a union carpenter, he’s part of our community, he volunteers in our community, and I admire that. And, I know Michael knows our struggles in our 40th, he knows what our community’s about. He knows what it’s going to take to make, to help, uh, uh, uh, a better future for the uh, to make those steps. That’s why I’m supportin’ Michael…And, I know he’s not going to be, um, um, represent special interests, you know, and I, and I, and I, want that, because I want to have a bright future too…So, I hope you support, are here to support, Michael Petrish for the 40th Legislative District representative.”

In his opening remarks, Pasma did not identify who or what those supposed “special interests” were which he said he knows his friend, Michael Petrish, would not be representing.

Petrish wrongly blames his opponent for coal terminal’s rejection

Petrish then introduced himself to the town hall audience and began speaking, and surprisingly, he started things off by bringing up the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project that had been proposed back in 2011. He blamed his opponent, Lekanoff, for the ultimate denial of the contentious project by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which occurred on May, 9, 2016.

Petrish asserted that the Democratic Party is “off the rails,” and said:

“The reason I say that, is my opponent in this race represented the Lummi Tribe, petitioning the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the permit for the Gateway Pacific Terminal in Whatcom County. Now, regardless of how you feel about coal, that was gonna be a deep water port for Whatcom County. Coal was just one of the products that was gonna be shipped out of there…But, I represent Local 70 out of Mount Vernon, which represents five counties in the state of Washington. 1800 members and their families which I represent. I’m a trustee of my Local…And the reason I bring up 1800 families and our carpenters that live and work in these five counties, is that a majority of our members were gonna be employed in that project had it been built.


“That project would have supplied thousands of construction jobs, not just for carpenters. It would have been for iron workers, it would have been for electricians, pipe fitters, operating engineers and the like…My opponent torpedoed the project that would have impacted everybody’s lives in this room, and more importantly, the people I represent at my Local…So one person representing .0003% of the population has impacted many of our citizens. That irritates me a little bit. I entered this race for one reason. And that reason was jobs and protect the families here in our district.”

That rant by Petrish reveals his numerous attempts to blame the ultimate permit denial of a proposed coal export terminal on his opponent, a Native woman, which is not only factually incorrect, but when mixed with his marginalizing Native Americans by pointing out a population percentage, it falls right in line with the colonialism and white supremacy that shaped the United States.

The proposed GPT project was a 48 million ton per year coal export terminal proposed by Pacific International Terminals/SSA Marine, to be located at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point), in Whatcom County, along the Salish Sea shoreline.

Xwe’chi’eXen is the ancestral territory of the Lummi Nation. The Lummi, a Coast Salish people, are the original inhabitants of Washington state’s northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. The Lummi Nation, a self-governing nation, is the third largest tribe in Washington state, and their nation stood steadfast in its opposition to the project. Tens of thousands of people stood alongside Lummi Nation in opposition to what they considered to be a potentially devastating project.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers determined that construction of the GPT facility would violate the Lummi’s U&A treaty fishing rights. Petrish advertises on his campaign website that he is a “staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

However, Petrish’s resentment over the denial of the GPT project demonstrates his willingness to ignore the reality of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which establishes that, “This Constitution, and the Laws made of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land…”

Petrish did not provide his audience any evidence to substantiate his assertion that Lekanoff “represented the Lummi Tribe in petitioning” the Army Corps to deny the GPT permit. Also, for Petrish to have proclaimed to his town hall attendees that Lekanoff, “torpedoed the project,” when there is no evidence to support such a claim, shows he is willing to fabricate a story scapegoating his political opponent for some perceived wrong, potentially inciting animosity toward her, toward Lummi Nation, and toward Native Americans in general.

Petrish puts Lekanoff into narrow box

Petrish went on to tell the audience:

“I’m committed to the people who live and work and pay taxes in the 40th. My opponent is a lobbyist for the Swinomish Tribe — which is fine, hey if you’re gonna be a lobbyist for the Swinomish, own up to it, that’s fine. I have no problem with that. You can’t then turn around all of the sudden and say you’re gonna represent the people of the 40th district when your interests in complete opposed to people living here.”

This was followed by loud applause from the audience.

It is curious that Petrish called for Lekanoff to “own up” to being a lobbyist for the Swinomish Tribe.” In the 2018 General Election Voters’ Guide, the very first thing listed under Lekanoff’s name are these five words: “Swinomish Tribe Governmental Affairs Director,” and that fact is also clearly stated on her campaign website, so the idea that she needs to “own up” to something sounds like an attempt to manufacture a negative.

Lekanoff’s campaign website states that her “career has provided the opportunity to engage on vast issues and layers of government at international, federal, state, and tribal levels and to work towards our shared vision of clean water for our families and our fish and wildlife.” Her experience is much more than the narrow, little box Petrish tried to put her, and her experience, into when talking to his audience.

Click the graphic to access video of the Riveters Collective endorsement interview of Debra Lekanoff published on YouTube, Jun 22, 2018

A video interview with Lekanoff earlier this year with the endorsement committee for the Riveters Collective, a women-led, progressive civic action group based in Whatcom County, which endorsed her, provides greater insight. In that interview, Lekanoff said:

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with all of the districts to the north and all of the districts to the south, and to the east. My twenty years of governmental experience expands from bills and initiatives, everything from affordable healthcare to affordable housing to protecting the Salish Sea, to preserving the resources and helping all people of color whether it be supporting and funding immigration, supporting and helping and creating jobs…for those who don’t all go to Higher Ed. You need jobs and opportunities for every community member there, whether you’re a journeyman, the pie maker, or the coffin maker; everybody has a role.”

Republican candidate equates Native American Tribes to casinos 

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Still frame taken from Elect Michael Petrish campaign video

Also, Petrish claims that Lekanoff would represent what he calls “special interests.” He said, “My opponent is taking money from casinos and the environmental lobby.” He added, “And, by the way, casinos don’t have to tell my opponent how much money they give ‘em.” Someone in the audience yells out, “Wait, what?” Another audience member asks Petrish to repeat what he had said. Petrish responded, and said:

“Casinos do not have to reveal how much money they give to the opponent. They’re a sovereign nation.” Petrish added, “Just throwin’ that out there.” Apparently, Petrish had no problem with just throwin’ multiple falsehoods out there to the audience listening to him that night, fueling the anti-tribal treaty rights and anti-tribal sovereignty thinkers who were peppered throughout the audience.

It appears from Petrish’s remarks that he is equating Native American Tribes and Nations with casinos, as if those are synonymous, which they certainly are not. Moreover, according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) online reports, there have been no casinos which have contributed to Lekanoff’s campaign. There have been numerous Native American Tribes and Nations which have donated to her campaign, as it should not be surprising that they would want to support a well-qualified candidate as they often do in elections, and especially one who is also Native. If elected, Lekanoff would be the only Native woman in the Washington state Legislature.

Screenshot of a photo picturing 40th LD House seat candidate Debra Lekanoff, taken from a cover photo used (back in April 2018) on her Vote Debra Lekanoff campaign Facebook page

All of the contributions made to Lekanoff’s campaign, just like with any candidate running for elected office in Washington state, must be reported to the PDC. The PDC’s website publishes those filed reports and records on its website, which are accessible to the public. It is easy to look up those contributions and see that contrary to Petrish’s allegation, the Lekanoff campaign has been reporting the contributions it has received from Native American Tribes and Nations, and from the rest of the contributors, of which, individuals make up the largest percentage.

For Petrish, ‘special interests’ seem to only apply to Native American Tribes 

As for Petrish’s claim that his opponent is taking money from the “environmental lobby,” which he characterized as a special interest, according to the PDC, Lekanoff’s campaign, so far, has only received one contribution from any environmental-related entity, and that was a $1,000 contribution made by Washington Conservation Voters, on August 28, 2018, for the general election. It appears that Petrish’s claim of “special interests” is really code for Native American Tribes and Nations.

Petrish cries “special interests” in terms of Lekanoff’s campaign receiving contributions from Native American Tribes and Nations as though that is some kind of foul, yet in his leadership position on the Regional Council Executive Committee for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, he represents the interests of unions and their members. Throughout his town hall meeting, Petrish talked often about his union carpenter job and the thousands of union members he represents not only in Washington, but also five other states. Among the contributions Petrish’s campaign has received, are contributions from a number of unions, from Andeavor Refinery where he works, and from a builder PAC. Why then, are Native American Tribes and Nations singled out as “special interests”?

After Petrish touched on a couple other talking points, one of which, was stressing the importance of the two oil refineries in Skagit County, he then opened things up to a question and answer session. An audience member asked Petrish if he could confirm that his opponent had only moved into the 40th LD a month before she filed for office. Petrish did not answer and seemed to throw the question to Pasma, who then provided a response:

“Yeah, oh yeah, yeah. And so that? we know, um, um, I really have a problem with that because you know, and that’s fine, if you moved, I do not have a problem if you want to move into a district and run in that district, but admit to it. That’s the problem I have. If you’re not going to admit to it, or if you you’re gonna allow, you know, when people ask you about that, those are legitimate questions. I have no problem.“

Multiple misrepresentations made by Pasma 

The Searchlight Review reached out to Debra Lekanoff this week and inquired about her having moved. In a phone interview, Lekanoff said that she moved the last week of December 2017, from West Mount Vernon to Samish Island. She said that she changed her voter registration address in April to reflect her new address at Samish Island. Samish Island, which is in the 40th LD, and West Mount Vernon, which is in the 10th LD, are both within Skagit County, where Lekanoff has resided for 16 years.

It is likely that Pasma was only referencing Lekanoff’s voter registration information when he constructed his version of the timeline for her move which landed her in the 40th LD.

Not only is Pasma inaccurate when he has repeatedly claimed that Lekanoff moved into the 40th LD only one month before candidate filing week, but again, it’s important to keep in mind Representative Kris Lytton had not even announced until March 14, 2018, that she would be retiring and would not be seeking re-election.

KGMI Saturday Morning Live show photo of Tom Pasma from his September 29, 2018 appearance

Another instance in which Pasma has made an inaccurate or false statement was during the September 29, SML radio show, when he told listeners, “I’m a State Committeeman for the Washington State Democrats from the 40th Legislative District, a position I’ve held for a number of years.”

Additionally, during that September 29, SML show, Halterman introduced Pasma as “the current State Committeeman for the 40th District Democrats,” and later in the show, she also described him to listeners as being, “in a position of leadership with the 40th District party.” At the conclusion of the show, Halterman asked Pasma how listeners can contact him to ask questions because he is “in a leadership position there for the 40th.” In all three instances, Pasma did not correct Halterman, nor did he inform listeners that, in fact, he was no longer in that  leadership position with for the 40th LD Democrats at that time.

According to Tara Nelson, Chair of the 40th LD Democrat’s, Pasma resigned on September 12, 2018, and that resignation was to be effective on September 16, following the September 15th-16th Washington State Democrats committee meeting.

Screenshot photo of the top portion of the 40th LD Democrats website’s “Who We Are” page which shows that the State Committee Man position is vacant

Nelson explained, as it turned out, Pasma did not attend the September 15th-16th state committee meeting, after being asked not to attend by state Democratic party leadership.

Pasma’s resignation was a result of his action of having publicly endorsed a Republican, Petrish, who was running against a Democratic candidate, Lekanoff. After September 16, Pasma’s name was removed from the 40th LD Democrats’ website. Currently, on the website, the state committeeman position is listed as “Vacant.”

Pasma and radio host broadcast undue suspicion about Lekanoff

When Pasma appeared on the September 29, SML radio show, he said he wanted to ask Lekanoff how long she has lived in the 40th LD, and to ask her this question:

“So you came from the 10th district, why didn’t you run in the 10th district, but you came to the 40th, and why?”

Pasma then told listeners: “And, those are legitimate questions, your voting record, um, uh, how long have you lived in the district, um, and things like that. And so um, I, I, I, that’s why I’m here today a little bit about informing — I like to be an informed voter. And I believe voters should also be informed.”

In listening to Pasma’s intensive focus on Lekanoff having moved, and her subsequent decision to run for the 40th LD House seat which he also ran for unsuccessfully, his motivation appears to be more than simply “informing” voters as he claimed to SML listeners. It seems more a case of trying to find something about Lekanoff that he believes might cause voters to be suspicious and distrustful of her motives, and might garner votes for Petrish, but would keep him from having to say that it’s because she is a Native woman who has worked for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community for 16 years.

Pasma’s focus on Lekanoff’s less than long term residency in the 40th LD, and on her voting record, seem more like providing cover or justification for what is really at the heart of his negative feelings about Lekanoff’s candidacy. Each time Pasma tried to put into words what his concerns were about Lekanoff during his speeches at Petrish’s town hall meeting and during his time on the SML radio show, he struggled to communicate that clearly, and in understandable, complete thoughts.

During the show, SML host Kris Halterman floated the idea to Pasma as to whether Lekanoff is a “carpetbagger,” and just getting in office “to promote.” Halterman did not specify what she was trying to say that Lekanoff would promote. Then she launched into pointing out that a sizable portion of contributions made to Lekanoff’s campaign were coming from “different tribe[s], tribal organizations, as well as, um, other, uh, non-fossil fuel [probably she meant to say ‘anti-fossil fuel’] type groups.”

Again, according to PDC online reports, there has only been one contribution (for $1,000) made by a group/organization that could potentially fit what Halterman characterizes as “non-fossil fuel,” and that is Washington Conservation Voters, so it appears that what she is really pointing out, are the contributions made by Native American Tribes and Nations.

After Halterman’s reference to the campaign contributions from various Native American Tribes and tribal organizations Lekanoff has received, she said, questioningly, to Pasma, “I’ve heard that she [Lekanoff] moved in there, or she got this address in April of 2018”?

Pasma answers, “It’s true.” Halterman adds, “Kinda the filing date”? Pasma responds, “Yes.” Then, driving suspicion, Halterman says, “And, nobody knows if she really actually, truly lives at this address.” Pasma replies:

“True. So, yes, and, so I think that’s, that’s information that was tried, uh, uh, um, tried to be brought out during the campaign. Those are legitimate questions. I have no problem, if I’m running for an office, and my voting record, where I live, how long I lived there, those are all legitimate”

Halterman chimes in, “Mm-Hmm.”

Genesis of attack on Lekanoff came from fellow Democratic primary candidate 

That same information Pasma referenced was originally brought out in a primary election campaign mailer that another Democrat primary candidate for 40th LD state representative, Rud Browne, sent out to voters in the district, shortly before the August 7, 2018, primary election. Browne presently serves on the Whatcom County Council after he was re-elected in the November 2017 general election.

Numerous individuals have expressed their disapproval of that mailer disseminated by Browne’s campaign as they felt it contained racist overtones aimed at Lekanoff and the campaign contributions coming from Native American Tribes and Nations, and thought it especially objectionable that a Democrat chose to use that particular campaign strategy against a fellow Democratic candidate.

Browne’s campaign couched the language used to identify two of the categories, such that, it could appear as a fairly acceptable campaign strategy. However, the “Percentage of donations received from outside the district” category took aim at contributions Lekanoff’s campaign had received from Native American Tribes and Nations at that time, and the “Receiving independent expenditure PAC support” category took aim at the local, Native American-led Seven Generations PAC. According to PDC online reports filed, the only Independent Expenditure support Lekanoff’s campaign has received, so far, is from the Seven Generations PAC.

Rud Browne’s campaign mailer featured text at the top of one side that stated, “Democracy requires you to stand up and be counted.” The mailer compared certain categories in terms of the four Democratic candidates who were vying, at that time in the primary election for the 40th LD state House seat.

There were six categories chosen by the Browne campaign and used in the mailer to compare the four Democratic candidates: voting record in Washington state primary and general elections for the last 10 years; years of residency in the 40th district; receiving independent expenditure PAC support; percentage of donations from outside the district; publicly-listed endorsements from women; and filed personal financial statement as required by the public disclosure commission.

Each of the categories specifically selected by the Browne campaign to highlight in the campaign mailer were apparently ones Browne’s campaign thought voters would interpret positively in terms of his candidacy, and which voters may potentially interpret negatively in terms of Debra Lekanoff’s candidacy.

According to some local Democratic Party members, the four Democratic candidates running for the 40th LD House seat had agreed, at the time of the primary election endorsements, that there would be no negative campaigning against their fellow 40th LD Democratic candidates.

Click the graphic to access the August 3, 2018, Facebook post made by then-candidate for 40th LD House seat Alex Ramel on his campaign Facebook page

After voters received Rud Browne’s primary election campaign mailer, there were comments posted on Facebook from numerous people who were upset by the negative mailer. Representative Kris Lytton posted a comment under an August 3, 2018, post made by one of the four Democratic candidates who ran in the primary for the 40th LD House seat race, Alex Ramel. Ramel’s August 3rd Facebook post had criticized Browne’s negative campaign mailer against his fellow Democrat, Lekanoff, calling Browne’s mailer an “attack ad” against a fellow Democrat. Lytton’s Facebook comment read:

“Thank you Alex. If Rud Browne can’t get along with his fellow Dems in this race, how will he served with 146 fellow legislators in Olympia to serve the 40th LD. Very little of a candidate to resort to negative campaigning (from the beginning of this campaign).”

Full disclosure: This reporter also posted a comment under Ramel’s August 3, Facebook post, and strongly criticized Browne’s action of having sent out such a mailer.

Recently, The Searchlight Review contacted Rud Browne, via email, with five questions relating to his campaign mailer sent out shortly before the August 7 primary.

Browne responded, via email, and chose not to answer any of those five questions, and instead, sent this response:

“I remain loyal to the progressive ideals and values that originally made me run for office. I have made no public comments regarding Debra Lekanof since the Primary election and I have no intention of doing anything that could negatively impact the outcome of the upcoming General election.


“I may be willing to respond [to] your questions after the election if you’re willing to respond to my questions as well.”

There were no questions from Browne contained in his email to The Searchlight Review.

Pasma condemns ‘special interests,’ but never identifies those 

Pasma, during the September 29, SML radio show, asserted that “special interest is driving that [Lekanoff’s] campaign.” At the same time, he claimed that he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with for-profit corporations contributing to campaigns, or with “tribal money” being contributed to campaigns.

He told listeners that what he does have a problem with, is “special interests,” because “they drive the narrative so much now, that they’re writing the policy, they’re writing the laws, they’re writing all of that, right?” Pasma added, “They’re dictating.”

While Pasma claims that he has no problem with tribal money or corporate money being donated to campaigns, he still has never identified what specific entities he is characterizing as “special interests.” Instead, he allowed Halterman, during her SML show, to identify those supposed special interests as, “different tribe[s], tribal organizations” and “non-fossil fuel [probably she meant to say ‘anti-fossil fuel’] type groups.” Additionally, Pasma allowed Petrish, during his town hall meeting, to identify those supposed special interests as “casinos and the environmental lobby.”

Pasma never corrected either Halterman or Michael Petrish after they identified what they are calling “special interests.” So, for Pasma to claim he does not have a problem with “tribal money” seems disingenuous.

Pasma told SML listeners, “I absolutely have nothing against uh, any of the tribes.” Halterman, when talking about the campaign contributions coming from tribes and supposed special interests, made a point to assert she was “not being racist.”

At the September 19 Petrish town hall meeting, an audience member posed a question to Tom Pasma: “You’re a Democrat supporting my vote. Can you articulate whether there is a concern that Michael’s opponent would put tribal interests ahead of other people’s interests?”

Pasma responded, “Um, [clears his throat], yeah.” That “yeah” answer was followed by thunderous applause from the audience, and was accompanied by laughter. Pasma tried to elaborate:

“Um, you know, uh, it, if, the basics of your question is where you live in the district, your voting record, just simple things like that, and you have done everything you can to, um, put everybody down as much as you can when you answer those in the primary, what would you do if you were elected…But, I was really amazed, and I guess appalled, that some of the special interests, um, um, that absolutely do not have any, um, wanting to, actually, solve the problem. They just keep it front and center to bring money in. And, as someone, um, and I’ve seen that this time and I was just amazed. I mean, just, you know you need to solve those problems. We need to work together to solve those problems.


“And, unfortunately there’s just a lot of money, and, and, interests that are coming, you know, you are just being bombarded with that. And, uh, seems like we’re never gonna get to a solution if that, and we’re not gonna get there that way. We’re gonna get to the solutions by working together for the people of this 40th legislative district. So, hope I answered your question.”

After transcribing Pasma’s entire jumbled response to that question posed to him, it’s clear to this reporter that he cannot articulate, whatsoever, his concern that Lekanoff would put tribal interests ahead of other people’s interests.

Petrish implies Native American Tribes’ campaign contributions are bribes 

Another question during the town hall meeting was raised by an audience member named George. He asked Petrish this question:

“It’s my opinion that your opponent, uh, believes that special interests, uh, get special privileges, and, uh, she’s part of that group, I believe, um, that goes against, do you agree, that goes against our constitution and the fact that we’re a Republic and not a Democracy?”

Petrish replied:

“Well, okay, special interests [he takes a long pause, approximately 10 seconds]. If you’re asked to do something because somebody’s giving you money that’s basically a bribe. Right? Let’s all agree on it, shall we? But, if somebody gives you money for a campaign based on the issues that you’re running on, then lies the difference. If somebody gives you money, and says, ‘I need you to do this,’ well that’s absurd, you’re not gonna do that. Everybody in this room has interests. Everybody believes in something worth paying for in terms of giving — ‘I believe what this person is doing is the right thing for us to do.’ Some people have more money than others. And therein lies the problem. Too much money in the process.”

Petrish provided no reason for his having interjected the concept of bribery to the audience as he presented no correlation for that in terms of any factual information having to do with the 40th LD House race.

Petrish then went on to tell his town hall attendees that he figured his campaign would spend around $50,000 for the November general election, and said, “I’m up against a $150,000, $200,000, $300,000 from the casino money, from the environmental lobby.” Petrish also claimed: “Money that’s comin’ from casinos, $300,000,000, sittin’ in a bank account for the Tulalip. One account, to devote.“ He did not provide any source for his claim about a bank account pertaining to the Tulalip Tribes.

Again, according to PDC online filed reports, the only contribution made, so far, to Lekanoff’s campaign from an organization that would be considered “environmental lobby” is one single contribution for $1,000 from Washington Conservation Voters. Contrary to the dollar figures Petrish tossed around to his town hall audience, Lekanoff’s campaign has received approximately $31,000 in cash contributions made by Native American Tribes and Nations, and $2,000 in cash contributions from the Northwest Tribal PAC. And, there has been approximately $15,000 in Independent Expenditure monies spent in support of her campaign, by the Native American-led Seven Generations PAC.

The rest of the approximate $135,000 total in cash contributions Lekanoff’s campaign has received, so far, has come primarily from individuals (her largest category of contributors), various unions, Democratic Party PACs, House Democratic Caucus, a small amount from businesses, and a small number of other miscellaneous contributors.

Fueling anti-Indian resentment can undermine tribal sovereignty and impact elections

Hearing Petrish throw around the words “casinos” and “casino money” repeatedly to his audience, and then hearing him throw around big dollar figures which did not reflect the reality of the contributions made by Native American Tribes and Nations to Lekanoff’s campaign, could drive anti-Indian* resentment amongst voters who already share his way of thinking, or those who may entertain that way of thinking.

Petrish said to his town hall audience:

“Look at a casino. What does a casino do to an area? It sucks all the life out. Because what? After they build the casino, then what do they do? They build a hotel. Then what comes? Then a gas station. Then what comes? Cigarettes. What happens to the economy around it? It pays no taxes! Little history lesson here, for you. We have 28 states in the United States that have casinos in ‘em. Out of that 28, 27 have profit sharing with those states that those casinos operate. Guess which one doesn’t? [audience answers, ‘Washington’] This one. Those states instituted profit sharing to compensate the local economies for lost what? [audience answers, ‘tax revenue’]. But what do they do here? They just keep puttin’ it in their pocket. [audience member says, ‘And, give it to your opponent’.] And, who’s responsible for that? Governor Christine Gregoire. They call her ‘the Indian Princess.’”

Petrish’s reference to former Governor of Washington state, Christine Gregoire, being called, “the Indian Princess” echoes Elaine Willman, who was the keynote speaker at the July 28, 2018, Skagit County Republican Party’s Summer Salmon BBQ, held at Skagit River Play Fields, in Burlington. Michael Petrish was one of the fifty or so attendees at that July 28, summer BBQ event, and according to a video recording of Willman speaking at the BBQ, posted on YouTube on August 4, 2018, he was there for Willman’s speaking time during the event.

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Click the graphic to access the YouTube video of Elaine Willman speaking at the July 28, 2018, Skagit County Republican Party’s Summer Salmon BBQ

During her speech at the Skagit Republicans’ BBQ, Willman had sarcastically, and offensively, referred to Gregoire as “the real Indian princess [bolded emphasis Willman’s],” as she has done numerous times at multiple speaking events throughout Washington state, which is then always followed by her version of then-Governor Gregoire having renegotiated (back in 2005/2006) the gambling compact regarding revenue sharing agreements for tribal gambling between Washington state and the Spokane Tribe. The final compact included a provision that allowed other tribes to expand casino operations without revenue sharing. Back at that time, twenty-seven of the state’s 29 federally recognized tribes signed on to the Spokane compact’s provision. Not all of those tribes operate casinos.

Petrish’s negative talking points to his town hall audience about what he claims happens to an area when a casino is built, were similar to Willman’s ideas on that subject which she also talked about at the Skagit Republicans’ Summer Salmon BBQ.

In their negative narrative about tribal casinos, both Willman and Petrish neglect to point out that tribal casinos across Washington state further tribes’ self-determination, have evolved into cultural and regional economic centers which are major employers, have contributed millions of dollars to charities annually, millions of dollars to local governments for local infrastructure projects, millions of dollars to health and education programs around the state, and these are just some of the positive impacts.

Willman is recognized by many as a national leader in the anti-Indian movement, and she is a current executive board member and former chair of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA). Individuals and groups like CERA, which are part of the modern anti-Indian movement, disavow and/or deny tribal sovereignty, and they seek to terminate tribal governments and break federal treaties signed with Native American tribes.

SML radio host Kris Halterman has had Willman as a guest on her show multiple times to discuss what she describes as tribal issues and Federal Indian Policy. One of the times Willman was on SML, she was there to promote a CERA conference held in Bellingham, at the Lakeway Inn, on April 6, 2013, as she was one of the featured speakers. The speakers and material presented and discussed at the conference can easily be considered anti-Indian.

In the video recording posted of Willman speaking at the Skagit Republicans’ BBQ, Petrish asks a question at approximately 53:20 minutes in the recording:

“So, now that you talk about the culverts and how the Supreme Court decision returned that in the state of Washington, now, do you want to approach this whole culvert idea, how about instituting legislation where user fees for the casinos to fund culvert[s]?”

A Washington State Supreme Court decision earlier this year upholding a lower-court decision ordering barriers to salmon migration be removed, capped off a seventeen year-long legal battle, and compels Washington state to fix or replace hundreds of culverts that block fish migration. Culverts are structures that enable streams to pass beneath roads and railroads tracks, but can sometimes block migrating salmon if those should become blocked, or if those are too steep for the fish to navigate. The culvert case is an extension of a historic federal case, the 1974 Boldt decision.

For Petrish to float the idea of legislation he might propose, if he were elected to state House, to force tribal casinos to pay fees to be used for culvert repair, is a particularly reprehensible idea. The need for culvert repair or replacement is a direct result of Washington state having poorly designed infrastructure that can decrease, or even exhaust, fish runs which Native American Tribes and Nations depend on, and which are secured to them by treaties with the U.S. government.

Willman, responding to Petrish’s suggestion that legislation be proposed to compel tribal casinos to be charged user fees to pay for culvert repair or replacement, chuckled as she smiled and said: “Makes sense to me. Let’s get you in office — get you in office and you sell it.”

Petrish then added:

The Indians are the ones leading the charge. Tribes are the ones that want ‘em. And, so the Supreme Court says you have to fund ‘em. Well, it seems to me that makes perfectly common sense.”

Petrish’s campaign slogan displayed on his campaign website and on his campaign mailers is, “A common man with common sense.” From listening to Petrish and Pasma speak at the September 19 town hall meeting, and from hearing the idea Petrish proposed to Elaine Willman and others present at the July 28 Skagit Republican’s BBQ which he said made “perfectly common sense” to him, Petrish’s sense of things seemed centered around anti-tribal sovereignty and anti-tribal treaty ideology.


* Anti-Indian, Anti-Indianism

In terms of the use of the terms “anti-Indian” and “anti-Indianism” in the article above, the explanation shown below provides pertinent information.

An independent research report compiled in 2012 by Chuck Tanner and Leah Henry-Tanner, entitled, “Trampling on the Treaties, Rob McKenna and the Politics of Anti-Indianism,” explain what their report means by the term “anti-Indian.” The authors write:

“Crow Creek Sioux scholar Elizabeth Cook-Lynn describes cultural anti-Indianism in the United States as ‘that which treats Indians and their tribes as though they don’t exist, the sentiment that suggests that Indian nationhood (i.e., tribalism) should be disavowed and devalued.’ Cook-Lynn captures the political core of the modern anti-Indian movement — groups and individuals who ultimately deny the independent nationhood of indigenous peoples and seek to terminate tribal governments and break federal treaties signed with tribes. The modern anti-Indian movement has focused on overturning on reservation tribal jurisdiction and off-reservation treaty-reserved resource rights. These groups’ writings often betray an ultimate goal of ending tribal self-governance and continuing nationhood.”

Link to the report, “Trampling on the Treaties, Rob McKenna and the Politics of Anti-Indianism”: