Three candidates to skip a Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum; two cite bias

By Miki Mullor

Three candidates for the Sammamish City Council have withdrawn from the Oct. 7 Chamber of Commerce forum.

One has to attend to a gravely ill family member and two cite bias by the Chamber for withdrawing.

This morning, Ken Gamblin and Kent Treen announced they will not participate in an Oct. 7 forum organized by the Chamber. Mayor Christie Malchow will be out of town on that day, caring for her gravely ill mother in Colorado. 

Last week, we reported on Klahanie’s HOA candidate forum that only invited three candidates, the opponents to Malchow, Treen and Gamblin. Within 24 hours after we published the story, Klahanie’s HOA invited them,  citing “oversight.” All six candidates have now confirmed attendance. 

The Klahanie forum is scheduled for Oct. 9 at 6:30 PM at Challenger Elementary. While it is Klahanie-focused, the broad public is welcome to attend but questions will not be fielded from the attendees. 

Decline over bias

Gamblin and Treen posted on their Facebook pages a letter to Deb Sogge, CEO of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, withdrawing from the Chamber forum. 

Ken Gamblin

In their letter, the two list concerns with the planned forum:

“You fail to recognize our concerns in providing a fair and neutral venue as evidenced below:

  • The President of the Chamber is a candidate, therefore inherently biased.
  • The selected moderator is a member of the Chamber Board and has donated to the President of the Chamber’s campaign.
  • Both the CEO and Vice President of the Chamber are actively campaigning for our opponents.
  • The Chamber Board, chaired by the President/Candidate, will be selecting the questions for the forum.

Despite requests multiple times by us, you have failed to cure the above listed biases and thus we can not attend this forum” (bullets added for readability)

McKnight is the President of the Chamber. 

The Chamber is indeed in control of the questions:

“Choice of questions submitted to candidates at time of forum shall be up to the discretion of the SCC officials and given to the moderator to be read that evening.”



Among the Chamber’s officials is also Council Member Jason Ritchie, who is also a member of the Chamber’s communication team. Ritchie donated to McKnight’s campaign and opposes Malchow’s reelection.

We first reported about the Chamber’s candidate forum and the concerns of bias June 20:

On Sept. 6 we reported on the Chamber’s VP, Julio Richburg’s, public statement and warned this increases the appearance of bias:

“A lot really depends on the upcoming election. It is critical that residents of Sammamish really investigate the candidates on these issues and vote accordingly.  If we continue the same course, I believe the situation will only get worse.”  

Julio Richburg, VP Sammamish Chamber of Commerce


Joint forum offer declined 

The Sammamish Comment has offered the Chamber to jointly host a forum as a way to neutralize the perception of bias. 

On July 10, this author wrote to Sogge:

“We’ve been watching the brewing controversy around your forum in the public eye.  Optics matter. 

The Sammamish Comment would like to propose that we co-host a candidate forum jointly.  We’ve been talking to other organizations so it may end up being more than just The Comment and the Chamber.  

A joint forum, moderated by an out-of-town neutral moderator, will have a broader appeal to the public and will remove any perceived optics issues.

The Comment will share costs with the Chamber. “

Miki Mullor, Editor, the Sammamish Comment

In a July 15 email, Sogge declined the suggestion: 

“After careful thought, I think I will keep it the same as the SCC doing this forum alone.  Thank you though!!”

Deb Sogge, CEO, Sammamish Chamber of Commerce


Malchow out of town 

In a Sept. 28 letter to the Chamber, Malchow notified Sogge she will not attend the Chamber’s candidate forum.

“I apologize for the late notice on your forum, but I am now going to have to go back to Colorado again to tend to my gravely ill mother who is being discharged from a rehab facility and either bring her home here to Sammamish, or put care in place in Denver.”

Christie Malchow, City Council Candidate

Malchow further asked whether the Chamber will allow a proxy to be present to deliver an opening and closing statement on her behalf. 

The Chamber refused Malchow’s request for a proxy, an email from Sogge shows.


Sahalee / Timberline candidate forum video

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11 thoughts on “Three candidates to skip a Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum; two cite bias

  1. I think Treen and Gamblin miss the point. Any entity can host a candidate forum. The Chamber of Commerce is hosting, they invited all of the candidates. This is an opportunity for all of the candidates to speak to their position on business; i.e. how will they support businesses in Sammamish. This is something that all candidates need to address. It’s up to each candidate to present their position and sway voters. First there’s a gripe because someone organizes an event and didn’t invite all of the candidates and now they get invited and decide they won’t go. That speaks volumes about two of the candidates that apparently only want to speak to like minded people. Sure there’s bias, the council’s performance over the past two years pretty much ensured division, in fact, they’ve promoted it.
    Neither Treen nor Gamblin have shared much substance as to what they intend to do to tackle the budget shortfall and fund the road improvements. We already know that Malchow doesn’t have a plan; if she did, we’d have seen it by now. In my opinion, this is a missed opportunity by individuals that don’t seem to realize, it’s not the people that share their views that they need to convince. This is the 2nd event that Gamblin won’t be attending. Anti business is the last thing that Sammamish needs.

  2. The Chamber organizers clearly have no intention of having an open and unbiased airing of the issues and the candidates positions on them. That is unfortunate. This is a critical election that will determine the future character of Sammamish. Our citizens need to vote and advise the Council as to their preferred direction.

  3. Running away from the discussion is not a virtue. Sammamish residents are smart enough to recognize bias so not participating makes me think perhaps their position is indefensible or they simply do not have the depth of knowledge or experience to stand up to opposition. I for one would really like to hear what they have to say so I can have the opportunity to vote for who I believe are really the best candidates for Sammamish.

  4. My final draft:

    Neither Gamblin nor Treen attended the August 11 South Asian America Together (SAAT-WA) candidates’ forum at the Sammamish Library. Treen had a funeral to attend. Gamblin was a no-show with no explanation. Malchow was an active participant. 

    All six attended the Sahalee/Timberline candidates’ forum on September 5th amidst a plethora of marketing materials handed out by promoters of the Vote Sammamish Facebook page. 

    In recent years, some thought it important to create two distinct “slates” in local elections. This strategy promotes oversimplified campaign messaging and is the path of least resistance. This scheme is counterproductive if a more competent/stronger candidate ends up carrying two weaker candidates on their backs. This brings down the entire slate. 

    Regarding concerns expressed by Gamblin and Treen about the upcoming Chamber of Commerce forum:
    Malchow cannot attend the Chamber forum due to her mother’s serious illness (wishing all the best for Christy, her mother and family). In her unfortunate absence, the two remaining members of her slate are exhibiting insecurities with the potential line of Chamber questioning. 

    Voters must decide whether or not they want to elect city council members who run from adversity, or have the strength of conviction to argue their own perspectives in public. Simple Facebook posts do not necessarily reflect the convictions of candidates; on the contrary, one doesn’t even know if candidates answered questions themselves or had a surrogate answer on their behalf. Facebook posts cannot illustrate the human interaction skills needed when working with the public. Hiding behind a computer screen has its limitations. Keep in mind, it is the job of the city council to perform in a public forum in the midst of controversy. 

    As always, the voters will decide. 

    • Interesting thoughts, Shannon.

      Simple Facebook posts do not necessarily reflect the convictions of candidates; on the contrary, one doesn’t even know if candidates answered questions themselves or had a surrogate answer on their behalf. Facebook posts cannot illustrate the human interaction skills needed when working with the public. Hiding behind a computer screen has its limitations. Keep in mind, it is the job of the city council to perform in a public forum in the midst of controversy.

      McKnight, Howe and Indapure aren’t doing anything more on Facebook than Campaigning by Selfie. The Selfie Slate isn’t answering a single constituent question or articulating a single position on Facebook or their own websites. For better or worse, Malchow, Treen and Gamblin are active in staking out positions and engaging with the constituents. Your observation above completely omits these facts.

      • Scott:

        (I neglected to mention that I’m also not a proponent of catchy nicknames, whether in local or national politics… perhaps that’s just me.)

        I will not address comments regarding a slate, as I don’t think it’s wise to generalize. Rituja Indapure has knocked on 4,000+ voters’ doors (with a goal of 6,000). She’s interacted with new voters, busy parents, seniors, etc. in order to obtain a greater depth of knowledge of our community. Each candidate has his/her preferred method of campaigning in addition to signage, candidate forums, meet-and-greets, etc. I feel it’s wise to respect their hard work and campaign choices.

      • Rituja voted for high density visions throughout the city and greenwashed her vote on Santonis. Not something I respect.

  5. I’m “late to the party here’, but if the Chamber is running the forum, and only the Chamber can ask questions, why should I ( a mere tax paying resident) bother to attend? Is there a forum for ALL voices, and not just the business owners?

      • Everyone in the residential community has a vested interest in protecting themselves from the business community when the business community (or a few bad actors that are part of it) launch a coordinated attack on the quality of life of everyone to satisfy their own greed.

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