Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

This Sunday, NPI will honor late activist Alex Hendrickson with a Lynn Allen Award

Earlier this week, Washington’s progressive community lost a gifted activist and leader when Alex (Heather) Hendrickson, forty-two, died suddenly of a heart condition that also caused her mother’s death seven years ago.

Off to Thailand! Alex Hendrickson and her daughter

Off to Thailand! (Photo: Alex Hendrickson)

Alex had just celebrated her forty-second birthday on December 7th.

A veteran of many campaigns — from Initiative 502 to Karen Fraser’s bid for Lieutenant Governor to Shari Song’s 2014 run for Washington State Senate — Alex was widely respected for her talents and dedication to progressive causes.

“Alex, in the time I knew her, was an Obama campaign organizer, chair of the 38th District Democrats (2011-12), manager of campaigns for Darcy Burner and Karen Fraser in Washington and most recently for Danner Kline in Alabama, as well as a PCO in Everett and Mukilteo,” her friend Jack Arends noted in a remembrance this morning. “She also was a member of the long line of graduates of the Institute for a Democratic Future and thus a student of Jason Bennett. Others can fill in the rest.”

“But Alex was so much more: She was a loving daughter and sister, a devoted mother to her daughter, Julia, and a generous and loyal friend to so many of us.”

“She could dazzle a room on formal occasions, but she was a frequent hockey buddy, too, quite at home in jeans and hoodie at the rink.”

“And I still shake my head in wonder at how she hooked up my TV: She had to climb onto a shelf, then crawl behind the TV. Houdini would be proud.”

A dear friend to many progressive candidates, activists, and campaign management professionals in our region, Alex leaves behind a young daughter, Julia Paige, who she wanted to go to college. A GoFundMe has been set up to raise funds for Julia, and if you’d like to contribute, you can do so at this link.

Alex Hendrickson in Monument Valley

Alex Hendrickson in Monument Valley (Photo: Alex Hendrickson)

In appreciation and recognition of Alex’s service to progressive causes, our team at the Northwest Progressive Institute will be posthumously conferring upon her a Lynn Allen Award this Sunday, December 16th, at our Winter Holiday Party.

If you’d like to attend the party, please RSVP here.

NPI established the Lynn Allen Awards last year to honor founding NPI boardmember and netroots pioneer Lynn Allen.

The Awards are the highest honor that NPI bestows. We confer them on up to two individuals per year who have made indispensable contributions to progressive causes. To date, three individuals have been honored with Lynn Allen Awards: attorney Paul Lawrence (2017), Sound Transit CEO Emeritus Joni Earl (2017), and Major General Paul Eaton, Retired (2018). Alex will be our fourth honoree.

Lynn would be proud that we are recognizing Alex for her good works.

Alex’s full given name was actually Heather Lynn Hendrickson, so she shares a special connection with our departed sister Lynn Allen.

The Awards we’ve named for Lynn are part of our efforts to keep her legacy alive.

We lost Lynn to ovarian cancer in 2011, but her spirit has remained with us. (And so have her published works, which are preserved by NPI at Rebuilding Democracy.)

Lynn believed in the important work of organizing rural communities and acting on issues of concern to people living far away from our big cities and urban areas. She believed in the politics of inclusion. As communications director of the Institute for Washington’s Future, she traveled regularly to Washington’s rural counties and small towns, championing sustainable business and agricultural practices.

A skilled facilitator and gifted listener, Lynn understood the importance of and need for effective activism. Not a day goes by when we don’t miss her.

And not a day will go by when those of us who knew Alex won’t miss her.

Thank you, Alex, for all you did, especially the behind-the-scenes work that most will never know about, but which has helped so many.

We will miss you, but you’ll never be forgotten.

Book Review: In “10 Strikes”, historian Erik Loomis demonstrates how American labor’s fortunes are inseparable from U.S. politics

Your short takeaway should be that A History of America in 10 Strikes is a good book in all the ways a history book can be good. You should buy it. You should read it. You should gift it to your friends and family, and stuff extra copies in Tiny Libraries you come across. The author Erik Loomis is a professor at the University of Rhode Island and regular contributor to the politics and culture blog “Lawyers, Guns, and Money“, and he’s been writing his This Day In Labor History” series for some time. It’s not surprising that he was able to bring the same sort of conversational brevity to this full-length work as he managed on Twitter threads, but it’s impressive he was able to tie almost two centuries of history all together so coherently. Now, Loomis has a point of view, and he states it outright and upfront: almost everyone in the United States is a worker, and labor unions have been the only force for workers in the past two centuries. What’s enlightening is his thesis, hammered in time and again, that “the fate of labor unions largely rests on the ability to elect politicians that will allow them to succeed.” He states this several times: “There is simply no evidence from American history that unions can succeed if the government and employers combine to crush them.” “Having friends in the government, or at least not having enemies there, makes all the difference in the history of American workers.” He says this in the beginning, he says it at the end, and he demonstrates it throughout, with the conclusion that the 1930s through the 1970s was an aberration of federal government non-hostility that ended when President Ronald Reagan definitely crushed the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization public union in 1981. “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,” certainly is terrifying — when you’re a factory owner hearing Frances Perkins say that to workers on strike. That the influence of labor has waned while income and wealth inequality waxed is not a coincidence. That conclusion is simple and the narrative never strays far from it, but Loomis manages to tell a compelling and enriching history of American society from the 1830s on to the present. In what may be the soft bigotry of low expectations, I was happily surprised by how seriously and fully he applied an intersectional lens to the history of labor and class struggle. But then, racism, misogyny, and homophobia are all class issues. Often, the utility of an intersectional approach is framed in moral terms—which it is—but that’s also more than a bit patronizing. We shouldn’t re-examine the past in terms of how historically ignored groups like white women or black Americans shaped and were shaped by events just because it’s fair; rather, history doesn’t actually make sense without doing so. Loomis first covers the striking Mill Girls of the 1830s, particularly in Lowell, Mass., in their efforts to work no more than 12 hours a day Monday through Friday and nine hours on Saturday. That’s right: one of the first labor struggles was to cut the workday down from 13.5 hours to 12, and “small business owners” fought like hell and claimed it’d bankrupt them back then, too. What success the mill girls had was due to politicians viewing relatively privileged white women from outside the city as being unsuitable for gross exploitation and abuse. But, being unable to vote themselves or gain the alliance of those who could, they weren’t very successful. Another theme, appearing again and again in labor history, is how when labor divides against itself, it can’t succeed. The mill girls didn’t have the support of their male counterparts, so their leverage against their employers was undermined. Eventually, employers switched to immigrant men who both didn’t have any political clout and received no sympathy from those who did. Most interesting, though, is Loomis including W.E.B. DuBois’s framing of the American Civil War as a general strike of the enslaved, or as Ira Berlin put it, “the slaves freed themselves“. Racism is economic history, and enslaved black Americans fatally undermined the slaver war effort by refusing to continue producing crops that could fund the government and feed its armies. They freed themselves by sabotaging the efforts of those slaver armies through strategic action and inaction. In Loomis’s book, the general strike of enslaved people is the most important American labor action ever taken, but it also fits into his rule. If the enslaved Americans had refused to do their work or voted with their feet en masse in 1845 or even 1860, the U.S. federal government would still have been under the control of slavers and combined with those who directly ran Southern slave labor camps in order to crush any widespread opposition, as they’d done in John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, the Louisiana German Coast Rebellion in 1811, or Carolina Stono Rebellion of 1739. Those people of prior years were not less brave, they did not possess less agency, but it was only when there was a war and the enslaved were considered property who could be legitimately “captured” and utilized by an invading Union army against their enemy, that the self-freed were allowed to act against their oppression instead of being massacred. “Massacre” is a word I thought about a lot reading A History of America in 10 Strikes because in U.S. hagiography, the Boston Massacre of 1770 is rightfully one of the central instigating incidents in the leadup to the American Revolution. Five people were killed, although we usually leave out that John Adams successfully got an acquittal for six of the eight British soldiers who fired on civilians. As an effect of the Civil Rights Movement and greater inclusion, Crispus Attucks‘s death has gained greater prominence. This is not a bad thing, but it’s certainly marginal, and in terms of the further-left’s criticisms of “neo-liberalism”, a place where the teeth of that criticism bites deepest. Again and again, I was horrified by the number of times capitalist employers armed private security forces, or utilized already-bought-and-paid-for local law enforcement, or combined both with state militias, or co-opted federal troops to murder a half dozen, a score, a hundred men, women, and children — and that I’d never heard of before. “The Boston Massacre” was savvy marketing, and the colonial revolutionaries who owned the newspapers had enough control of local governments to publish their version with impunity. The Redcoats were charged with a crime for shooting into a mob of fifty aggressive men. In 1927, mostly white but immigrant laborers and their families didn’t have the ability to do any marketing with the Columbine Mine massacre, which also killed six people, probably because of machine gun fire. In 1887, Southern whites murdered black Americans trying to unionize—not six but 60—in the Thibodeaux Massacre. The Whiskey Rebellion usually makes it into high school history courses, but the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia involved tens of thousands of people, the deaths of hundreds, and the cold-blooded murder of a police chief in a courthouse by a coal company’s private hitmen. If you asked a hundred people about it, you’d be surprised if any of them knew. President Warren G. Harding sent airplanes to bomb coal miners, and it’s like it never happened. The best thing about Loomis’s work is that, for all the tragedies prior to the 1930s, there’s at least a sense of remove to it. Those dark days are behind us, and now we have an eight-hour workday, and overtime pay, and the right to organize, and unemployment insurance. But around 1950, things start to take a turn because you know you’ve gotten to the high-water mark of labor history. You know the venality, racism, misogyny, and even xenophobia of the unions will corrupt and eat themselves. The rest of the book is just as important, but you read it falling downhill. Preserving gains made in a few states will restrict its political power to a few states only, and the Senate being the Senate, those gains will retreat. Even Cesar Chavez made a distinction between documented workers he could unionize against undocumented Mexican workers as the enemy. So divided against themselves, how can it be any surprise that farm workers continue to be exploited? We live in a new Lochner era on our Supreme Court, and it’s going to take a hell of a lot to dig us out of the second, just like it took the first. I know it sounds nakedly partisan to argue that the best Republican is equivalent to the worst Democrat, but you aren’t just voting — and organizing, and canvassing, and endorsing —  for an individual candidate, you’re supporting everything they’ll endorse, and go along with, and what they won’t oppose. The Democratic Party isn’t a force for good in the world, and it never ought to be mistaken for one. But right now, it is a force for the least bad, for the occasional good, for the hesitancy to be awful. The most obvious-in-retrospect thing Loomis accomplishes in his history is that whether it’s the Knights of Labor, AFL, CIO, or IWW, your tactics and your strategies matter a hell of a lot less than whether the people in charge of the levers of government are willing to use them to kill you, let you alone, or actively help you. There’s nothing wrong with marches in the street, but if you’ve done your job well, you won’t even have to march. If you haven’t done it well enough, no amount of bodies or high-powered rifles will get you your rights.

Magnitude 7.0 earthquake shakes Anchorage, Alaska, causing widespread damage

A powerful magnitude 7.0 earthquake shook the City of Anchorage, its suburbs, and points beyond this morning, causing widespread damage in Alaska’s largest city. The quake was the strongest to hit the city in more than fifty years.

Thankfully, no fatalities have been reported, and buildings throughout the region appear to be structurally intact. However, damage transportation, electric, energy, and water infrastructure appears to be rather extensive. Residents are grappling with power outages, road closures, and wrecked belongings.

It will be a long time before Anchorage has recovered from this event.

Here’s a synopsis of the quake from the United States Geological Survey:

The November 30, 2018, Mw 7.0 earthquake near Anchorage, Alaska, occurred as the result of normal faulting at a depth of about 40 km.

Focal mechanism solutions for the event indicate slip occurred on a moderately dipping fault striking north-south (dipping either to the east at about 30 degrees, or the west at about 60 degrees).

At the location of this earthquake, the Pacific plate is moving towards the northwest with respect to the North America plate at about 57 mm/yr, subducting beneath Alaska at the Alaska-Aleutians Trench, approximately 150 km south-southeast of this event. The location and mechanism of this earthquake indicate rupture occurred on an intraslab fault within the subducting Pacific slab, rather than on the shallower thrust-faulting interface between these two plates.

Earthquakes are common in this region. Over the past century, 14 other M 6+ earthquakes have occurred within 150 km of the November 30, 2018 event. Two of these – a M 6.6 earthquake in July 1983 and a M 6.4 event in September 1983 – were at a similarly shallow depth and caused damage in the region of Valdez.

The M 9.2 great Alaska earthquake of March 1964, was an interface thrust faulting earthquake that ruptured over several hundred kilometers between Anchorage and the Alaska-Aleutians trench, and to the southwest.

And here’s a rundown of roads the quake left either completely impassable or unsafe to travel on from the Anchorage Daily News:

The Glenn and Seward highways in town reopened early Friday afternoon, according to an update from Anchorage police. But detours and delays continue. Damage was a moving target, with new updates still coming in Friday evening.

There were several reports of serious road damage. The Glenn Highway had closed north of Eagle River because of damage to the southbound Eagle River bridge, and an on-ramp at the interchange of International Airport Road and Minnesota Boulevard collapsed.

A section of highway between Eklutna and Mirror Lake cracked and crumbled, closing southbound lanes for several days, according to Alaska Department of Transportation project engineer Rod Cummings. Southbound traffic will be routed around the area until crews can repair the damage.

The Palmer exit off the highway was closed after a gap appeared between the abutment and the bridge, officials said.

Vine Road near Wasilla also suffered major damage and a section is closed. From above, the heavily used connector road looked like a giant bowling ball hit it. Point MacKenzie Road sustained serious damage as well.

The City of Anchorage and the State of Alaska have each declared a state of emergency. A request for federal assistance has already been approved.

Manka Dhingra elected Deputy Senate Majority Leader; will also chair new Behavioral Health Subcommittee

A year after flipping the Washington State Senate from red to blue, Redmond’s Manka Dhingra (D-45th District) has ascended into the ranks of Senate leadership. The caucus announced today that Dhingra and Senator Rebecca Saldaña (D-37th District; Seattle) will be the chamber’s next Deputy Majority Leaders.

They will work alongside Majority Leader Andy Billig, Majority Floor Leader Marko Liias, Caucus Chair John McCoy, and Majority Whip Mark Mullet.

“I think it’s fair to say that a Washington legislative caucus has never had the benefit of this diverse a range of representation,” Billig said in a statement.

“It’s one thing to talk about someone else’s needs and another thing altogether to have lived them. No one needs to explain Eastern Washington priorities to me; I’ve been fighting for them ever since I was elected to the Legislature.”

“The Legislature is full of smart, insightful elected officials who can write strong, sensible laws, and our knowledge is further enlightened by our personal life experiences,” Saldaña said. “Representation matters, and when we apply a more diverse range of experiences to our work, we wind up with better laws that apply more fairly and equitably to the very diverse communities that make up our state.”

“As a King County prosecutor in my day job, I have the benefit of a specialized skill set that increases my awareness of the legal ramifications of any legislation I touch,” Dhingra said. “In the same light, I know that when women of color advance into leadership roles, we flourish. We uplift our communities.”

“We uplift us all.”

Dhingra was just reelected to a four year term representing the 45th District (Redmond, Kirkland, Woodinville, Duvall, Sammamish).

She is also one of five current boardmembers governing NPI’s newly formed sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. The Senate Democrats have certainly made a wise choice by elevating her to their leadership team.

Here’s the complete caucus leadership team roster for 2019-2020:

  • Majority Leader: Andy Billig (D-Spokane)
  • Deputy Leaders: Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond); Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle)
  • Caucus Chair: John McCoy (D-Tulalip)
  • Floor Leader: Marco Liias (D-Mukilteo)
  • Whip: Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah)
  • Vice Caucus Chair: Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle)
  • Assistant Floor Leader: Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue)
  • Assistant Whip: Claire Wilson (D-Federal Way)

The majority has the power to choose the Senate’s officers in addition to naming its own leadership team (it’s one of the big perks of having a majority) and the caucus’ two nominees for those posts are the people who hold them now:

  • President Pro Tempore: Karen Keiser (D-Federal Way)
  • Vice President Pro Tempore: Steve Conway (D-Tacoma)

Keiser and Conway will be responsible for assuming presiding duties in the stead of Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib when he is away or unavailable.

The Senate Democrats also announced a restructuring of the chamber’s committees. The biggest change is the creation of the new Housing Stability & Affordability Committee, which will be chaired by Patty Kuderer (D-48th District: Redmond, Kirkland, and the Points communities). The Senate is also creating a new Behavioral Health Subcommittee that will be chaired by Dhingra.

“I’ve heard from people across the state, and these two issues consistently rise to the top,” said Billig. “Every community, and really every family, has in some way been touched by a mental health crisis and the intersection between that issue and our state’s housing and homelessness crisis is clear as glass. The creation of these new committees will enable us to intensify our efforts to create solutions in these areas while providing Washingtonians more opportunity to articulate their needs.”

But that’s not all.

The Senate is also gaining a new Environment & Tourism Committee, chaired by Kevin Ranker (D-40th District: San Juan Islands, Whatcom and Skagit Counties).

The committee’s primary focus will be environmental health through improved water quality, oil spill prevention and other measures to protect our state’s ecosystems, according to the caucus. It will work in cooperation with the Energy, Climate and Technology Committee on environmental issues.

“The environmental health of our country and our state have reached a critical tipping point,” Billig pointed out, alluding to recent reports from the IPCC and the United States federal government concerning the severity of the climate crisis. “Washingtonians want and deserve action on this critical concern. It’s up to us to lead on this issue and accomplish what the other Washington can’t or won’t.”

NPI congratulates the Senate Democrats on the creation of these new committees. We look forward to working with the Senate to advance legislation that will result in a more inclusive economy and a better society for all Washingtonians.

Frank Chopp to retire as Speaker of the Washington State House after 2019 session

State Representative Frank Chopp (D-43rd District; Seattle) announced today that following the adjournment of the 2019 legislative session, he will be stepping down from his position as Speaker of the Washington State House of Representatives while remaining a member of the chamber.

Chopp, sixty-five, has served as co-Speaker (and then just Speaker) for nearly twenty years. He was just reelected to the position again. Here’s his statement:

It’s been an honor serving the state as Speaker since 1999, and to have helped hold the Democratic majority for so many years.

With that majority, we’ve accomplished a great deal for the people of Washington. I’m proud that the House of Representatives led the way on such issues as:

  • Apple Health for All, which provides health care to more than 1.5 million people;
  • Funding basic education;
  • Paid Family Leave;
  • Marriage Equality Act;
  • Voting Rights Act;
  • Dream Act and the Opportunity Scholarship program;
  • Historic investments in the state’s infrastructure and transportation projects that have resulted in tens of thousands of family-wage jobs;
  • The Housing Trust Fund, which has invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing.

Now, I’ve decided it’s time to step aside so that I can focus more energy on the issues that matter most and are priorities for the caucus. I plan to serve as Speaker through the 2019 session to provide an orderly leadership transition, but remain in the Legislature as a representative of the 43rd Legislative District.

It’s been an honor to serve as the state’s Speaker and to work with so many dedicated legislators on both sides of the aisle.

“There are few who work harder and with more heart than Frank Chopp,” said Governor Jay Inslee in a statement. “He has dedicated his career to lifting people out of poverty and strengthening economic security and opportunity for all Washingtonians. Congratulations to one of Washington’s best as he prepares to round out his long and notable career as Speaker of the House.”

Chopp’s statement does not say whether he plans to retire from legislative service entirely after 2020, but he has plenty of time to make that decision.

Chopp’s retirement as Speaker sets up an extremely important leadership contest within the House Democratic caucus for the top position in the chamber.

The caucus — and the state — deserve a bold progressive leader who can build a strong working relationship with Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and the rest of the state’s executive department. Who will step forward to seek the job? We’ll keep you posted.

Book Review: Hilarie Gamm’s “Billions Lost” sadly has nothing useful or progressive to say

You’ll often hear, in reference to current events, that the Republican Party has its origins in the anti-slavery movement of the mid-nineteenth century.

This is, strictly speaking, true, but bowdlerized.

The best an abolitionist Liberty Party candidate ever achieved for President was in 1844 with 2.3% of what was then the popular vote.

The Free Soil Party was anti-slavery but only in so much as it disliked enslaved people. It got 10.1 percent in 1848.

The Know Nothing Party didn’t care for slavery but what really got it going was anti-immigrant nativism, contemporarily aimed at Irish and German Catholics. In 1856, it got 21.5% of the vote. By then, the Republican Party was competing on a slogan of “Free soil, free silver, free men.”

Abraham Lincoln won the presidency as a Republican with less than 40% of the popular vote four years later.

Billions Lost, by Hilarie T. Gamm

Hilarie T. Gamm’s Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and the Roadmap to Change (Paperback, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)

At that time, most white Americans who were inclined to view slavery as a problem chose to blame the enslaved people for the results of their exploitation rather than their slavers.

Many native-born felt compelled to recoil at the conditions recent immigrants experienced in the depths of poverty around them but despised such people for enduring it.

If you’ve ever resented a homeless person for smelling of mildew next to you at a coffee shop rather than the circumstances that led to them being outside in damp and dreary conditions, you’ll understand how insidious and unhelpful this impulse is.

In what might unfairly be called the Oregon View, there has always been a strain of the left that comes to the conclusion that America’s problems can be solved by aligning against the vulnerable and forcibly expelling or further marginalizing them.

Make it illegal for black Americans to stay in the area without having to suffer violence. Make it illegal for Chinese Americans to return to the home they’ve made for decades, even if the person just created the most popular cherry in the United States. The fruit of his ingenuity and hardwork — Ah Bing’s namesake — could stay, but not the person. Oregon is an easy target, but so would be Tacoma.

Or any sundown town. Or anywhere in America at any time.

This post is, by the way, a book review of Hilarie T. Gamm’s Billions Lost: The American Tech Crisis and the Roadmap to Change. It’s a bad book, and in any just world that valued empathy, it would be universally be regarded as such.

Instead we live in this one, and I know it has some appeal.

A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

That’s the justification former Donald Trump favorite Steve Bannon would give for keeping nonwhite immigrants out of the United States, even when they’re contributing a net gain in any measurable economic sense.

Good on him for avoiding all dissembling to get right to the heart of white nationalism, though. It’s not the legalism or the process or the idea of a net drain: it’s that the only people he wants here are white, culturally “Judeo”-Christians.

Gamm at least starts from a place of greater sympathy because the supposed subject and target of Billions Lost is the H-1B visa program.

The specialty occupations that temporary foreign workers are supposed to be filling aren’t necessarily so special at all. The program gives corporations, particularly those in the tech industry, a strong club to beat domestic tech workers with, something they’re keen to do after the class-action lawsuit Vizcaino v. Microsoft of the late 1990s gained domestic workers more protections.

This first portion of the book tracks the history of the U.S. tech industry, showing how regulations requiring employers to treat their American workers fairly sent companies down a path of least resistance looking for workers easier to exploit and mistreat. It acknowledges how rising education standards, globally but particularly in English-speaking India, created an alternative workforce willing and able to do work more cheaply with less stringent protections.

So, the legitimate problem and more fundamental scariness represented by a Y2K catastrophe was an excuse to utilize a lot of temporary foreign workers to fix one big problem, and corporations continued to use such workers long after that emergency had disappeared. The corporations benefitting most from the program made no noise about stopping it, and in the 21st Century, there were no unions of any strength to make noise. No issues there.

But it’s at this crossroad after identifying a problem that progressives and reactionaries fundamentally diverge.

The YouTube creator Olly Thorn provided an optimistic frame for why the left, generally, has the stronger case for the future. A progressive sees the most vulnerable people in a system, and looks for ways to make common cause with each other against some oppressive force, to be stronger by mutual support.

A reactionary looks for ways to use someone else’s weakness as a way to define the vulnerable as separate from and lesser than a more self-sufficient group that the audience of course always imagines being included in.

That’s where this book takes its turn into a bad trip, and where the American left has traditionally struggled.

Gamm says that restricting foreign workers is the best solution to help them not be exploited, but really to help native U.S. tech workers like her.

This is in contrast to the more natural solution: empower those new residents to be independent and give them the sort of protections that would align with other U.S. laborers — that is, to be able to regard themselves as fully American.

Gamm disabuses the reader of any idea that this is an innocent mistake or one born of harmless ignorance by making it unmistakably clear she dislikes the idea of F-1 visas and foreign students in American universities, too.

Here are some of the complaints Gamm gives for why universities should accept fewer non-native students:

  1. An anecdote from one Chinese student that “ninety percent” of Chinese students like to hang out with fellow Chinese students instead of socializing with other groups because they have nothing in common.
  2. A reference to a 2005 New York Times article summarized as foreign graduate students having accents that are too thick and don’t speak English well enough to teach Americans.
  3. A regurgitation and extension of a Malcolm Gladwell argument in “Rice Paddies and Math Tests” that the culture of Chinese rice farming and acceptance of authoritarianism means the foreign students have a natural predilection for STEM fields that favor rote memorization and practice, something an American focus on “ingenuity” and history of mechanical corn farming can’t fairly compete with.
  4. This direct quote: “Math, science, and computer majors hold less appeal for those marriage-minded heterosexual young men who hope to meet a potential mate for life during their college studies.”

That’s a literal, if tossed-off, argument the book makes, which, if we’re not in 14 words territory yet, we’re definitely seeing the road signs for the off-ramp to it.

This is, again, not a good book, but that’s a lucky thing, because it would not have been so hard to sand off these rough edges and make it the sort of book other political figures on the left would have felt the impulse to conduct apologetics for as not necessarily racist, just reflecting the sort of thing white people naturally feel uncomfortable about.

Without the references to participation trophies, lazy millenials, and full-throated endorsement of charter schools, this could have been the sort of book that lulled unsuspecting folk into thinking it had anything useful to say.

Luckily, Gamm included all of that and also peddled a conspiracy that Chinese students are all spies taking American intellectual property back to the Middle Kingdom to make fools of us all.

This is an aside in an already digressive piece, but how uninformed do you have to be to examine the relationship between other nations and the U.S. university system and not recognize it as the greatest force of soft power we possess?

It’s not even fair. Repressed, wealthy foreign nationals come to U.S. colleges and experience the best years of their life because they can surf an uncensored Internet and express divergent political opinions with impunity — oh and they’re also young, as healthy and attractive as they’ll ever be.

For the literal entirety of the rest of their lives, these former students will look back on their time in the United States as the best years they ever had, and a not-insubstantial portion will pine to move back and recapture their lost nostalgia.

If you want to improve the H-1B program, give workers the sort of visa that allows them to work anywhere they want to, unionize just like the native-born, and fulfill their aspirations to become Americans.

If you want to make U.S. colleges more welcoming to already-American students, fund public tertiary education so they don’t have to go into crippling debt to pursue STEM fields deeper. This is not difficult.

You don’t restrict who gets to come to America: you expand what it means to be an American. You actually help people instead of punishing some Other you’ve just defined. If your roof leaks when it rains, fix the roof.

I’m not as optimistic as Olly Thorn. I think folks will always find it easier to shore up their insecurities by pointing at someone else and arguing some essential quality of those people makes them worthy of scorn, Pap Finn-style.

But we can do better.

We have to do better. Not just for tech workers we think can help us in the Brain Drain sense but for those we despise for their weakness and assume can’t help anyone. Bannon has already admitted the distinction is irrelevant. We should too.

A temporary-foreign-worker program that allows and requires those workers to work only for one company in order to make money — and be deported if the company says they broke the terms of their contract — is not slavery, but the choice of destitution for a person and their family set against sexual harassment, physical abusement, or fatal illness is not a fair one for workers to have to make.

That’s for any workers, from any place working any where in America.

That’s where our empathy ought to be.

That’s where our focus on providing guarantees ought to remain.

Jesus said: “As you do to the least of these, you did to me.” We have to make sure that’s important to us whether we’re talking about the one from Nazareth or Michoacán, and whether a Lee was born in Shanghai or Mobile.

We have to do the work of climbing on the roof to fix the leak, not just shove someone out into the rain to feel drier by comparison.

Reforms still needed to make presidential primary usable by both major parties in WA

We still have a few more days to go before the 2018 midterm election is certified (and recounts in several legislative races slated to begin), but that’s not stopping Secretary of State Kim Wyman or her fans at the Seattle Times editorial board from turning their attention to the forthcoming 2019 legislative session.

“Washington voters deserve to have their voices heard loud and clear during the 2020 presidential election cycle. That means moving the date of Washington state’s presidential primary election to earlier in the year — and for the state Democratic Party to start using the results,” the Times declared in an editorial this morning.

NPI agrees that the default date of the presidential primary ought to be moved up to March, and that the Washington State Democratic Party ought to adopt a Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action Plan (known as a DSAAP for short) that utilizes the presidential primary for the purposes of delegate allocation.

However, before that can happen, a key change needs to be made to the state’s existing presidential primary law so that it becomes usable by both major parties.

Full disclosure: I serve on the Washington State Democratic Central Committee as a voting member, and I co-chair the party’s Advocacy Committee, responsible for drafting and championing its legislative priorities.

The Times and Wyman seem wholly fixated on getting the default date moved up. While it would be nice to have an earlier default date for the election, the reality is that existing law already allows the date to be moved up if officials from both parties agree. The current default date isn’t what is standing in the way of the Democratic Party’s potential usage of the presidential primary.

Rather, it’s language in RCW 29A.56.030 that gives Wyman the power to add a name to either of the party’s ballots in her sole discretion.

Here’s the first two provisions from that RCW:

The name of any candidate for a major political party nomination for president of the United States shall be printed on the presidential preference primary ballot of a major political party only:

(1) By direction of the secretary of state, who in the secretary’s sole discretion has determined that the candidate’s candidacy is generally advocated or is recognized in national news media;

This provision needs to be amended by the Legislature to require Wyman to consult with the major parties prior to adding a name to their ballots, and giving the parties an opportunity to object to any candidate’s inclusion. Without such a change, the parties could be deprived of their First Amendment rights of free assembly.

For example, Wyman could decide — in her “sole discretion” — to put a candidate like Lyndon LaRouche on the Democratic ballot, citing coverage of his candidacy by the “national news media”. There would be nothing the Democratic Party could do about that. Wyman could do the same thing to the Republicans as well, but since she is a Republican herself, the Washington State Republicans probably aren’t worried about her adding a name to their ballot that they don’t approve of.

The Republicans cannot, however, assume that the Secretary of State will always be a Republican who will a friend to them. It is thus in their interest as well for this RCW to be amended. It will ensure that our presidential primary is compliant with the First Amendment, and respectful of their rights as well as the Democrats’ rights.

The Democratic National Committee is unlikely to authorize the Washington State Democratic Party to use the state’s presidential primary statute if this change isn’t made, even if the state party wanted to. So if Wyman and the Times want the Democratic Party to use the results of the primary, they should back this reform.

They should also abandon the idea of giving Wyman the power to move the date of her own accord. The current statute appropriately requires consultation with the parties regarding the date, and that arrangement must be preserved.

The exact timing of a nominating event can significantly affect how many delegates a state gets on the Democratic side. It is therefore imperative, from the Democratic Party’s part of view, that Wyman not be allowed to move the date of her own accord, even if it’s just a change of a week or two.

The Legislature should also tighten up RCW 29A.56.040 and RCW 29A.56.050 to ensure that elections officials are only including votes properly cast by a voter wishing to affiliate with the Democratic or Republican parties prior to conveying the presidential primary returns to the parties.

RCW 29A.56.040 could be amended as follows:

(3) Each party’s ballot or portion of the ballot must list alphabetically the names of all qualified candidates for that party’s nomination for the office of president and no other names. The ballot must clearly indicate the political party of each candidate. ((Each ballot must include a blank space to allow the voter to write in the name of any other candidate.))

And RCW 29A.56.050 could be amended as follows:

(2) If requested by a major political party, the secretary of state shall adopt rules under RCW 29A.04.620 to provide for any declaration required by that party and to provide that votes cast for that party’s candidates will only be counted if cast by a voter subscribing to that party’s declaration and no other.

These changes, coupled with reform of RCW 29A.56.030, should provide sufficient assurance to the parties that the presidential primary will be safe to use.

The Democratic Party’s basic requirements for use of a presidential primary, as explained by DNC Member David McDonald during a joint work session of the House and Senate State Government Committees, are as follows:

  • Limited to voters affiliated with the Democratic Party or unaffiliated with any Party but wishing to publicly affiliate with the Democratic Party
  • Assurance by early 2019 that primary is available
  • Candidates on the ballot are limited to bona fide Democrats
  • Votes must be recorded and subject to verification and recount
  • No contemporaneous beauty contests or straw polls

Lastly, a few words about the use of caucuses.

Today’s Seattle Times editorial states:

An earlier and more relevant primary should make it easier for the state Democratic Party to dump its outdated caucus system, which it has used in the past to allocate delegates to presidential candidates.

Caucuses are neither outdated nor antiquated. It is important to understand that the Washington State Democratic Party is not going to dump them, even if it begins using a presidential primary for delegate allocation.

Why? Because the party still has to decide who goes to the state and national conventions in support of each candidate — and caucuses are by far the best way to do that. The alternative is letting the presidential campaigns do the selecting, which would likely mean someone on the other coast drawing up lists of names.

I’m totally opposed to that.

Even in this hyperconnected era, face-to-face interaction — sometimes referred to as good old fashioned retail politics — remains the best way of getting out the vote and discussing the issues. A caucus is simply a party meeting with a special purpose. There is nothing “outdated” about people getting together in person to decide who should represent them at the next level in presidential nominating processes.

To put it another way: Party caucuses are no more “outdated” than CityClub backed debates or Ignite Education Lab events organized by The Seattle Times.

If the Washington State Democratic Party starts using a presidential primary, caucuses will not go away. This is what you can expect to happen instead:

First: The party will encourage candidates to come to Washington State and compete for votes ahead of the presidential primary. Voters will likewise be encouraged to vote the Democratic ballot that comes in their mail.

Second: The election will be held. Once the votes are counted, the party will know how many delegates to allocate to each candidate that competed.

Candidates that have dropped out or receive very little support may not qualify to receive any delegates. The Democratic Party uses proportional representation exclusively — there are no “winner take all” states — so the delegates will almost certainly be divided by two, three, or more candidates.

Third: The party will hold caucuses, most likely beginning at the legislative district level, to select delegates to the congressional district and state level. Subcaucuses consisting of the supporters of each of the different presidential campaigns will meet and decide who should represent them. How many delegates each candidate gets will have been determined by their share of the vote in the presidential primary. At these caucuses there will also be opportunities to adopt a platform and resolutions, and to hear from Democratic candidates running for state/local office.

Fourth: The party will then hold a second round of caucuses at the congressional district level. At these caucuses, the initial pledged delegates from Washington State to the Democratic National Convention will be selected, again using the allocation determined by the results of the presidential primary.

Fifth: The party will select its final pledged delegates at the 2020 State Convention in Tacoma. These delegates will join those elected at the congressional level plus the state’s automatic delegates at the Democratic National Convention in July 2020.

The exact process, including all the steps and the dates associated with those steps, will be determined by the Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action Plan (DSAAP). The state party must write a draft DSAAP and submit it to the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee for approval by midway through next spring. Should the DNC approve this plan, it will then become effective.

As David McDonald has stated, the DNC is encouraging states to make use of presidential primaries for 2020, but only if the party’s requirements are met.

We urge the Legislature and Governor Inslee to act quickly in 2019 to approve a presidential primary reform bill that makes the primary usable by both major parties. This will enable people who simply want to influence the parties’ presidential nominating process to cast a vote without having to show up at a caucus.

Those who wish to run for delegate and participate in partybuilding activities — at least on the Democratic side — will still be able to exercise that freedom.

A great day for Sound Transit: Hilltop Link breaks ground; Lynnwood Link gets funded

Thanksgiving is only a few hours away, and this year, Sound Transit certainly has a lot to be thankful for. The agency, formally known as Puget Sound’s Regional Transit Authority, had a stellar day. Not only did ST break ground on the Tacoma Link Hilltop Streetcar extension just as the fog lifted, but it got word that federal funding for Lynnwood Link — a vitally important ST2 project — is on the way.

Let’s start with the latter news, which was triumphantly announced by Senator Murray’s office this afternoon. Sound Transit is slated to receive $1.2 billion in grants as well as $650 million in low-interest, deferred-payment federal loans from the Federal Transit Administration. This is a really big deal.

The Trump administration is finally giving our region — and specifically the communities of Shoreline and Lynnwood — the light rail expansion money we were allotted months ago, after Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell successfully demanded that the U.S. Department of Transportation stop holding it hostage.

“This is fantastic news for North Sound residents who are one step closer to seeing our shared goal of expanding public transit options in their communities become reality,” said Murray, the dean of the state’s D.C. delegation, in a statement.

“Completing the Lynnwood Link light rail extension will help commuters and consumers connect with employment and education centers, local businesses, as well as address congestion concerns, and I am grateful to Secretary Chao and the Federal Transit Administration for following through on their commitment to move forward with this grant agreement and get this critical project underway soon.”

“As a voice for our state on the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue doing my part to ensure the necessary federal investments continue to flow to Lynnwood Link to see this important project through to its completion.”

“Christmas came early to Puget Sound with a major investment in light rail going to Snohomish County,” agreed Senator Maria Cantwell.

“This agreement will link commuters and businesses throughout the region, build more parking for commuters and ease traffic congestion. I appreciate the hard work of Secretary Chao and the Department of Transportation given the complexity of this project and the importance of this next phase.”

“This is great news for everyone in the Puget Sound region who wants to see more commuting options and our freeway congestion eased,” said Dave Somers, Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive.

“Lynnwood Link is the first major investment in light rail for Snohomish County, and we appreciate the hard work of our congressional delegation and the Federal Transit Administration. Sound Transit has an ambitious plan to deliver for the people of our region, and Lynnwood Link is a key part of that plan.”

As Executive Somers emphasized in his statement, Lynnwood Link brings light rail across the border from King County into Snohomish County. It is a project of tremendous importance to residents living in and around the communities of Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Mukilteo, and beyond, because it will provide a desperately-needed way of bypassing Interstate 5 gridlock.

Sound Transit is currently midway through the construction phase for Northgate Link, which will add three stations to Link’s trunk line beginning in 2021. Lynnwood Link will take light rail eight and a half miles further north from there, through Shoreline and into the home county of Executive Somers.

Planning for Lynnwood Link has been complicated by rising costs for real estate acquisition and community requests for station designs.

Sound Transit has been counting on getting federal support to get Lynnwood Link going, but the Trump regime has been making it wait for the money.

Thankfully, it now appears the wait is over.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff used to work at the Federal Transit Administration, and is thus intimately familiar with the process of disbursing federal money to agencies like the one he now runs. While the money is not in hand yet, it’s really all downhill from here. The last major stumbling block has been overcome.

Sound Transit plans to approve the first contracts for initial construction work on Lynnwood Link next month. Groundbreaking will take place in early 2019.

NPI congratulates Sound Transit on today’s breakthrough. We salute the determined work of our United States Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell in making this happen. They have delivered for us, and we won’t forget it.

Prior to announcing the Lynnwood Link news, Murray joined Rogoff and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer at the groundbreaking for Hilltop Link, a Sound Transit 3 project that will extend the agency’s Tacoma streetcar 2.4 miles.

Hilltop Link will add six new stations to the existing streetcar line, built back in 2003 during ST Phase One, and relocate one existing station. The new stations will connect the Stadium District and Hilltop neighborhoods to the system.

Construction will be performed by Walsh Construction Company II, LLC, and is due to be finished in 2022. The City of Tacoma and the federal government are jointly funding the project in cooperation with Sound Transit.

The new stations will be as follows:

  • South 4th
  • Stadium District
  • Tacoma General
  • 6th Avenue
  • Hilltop District
  • St. Joseph

Tacoma Link currently runs from the Tacoma Dome transit hub at Freighthouse Square to the Theater District. The Theater District Station will close and its relocated successor will be be known as the Old City Hall Station.

Hilltop Link Streetcar extension map

Click for a larger view (Map courtesy of Sound Transit)

Today’s groundbreaking took place at Tacoma’s Peoples Park and brought together civic leaders, union construction workers, neighborhood activists, and agency officials. Local businesses — including the famous Johnson Candy Company — provided refreshments, and the Tracy Knoop Octet provided music.

Joining the elected officials for the speaking program were Pierce County Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Mark Martinez, Hilltop Action Coalition’s Brendan Nelson, and North Slope Coffee House owner Denny Faker. They emphasized the value Hilltop Link would bring to neighborhoods that have been waiting a long time for an investment like this streetcar project.

I was pleased to represent NPI at today’s Hilltop Link groundbreaking. It’s nice to see a Sound Transit 3 project getting on track so quickly in Pierce County.

Hopefully Pierce voters beyond the boundaries of Tacoma (where ST3 did receive majority support!) will see the construction and realize Sound Transit is serious about liberating them from auto dependence and never-ending gridlock.

A stamp shouldn’t be necessary to vote: Let’s keep ballot return envelopes postage-free

This year, Washington State took an important step towards lowering barriers to voting by making all ballot return envelopes postage free. This move effectively eliminated what had been akin to a poll tax. Every post office effectively became a ballot drop box, with voters everywhere gaining the freedom to return a ballot through the United States Postal Service without needing to worry about stamps.

Sadly, instead of celebrating the removal of a barrier to voting, Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman today suggested that maybe it wasn’t worth it in a really bad story published by MYNorthwest.com, the online hub for Bonneville International’s Seattle radio stations KTTH 770 AM, KIRO 710 AM, and KIRO 97.3 FM.

The flawed premise of the story, authored by reporter Mike Lewis, is basically as follows: Overall voter turnout in the 2018 midterms isn’t going to end up higher than 2010 turnout, so that means Wyman and Governor Inslee’s move to provide prepaid postage on all ballot return envelopes was — and I quote! — a “bust”.

Wrong! Providing prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes was a responsible, appropriate, and inclusive voting reform. It was worth doing regardless of whether it bolstered turnout across the board or not. It’s a reform that we absolutely must make permanent, even if Kim Wyman isn’t on board.

And it doesn’t sound like she is.

Wyman said the static voter turnout numbers indicate that the Legislature might not be warm to funding government-paid postage moving ahead.

“I think if we had seen stronger voter turnout, I’d be a stronger advocate (for continued state ballot-postage funding),” Wyman said.

“Was it nice for the state to do this for voters? Sure it was,” she added.

But she got an earful from both the people who supported the effort and those who saw it as a waste of taxpayer money.

The larger point that lawmakers should deal with, she said, is that the state does not adequately cover the cost of the elections it requires the counties to hold.

We are all in favor of providing counties with more funding to cover the costs of elections. Few people know that the state has an arrangement with the counties to reimburse them for costs associated with statewide ballot measures and state-level contests in odd-numbered years, but not in even-numbered years. That makes no sense. The counties should get reimbursed for the state’s share every year.

By all means, let’s have that important conversation about elections costs. It will do us good: Elections are a public service, after all. But prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes has to become mandatory and permanently funded by the state.

If we’re going to be serious about lowering barriers to voting — and we should be — then prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes cannot be up for debate. It has to stay. This was first and foremost a voting reform, as opposed to an experiment to bolster midterm election turnout (which is what Kim Wyman seems to think it is).

We can easily afford to continue making it possible to return a ballot through the post without a stamp. Anyone concerned about streamlining elections and saving money is welcome to join NPI in calling for an end to the February and April special election windows and replacing them with a schedule that ordinarily has only two elections per year: one in May or June, and one in November.

(A presidential primary could also be held separately from those two elections in years divisible by four, ideally on a date in March.)

Now, with regards to the effect that prepaid postage had on voter turnout this year, here are some important points to consider that didn’t make it into Mike Lewis’ story and the incredibly disappointing commentary from Kim Wyman it contains.

Let me begin by offering some context on voter turnout.

It’s important to understand that since Wyman took office in January 2013, voter turnout in every type of election — and Washington regularly holds nine different types, not counting February or April special elections — had been declining.

Last year, in fact, Washington set a record for the worst-ever general election turnout in state history, only two years after the last such record had been set.

Wyman didn’t cause this declining turnout, but she has certainly known about the problem for a long time, and she has failed to do anything to address it. We called on her repeatedly to lead on removing barriers to voting. But she didn’t.

This year, with the State Senate back in Democratic hands, the era of inaction on knocking down voting barriers finally came to an end.

At Governor Inslee’s urging, the Legislature passed the groundbreaking Access to Democracy package, championed by Democratic legislators like Sam Hunt, Zack Hudgins, Patty Kuderer, Rebecca Saldana, Laurie Dolan, and Steve Bergquist.

As a consequence, we’re now getting same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration, and youth preregistration, plus the Washington Voting Rights Act.

Then, after the legislative session ended, King County announced it would provide prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes for all its voters.

Not wanting Washingtonians outside of King County to be left out, Wyman and Inslee cobbled together funds from their own office budgets to ensure the other thirty-eight counties could copy King County’s move at no additional cost.

Each of the elections we have now held with prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes have bucked the declining turnout trend we’ve been mired in.

In August, we saw statewide voter turnout of 40.79%, the highest in years — higher even than turnout in the 2016 Top Two, which was a presidential year and thus not directly comparable. And in this November 2018 general election, we’re currently seeing voter turnout of 71.09% statewide, with a few ballots still to count. That’s a huge increase over the 2014 midterms, when turnout was only 54.16%.

Wyman has long argued that turnout is a function of what’s on the ballot, and she stubbornly believes this to be true, even though it’s actually just one factor that influences turnout. Accordingly, she is measuring 2018 turnout against 2010 turnout, because 2010 is last midterm election we had with a United States Senate race near the top of the ballot. 2014 is apparently irrelevant and meaningless.

Wyman’s analysis is flawed in multiple respects.

First, if we’re going to make comparisons, we may as well compare 2018 with 2014, since 2014 was the most recent midterm. No two elections are exactly alike. Any comparison we wish to make will be flawed to some extent.

Compared to 2014, 2018 turnout is a giant improvement.

Second, while 2014 may not have had a U.S. Senate race, it did have three initiatives (I-591, I-594, I-1351), a few State Supreme Court races, and ten U.S. House contests. I-591 and I-594 concerned gun safety, a contentious issue.

Third, our 2018 U.S. Senate race was not competitive, whereas the 2010 U.S. Senate race was. By Wyman’s logic, that makes this year’s turnout more impressive.

Unlike in 2010, when Dino Rossi’s candidacy was considered to be a real threat to Patty Murray’s reelection, Maria Cantwell was never considered to be in danger of losing. The state Republican Party did not even produce a candidate it wanted to stand behind (Susan Hutchison) until a few minutes before the end of filing.

Fourth, the universe of voters has expanded significantly since 2010. Eight years ago, according to state data, there were 3,601,268 voters registered. Now there are 4,362,014. Because our voting rolls have grown, more people have to vote in order for us to equal or surpass the record or high percentages we set in the past.

Fifth, 2018 turnout may not end up higher than 2010 turnout, but this banner year follows a long period of declining voter turnout across all kinds of elections, whereas 2010 followed 2008, a cycle in which we set an all-time voter turnout record.

Sixth, 2018 stacks up incredibly well against every other midterm election in modern times, percentage-wise. Since our electoral history didn’t begin in 2010, why limit ourselves to comparing 2018 to that cycle? Let’s compare 2018 to even more midterms — including midterms with a U.S. Senate race.

Midterm Voter Turnout, Last Thirty Years

  • 2018: 71.09% November turnout (so far)
  • 2014: 54.16% November turnout (no U.S. Senate race)
  • 2010: 71.24% November turnout (Patty Murray vs. Dino Rossi)
  • 2006: 64.55% November turnout (Maria Cantwell vs. Mike McGavick)
  • 2002: 56.35% November turnout (no U.S. Senate race)
  • 1998: 62.17% November turnout (Patty Murray vs. Linda Smith)
  • 1994: 59.85% November turnout (Slade Gorton vs. Ron Sims)
  • 1990: 61.24% November turnout (no U.S. Senate race)

As we can see, our current turnout is quite a bit higher than every midterm held during the last thirty years except 2010. 2010 was the big outlier… until now.

2010 was a very distinctive election in many ways. For example, there were an extra large number of ballot measures (nine total), there was that tight U.S. Senate race that attracted the attention of the President of the United States, and King County joined nearly every other county in adopting voting at home as opposed to a hybrid system of polling places for in-person voting plus “absentee” voting.

If we average all midterms going back to 1990 together, we get 62.58%. Our current statewide turnout compares very favorably to that average.

A few weeks ago, when I interviewed King County Elections Director Julie Wise, I asked her if prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes had made a difference in the August Top Two election. And she said it had. Here’s our exchange:

NPI’s ANDREW VILLENEUVE: Hi, Julie. Last time we talked, King County Elections had just announced prepaid postage [on ballot return envelopes], and we’ve [now] had a first election with that.

What were the results? Was it a success?

JULIE WISE: Yeah, it was a great success! We saw approximately four to five percent increase in turnout in the [Top Two] election that I really attribute to prepaid postage. I really don’t see any sort of other issues on a [Top Two] ballot that would lead voters to have voted in a higher percentage, or turned out in a higher percentage.

So it was a great success.

And we also saw that voters’ behavior changed.

Where [previously] fifty percent of voters were returning ballots through a drop box and [fifty percent] through the United States Postal Service, [we saw] seventy percent of voters returning [their ballots] through the United States Postal Service instead.

So that, and, we didn’t see any issues through the United States Postal Service. USPS did an awesome job of making sure that we received ballots without any delay, and there were no issues.

So, to me, that’s a win.

When we look at King County’s current turnout versus its 2010 general election turnout, we can see a bump. Eight years ago it was 71.65%, and now it’s 74.6%, with ballots still to be counted. That’s definitely an improvement.

Exactly how much did prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes help King County reach that impressive mark? We can’t know for sure.

But Elections Director Julie Wise certainly believes that liberating voters from needing a stamp to return a ballot has a positive effect on turnout.

And she is much closer to the action, so to speak, than Secretary Wyman.

We can compare data points till the cows come home, and argue to what extent voting reforms affect turnout. But we all ought to be able to agree that voting shouldn’t be difficult and burdensome. People should not have to jump through hoops — like acquiring a stamp — in order to participate. It its therefore imperative we continue to provide prepaid postage on ballot return envelopes.

Emily Randall widens her lead over Marty McClendon in tight 26th District Senate race

Democratic Senate contender Emily Randall gained a little bit of breathing room today in her bid to become the next State Senator in Washington State’s 26th Legislative District, widening her lead over rival Marty McClendon — a Republican — to eighty-eight votes. That might not sound like much, but yesterday, the gap between the two was only twelve votes, so this is a significant bump.

Randall led during the first few days of counting before suddenly giving up the lead to McClendon on Friday, November 9th. This week, she rebounded.

On Tuesday, she erased most of the lead McClendon had taken with Friday’s drop, which was lopsided in his favor. Yesterday, she overcame McClendon’s lead entirely and took a tiny lead of her own. And today she has maintained her ;ead and gained a little breathing room. It’s still an extremely close race, no question about that, but from Randall’s perspective, it’s better to be out front than trailing.

With today’s updated returns in, Randall has 34,606 votes, or 50.06%, and McClendon has 34,518 votes, or 49.94%. As before, Randall is winning the Kitsap County portion of the district and McClendon is winning the Pierce County portion.

Incredibly, Randall and McClendon’s race in the 26th Legislative District, as tight as it is, is no longer the closest Senate race in the state.

At least for until tomorrow, that honor belongs to the 42nd Legislative District, where only fifty-eight votes separate entrenched Republican incumbent Doug Ericksen (one of the co-chairs of Trump’s 2016 campaign in Washington State) from his Democratic challenger Pinky Vargas, a Bellingham City Councilmember.

Whatcom County did not update its returns in that race today and no further update is planned until November 26th, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Kitsap and Pierce counties both plan to release updated returns tomorrow afternoon, so the numbers in the 26th are bound to change again.

Neither county reports having many ballots left to process. In Kitsap, an estimated five hundred are left, while in Pierce, there are fifteen hundred. Those totals include ballots from neighborhoods within each county that aren’t in the 26th.

We will keep you posted on developments.

Just twelve votes now separate Emily Randall and Marty McClendon in 26th LD Senate race

New election returns in Washington’s 26th Legislative District are providing fresh proof that each and every vote really does matter.

As of this evening, a mere twelve votes separate Democratic contender Emily Randall from Republican Marty McClendon in Washington’s 26th Legislative District. The winner of the contest will head to the Washington State Senate for a four-year term. The losing candidate will be ruefully wishing their campaign’s get out the vote effort had been at least a smidgeon stronger for a long time to come.

Randall, the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer, is back in the lead following today’s drop after falling behind late last week. She led on Election Night by a few hundred votes and was able to maintain that lead until Friday, when Republican McClendon overtook her. Yesterday, Randall cut into his lead. Today, she erased it entirely.

Randall and McClendon are now effectively tied. Randall has 34,279 votes, or 50.01%, while McClendon has 34,267 votes, or 49.99%.

State legislative races really don’t get any closer than this.

Randall is winning the Kitsap County portion of the district, which includes Port Orchard, Southworth, and part of Bremerton. McClendon is winning the Pierce County portion, which includes Gig Harbor, Point Fosdick, and the Key Peninsula.

With the number of ballots left to count dwindling, it appears this race will go to an automatic recount. Courtesy of the Secretary of State, here is a rundown of the procedure for automatic recounts in non-statewide races like this one:

Mandatory Recounts for non-statewide races:

  • A machine recount is required when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 2,000 votes AND ALSO less than 1/2 of 1% of the total number of votes cast for both candidates.
  • A manual recount is required when the difference between the top two candidates is less than 150 votes AND ALSO less than 1/4 of 1% of the total votes cast for both candidates.

Non-Mandatory Recounts: A recount may be requested as follows, even if the difference between the top two candidates does not meet the mandatory recount thresholds:

  • An application for a recount of the votes cast must be filed with the elections officer with whom filings are made for the jurisdiction. For example, candidates for offices that encompass multiple counties file with the Secretary of State. The application must be filed within three business days after certification.
  • An officer of a political party or any person for whom votes were cast at any election may file a written application for a recount of the votes or a portion of the votes cast at that election for all candidates for election to that office.
  • Any group of five or more registered voters may file a written application for a recount of the votes or a portion of the votes cast upon any question or issue.
  • Any qualified individual or group of registered voters requesting a recount is required to, at the time of submitting the application for a recount, submit a deposit, by cash or certified check, to the county canvassing board or the Secretary of State as follows:
    • For a machine recount – fifteen cents for each ballot cast in the jurisdiction or portion of the jurisdiction for which the recount is requested.
    • For a manual recount – twenty-five cents for each ballot cast in the jurisdiction or portion of the jurisdiction for which the recount is requested.

This contest currently qualifies for a manual recount under RCW 29A.64.021. That means election workers in Kitsap and Pierce counties will have to inspect each ballot by hand as opposed to running them through optical scanners again.

Kyrsten Sinema triumphs over Martha McSally: Democrats pick up a U.S. Senate seat

Big news out of Arizona tonight: The Associated Press has called the Grand Canyon State’s U.S. Senate race for Democratic contender Kyrsten Sinema, and Republican Martha McSally has conceded the race in a congratulatory tweet.

Sinema’s victory is a big deal for Democrats, because it doubles the number of Senate pickups for the party from one to two, and offsets major losses elsewhere.

It also represents a breakthrough for the party in the mountainous southwest. Democrats have swung Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico into their column in recent cycles, but Arizona has continued to vote Republican in statewide races.

Until now, that is.

Sinema will become Arizona’s first female senator and its first Democratic senator in decades. The last Democrat to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, Dennis DeConcini, retired in 1994. DeConcini was replaced by Republican Jon Kyl.

Democrats’ hopes of capturing a Senate majority in the midterms depended on saving all of its endangered incumbents plus picking up seats.

The party wasn’t able to accomplish the former, but with Jacky Rosen’s victory in Nevada and Sinema’s victory in Arizona, it is accomplishing the former.

To recap, the Senate Democrats lost three members in last week’s midterms: Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly. All of them represent Midwestern states that voted for Trump by large numbers in 2016. The Republicans targeted each for defeat, and Trump made their ouster his top priority in the 2018 midterms.

Trump also tried to topple Montana’s Jon Tester, but Tester — initially elected to the Senate in 2006 in the first blue wave of the century — was able to survive despite voting against Brett Kavanaugh. So was West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, the only Democratic senator to vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The outcome of Florida’s U.S. Senate race, meanwhile, remains unknown. Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson trails Rick Scott by a very small margin and a recount is underway. Scott is suing to halt the recount from proceeding.

Should Nelson lose, Republicans will have gained four seats while losing two. Should Nelson win, Republicans will have gained three seats while losing two.

As much as it hurts for Democrats to lose any U.S. Senate seats, these midterms could have been so much worse for the party.

Tester and Manchin’s victories, coupled with Rosen and Sinema’s victories, make the 2020 U.S. Senate map much, much better for Democrats. Without those four wins, Democrats would have been left in a terrible position going into the next cycle.

Democrats were defending a plethora of seats in deep red states this cycle, while Republicans were defending just one Senate seat in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton. Because Senate terms are for six years and because there are only one hundred Senate positions, the implications of every win or loss are magnified.

NPI alum Garlin Gilchrist II set to become the next Lieutenant Governor of Michigan

Last Tuesday, voters in Michigan selected the Democratic ticket of Gretchen Whitmer and Garlin Gilchrist II to lead the state during the next four years, ending nearly a decade of Republican control of the Great Lakes State.

Whitmer/Gilchrist 2018 for Michigan

Whitmer and Gilchrist’s victory means a lot to us here at the Northwest Progressive Institute because Garlin served on our staff from 2007-2009 prior to moving back east to take a position with the Center for Community Change.

After serving the Center for Community Change as New Media Director, Garlin worked for MoveOn.org for several years before joining the City of Detroit as Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement and Director of Innovation & Emerging Technology. Last year, he ran for Detroit City Clerk, and lost by just 1,482 votes. Early this year, he founded and served as the initial Executive Director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility.

A few weeks ago, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer asked Garlin to be her running mate. He accepted. The Whitmer/Gilchrist ticket has so far received 53.34% of the vote in Michigan’s general election (2,256,791 votes).

A discerning thinker and gifted writer, Garlin authored many posts here on the Cascadia Advocate while a fellow and Senior Policy Analyst (Technology) — like this one championing universal broadband. We are very thankful for his contributions to our work during his time on staff, and we are proud to be associated with him.

Garlin and his wife Ellen have two twins: Garlin Gilchrist III and Emily Grace.

NPI alum Garlin Gilchrist II

NPI alum Garlin Gilchrist II, Lieutenant Governor-elect of Michigan

We’ve always believed Garlin would make a great elected leader one day.

We’re thrilled that Gretchen Whitmer selected him to be her running mate and that the voters of Michigan have chosen the two of them to lead.

Soon all of Michigan will benefit from Garlin’s leadership abilities.

As in most states, the Lieutenant Governor of Michigan has three principal responsibilities.

The L.G. serves as Acting Governor when the Governor is out of state, presides over the State Senate, and succeeds the Governor in the event they become unable to serve due to death or incapacitation.

Statewide offices in Michigan, including Governor and Lieutenant Governor, are limited to two consecutive two-year terms.

In Washington, the Lieutenant Governor is elected separately from the Governor by the voters, but in many other states, like Michigan, the two positions are paired together just as the U.S. Presidency and Vice Presidency are.

We can’t wait to see Garlin in action as the presiding officer of the Republican-dominated (for now, anyway) Michigan State Senate. Michigan’s Senate, incidentally, is one of just a few full time state legislative bodies in the United States.

Of all of the results of last Tuesday’s election, I think this one just has to be our favorite result from beyond the Pacific Northwest, our home turf.

It’s so wonderful to see one of our own receive the opportunity to govern. Congratulations to Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor-elect Garlin Gilchrist II. Your election means that Michigan can finally move past the disastrous Rick Snyder era. We wish you all the best as you take office.

Washington State Senate Democrats select Andy Billig as their new Majority Leader

Washington State’s newly expanded Senate Democratic caucus has a new leader.

Andy Billig of Spokane — who represents the 3rd Legislative District and is the chamber’s sole Democrat hailing from east of the Cascades — has been selected by his colleagues to be the new Majority Leader, succeeding Sharon Nelson (D-34th District). Nelson is retiring from the Legislature after many years of service.

“I’m extremely eager to build on the success we had in 2018,” said Billig in a statement released by the caucus. “I am humbled to lead this diverse and talented group of senators. This caucus recognizes that bipartisanship and viewpoints from every corner of Washington are crucial in moving our state forward.”

“We welcome new members whose energy and passion will help Senate Democrats continue to put people first and tackle the issues Washingtonians care about most – affordable health care, tax fairness, public education, mental health, public safety from gun violence, climate change, and more.”

Billig’s predecessor Lisa Brown also served as Senate Majority Leader prior to her retirement in 2012. Brown recently ran for Congress in Washington’s 5th Congressional District, galvanizing the Democratic Party in Eastern Washington and giving entrenched Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers her first credible challenge.

Billig joined the Washington State Senate in 2013 after voters in the 3rd chose him to take over for Brown. He had previously served a single term in the House of Representatives. He has been a part of Senate leadership for several years and served as the Deputy Majority Leader prior to his elevation to the top post today.

Billig has championed transparency and open government during his time in the Legislature, sponsoring bills to expose dark money (like the DISCLOSE Act, approved earlier this year) and improve Washington’s public disclosure laws.

Nelson praised Billig’s selection, expressing her confidence in his abilities.

“During his eight years at the Legislature, Andy has shown time and time again his compassion and commitment to Washingtonians,” Nelson said.

“He has served as the Senate Democratic Caucus Deputy Leader since 2015, and has the leadership skills and the drive to move our caucus forward.”

“Andy has proven his commitment to progressive values through his work on education, campaign transparency and water quality. I am leaving the Senate in good hands with a majority leader who will truly put people first.”

NPI congratulates Andy Billig on his new responsibilities. We look forward to working with him and the Washington State Senate to reform our tax code and expand education funding for our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.

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