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These two candidates join three-way race for late Sen. Ericksen’s state legislative seat

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BELLINGHAM — Whatcom County Councilman Ben Elenbaas will run as a Republican for the 42nd Legislative District state Senate seat held by Sen. Simon Sefzik, setting up a multi-candidate primary race in August.

Elenbaas announced his candidacy in an emailed statement Thursday, Jan. 27.

Sefzik, R-Ferndale, told The Bellingham Herald on Thursday that he’ll also enter the Aug. 2 primary, where the two top finishers, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

“I plan on retaining the seat,” Sefzik said in an interview.

State Rep. Sharon Shewmake, D-Belllingham, who holds one of the 42nd District’s two House seats, said in November that she will seek the Senate seat.

Sefzik was appointed by the Whatcom County Council on Jan. 11 to replace state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who died in December after a five-week battle with COVID-19.

A graduate of Patrick Henry College with a bachelor’s degree in American politics and policy, Sefzik worked in Colorado, where last year he organized COVID-19 outreach for Nomi Health and managed mobile vaccination clinics and assisted at a vaccine supersite.

Before that, he worked in the Trump administration, managing events and staff requests for the Executive Office, and he assisted with the White House transition team before President Biden took office, according to his resume.

While attending Patrick Henry, a conservative Christian school in Virginia, Sefzik interned at the White House Intergovernmental Affairs Office, where he researched COVID-19 legislation and prepared memos for the president’s COVID-19 Task Force.

Elenbaas, who works at BP Cherry Point Refinery and runs a cattle farm, represents the council’s Fifth District, which includes the area west of Interstate 5, including Blaine, Ferndale and Lummi Nation.

He was one of three candidates to complete Ericksen’s term, but lost to Sefzik on a 4-2 vote of the council.

“With the unprecedented scale of natural disaster our citizens are facing, the people of Whatcom County should not be left without a strong voice in Olympia,” Elenbaas said in a statement.

“My family has lived and farmed in the Nooksack River Valley since 1902. As a fourth-generation farmer, I have personally experienced the abundance and devastation our river system provides us. Now, more than ever, the people of the 42nd district need an experienced voice to advocate for recovery and long-term solutions for our river,” he said.

He told The Herald earlier this month that he would keep his seat on the nonpartisan County Council if he were named to the Senate.

Elenbaas has a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment.

He was chairman of the county Charter Review Commission, has served on the Whatcom County Planning Commission and in leadership positions with the Cattlemen’s Association and the Farm Bureau.

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