John H. Blethen

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John H. Blethen
John H. Blethen.jpg
Bellingham Board of Directors, Position 4
Former candidate
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 5, 2013
Term limitsN/A
Bachelor'sAntioch College
Master'sWestern Washington University
ProfessionBusiness owner
Campaign website
John H. Blethen was a candidate for the Position 4 seat on the Bellingham Board of Directors in Washington. He was defeated by incumbent Steven H. Smith in the November 5, 2013 general election.


Blethen earned a B.A. from Antioch College and a M.Ed. in Industrial Arts from Western Washington University. He is currently the owner of Whatcom Interior. Blethen has been the co-chair of the Larrabee Elementary PTA, chair of the Bellingham Parks Board and helped establish the Bellingham Food Co-op. He has four children and seven grandchildren including two daughters who currently teach at district schools.[1][2]



See also: Bellingham School District elections (2013)


Blethen sought election to the board against incumbent Steven H. Smith on November 5, 2013.


General election
Bellingham Board of Directors, Four-year term, Position 4, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngSteven H. Smith Incumbent 53.5% 14,725
     Nonpartisan John H. Blethen 46.5% 12,779
Total Votes 27,504
Source: Whatcom County Elections, "November 5, 2013 General Election," November 26, 2013

Blethen placed second in the August 6, 2013 primary for the Position 4 seat. Blethen and Steven H. Smith advanced to the November 5, 2013 general election.

Bellingham Board of Directors, Primary, Position 4, August 6, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngSteven H. Smith Incumbent 53.1% 6,904
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngJohn H. Blethen 29.2% 3,791
     Nonpartisan Hue Beattie 17.7% 2,305
Total Votes 13,000
Source: Whatcom County Elections


Blethen's campaign website listed the following endorsements for 2013:[3]

  • Bellingham Neighborhood School Coalition
  • Coalition to Save Larrabee
  • Happy Valley Neighborhood Association
  • Wendy Scherrer
  • David Marshak
  • April Mahoney


Blethen reported no contributions or expenditures to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.[4]


Blethen sought election to District 1 on the Port of Bellingham Commission but lost to incumbent Scott L. Walker on November 3, 2009.

Bellingham Port Commission, District 1, November 3, 2009
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngScott L. Walker Incumbent 52.6% 27,125
     Nonpartisan John H. Blethen 47.4% 24,489
Total Votes 51,614
Source: Whatcom County Elections

Campaign themes


Blethen provided the following statement for the Local Voters' Pamphlet in Whatcom County:[2]

"Building community has been much of my adult life focus and I have worked hard saving open space as legacy for the future. But I know, and you know, the most important resource that we have is our kids. I am running for school board because I am concerned that the cost of education is rising, but student learning is not. We are looking at substantial new taxes to build facilities which will not reduce class size, the best tool for improving learning. While we need new school facilities, this need not happen at the expense of walk able community schools. We need to get school planning on the same page as neighborhood planning. It is also troubling to see our best principals moved to new administrative jobs at the expense of smaller class size and effective school leadership. . Our schools are focused on educating for college bound kids at the expense of kids who need other skills. Clearly, it is a time to look for innovative ways to educate our kids for a changing world. I pledge that I will participate actively in clear and transparent processes to lead our schools forward."

What was at stake?

Incumbent Steven H. Smith ran for a second term in the Position 4 seat against Blethen. Scott Stockburger won re-election to the Position 5 seat without opposition.

Themes in Position 4 race

The district has experienced a 3.5% increase in enrollment between 2008 and 2012 while the district budget was cut by $1.5 million between 2011 and 2012. A major issue in the Position 4 race is the closure of Larrabee Elementary School slated for the end of the 2013-2014 school year. Smith voted along with three board members to close the school due to poor performance and long-term renovation plans for district schools. Blethen and Hue Beattie challenged Smith in the August 6, 2013 primary due to his vote on Larrabee Elementary. Stockburger was the lone vote to prevent Larrabee's closure and does not face opposition for his seat.[5]

Smith also faced a primary challenge due to his support for a $160 million bond on the November 5, 2013 ballot. The bond would support renovation of district facilities including $73 million for Sehome High School and a $17 million remodeling of district offices. Beattie believed that community involvement in renovation could bring down costs while Blethen argued for a more gradual renovation process that would not require a large bond measure.[5]

About the district

See also: Bellingham School District, Washington
Bellingham School District is located in Whatcom County, Washington
Bellingham School District is based in Whatcom County, which is situated along the border between the United States and Canada. The population of Bellingham was 80,885 according to the 2010 U.S. Census.[6]


Bellingham outperforms state averages for higher education achievement while lagging behind in median income and poverty rate. The percentage of city residents over 25 years old with undergraduate degrees (38.6%) exceeds the state average (31.4%). The 2010 U.S. Census calculated Bellingham's median income at $39,299 while the state median income was $58,890. Bellingham had a poverty rate of 22.6% in the 2010 U.S. Census while the state rate was 12.5%.[6]

Racial Demographics, 2012[6]
Race Bellingham (%) Washington (%)
White 84.9 77.3
Black or African American 1.3 3.6
American Indian and Alaska Native 1.3 1.5
Asian 5.1 7.2
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.3 0.6
Two or More Races 4.3 4.7
Hispanic or Latino 7.0 11.2

Presidential Voting Pattern[7]
Year Democratic Vote (%) Republican Vote (%)
2012 55.4 41.4
2008 58.0 40.0
2004 53.4 44.6
2000 46.1 46.5

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100.0%. Each column will add up to 100.0% after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages.[8]

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See also

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