NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

President Biden challenges Congress to help him “finish the job” of getting America back on track in upbeat State of the Union address

An upbeat Pres­i­dent Joe Biden deployed his ground game in tonight’s 2023 State of the Union address, deliv­er­ing a speech fea­tur­ing a set of pro­pos­als to strength­en the eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty of the mid­dle class and rec­og­niz­ing that the coun­try is tired of impasse, anger and divi­sion in its nation­al government.

The forty-sixth pres­i­dent did not try to equal the soar­ing elo­quence of Barack Oba­ma and did not come near the windy self-absorp­tion of Don­ald Trump. The speech was lengthy – one hour and twelve min­utes by this writer’s count – but demon­strat­ed that eighty-two year-old Biden still has enthu­si­asm and drive.

“Amid the eco­nom­ic upheaval of the past four decades too many peo­ple have been left behind or treat­ed like they’re invis­i­ble: Maybe that’s you watch­ing at home,” said Biden. “I get that. That’s why we’re build­ing an econ­o­my where no one is left behind.”

He laid out a pro­gram in a chal­lenge to Repub­li­cans, who have none and are embroiled in cul­ture wars. It was a relat­able, under­stand­able, con­nect­ing speech.

The President’s mantra? “Fin­ish the job!”

His agen­da? To name a few planks: Build on the cap in insulin costs to Medicare recip­i­ents, enact­ed in last year’s Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act, by cap­ping costs for all Amer­i­cans. Bring pre­scrip­tion drug prices under con­trol. And stop the fleec­ing of Amer­i­can con­sumers through manip­u­la­tion of air­line fares, “ser­vice fees” for no dis­cernible ser­vice, and “resort fees” by hotels that are not resorts.

A native of Scran­ton, Penn­syl­va­nia, Biden dwelt on restor­ing Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing. He cit­ed such mea­sures as the CHIPS and Sci­ence Act, which prompt­ed Intel to cre­ate 10,000 jobs in Colum­bus, Ohio. He spoke of restor­ing the Ohio Riv­er bridge link­ing Ken­tucky and Ohio, where a $1.2 bil­lion upgrade is under­way thanks to the Infra­struc­ture Invest­ment and Jobs Act.

Sen­ate Minor­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, R‑Kentucky, joined Biden at the bridge ded­i­ca­tion. The pres­i­dent used McConnell’s pres­ence in what was a cen­tral theme and gam­bit, call­ing for coop­er­a­tion and goad­ing the far-right which has gained influ­ence in the regime of House Speak­er Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy sat glum­ly behind the president.

President Biden delivering the 2023 State of the Union

Pres­i­dent Biden speaks to Con­gress with Vice Pres­i­dent Kamala Har­ris and Speak­er Kevin McCarthy behind him (Offi­cial White House photo)

“To my Repub­li­can friends, if we could work togeth­er in the last Con­gress, there is no rea­son we can’t work togeth­er and find con­sen­sus on impor­tant things in this Con­gress,” said Biden. “The peo­ple sent us a clear mes­sage. Fight­ing for the sake of fight­ing, pow­er for the sake of pow­er, con­flict for the sake of con­flict, gets us nowhere.”

The speech infu­ri­at­ed haters among House Repub­li­cans. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene, R‑Georgia, could be heard shout­ing “Liar!” Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, R‑Texas, shook his head and tweet­ed: “It was an angry, divi­sive and fun­da­men­tal­ly dis­hon­est speech.” Added Sen­a­tor Mar­sha Black­burn, R‑Tennessee, “The Amer­i­can peo­ple aren’t buy­ing Biden’s revi­sion­ist his­to­ry of the economy.”

But the coun­try is work­ing again. Biden savored the fact that 12 mil­lion jobs have been cre­at­ed on his watch, and that unem­ploy­ment at 3.4% is at a fifty year low. He point­ed to 800,000 new man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, and said the nation’s sup­ply chain will again “begin in America.”

Angry? Biden toyed with Repub­li­cans who have threat­ened to block rais­ing the debt ceil­ing and demand­ed deep bud­get cuts as a price.

“We’re not going to be moved into being threat­ened to default on the debt,” said the pres­i­dent, cit­ing threats to take the Amer­i­can econ­o­my hostage.

He seized upon a pro­pos­al by Sen­a­tor Rick Scott, R‑Florida, that all fed­er­al pro­grams should sun­set every five years and face renew­al by Congress.

That includes Medicare and Social Secu­ri­ty, said Biden.

Angry shouts and denials came from Repub­li­can House members.

Biden is not a regal leader. He appeared to enjoy him­self, jok­ing that the reac­tion showed that every­one was in agree­ment that the nation’s social con­tract should not be pierced. This made the far right even angrier.

After all, more than one hun­dred and forty ultra MAGA House Repub­li­cans vot­ed against cer­ti­fy­ing his 2020 elec­tion victory.

The Pres­i­dent took par­tic­u­lar delight in not­ing that many Repub­li­cans vot­ed against the bipar­ti­san Infra­struc­ture bill, but are now clam­or­ing for and claim­ing cred­it for projects in their districts.

“I promised to be the pres­i­dent for all Amer­i­cans,” he quipped. “We’ll fund these projects and I’ll see you at the groundbreaking.”

The right’s reac­tion was vis­i­bly ugly to some viewers.

“The behav­ior of a siz­able group of Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors tonight was out­ra­geous and dis­gust­ing,” tweet­ed Lar­ry Saba­to, direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Virginia’s Insti­tute of Pol­i­tics. “Their scream­ing and cat­call­ing at the Pres­i­dent was obscene. Free speech? Sure. Deco­rum and cour­tesy. Dead.”

The Repub­li­cans’ bag­gage and visions were dis­played at times. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive George San­tos, R‑New York — he of vast lies on his resume — found a place next to the aisle as lumi­nar­ies entered the cham­ber. He got a sharp rebuke from Sen­a­tor Mitt Rom­ney, R‑Utah, who lat­er said of San­tos: “He shouldn’t be in Con­gress. And they’re gonna go through the process of hope­ful­ly get­ting him out. But he shouldn’t be there and if he had any shame at all, he wouldn’t be there.”

When Biden tout­ed U.S. defense of Ukraine, and the alliance that has sent bil­lions in mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic assis­tance, some Repub­li­cans joined in ova­tions, while oth­ers sat in stony silence. The inva­sion was, in Biden’s words, “a test for the ages. A test for Amer­i­ca. A test for the world.”

A copy of Biden's 2023 SOTU speech

A copy of Pres­i­dent Biden’s State of the Union address, open to the first page pri­or to its deliv­ery (Offi­cial White House photo)

Wash­ing­ton’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion played a not incon­sid­er­able role in the achieve­ments tout­ed by Biden as bring­ing Amer­i­ca back from the pan­dem­ic that has claimed more than one mil­lion lives and, for a time, vir­tu­al­ly shut down the economy.

Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, man­aged the CHIPS and Sci­ence Act with hopes of restor­ing microchip man­u­fac­tur­ing, large­ly lost to Asia.

The admin­is­tra­tion has deliv­ered “his­toric invest­ments in our infra­struc­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing, sci­ence and inno­va­tion,” she said in a statement.

“We must build on that progress and turn those invest­ments into real solu­tions that will make our nation and our man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pet­i­tive, bring more good-pay­ing jobs back to Amer­i­ca, and build a resilient econ­o­my for the future.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene, D‑Washington, chairs the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, charged with retak­ing the House by tak­ing advan­tage of the boor­ish right-wing cra­zies and Speak­er McCarthy’s many con­ces­sions to them.

“Pres­i­dent Biden empha­sized the urgent need to renew the expand­ed Child Tax Cred­it that cut child­hood pover­ty in half and ben­e­fit­ed mil­lions of chil­dren nation­wide,” said Del­Bene. “The invest­ment kept fam­i­lies afloat dur­ing the pan­dem­ic and helped par­ents pay bills, put enough food on the table, and afford oth­er expens­es for their kids, like child care and diapers.”

Biden deliv­ered a strong speech and was on his game. It was a down-to-earth speech direct­ed to mil­lions of watch­ers beyond the House chamber.

Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

Senator Javier Valdez, NPI propose legislation to let WA cities switch elections to even years

For the first time since the 1960s, cities in Wash­ing­ton would be allowed to hold their reg­u­lar­ly-sched­uled in even-num­bered years, when data shows that vot­er turnout is high­er and much more diverse, under a bill intro­duced by Sen­a­tor Javier Valdez (D‑46th Dis­trict: Seat­tle) and devel­oped by our team at NPI.

Sen­ate Bill 5723 gives cities and towns across the Ever­green State the option of switch­ing the tim­ing of their elec­tions from odd-num­bered to even-num­bered years. Cur­rent state law requires that cities and towns go in odd-num­bered years. Our bill amends that statute and spec­i­fies a process by which a city or town may begin elect­ing its coun­cilmem­bers, may­or, and oth­er offi­cials in even years.

Char­ter coun­ties already have the free­dom to choose their tim­ing (and all but two have cho­sen even years, the default for coun­ties) but cities and towns do not.

Our leg­is­la­tion would give them the free­dom to choose.

By default, cities and towns’ elec­tions would stay in odd-num­bered years.

But they could choose to switch if they want­ed, to secure for their peo­ple the well-doc­u­ment­ed ben­e­fits of hold­ing elec­tions in pres­i­den­tial or midterm cycles when vot­er turnout is typ­i­cal­ly above six­ty or even sev­en­ty percent.

Local­i­ties across the coun­try vot­ed to do just that last year. In every sin­gle one of the juris­dic­tions where an even year elec­tions propo­si­tion was on the bal­lot in 2022, it passed eas­i­ly, includ­ing here in Wash­ing­ton State, where King Coun­ty vot­ers over­whelm­ing­ly backed an NPI pro­pos­al spon­sored by Coun­cilmem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci to switch the coun­ty’s elec­tions into even-num­bered years.

That mea­sure, King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1, got a 69% yes vote.

Cities and towns now set to make the switch else­where in the coun­try include Boul­der, Col­orado, St. Peters­burg, Flori­da, and San Fran­cis­co, Cal­i­for­nia.

Those places are all part of a grow­ing pop­u­lar move­ment for even-year elec­tions that our research shows Wash­ing­to­ni­ans want to be a part of.

The case for even-year local elections is compelling

“Every pub­lished study on elec­tion tim­ing and vot­er turnout shows that com­bin­ing local elec­tions with state and fed­er­al elec­tions is the sin­gle most effec­tive change that local gov­ern­ments can make to increase turnout,” Zoltan L. Haj­nal, Vladimir Kogan, and G. Agustin Markar­i­an write in the Amer­i­can Polit­i­cal Sci­ence Review.

Imag­ine being able to as much as dou­ble the turnout for impor­tant local offices — and diver­si­fy it by an even greater mag­ni­tude — with just one struc­tur­al change. Well, that’s what even-year elec­tions for local gov­ern­ments can do for us.

Addi­tion­al­ly, even-year elec­tions help us address the prob­lem of elec­tion fatigue: vot­ers tired of elec­tions that are imme­di­ate­ly fol­lowed by more elec­tions. For exam­ple, here in Wash­ing­ton, it’s been less than two months since the 2022 midterms were cer­ti­fied, but already, for some, it’s time to vote again.

That’s right: the 2023 Feb­ru­ary spe­cial elec­tion is upon us! Seat­tle vot­ers are con­sid­er­ing Ini­tia­tive 135 (social hous­ing), for exam­ple, right now.

Elec­tion Day is next Tues­day, Feb­ru­ary 14th.

That’ll be fol­lowed by an April 2023 spe­cial elec­tion in King Coun­ty and oth­er juris­dic­tions, then the August 2023 Top Two, then the Novem­ber 2023 gen­er­al, and so on. The lat­ter two win­dows are when cities and towns will hold their reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled elec­tions as state law present­ly requires.

If we take NPI’s home­town of Red­mond as an exam­ple, we can see from look­ing at vot­er turnout that there is a big dif­fer­ence between even and odd years.

Red­mond last elect­ed a may­or in 2019; it last held coun­cil elec­tions in 2021.

In each of those years, as well as in con­test­ed elec­tions going back even fur­ther, turnout has been well under fifty per­cent. A major­i­ty has­n’t returned bal­lots in Red­mond’s reg­u­lar­ly held elec­tions in over a decade.

Last year, by con­trast, Red­mond had a pub­lic safe­ty levy on the ballot.

This was a down­bal­lot item, just like may­or and coun­cil elec­tions, but because it appeared on the bal­lot in an even year, the turnout exceed­ed fifty percent.

In fact, Red­mond came close to two-thirds turnout. Far more Red­mon­ders vot­ed for and against this pub­lic safe­ty levy than vot­ed for may­or in 2019, or for coun­cil in 2021, thanks to the tim­ing cho­sen for the proposition.

We can run a seem­ing­ly end­less set of com­par­isons just like this for any num­ber of cities in Wash­ing­ton. Our friend Chris Roberts offered up a set back in 2020 right here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate. Again and again, the sto­ry is the same: more peo­ple vote on city-lev­el items if they are in an even-num­bered year.

Skep­tics of this reform keep non­sen­si­cal­ly argu­ing that mov­ing local elec­tions to even years will bury local issues, but the data shows that the oppo­site is true. More peo­ple pay atten­tion to and vote on issues and can­di­date elec­tions in their city when they are held in con­cert with state and fed­er­al elections.

Why? Because fed­er­al and state elec­tions are when the great­est num­ber of peo­ple are civi­cal­ly engaged. When local offices are made to stand on their own, they get less atten­tion. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true in the polit­i­cal era we are cur­rent­ly in… an era in which local news cov­er­age is alarm­ing­ly and pre­cip­i­tous­ly declining.

Our team has heard this our­selves. Staff and board­mem­bers out doing vol­un­teer can­vass­ing have been told flat-out at the doors: We don’t vote in off years.

There is no such thing as an “off” year, of course — every elec­tion matters.

Sad­ly, many peo­ple don’t share that belief. We need to meet peo­ple where they are rather than ignor­ing their wish­es for a sim­pler sys­tem of elections.

We can con­tin­ue to require cities and towns — arguably the most impor­tant unit of local gov­ern­ment that we have, aside from coun­ties — to hold their elec­tions at times when most peo­ple don’t vote, and when the elec­torate that is turn­ing out tends to be old­er, whiter, and rich­er. Or, we can chart a dif­fer­ent course by pass­ing Sen­ate Bill 5723. We can give Wash­ing­ton cities and towns the free­dom to choose a reform that evi­dence shows is wild­ly pop­u­lar with vot­ers all over.

Sen­ate Bill 5723 will have a pub­lic hear­ing this Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 10th at 8 AM in the Sen­ate State Gov­ern­ment Com­mit­tee. You can express your sup­port for the bill by sign­ing in PRO right now using this direct link

Our team hopes you’ll join us in sup­port­ing this thought­ful, nec­es­sary legislation.

Monday, February 6th, 2023

Republicans fail in their attempt to intervene in signature verification legal challenge

A Repub­li­can major­i­ty of U.S. Supreme Court jus­tices have demol­ished the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act, a land­mark achieve­ment of the civ­il rights move­ment, as well as using the 2010 Cit­i­zens Cor­po­ra­tions Unit­ed deci­sion to remove restraints on cam­paign spend­ing begun when Theodore Roo­sevelt was president.

At the low­er court lev­el, how­ev­er, the Grand Old Par­ty has con­tin­ued to suf­fer loss after loss, par­tic­u­lar­ly with the Trump attempt to over­turn the out­come of our 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and attacks on vot­ing laws in states which have sought to make it eas­i­er to cast ballots.

The Seat­tle-based bicoastal Perkins Coie law firm used to be a white shoe out­fit, known for two sig­na­ture clients, the Boe­ing Com­pa­ny and Puget Sound Pow­er and Light. Long­time Boe­ing CEO William Allen and Puget Pow­er boss (lat­er Seat­tle Mariners pres­i­dent) John Ellis were alum­ni of the firm. Such were pil­lars of the busi­ness wing of Repub­li­can­ism in the Ever­green State.

In recent years, how­ev­er, P‑C has devel­oped a spe­cial­ty in elec­tion law, and has come to rep­re­sent Democ­rats… includ­ing the state par­ty, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, and Barack and Michelle Oba­ma. Two of Pres­i­dent Clinton’s picks to the U.S. 9th Cir­cuit Court of Appeals came from Perkins Coie.

The firm rep­re­sent­ed Maria Cantwell in the post-elec­tion bat­tle over her 2,229-vote 2000 upset of Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Slade Gorton.

Perkins Coie was in Chelan Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court, suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ing Gov­er­nor Chris Gregoire’s 133-vote 2004 vic­to­ry over Dino Rossi.

It han­dled the pro­longed lit­i­ga­tion, after the 2008 elec­tion, that sent for­mer Sat­ur­day Night Live come­di­an Al Franken to the U.S. Senate.

Perkins Coie fought off Trump chal­lenges to Pres­i­dent Biden’s 2020 cap­ture of Geor­gia and has defend­ed Democ­rats’ 2022 vic­to­ries in Arizona.

It suc­cess­ful­ly sued to over­turn actions by Montana’s Repub­li­can-run leg­is­la­ture that sought to make it dif­fi­cult for Native Amer­i­cans to vote, and to put obsta­cles in the way of col­lege voters.

Nat­u­ral­ly, then, Perkins Coie was picked by three groups – El Cen­tro de la Raza, Wash­ing­ton Bus and VetVoice – to chal­lenge the sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion require­ments in Washington’s vote-by-mail sys­tem.

They’ve recent­ly filed suit in King Coun­ty Super Court, argu­ing that the require­ment vio­lates the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion as thou­sands of legit­i­mate vot­ers grap­ple with hav­ing their bal­lots reject­ed. The rejec­tions fall dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly on Black vot­ers, young peo­ple, and the disabled.

Enter the Republicans.

There have long been rum­bles in the Repub­li­can ranks over how “easy” it is to vote in the Ever­green State, even though our elec­tions were long under super­vi­sion of five suc­ces­sive Repub­li­cans hold­ing the office of Sec­re­tary of State.

The state Repub­li­can Par­ty, with some fan­fare, sought to inter­vene in the sig­na­ture case, joined by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. They were bent on defend­ing sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion. The root rea­son, in words of RNC Chair Ron­na McDaniel: “Mail-in vot­ing increas­es the oppor­tu­ni­ty for fraud.”

“And they brought in the big guns, Trump’s lawyers from the Consovoy McCarthy law firm, and paired them with the team from Davis Wright that rep­re­sent­ed Dino Rossi in his failed con­test over the 2004 elec­tion,” report­ed Perkins Coie lawyer Kevin Hamil­ton, vet­er­an of the Cantwell, Gre­goire, Franken and Geor­gia bat­tles, in an amused memo.

They lost. King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Cather­ine Shaf­fer has denied the motion to inter­vene. “If there’s one thing this case does not need, it’s Trump’s lawyers try­ing to defend the inde­fen­si­ble,” Hamil­ton chortled.

The Repub­li­cans’ phi­los­o­phy on lit­i­ga­tion is nev­er to spend one dol­lar when two (or more) will do. Judge Shaf­fer may have saved the par­ty some mon­ey, need­ed until recent­ly (when he announced his can­di­da­cy) to pay Trump’s legal bills.

And embar­rass­ment.

A few years back, the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union – rep­re­sent­ed by Perkins Coie – sued the city of Yaki­ma over city-wide elec­tion of city coun­cil and school board mem­bers. More than forty per­cent of the city’s pop­u­la­tion is Lati­no and His­pan­ic, but no Lati­no or Lati­na had ever won elec­tion to any city office.

The city fought against the suit, filed under the Vot­ing Rights Act, and spent through the nose. The plain­tiffs’ legal briefs were so con­vinc­ing, how­ev­er, that a fed­er­al judge deliv­ered a sum­ma­ry judgment.

The com­po­si­tion of the Yaki­ma City Coun­cil was for­ev­er changed.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

VICTORY! Washington State Senate votes to remove death penalty and Eyman’s two-thirds nonsense from our state’s body of laws

A well-craft­ed house­keep­ing bill that would abol­ish a num­ber of uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statutes has passed out of the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate with bipar­ti­san sup­port as one of the cham­ber’s ini­tial acts of the 2023 leg­isla­tive session.

Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5087, prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Jamie Ped­er­sen (D‑43rd Dis­trict: Seat­tle) and request­ed by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son, would for­mal­ly scrub a list of statutes no longer in effect from the Revised Code of Washington.

These statutes include the death penal­ty, deemed uncon­sti­tu­tion­al by the Supreme Court as applied, along with the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al two-thirds scheme to raise rev­enue that Tim Eyman turned into a series of initiatives.

Thir­ty-four sen­a­tors said yes to strik­ing these uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statutes from our books, while four­teen were opposed. The roll call on SB 5087 was as follows:

SSB 5087
Defects and omissions
Sen­ate vote on 3rd Read­ing & Final Passage

Yeas: 34; Nays: 14; Excused: 1

Vot­ing Yea: Sen­a­tor Bil­lig, Boehnke, Cleve­land, Con­way, Dhin­gra, Frame, Hasegawa, Hawkins, Hunt, Kauff­man, Keis­er, King, Kud­er­er, Liias, Lovelett, Lovick, Mul­let, Muz­za­ll, Nguyen, Nobles, Ped­er­sen, Ran­dall, Robin­son, Rolfes, Sal­daña, Salomon, Stan­ford, Trudeau, Valdez, Wag­oner, War­nick, Well­man, Wil­son (Claire), Wil­son (Jeff)

Vot­ing Nay: Sen­a­tor Braun, Dozi­er, For­tu­na­to, Gildon, Holy, MacEwen, McCune, Pad­den, Rivers, Schoesler, Short, Tor­res, Van De Wege, Wil­son (Lyn­da)

Excused: Sen­a­tor Shewmake

The only Demo­c­rat to vote nay was Kevin Van De Wege (D‑24th Dis­trict: Olympic Penin­su­la). Repub­li­cans were split. Most of the cau­cus vot­ed nay, but Kei­th Wag­oner, Judy War­nick, Jeff Wil­son, Matt Boehnke, and Ron Muz­za­ll vot­ed yea.

Sen­a­tor Shew­make (D‑42nd Dis­trict: What­com Coun­ty) was excused.

Repub­li­cans attempt­ed to amend the bill to remove the death penal­ty from the list of statutes being elim­i­nat­ed in the bill, but the amend­ment failed on a voice vote, with Sen­a­tors Jamie Ped­er­sen and Yas­min Trudeau speak­ing against it.

No oth­er amend­ments were offered to the bill.

Ped­er­sen not­ed in his speech on final pas­sage that the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court has been urg­ing the Gov­er­nor and Leg­is­la­ture to clean up the state’s books for a long time now and com­mend­ed the leg­is­la­tion to the body.

Repub­li­can Mike Pad­den exlained dur­ing a speech on the amend­ment that he only object­ed to the elim­i­na­tion of the death penal­ty statute, because it was struck down as applied rather than struck down as writ­ten, and could sup­port the rest of the bill. How­ev­er, the real­i­ty is that there is no just, equi­table, or fair way to apply the death penal­ty. The death penal­ty is immoral and irre­spon­si­ble, and its removal from our books is an absolute­ly nec­es­sary and appro­pri­ate action.

In 2018, NPI found in its spring statewide poll that a whop­ping 69% of like­ly Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sup­port­ed life in prison alter­na­tives to the death penal­ty, with only 24% express­ing sup­port for the death penal­ty. Not long after we released that research, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court struck down the death penal­ty as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and con­vert­ed all death sen­tences to life sen­tences, mak­ing Gov­er­nor Inslee’s mora­to­ri­um on the death penal­ty permanent.

Though the death penal­ty has been off the table as an option for pros­e­cu­tors for years, the uncon­sti­tu­tion­al statute allow­ing it has remained on the books. The Sen­ate has repeat­ed­ly vot­ed to get rid of the death penal­ty, but the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has inex­plic­a­bly failed to fol­low suit, even though the votes exist to get the bill to Gov­er­nor Inslee’s desk. Hope­ful­ly, the fourth time will be the charm and we’ll be able to cel­e­brate this bill being signed into law in a few weeks.

We’ll also be able to cel­e­brate the removal from our books of the right wing’s long-run­ning scheme to mess with our Con­sti­tu­tion’s major­i­ty vote require­ment by spec­i­fy­ing a two-thirds vote thresh­old for rev­enue bills in clear vio­la­tion of Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22, which says: “No bill shall become a law unless on its final pas­sage the vote be tak­en by yeas and nays, the names of the mem­bers vot­ing for and against the same be entered on the jour­nal of each house, and a major­i­ty of the mem­bers elect­ed to each house be record­ed there­on as vot­ing in its favor.”

This scheme, first imposed via I‑601 in the 1990s and reen­act­ed with Tim Eyman’s I‑960, I‑1053, and I‑1185, was intend­ed to give Repub­li­cans the equiv­a­lent of a leg­isla­tive veto over bills to raise rev­enue for Wash­ing­ton’s essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices. Now it’s final­ly on the verge of going away.

NPI thanks all of the mem­bers of the Sen­ate who vot­ed for this leg­is­la­tion today. Abol­ish­ing the death penal­ty and clean­ing up our books is one of our 2023 leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties, and we’re pleased to see it receive ear­ly floor action.

Sunday, January 29th, 2023

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (January 23rd-27th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Jan­u­ary 27th, 2023.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress photo)

ASSESSING GOVERNMENT JOB APPLICANTS: The House on Jan­u­ary 24th passed the Chance to Com­pete Act (H.R. 159), spon­sored by Rep. Vir­ginia Foxx, R‑N.C., to change the hir­ing sys­tem for the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s civ­il ser­vice jobs by pri­or­i­tiz­ing skills-based assess­ments of an appli­can­t’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Foxx said the cur­rent sys­tem, by over-empha­siz­ing aca­d­e­m­ic qual­i­fi­ca­tions, “seri­ous­ly under­mines the fed­er­al work­force’s abil­i­ty to serve the Amer­i­can peo­ple in both a prop­er and effi­cient man­ner.” The vote was 422 yeas to 2 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Yea (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Yea (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Val Hoyle, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Andrea Sali­nas; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Not Vot­ing (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzanne Bonamici

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Yea (10):  Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 17 yea votes, 1 not voting

DISCLOSING LAWSUIT SETTLEMENTS: The House on Jan­u­ary 24th passed the Set­tle­ment Agree­ment Infor­ma­tion Data­base Act (H.R. 300), spon­sored by Rep. Gary Palmer, R‑Alabama, to require fed­er­al gov­ern­ment agen­cies to release to the pub­lic infor­ma­tion about con­sent decrees and set­tle­ment agree­ments they have reached with lit­i­gants. Palmer said: “Cit­i­zens have a right to access the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s records and oper­a­tions to facil­i­tate over­sight of the pub­lic busi­ness.” The vote was unan­i­mous with 425 yeas.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Yea (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Yea (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Val Hoyle, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Andrea Sali­nas; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Not Vot­ing (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzanne Bonamici

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Yea (10):  Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 17 yea votes, 1 not voting

STUDYING WAYS TO IMPROVE AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: The House on Jan­u­ary 25th passed the NOTAM Improve­ment Act (H.R. 346), spon­sored by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Pete Stauber, R‑Minnesota. The bill would cre­ate a task force at the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion (FAA) to sug­gest improve­ments to the agen­cy’s notices to air mis­sions (NOTAM) sys­tem. Stauber said the ground­ing of all domes­tic air­line depar­tures two weeks ago due to a NOTAM out­age high­light­ed the need for the FAA to improve its com­pli­cat­ed, out­dat­ed sys­tem for com­mu­ni­cat­ing safe­ty and traf­fic alerts to pilots.

The vote was 424 yeas to 4 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Yea (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Yea (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Val Hoyle, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Andrea Sali­nas; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Not Vot­ing (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzanne Bonamici

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Yea (10):  Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 17 yea votes, 1 not voting

INVESTING IN SMALL BUSINESSES: The House on Jan­u­ary 25th passed the Invest­ing in Main Street Act (H.R. 400), spon­sored by Rep. Judy Chu, D‑California, to increase the amount a bank can invest in small busi­ness invest­ment com­pa­nies from 5 per­cent to 15 per­cent of the bank’s cap­i­tal and surplus.

Chu said: “Rais­ing this cap will dra­mat­i­cal­ly increase the amount of invest­ment cap­i­tal avail­able to our coun­try’s small busi­ness­es for whom even small invest­ments can mean so much.” The vote was 411 yeas to 13 nays.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Yea (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Russ Fulcher and Mike Simpson

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Yea (5): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Val Hoyle, Earl Blu­me­nauer, and Andrea Sali­nas; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Cliff Bentz and Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Not Vot­ing (1): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzanne Bonamici

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Yea (10):  Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Marie Glue­senkamp Perez, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Mar­i­lyn Strick­land; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 17 yea votes, 1 not voting

Read More »

Saturday, January 28th, 2023

How sound data enabled NPI to anticipate a big Democratic victory in the 2022 midterms

One year ago today, I wrote what might just be one of my favorite posts in the his­to­ry of this pub­li­ca­tion: a lengthy elec­toral analy­sis titled: “Why the 2022 midterms in Wash­ing­ton State could look more like 2018 than 2010 or 2014.”

Giv­en that we’ve reached the anniver­sary of that post’s pub­li­ca­tion, it seems like an oppor­tune time to reflect back on it, since it set the stage for the elec­toral analy­sis that NPI offered con­tin­u­ous­ly through­out 2022.

The impe­tus for that Jan­u­ary 28th, 2022 post was a sur­vey con­duct­ed by Elway Research pub­lished by Cross­cut that pur­port­ed to show a “Repub­li­can surge” in Wash­ing­ton State. Our team exam­ined Elway’s data, then com­pared it to our own and that of SurveyUSA/KING5’s. We con­clud­ed that there was no “Repub­li­can surge” and flagged some of the issues with Elway’s sur­vey sam­ples that led us to con­clude they might not be prop­er­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the electorate.

After dis­cussing those issues, I offered the fol­low­ing out­look for the midterms:

We know from decades of research that elec­tions turn on iden­ti­ty and trust. That’s no less true in high­ly polar­ized times. Peo­ple are ulti­mate­ly going to fill in the oval for who they iden­ti­fy with. They won’t be vot­ing on the basis of gas prices, or infla­tion con­cerns, or for­eign pol­i­cy, or some set of issue positions.

Cur­rent events and ide­ol­o­gy do mat­ter and do influ­ence people’s think­ing. They just aren’t the deci­sive fac­tors that dri­ve vot­ing behav­ior. Iden­ti­ty and trust are.

Unless Repub­li­cans can con­vince more Wash­ing­ton vot­ers to trust them, they are going to stay at a dis­ad­van­tage statewide and in a lot of cru­cial­ly impor­tant sub­ur­ban and exur­ban leg­isla­tive dis­tricts. And that would mean that they’re not going to have the kind of pick­ups they had in 2010 or 2014.

Because Democ­rats have most­ly run out of sub­ur­ban and exur­ban pick­up oppor­tu­ni­ties, the par­ty will pri­mar­i­ly be on defense this year, though it will try to go on offense in the redrawn 26th, 10th, 17th, and 42nd Leg­isla­tive Districts.

The stage seems set for a cycle with elec­tion results that will look more like the 2018 midterms than either 2010 or 2014 in Washington.

“The stage seems set for a cycle with elec­tion results that will look more like the 2018 midterms than either 2010 or 2014 in Wash­ing­ton,” I wrote one year ago.

And that’s exact­ly what happened:

  • Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray was over­whelm­ing­ly reelected
  • Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schri­er secured reelec­tion by a big­ger mar­gin than 2020
  • Democ­rats flipped WA-03 with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Marie Glue­senkamp Perez
  • Sec­re­tary of State Steve Hobbs, the first Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sec­re­tary of State in decades, was retained in his posi­tion by Washingtonians
  • Vot­ers sent a twen­ty-nine mem­ber Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty to Olympia, up from twen­ty-eight in 2018 and 2020
  • Vot­ers sent a fifty-eight mem­ber House Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty to Olympia, up from fifty-sev­en in 2018 and 2020

Democ­rats’ leg­isla­tive gains (Sharon Shew­make’s Sen­ate vic­to­ry, Clyde Shavers’ House vic­to­ry) came in the redrawn 42nd and 10th Leg­isla­tive Dis­tricts, two of the four tar­get­ed dis­tricts that I men­tioned in my post.

“The stage seems set for a cycle with elec­tion results that will look more like the 2018 midterms than either 2010 or 2014 in Washington.”

Those words sound prophet­ic now, but at at the time, the 2022 leg­isla­tive ses­sion was­n’t even halfway over, the hor­rif­ic leaked Dobbs deci­sion had yet to be hand­ed down by the Supreme Court, and the August Top Two and Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tions had not been held. It was ear­ly in the year and we had­n’t even put our first statewide poll of 2022 into the field yet — that would hap­pen in February.

What we did have was plen­ty of sound data from our third and fourth quar­ter 2021 sur­veys. We had polled at mul­ti­ple lev­els — statewide and local — and from those sur­veys, we could see that Democ­rats in Wash­ing­ton were in rel­a­tive­ly good shape despite con­stant talk of a “red wave” that got loud­er as the year went on.

The results of the 2021 local elec­tions, which went real­ly well for Democ­rats and pro­gres­sives over­all, also sug­gest­ed that Wash­ing­ton vot­ers could recom­mit to Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance in 2022’s leg­isla­tive and con­gres­sion­al elections.

It isn’t pos­si­ble to know the future and we have often remarked here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate that our team does­n’t pos­sess work­ing crys­tal balls. But it is pos­si­ble to keep an open mind about the future and to break free of group­think. It’s some­thing we’ve tried to do here at NPI ever since our incep­tion in 2003.

Way too much polit­i­cal analy­sis nowa­days seems to be gen­er­at­ed by form­ing a con­clu­sion about what’s going to hap­pen and then work­ing back­wards from there to find evi­dence sup­port­ing that con­clu­sion. (Some­times, no evi­dence is offered, just con­jec­ture by those who like to go by hunch­es rather than data.)

Our approach is dif­fer­ent. We begin by rec­og­niz­ing we do not know the future and that elec­tions are decid­ed by vot­ers, not pun­dits. Rather than assum­ing an elec­tion will fol­low some his­tor­i­cal trend (e.g. the pres­i­den­t’s par­ty always los­es seats in a midterm) or rely­ing on what I fond­ly like to call the pre­dic­tions and rat­ings rack­et, we imag­ine as many out­comes and sce­nar­ios as we can.

Our mantra is any­thing is pos­si­ble.

To ascer­tain what is prob­a­ble, plau­si­ble, and like­ly, we put our faith and con­fi­dence in cred­i­ble data. We have been com­mis­sion­ing our own pub­lic opin­ion research at NPI for ten years now, but we also enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly fol­low the work of oth­er rep­utable non­prof­its and polling firms that are com­mit­ted to the sci­en­tif­ic method like us, and ask­ing neu­tral ques­tions of rep­re­sen­ta­tive samples.

A lot of polling is done at the nation­al lev­el, spon­sored by big media and nation­al polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions. Polls at the state lev­el are rar­er, and polls at the local lev­el are much rar­er. Yet polling at those lev­els can be tru­ly invalu­able, illu­mi­nat­ing the think­ing of vot­ers in places where leg­isla­tive majori­ties are made, and enabling explo­rations of local angles on impor­tant issues. It’s not pos­si­ble to prop­er­ly exam­ine local angles on issues in a statewide or nation­al poll. Con­verse­ly, though, nation­al and state lev­el con­cerns can be part of the mix in a local poll.

In ret­ro­spect, NPI’s expan­sion into local polling in 2021 was eas­i­ly one of the best deci­sions that our staff and board have ever made. It enabled us to dive deeply into issues and con­nect with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of large swathes of the elec­torate here in the Pacif­ic North­west on a reg­u­lar basis.

While Repub­li­cans were pump­ing out bom­bast and try­ing to cre­ate media hype, we were focused on tak­ing the pulse of Wash­ing­ton with neu­tral questions.

Here are three exam­ples of indi­ca­tors that guid­ed our think­ing as last year began.

Voters liked Democrats’ work on key issues

We knew as 2022 began that vot­ers in places like Pierce Coun­ty were very sup­port­ive of the police reform bills and the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy that Democ­rats had passed in the 2021 leg­isla­tive ses­sion — because we made an effort to ask them for their opin­ions. Repub­li­cans kept on insist­ing that sub­ur­ban vot­ers were primed to pun­ish Democ­rats in the midterms for these leg­isla­tive accom­plish­ments, but our polling showed the opposite.

  • COVID-19 response: 67% of sub­ur­ban and exur­ban vot­ers in one of our local polls told us they sup­port­ed requir­ing patrons of restau­rants, bars, clubs, and winer­ies to pro­vide proof of vac­ci­na­tion as a con­di­tion of entry. In anoth­er of our local polls, a major­i­ty said they agreed mask-wear­ing should be manda­to­ry in all school build­ings and facilities.
  • Police reform: Net sup­port for police reform ideas like ban­ning no-knock war­rants and choke­holds exceed­ed thir­ty-five points in our sur­veys, with super­ma­jori­ties express­ing sup­port. Oth­er police reform and account­abil­i­ty ideas got total sup­port of 74%, 73%, 70%, or 66%.
  • Build Back Bet­ter: After the House passed Pres­i­dent Biden’s sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive pro­pos­al (parts of which lat­er became the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act after nego­ti­a­tions with Joe Manchin) we asked vot­ers what they thought of its planks, like low­er­ing the cost of pre­scrip­tion drugs and invest­ing in elec­tric vehi­cle infra­struc­ture. We found a major­i­ty of sub­ur­ban and exur­ban vot­ers sup­port­ive, with over four in ten strong­ly supportive.
  • Cap­i­tal gains on the wealthy: Our statewide polling has long found sup­port for a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy amongst like­ly vot­ers. But our local polling showed that sup­port was also robust in Wash­ing­ton’s sub­urbs and exurbs, despite Repub­li­can rhetoric and fearmongering.

Strong suburban approval ratings for Biden, Inslee, Murray

The extent to which pres­i­den­tial approval rat­ings mat­ter or will help/hurt can­di­dates of the pres­i­den­t’s par­ty in an elec­tion is often debated.

Our team thinks that the use­ful­ness of pres­i­den­tial approval rat­ings has waned in com­par­i­son to pre­vi­ous polit­i­cal eras. But it was nev­er­the­less strik­ing to us that our polling was find­ing rock sol­id approval rat­ings for both Pres­i­dent Biden and Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee in sub­ur­ban and exur­ban Wash­ing­ton even as nation­al reporters were breath­less­ly hold­ing up Biden’s falling nation­al approval rat­ings, which saw a sig­nif­i­cant drop after the U.S. with­draw­al from Afghanistan.

In the places where Ever­green State majori­ties are made, we could see that there was plen­ty of sat­is­fac­tion with Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance at the fed­er­al and state lev­els. This sug­gest­ed that Repub­li­cans’ expec­ta­tions of 1994 repeat­ing itself were root­ed in wish­ful think­ing, not an under­stand­ing of cur­rent vot­er sentiment.

For exam­ple, in Sep­tem­ber of 2021, we found that in the City of Sam­mamish, once a solid­ly Repub­li­can city and more recent­ly a bat­tle­ground, Pres­i­dent Biden had an approval rat­ing of 75% and Gov­er­nor Inslee had an approval rat­ing of 71%. Mean­while, in the wider East King Coun­ty exurbs (com­mu­ni­ties to the east of Belle­vue and Kirk­land), we found Biden at 61% and Inslee at 63%.

That sup­port con­tin­ued into 2022. In our 2022 King Coun­ty polling, clos­er to the elec­tion, we found sim­i­lar­ly strong num­bers for Democ­rats, with Pat­ty Mur­ray rat­ed the most high­ly of all in our sum­mer 2022 poll of King Coun­ty vot­ers.

A fierce aversion to today’s Republican Party

Our polling found the Repub­li­can brand is in tat­ters in much of Wash­ing­ton State, with many vot­ers express­ing dis­gust over the par­ty’s wor­ship of Don­ald Trump, the refusal to con­cede the Novem­ber 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion. In one of our sur­veys, we asked Biden vot­ers if there was any­thing the Repub­li­can Par­ty could do to earn their vote in 2022. Two-thirds sim­ply said no upfront, while the remain­ing third offered com­ments like this:

“Actu­al­ly care about peo­ple and ban Don­ald Trump from ever going near a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion again. He caused an upris­ing, seri­ous­ly the fact that he was not com­plete­ly dis­graced by the par­ty is outrageous.”

“Can­di­dates should be fis­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive and have mod­er­ate social views. Far right or extreme con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans is not what the par­ty needs. No more Trump­ism types!”

“Com­plete­ly gut the par­ty, stop tak­ing bribes from NRA and basi­cal­ly reverse your stance on everything.”

“Decide on a plat­form very much like Ike Eisen­how­er’s and get rid of your lunatic fringe (Boe­bert, etc.). Also, actu­al­ly work with oth­ers in Con­gress rather than sim­ply being a do-noth­ing party.”

“Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, adopt a plat­form as opposed to plat­i­tudes. I was a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can until 2017. The par­ty is focused on ortho­doxy of dis­cus­sion that revolves around cul­ture war as opposed to any­thing pro­duc­tive. The fact that the Par­ty of a Lin­coln is giv­ing tac­it sup­port to those that open­ly talk of seces­sion and vio­lent rev­o­lu­tion would have the man turn­ing in his grave. I want con­ser­vatism back, not this right wing nation­al­ist stuff.”

“Remove your­self from Trump. Denounce all Q‑Anon con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. Admit that the elec­tion was not stolen. Cen­sor and remove any par­ty mem­bers that par­tic­i­pates in hate speech, fear lin­ger­ing and/or mis­in­for­ma­tion about Covid and Covid vaccines”

Rather than repent­ing in sack­cloth and ash­es (to bor­row the phras­ing of anoth­er of our poll respon­dents!), Repub­li­cans pro­ceed­ed to put up can­di­dates in 2022 like Joe Kent, who cam­paigned on defund­ing the FBI, arrest­ing Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci, and can­cel­ing U.S. sup­port for Ukraine in favor of Putin’s “rea­son­able” demands.

(Kevin McCarthy even showed up in Wash­ing­ton to stump for Kent and get his pic­ture tak­en with the man, who oust­ed long­time incum­bent Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler but went on to lose to Demo­c­rat Marie Glue­senkamp Perez.)

At the leg­isla­tive lev­el, Repub­li­cans did try to put up a crop of more rea­son­able can­di­dates. But those folks could­n’t escape the stig­ma of the Repub­li­can brand.

The election results vindicate our research — twice

I observed at the end of that Jan­u­ary 28th, 2022 post that polls are snap­shots in time and men­tioned that we would be going back into the field to get fresh data. We did just that. Not once, but many times. We polled statewide, we polled at the con­gres­sion­al lev­el, we polled at the leg­isla­tive lev­el, and the local level.

Those sur­vey projects allowed us to stay in reg­u­lar con­tact with rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples of the elec­torate, ensur­ing that we could reg­u­lar­ly take the pub­lic’s pulse. Repub­li­cans tried all year long to build a real­i­ty dis­tor­tion field to make their dreams of a “red wave” a self-ful­fill­ing prophe­cy. We were onto their game, and urged reporters not to be tak­en in every chance that we got.

On Top Two Elec­tion Night in August of 2022, the Seat­tle Times’ Dan­ny West­neat rec­og­nized our efforts. These were the open­ing para­graphs of his col­umn:

So much for that rumored big red con­ser­v­a­tive wave.

So much also for the con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists, the elec­tion deniers (most of them, any­way), and the MAGA right-wingers.

All of these things were not far­ing well, at all, in Tuesday’s vote count in the Wash­ing­ton pri­ma­ry. Over­all, vot­ers in this state seemed to be repu­di­at­ing the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom that this would be the first good year for Repub­li­cans around here since 2014.

“Repub­li­can nar­ra­tives have been bust­ed,” tweet­ed the North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute’s Andrew Vil­leneuve, who had been insist­ing for months that local polling did not back the media-fueled notion that there would be back­lash in favor of con­ser­v­a­tives in this state.

Despite their extreme­ly dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mance in Round One, local Repub­li­cans held fast to their dreams of a big vic­to­ry in November.

The ink was­n’t even dry on the returns of the Top Two elec­tion when Repub­li­cans recom­mit­ted them­selves to build­ing their real­i­ty dis­tor­tion field and pitch­ing their “red wave” nar­ra­tive. By late Octo­ber, they were declar­ing that Tiffany Smi­ley had caught up to Pat­ty Mur­ray in the U.S. Sen­ate race and pitch­ing reporters (often suc­cess­ful­ly) to file sto­ries on how the con­test was sup­pos­ed­ly “tight­en­ing.”

Except, of course, it was­n’t. The Repub­li­can-com­mis­sioned polls that showed Smi­ley right behind Mur­ray or tied with her were garbage.

In a series of posts here, I explained over and over again that every cred­i­ble sur­vey (includ­ing our own polling) showed the con­test was­n’t close and reit­er­at­ed our assess­ment that Pat­ty Mur­ray was on track to be com­fort­ably reelected.

As late as a few hours before the ini­tial results were pub­lished, we were still get­ting the occa­sion­al note from a right wing read­er dis­put­ing our analysis.

But not after Elec­tion Night. After the right wing real­i­ty dis­tor­tion field implod­ed and real­i­ty set in, there was just an incred­i­ble qui­et. The Trafal­gar fans who had expressed an inter­est in return­ing to our com­ment threads to talk about the elec­tion results were nowhere to be found. They all vanished.

This Novem­ber research ret­ro­spec­tive pro­vides an excel­lent run­down of our 2022 elec­toral polling and how it com­pared to the actu­al elec­tion results.

Sound data can benefit everyone

At NPI, we have deeply held pro­gres­sive con­vic­tions. Our core val­ues of empa­thy, mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty, and free­dom guide our work. But while our advo­ca­cy is sub­jec­tive, we strive to be objec­tive in our research. The pur­pose of our polling isn’t to gen­er­ate num­bers for use in pitch­ing poli­cies — it’s to find out what peo­ple real­ly think about can­di­date elec­tions, bal­lot mea­sures, and a range of issues.

We know that we can only do that if we fol­low the sci­en­tif­ic method and ask neu­tral ques­tions of rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples. So that’s what we do — every time.

As I men­tioned ear­li­er, it isn’t pos­si­ble to know the future. But it is pos­si­ble to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how an elec­tion may unfold with sound data.

Unlike many orga­ni­za­tions that com­mis­sion polling, we share a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of our find­ings pub­licly, always accom­pa­nied by analysis.

We do this because we believe that sound data can ben­e­fit every­one — espe­cial­ly in an era of ram­pant dis­in­for­ma­tion and extreme polarization.

We could see that Democ­rats were posi­tioned to do very well in 2022 because we and our poll­sters were reg­u­lar­ly talk­ing to vot­ers. Repub­li­cans weren’t wrong that vot­ers were (and are) con­cerned about issues like infla­tion and crime, but our research showed that the midterms weren’t going to turn on fears that Repub­li­cans were plan­ning on exploit­ing (and tried their utmost to).

Rather, as usu­al, the elec­tion turned on who most peo­ple trust­ed. The Repub­li­can Par­ty lost the trust of a lot of vot­ers by devolv­ing into a val­ues-less cult that wor­ships author­i­tar­i­an­ism and rev­els in its embrace of dou­ble stan­dards. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is the only major par­ty left devot­ed to keep­ing the repub­lic. Vot­ers get this and it’s why they recom­mit­ted to Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance in 2022.

Your support makes this all possible

None of what we do at NPI would be pos­si­ble with­out the sup­port of our mem­bers and our spon­sors. Much of our work is fund­ed by small dol­lar con­tri­bu­tions and com­ple­ment­ed by sup­port from part­ners who share our com­mit­ment to sound data. We are incred­i­bly grate­ful to all of the peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions who pro­vid­ed finan­cial sup­port to us in 2021 and 2022. Thank you! We’ll do our best to keep bring­ing you analy­sis of elec­tions and issues that you can rely on to be rig­or­ous and based on the sci­en­tif­ic method.

If you enjoyed read­ing about our work and would like to become a mem­ber of NPI, please fol­low this link to sign up and join our fel­low­ship of sup­port­ers.

Saturday, January 28th, 2023

Shasti Conrad unanimously elected the new Chair of the Washington State Democrats

The Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty today select­ed a new Chair to serve as the par­ty’s chief exec­u­tive for the 2023–2024 pres­i­den­tial cycle.

Shasti Con­rad, the for­mer Chair of the King Coun­ty Democ­rats, was cho­sen unan­i­mous­ly by the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Com­mit­tee (of which I am a mem­ber) to be the suc­ces­sor to Tina Pod­lodows­ki at its bien­ni­al reor­ga­ni­za­tion meet­ing in Olympia, after run­ning unop­posed for the posi­tion. Pod­lodows­ki declared ear­li­er this month that she would be step­ping down.

Con­rad, who has con­tributed sev­er­al guests posts here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate over the years, is the first woman of col­or to be elect­ed chair of the state party.

“I’m so hon­ored to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve as Chair of our state par­ty and build on the out­stand­ing suc­cess Wash­ing­ton Democ­rats have earned at the bal­lot box for the last six years,” said Con­rad in a state­ment released by the par­ty. “I’m excit­ed to work with Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers from every com­mu­ni­ty to build an unprece­dent­ed field oper­a­tion that will car­ry the mes­sage of how Wash­ing­ton Democ­rats are deliv­er­ing for work­ing fam­i­lies to each and every voter.”

“After six years serv­ing as the Chair of the Wash­ing­ton Democ­rats, I’m thrilled to pass on the torch to my friend Shasti Con­rad,” said Podlodowski.

“Shasti has been a force in Wash­ing­ton Demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics for over a decade as a staffer on three pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and a suc­cess­ful chair of the largest coun­ty par­ty orga­ni­za­tion in the state. Shasti has been a cru­cial part of our orga­niz­ing efforts over the past six years help­ing to build a top-notch state par­ty which has seen unprece­dent­ed elec­toral suc­cess in both state and fed­er­al elec­tions. There is no one more qual­i­fied to take on the dif­fi­cult task of build­ing on this suc­cess, and I have every con­fi­dence in Shasti’s success.”

Con­rad cam­paigned on the fol­low­ing spe­cif­ic pri­or­i­ties:

  • Our Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty must do more than respond to the needs of this moment; we must also build a last­ing and resilient com­mu­ni­ty that can stand against all the chal­lenges that await us.  We can’t win by just fight­ing what we hate—we must pro­tect what we love, and demon­strate our strength by spread­ing our joy.
  • This past elec­tion, the Wash­ing­ton State Democ­rats proved that we can show vot­ers a vision that pri­or­i­tizes and bal­ances the needs of both rur­al and urban Democ­rats.  Our par­ty mod­els a big tent that includes the lead­ers of the DCCC, the Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus, and an inde­pen­dent work­ing class Demo­c­rat who flipped a seat by just a few thou­sand votes.
  • As a for­mer two-term Chair of the largest coun­ty par­ty in our state, I have a track record of suc­cess help­ing pro­gres­sive can­di­dates win at every lev­el of gov­ern­ment. In the four years I led the King Coun­ty Democ­rats, our orga­niz­ers flipped a Coun­ty Coun­cil seat, six city coun­cils, and raised the funds to make our Coun­ty par­ty for­mi­da­ble in win­ning elections.
  • Addi­tion­al­ly, I built a team of com­mit­ted, skilled vol­un­teers who cre­at­ed a cul­ture of trans­paren­cy and account­abil­i­ty that allowed for safer spaces to wel­come in folks who his­tor­i­cal­ly had not seen them­selves reflect­ed in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty: more women, more peo­ple of col­or, younger peo­ple, LGBT peo­ple, and immigrants.
  • I have the expe­ri­ence, the rela­tion­ships and the deep ded­i­ca­tion this job requires. I am eager to serve our state and our party—and couldn’t be more ready and excited!

Also elect­ed to serve as offi­cers of the state par­ty this morn­ing were:

  • David Green, Vice Chair (reelect­ed)
  • Rob Dolin, Sec­re­tary (reelect­ed)
  • David Kim, Treasurer

All will serve two-year terms end­ing in Jan­u­ary of 2025.

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty reor­ga­nized last week­end; the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Cen­tral Com­mit­tee retained Caleb Heim­lich in his posi­tion as Chair for anoth­er two years and will be Con­rad’s counterpart.

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

U.S., Canadian officials act to rescue rainforests in Alaska and British Columbia

The world’s remain­ing and endan­gered tem­per­ate rain­forests, found most­ly in Alas­ka, British Colum­bia and the Pacif­ic North­west, received major pro­tec­tion this week thanks to actions by the Biden admin­is­tra­tion and the provin­cial gov­ern­ment of British Colum­bia, Canada’s third largest province.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture offi­cial­ly rein­stat­ed the Clin­ton-era Nation­al Road­less Rule in South­east Alaska’s vast sev­en­teen mil­lion-acre Ton­gass Nation­al For­est. The rule pre­cludes addi­tion­al build­ing of log­ging roads to access the tallest, old­est and most sought-after trees includ­ing cedars up to 1,000 years old.

On the oth­er side of the bor­der, British Columbia’s Pre­mier David Eby announced pro­tec­tion of 75,000 hectares of the Incomap­pleux Val­ley, locat­ed near Rev­el­stoke in the Selkirk Range and site of an inte­ri­or rain for­est inhab­it­ed by griz­zly bears, rare wood­land cari­bou and known for its bull trout. A hectare equals 2.471 acres.

The val­ley is one of B.C.’s “great­est trea­sures,” said Eby, adding: “It’s home to old growth cedars and hem­lock trees that are four meters in diam­e­ter. Over two hun­dred and fifty species of lichen can be found in these forests, includ­ing sev­er­al that are com­plete­ly new to science.”

Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, cap­tained resis­tance to the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion when it removed the Ton­gass from Road­less Rule pro­tec­tion and began to iden­ti­fy val­ley-bot­tom forests for clearcutting.

Cantwell, a con­ser­va­tion cham­pi­on, not­ed that the free flow­ing streams of America’s largest nation­al for­est are respon­si­ble for sev­en­ty-five per­cent of South­east Alaska’s com­mer­cial salmon catch, or forty mil­lion fish in 2020.

“This is phe­nom­e­nal news for one of the world’s last great remain­ing tem­per­ate forests,” said Cantwell. “The Ton­gass’ pris­tine for­est lands are an endur­ing gift to the Pacif­ic North­west that sup­ports thou­sands of region­al tourism and fish­ing jobs. The salmon runs, recre­ation­al appeal and irre­place­able car­bon stor­age the Ton­gass cur­rent­ly pro­vides will always be more valu­able to our com­mu­ni­ties than any sub­si­dized log­ging projects.”

The term “rain­for­est” is often asso­ci­at­ed with the threat­ened Ama­zon Basin in South Amer­i­ca, often called the “lungs of the plan­et” for its car­bon storage.

Our part of the world, how­ev­er, fea­tures tem­per­ate rain­forests locat­ed along the West Coast and in inte­ri­or ranges where mois­ture meets moun­tain ranges.

Log­ging has cut into these forests. Parts of the Ton­gass, notably Prince of Wales and Chichagof Islands, were once heav­i­ly cut to sup­ply huge pulp mills at Ketchikan and Sit­ka. The 1980 Alas­ka Lands Act pro­tect­ed six mil­lion acres of the Ton­gass as wilder­ness, but much of the pro­tect­ed land con­sist­ed of glac­i­ers, rocky peaks and coast­lines, and muskeg bogs.

Rein­state­ment of the Road­less Rule is “key to con­serv­ing bio­di­ver­si­ty and address­ing the cli­mate cri­sis,” said U.S. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Tom Vil­sack. It cov­ers 9.4 mil­lion acres, more than half of the Ton­gass. All told, the Road­less Rule applies to 58.5 mil­lion acres of the country’s 161 mil­lion acre nation­al for­est sys­tem. In this state, it has fore­stalled log­ging of such places as Quin­ault Ridge on the Olympic Penin­su­la and the Ket­tle Range in north­east Washington.

Glo­ria Burns, vice pres­i­dent of the Ketchikan Indi­an Com­mu­ni­ty, wel­comes restored pro­tec­tion in the Ton­gass. “I come from a fam­i­ly of weavers and we rely cul­tur­al­ly, spir­i­tu­al­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly on a thriv­ing, and healthy old growth for­est,” said she. “We will be in this place until the end of time and our cul­tures depend on and revolve around our nat­ur­al world.”

Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls, locat­ed in the Ton­gass Nation­al For­est, emp­ties into Lake Menden­hall (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

But Sen­a­tor Lisa Murkows­ki, R‑Alaska, described rein­state­ment of the Road­less Rule as “fed­er­al pater­nal­ism at its worst”, with land use turn­ing into a “polit­i­cal foot­ball” chang­ing hands with what­ev­er polit­i­cal par­ty occu­pies the White House.

“It is a beau­ti­ful place and we don’t want it becom­ing paved nec­es­sar­i­ly but I also think that it’s impor­tant for Alaskans to have access to the resources that they need,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mary Pel­to­la, D‑Alaska.

The tim­ber indus­try has sharply declined in South­east Alas­ka. Both of the big pulp mills shut down years ago. Tourism and recre­ation, from cruise ship vis­its to fish­ing lodges, have, how­ev­er, boomed.

In British Colum­bia, the great forests of the Incomap­pleux Val­ley are hun­dreds of miles from the Pacif­ic Coast. They are a prod­uct of cli­mate. The jet stream sends storms east to where they run into peas of the Selkirks, Pur­cells, Cari­bou and Rocky Moun­tains. The head­wa­ters of the U‑shaped, glac­i­er-sculpt­ed riv­er val­ley are in Canada’s Glac­i­er Nation­al Park and 11,000-foot sum­mits and icefields.

“I hiked up the Incomap­pleux this sum­mer to go fly fish­ing for bull trout,” said Keenan Simp­son, a cham­pi­on Cana­di­an kayak­er who once went to Garfield High School. “Some call it Bull Riv­er but I didn’t get a bite. It’s beau­ti­ful and green in there. Very glad it’s pro­tect­ed. I will return in the spring when it floods to attempt a kayak descent.”

Remain­ing rain­for­est old growth in the inte­ri­or is “incred­i­bly rare,” said B.C. Envi­ron­ment Min­is­ter George Heyman.

The province has turned much of its old growth into tree farm licens­es, giv­ing log­ging com­pa­nies carte blanche to cut. “We thought we could go in and har­vest with­out pay­ing atten­tion to the impacts: We all now know, includ­ing cor­po­ra­tions, that we can’t do that,” Hey­man told a news con­fer­ence in Victoria.

Inter­for, one of the world’s largest tim­ber com­pa­nies, “released” the Incomap­pleux from its tree farm license so the province could pro­tect it.

There was a ran­som involved. The Nature Con­ser­van­cy mid­wifed col­lec­tion of $4 mil­lion (Cana­di­an) to com­pen­sate Interfor.

The Seat­tle-based Wilber­force Foun­da­tion was a contributor.

The province is cre­at­ing a 58,000 hectares con­ser­van­cy, cov­er­ing about three-quar­ters of the val­ley, in which log­ging, min­ing and large-scale hydro devel­op­ment will be for­bid­den. Anoth­er 17,000 hectares in the low­er val­ley will see no log­ging but min­er­al explo­ration will be allowed.

Pre­mier Eby reflect­ed on how opin­ion in his province has changed.

Six­ty years ago, a col­or­ful British Colum­bia cab­i­net min­is­ter and preach­er named Phil Gaglar­di pro­claimed, “God didn’t put those trees there for man to wor­ship. He put them there to be cut down.” One vast clearcut, in the Bowron Riv­er, showed up in pic­tures from space.

“They believed we had to choose between grow­ing the econ­o­my and pro­tect­ing unique wild spaces lie this for gen­er­a­tions to come,” said Eby. “That’s a false choice. British Columbians now we can do both.”

The premier’s words will be test­ed. Local and provin­cial con­ser­va­tion­ists are fight­ing to keep log­gers out of Arg­onaut Creek, north of Rev­el­stoke, and the Rausch Riv­er to the north in the Cari­bou Riv­er. Both are sites of cathe­dral forests below tow­er­ing peaks of inte­ri­or British Columbia.

Speak­ing in Vic­to­ria, cel­e­brat­ing pro­tec­tion of the Incomap­pleux, was Chief James Tom­ma of the Skw’laxte Secwepe­ma Lecu (or Lit­tle Shuswap) native band.

“Old growth are just seen as a dol­lar val­ue,” he said.

“Now peo­ple will be able to go look and see the grandeur that the cre­ator put before us… Hope­ful­ly, in the future, we can go up and take a look at it and see exact­ly what our ances­tors and first con­tact walked through and looked at.”

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Impressions from today’s oral arguments in right wing’s capital gains tax legal challenge

Today, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court heard oral argu­ments in Quinn et al v. State of Wash­ing­ton et al, the right wing legal chal­lenge to the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of our recent­ly enact­ed cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, which was passed into law in 2021 and is now being imple­ment­ed by the Depart­ment of Revenue.

A group of peo­ple and enti­ties known as the Quinn plain­tiffs have hired for­mer Attor­ney Gen­er­al Rob McKen­na, for­mer Assis­tant Attor­ney Gen­er­al Cal­lie Castil­lo, and addi­tion­al coun­sel sym­pa­thet­ic to the Repub­li­can aim of keep­ing tax­es for the super­wealthy as low as pos­si­ble to try to get the law (ESSB 5096) thrown out.

Sup­port­ing this effort are bil­lion­aire fund­ed anti-tax enti­ties like the Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Cen­ter (which real­ly ought to be known as the Wash­ing­ton Right Wing Pol­i­cy Cen­ter, giv­en its strong and fixed ide­o­log­i­cal orientation.)

WRWPC is so des­per­ate to win this case that they’ve resort­ed to try­ing to lob­by the nine Supreme Court jus­tices with unreg­u­lat­ed, geofenced adver­tis­ing, as The Seat­tle Times’ David Gut­man report­ed today in a must-read piece.

Stand­ing in defense of the cap­i­tal gains tax is the State of Wash­ing­ton, rep­re­sent­ed by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son’s office, and the pro­gres­sive move­ment. Because ESSB 5096 is a law enact­ed by the Leg­is­la­ture, its defense is pri­mar­i­ly the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the Attor­ney Gen­er­al, the state’s chief legal officer.

Solic­i­tor Gen­er­al Noah Pur­cell pre­sent­ed the state’s argu­ments this morn­ing to the Court, squar­ing off against McKen­na and Castil­lo. Pur­cell co-pre­sent­ed with an attor­ney for the inter­venors in the case, Paul Lawrence of Paci­fi­ca Law Group. Paul is one of NPI’s inau­gur­al Lynn Allen Award hon­orees; he has brought many suc­cess­ful cas­es before the Court and secured a series of three deci­sions that result­ed in the inval­i­da­tion of all of Tim Eyman’s most recent initiatives.

I trav­eled on NPI’s behalf to Tumwa­ter to observe the oral argu­ments first­hand, and doc­u­ment the his­toric hear­ing in pho­tographs. Here are my impres­sions of the hour­long dis­cus­sion of the case between the jus­tices and counsel.

This is a case with pro­found impli­ca­tions for the state’s future

The jus­tices seem well aware that how they rule will affect the tra­jec­to­ry of the effort to make Wash­ing­ton’s upside down tax code more just and equitable.

If they rule for the Quinn plain­tiffs, the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy would be thrown out, and the Leg­is­la­ture would have to reen­act it to ensure the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust is not deprived of an impor­tant source of revenue.

If they rule for the state and inter­venors, the Leg­is­la­ture’s work to improve the tax code will have sur­vived con­sti­tu­tion­al scruti­ny, and a low­er court rul­ing sid­ing with the Quinn plain­tiffs will dis­ap­pear into the dust­bin of history.

What got discussed

The major argu­ments of both sides were exten­sive­ly scru­ti­nized by the jus­tices, who probed for weak­ness­es with their ques­tions. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Solic­i­tor Gen­er­al Noah Pur­cell con­tend­ed that the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy pass­es con­sti­tu­tion­al muster because the Leg­is­la­ture designed it to be an excise tax, not unlike the inher­i­tance (estate) tax that has already been ruled con­sti­tu­tion­al, or the real estate excise tax.
  • Coun­sel for the respon­dents Rob McKen­na and Cal­lie Castil­lo argued the cap­i­tal gains tax is an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al income tax and also vio­lates the Com­merce Clause of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. They claim the tax is real­ly a tax on income, despite what the state says, so it is there­fore a tax on prop­er­ty, because the Court has pre­vi­ous­ly held that income is property.
  • Paul Lawrence, speak­ing for the inter­venors, urged the jus­tices to recon­sid­er some of the Court’s pre­vi­ous hold­ings (like Cul­li­ton, a poor­ly rea­soned deci­sion that we’ve been stuck with since the 1930s) if they decide the state is wrong about the cap­i­tal gains tax being an excise tax.

We’ve been post­ing briefs to if you’re inter­est­ed in delv­ing deep into the case. Judges often remark that 90% or greater of a case comes down to the briefs, even though oral argu­ment usu­al­ly draws more atten­tion than the fil­ing of a brief by one or more parties.

The court and the court of pub­lic opin­ion: McKen­na brings up the elec­toral his­to­ry of the decades-long effort to over­turn Cul­li­ton

Wash­ing­ton State’s cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy was cre­at­ed as an excise tax. As men­tioned above, McKen­na, Castil­lo and their clients insist that it’s real­ly an “ille­gal, uncon­sti­tu­tion­al income tax,” and they have been repeat­ing this to any­one who will lis­ten to them. We have test­ed this argu­ment in our polling against argu­ments for the tax and found that it does­n’t res­onate with vot­ers.

Nev­er­the­less, oppo­nents of just and equi­table tax­a­tion have per­sist­ed in char­ac­ter­iz­ing the cap­i­tal gains tax as an income tax, rea­son­ing that invok­ing what they think is the spooky third rail of Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics will ulti­mate­ly help them pre­vail in their efforts to keep the state’s tax code upside down.

To that end, McKen­na remind­ed the jus­tices that on six occa­sions, vot­ers have said no to attempts to change the Con­sti­tu­tion to respond to the Cul­li­ton deci­sion from the 1930s. McKen­na was mak­ing the point that the Leg­is­la­ture actu­al­ly mus­tered super­ma­jori­ties to law­ful­ly over­turn Cul­li­ton, only to be repulsed.

But just because those par­tic­u­lar amend­ments failed does­n’t mean vot­ers con­cur with the Cul­li­ton deci­sion or are fine with the con­se­quences of it.

And those con­se­quences have been profound.

Wash­ing­ton State has been ranked by ITEP repeat­ed­ly as hav­ing the worst state tax code in the coun­try. Those who have the most pay the least, and those who have the least pay the most. (Hence the “upside down” moniker.)

The Cul­li­ton deci­sion is a big rea­son for this inequity all these decades later.

Were it not for Cul­li­ton, Wash­ing­ton might have kept the grad­u­at­ed income tax vot­ers said yes to all the way back in 1932. Instead, for almost a cen­tu­ry, we’ve had a tax code based on a sales tax and a gross receipts busi­ness tax.

For­tu­nate­ly, the Cul­li­ton deci­sion is not the Con­sti­tu­tion — it is an inter­pre­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion, and today’s Supreme Court could hold that it was wrong­ly decid­ed. But even if it did­n’t, as McKen­na admit­ted, it would­n’t be uncon­sti­tu­tion­al for Wash­ing­ton to levy an income tax. Under Cul­li­ton, the tax would just have to be uni­form. It was nice that McKen­na said this, because I’ve lost track of the num­ber of times peo­ple have claimed that an income tax is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. Such state­ments are in error, and it’s nice to have tape of McKen­na say­ing so.

With ESSB 5096, the Leg­is­la­ture attempt­ed to make Wash­ing­ton’s tax code more equi­table with­out run­ning afoul of the Supreme Court’s pri­or hold­ings. If the Court decides the Leg­is­la­ture suc­ceed­ed, it does­n’t need to reach the ques­tion of whether Cul­li­ton was wrong­ly decid­ed. If it decides the Leg­is­la­ture failed, it could revis­it Cul­li­ton. It would be a rather remark­able result if Cul­li­ton fell as a result of this right wing legal chal­lenge to Wash­ing­ton State’s new cap­i­tal gains tax law.

Regard­less of what hap­pens, our research sug­gests we have entered a polit­i­cal era in Wash­ing­ton State in which pop­u­lar sup­port for pro­gres­sive tax­a­tion is able to with­stand the right wing’s howls of Run for your lives, that’s an income tax! If ESSB 5096 does­n’t sur­vive, we’ll just work to reen­act the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, because Wash­ing­ton needs it and the pub­lic sup­ports it.

Who asked ques­tions of coun­sel, and who didn’t 

Asso­ciate Jus­tices Sheryl Gor­don McCloud, Raquel Mon­toya-Lewis, Charles John­son, Debra Stephens, Bar­bara Mad­sen, and Chief Jus­tice Steven Gon­za­lez asked ques­tions of coun­sel. I did not hear Jus­tices Mary Yu, Susan Owens, or G. Helen Whiten­er ask any ques­tions. Mon­toya-Lewis and Gor­don McCloud asked the most ques­tions of the six jus­tices who spoke up.

Gor­don McCloud was first out of the gate — her exchange with Solic­i­tor Gen­er­al Noah Pur­cell con­sumed sev­er­al min­utes dur­ing the first part of oral argument.

Curi­ous­ly, Gor­don McCloud made not one but mul­ti­ple mis­state­ments dur­ing the course of the hour, prompt­ing Pur­cell and lat­er McKen­na to gen­tly cor­rect her. She also for­got to turn on her micro­phone the first time she asked a ques­tion, prompt­ing the Chief Jus­tice to remind all of his col­leagues to acti­vate their mics.

What it was like to be in the room

The Supreme Court isn’t cur­rent­ly meet­ing in its ornate space in the Tem­ple of Jus­tice; that build­ing is being ren­o­vat­ed. So the jus­tices, coun­sel, media, and inter­est­ed observers instead filled a small­er space at an office build­ing in Tumwa­ter off of Israel Road. The jus­tices sat at a long table with name plac­ards on it, fac­ing the tables for the coun­sel and a makeshift cen­ter podium.

Atten­dees sat behind coun­sel and to the sides.

The tem­po­rary meet­ing space has chairs for only around thir­ty-five guests, but it seemed that every­one who want­ed to wit­ness this oral argu­ment in-per­son was able to, which meant the Court did­n’t have to turn a bunch of peo­ple away.

Quinn could end up being a land­mark case, and I think those who showed up today appre­ci­at­ed how impor­tant the stakes of it are for Wash­ing­ton’s future.

There were no out­bursts or inter­rup­tions of any sort dur­ing the argu­ments; peo­ple lis­tened qui­et­ly and respect­ful­ly. The only prob­lem I heard com­ment­ed on lat­er was a lack of con­nec­tiv­i­ty: the Court’s Wi-Fi did­n’t work prop­er­ly and cel­lu­lar devices’ sig­nal strength was too weak for live­blog­ging or even livetweeting.

When might the Court rule? We don’t know

It is unknown when the Court will return a deci­sion. The Court does­n’t usu­al­ly offer ETAs for opin­ions. Pur­cell asked the Court if it might be pos­si­ble to get a rul­ing before the Leg­is­la­ture adjourns Sine Die in April, but the Court is under no oblig­a­tion to acqui­esce. The jus­tices observed in reply to his com­ments that they have already giv­en approval for the Depart­ment of Rev­enue to move for­ward with imple­ment­ing ESSB 5096 while the case moves towards a final resolution.

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles to retire from King County Council, public service

Two-term Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Jeanne Kohl-Welles has decid­ed not to seek reelec­tion and will retire from pub­lic ser­vice at the end of 2023, she announced today in a let­ter to con­stituents and in a press release sent to the media.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Coun­cilmem­ber Jeanne Kohl-Welles

“I’ve loved serv­ing on the Coun­cil. I’ve absolute­ly loved it,” Kohl-Welles said in a state­ment and in her let­ter. “But at some point, it’s time to pass the torch for oth­ers to get involved. My entire time in pub­lic office has been immense­ly grat­i­fy­ing; how­ev­er, there’s a time for every­thing and I feel real­ly good about this being the time to move on to some­thing new.”

Kohl-Welles, eighty, was a state leg­is­la­tor before suc­ceed­ing Lar­ry Phillips on the King Coun­ty Coun­cil, rep­re­sent­ing the 4th Dis­trict, a Seat­tle-area district.

A strong advo­cate for social jus­tice, eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty, com­mu­ni­ty resilience, and the arts, Kohl-Welles leaves behind a rich lega­cy as a law­mak­er at mul­ti­ple lev­els of gov­ern­ment. She is known for her acces­si­bil­i­ty as an elect­ed offi­cial, for a firm grasp of the issues, and for being an ear­ly adopter of wor­thy causes.

It came as no sur­prise last year, for instance, when Kohl-Welles enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly backed our pro­pos­al to move King Coun­ty’s coun­ty lev­el posi­tions to even-year elec­tions. We knew we could count on her. She did­n’t just vote for the pro­pos­al, either. She donat­ed to the cam­paign to help pass it and came to the cam­paign’s house par­ty last Sep­tem­ber. Coun­cilmem­ber Kohl-Welles walks her talk.

“I want to con­grat­u­late Coun­cilmem­ber Jeanne Kohl-Welles for more than thir­ty years of ser­vice rep­re­sent­ing her com­mu­ni­ty in the state House, Sen­ate, and the King Coun­ty Coun­cil. Since our time togeth­er in the Sen­ate, I’ve enjoyed work­ing along­side Jeanne,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Constantine.

“She has been a tire­less advo­cate for work­ing fam­i­lies, vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, arts and cul­ture, work­place safe­ty, and the peo­ple of King Coun­ty. I am espe­cial­ly grate­ful for Jeanne’s lead­er­ship as Bud­get Chair in 2020 and 2021 as we worked to address the eco­nom­ic chal­lenges brought on by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. I wish her and her fam­i­ly all the best in this next chap­ter of their lives.”

Here’s Kohl-Welles’ let­ter to her con­stituents:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

After serv­ing you in elect­ed office for 30 years, it is with mixed emo­tions that I share with you that I will not be run­ning for re-elec­tion this fall and that I will be retir­ing at the end of this year.

Rep­re­sent­ing my con­stituents – first in the 36th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict in the State House and Sen­ate, and more recent­ly in Dis­trict Four on the King Coun­ty Coun­cil – has been the priv­i­lege and hon­or of my life­time, and I am incred­i­bly grate­ful for the part­ner­ship, sup­port, and trust that you all have offered me over the years.

This deci­sion did not come to me light­ly. I have thor­ough­ly enjoyed serv­ing the pub­lic, those resid­ing in my dis­trict but also more broad­ly through­out King Coun­ty and the state.

It has been par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant to me to work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly in strength­en­ing pro­tec­tions for the most vul­ner­a­ble and mar­gin­al­ized in our com­mu­ni­ties, espe­cial­ly as income inequal­i­ty, dis­place­ment, and home­less­ness have increased, as cli­mate change has become increas­ing­ly threat­en­ing to us all, and as gun vio­lence has become more frequent.

As long as I have held elec­tive office, I have worked to pro­vide access to afford­able, equi­table and qual­i­ty hous­ing, child care, edu­ca­tion, health care and a safe and secure life for all.

And so impor­tant to me has been increas­ing access to arts, cul­ture, her­itage, and sci­ence pro­grams and events, as well as an urgency in work­ing on cli­mate change and its effects on every­thing we all hold dear — our peo­ple, our envi­ron­ment, our nat­ur­al resources, our soci­ety, and our planet!

I’ve also cher­ished work­ing along­side so many tal­ent­ed, intel­li­gent, and ded­i­cat­ed peo­ple and in bal­anc­ing mul­ti­ple, some­times con­flict­ing, inter­ests in the pur­suit of bet­ter pub­lic pol­i­cy for all of us. I will miss the work might­i­ly, but most­ly the peo­ple and the com­mu­ni­ties in my district.

While I will enjoy find­ing more time for fam­i­ly and friends and for return­ing to my writ­ing, I do know it will be chal­leng­ing to shift gears after work­ing so long with so many fan­tas­tic peo­ple and on so many chal­leng­ing issues in the pur­suit of the com­mon good.

After 30 years, there are many lessons I’ve learned, but per­haps the most impor­tant is that there is always anoth­er side to the sto­ry. Some­times, an issue is pre­sent­ed in a way that makes it appear the solu­tion is sim­ple. It rarely is.

Just as we are mul­ti-faceted as indi­vid­u­als, the ways we expe­ri­ence and are impact­ed by social issues are, too.

That is why it’s been vital to me to bring as many voic­es into pol­i­cy­mak­ing as pos­si­ble – those with dif­fer­ent back­grounds and expe­ri­ences can pro­vide a more com­plete pic­ture of the issues we face. In fact, I have found it essen­tial to lis­ten to dif­fer­ent voic­es and to craft solu­tions that take all angles into account.

Tru­ly well thought out leg­isla­tive advances serve the com­mu­ni­ty and bet­ter stand the test of time. After work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly, we’re more like­ly to reach equi­table, effec­tive and sus­tain­able outcomes.

While I look for­ward to the next chap­ter of my life, I also look back fond­ly on all I have done and all those with whom I have worked along­side. I feel blessed by my career, for­tu­nate to be part of such a won­der­ful com­mu­ni­ty and a par­tic­i­pant in craft­ing need­ed pub­lic pol­i­cy and social change.

And we’ve accom­plished a lot over the past sev­en years (and in the pre­vi­ous 23 in the Leg­is­la­ture), so check out an abbre­vi­at­ed list of Coun­cil accom­plish­ments below.

But, with near­ly a year to go, my work is not done yet and I am eager to fin­ish strong! So, stick around for more infor­ma­tive e‑news edi­tions and oth­er com­mu­ni­ca­tions from my office this year, and expect to see some excit­ing leg­is­la­tion and oth­er projects before I leave at the end of Decem­ber. As always, please reach out to me or my exem­plary staff with any of your ques­tions, con­cerns, or ideas.

Last­ly, pol­i­tics is – in every sense of the term – a pub­lic endeav­or, and this is how I’ve approached it my whole career.

Not only could my work not have exist­ed with­out that amaz­ing staff I just men­tioned, it def­i­nite­ly could not have exist­ed with­out the tire­less work of count­less oth­ers, includ­ing those work­ing in advo­ca­cy groups and non­prof­its, jour­nal­ists, com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ers, com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions, union mem­bers, pol­i­cy ana­lysts, aca­d­e­mics, busi­ness own­ers, con­cerned cit­i­zens, and yes, lobbyists.

Our form of democ­ra­cy is messy, some­times chaot­ic, and ulti­mate­ly beau­ti­ful. It’s best when it’s open, vis­i­ble, and built on rela­tion­ships and dia­logue. Per­haps it’s the soci­ol­o­gist in me that leads me to love the pub­lic aspects of the work as much as I do, but I think we can all agree that at the core of our gov­er­nance exper­i­ment is a dynam­ic, col­or­ful, beat­ing heart. Thank you all for accom­pa­ny­ing me on this journey.



The Coun­cilmem­ber’s retire­ment press release also fit­ting­ly includes trib­utes from all eight of her Coun­cil col­leagues, Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can alike.

Fel­low Coun­cilmem­ber Joe McDer­mott has also announced his retirement.

The oth­er two coun­cilmem­bers up this year, Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci and Gir­may Zahi­lay, are seek­ing reelec­tion. They will be run­ning for three-year terms, owing to the pas­sage of King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1, which they part­nered with us to bring to fruition. Char­ter Amend­ment 1 received a 69% yes vote from the voters.

Our con­grat­u­la­tions and thanks to Coun­cilmem­ber Kohl-Welles. We deeply appre­ci­ate her ser­vice and wish her the best as she com­pletes her time in office.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

Biden administration reportedly now willing to send U.S. made Abrams tanks to Ukraine

The Unit­ed States could be on the verge of agree­ing to send Ukraine a small num­ber of Abrams main bat­tle tanks to sup­port its fight for free­dom against Vladimir Putin’s mur­der­ous regime, The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed today.

“The announce­ment would be part of a broad­er diplo­mat­ic under­stand­ing with Ger­many in which Berlin would agree to send a small­er num­ber of its own Leop­ard 2 tanks and would also approve the deliv­ery of more of the Ger­man-made tanks by Poland and oth­er nations,” the Jour­nal reported.

“It would set­tle a trans-Atlantic dis­agree­ment over the tanks that had threat­ened to open fis­sures as the war drags into the end of its first year.”

The Unit­ed King­dom has tried to encour­age both Ger­many and the Unit­ed States to make their best armor avail­able to Ukraine by offer­ing up some Chal­lenger 2 main bat­tle tanks. Those exist only in the hun­dreds, where­as there are thou­sands of U.S. and Ger­man-made main bat­tle tanks in the world.

“The White House is expect­ed to announce a deci­sion as ear­ly as Wednes­day,” The New York Times report­ed. “Two offi­cials said the num­ber of Abrams tanks could be about 30.” That might not sound like much, but it’s the key to unlock­ing Ukraine’s access to a much larg­er num­ber of Leop­ards already on the continent.

The Leop­ard 2 is Ger­many’s prized main bat­tle tank, and Ukraine would very much like to add Leop­ards to its army. How­ev­er, Ger­many has been reluc­tant to send its own Leop­ards to Ukraine or sign off on re-export licens­es request­ed by oth­er coun­tries (like Poland) unless the Unit­ed States made a sim­i­lar move with the Abrams. U.S. offi­cials have been try­ing to get Ger­many’s gov­ern­ment to change its stance with­out chang­ing their own, but have made lit­tle progress.

Leopard 2 main battle tank

A Ger­man-made Leop­ard 2 main bat­tle tank, seen at NATO Days 2022. NATO Days is the biggest secu­ri­ty show in Europe, tra­di­tion­al­ly held annu­al­ly at Ostra­va Leos Janacek Air­port. (Pho­to: Fric.Matej, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

The Pen­ta­gon has pub­licly argued that send­ing Abrams tanks to Ukraine does­n’t make sense for a num­ber of rea­sons, such as their need for jet fuel in their default con­fig­u­ra­tion (they can run on oth­er fuels, how­ev­er) and their high main­te­nance require­ments (which seems like anoth­er solv­able problem).

Amer­i­cans unfa­mil­iar with U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy may not be aware that the export ver­sion of the Abrams is already in the ser­vice of a num­ber of for­eign armies, includ­ing those of Egypt, Kuwait, Sau­di Ara­bia, Aus­tralia, and Iraq.

Export­ing the Abrams to Ukraine would there­fore hard­ly be unprecedented.

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion has been warm­ing to the idea as a way to resolve the impasse over giv­ing Ukraine heav­ier weapon­ry. Ger­man offi­cials have said they would be okay giv­ing Ukraine the Leop­ards before the Abrams could be ready for deploy­ment, which would be very help­ful to Ukraine’s armed forces.

The Pen­ta­gon no doubt still has reser­va­tions. But it is time to fig­ure out how to get to “yes” instead of dig­ging in and con­tin­u­ing to say “no.” The Abrams was designed pri­mar­i­ly for a land con­flict against the old Sovi­et Union. To con­tin­ue to with­hold it from an ally in need now, when the Krem­lin is try­ing to crush its neigh­bor with demo­c­ra­t­ic aspi­ra­tions through force of arms, does­n’t make sense.

The U.S. has already agreed to pro­vide Stryk­ers and Bradleys to Ukraine. The Abrams is the final fron­tier with respect to what the U.S. can offer in terms of armored vehi­cles. U.S. pro­vid­ed HIMARS sys­tems have been used with incred­i­ble effec­tive­ness by Ukrain­ian troops, deeply anger­ing the Kremlin.

Russ­ian mil­i­tary brass have grum­bled pub­licly about NATO’s role in arm­ing Ukraine, with chief of staff Gen­er­al Valery Gerasi­mov say­ing that Rus­sia is now fac­ing the “col­lec­tive West” in the con­flict. Of course, Rus­sia could end its bru­tal inva­sion today and not have to face the “col­lec­tive West” any­more sim­ply by with­draw­ing from Ukraine, but it shame­ful­ly refus­es to do so.

Putin’s regime has will­ful­ly vio­lat­ed Rus­si­a’s pre­vi­ous com­mit­ments and agree­ments with respect to Ukraine, so unfor­tu­nate­ly, nego­ti­at­ing with the Krem­lin is point­less and won’t yield the peace we’d all like to see in Europe.

NPI strong­ly sup­ports giv­ing Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

We can, with­out com­mit­ting our own troops, ensure that Ukrain­ian forces are com­pet­i­tive in this con­flict despite being out­num­bered. Amer­i­can and NATO weapon­ry is supe­ri­or to what the Rus­sians can field and are field­ing, and it’s with­in our pow­er to arm Ukraine so it can prop­er­ly defend itself.

Every pro­gres­sive who loves peace should want this con­flict to come to an end as soon as pos­si­ble. Count­less lives are at stake, along with the future of a coun­try that yearns to be free and pros­per­ous rather than oppressed and poor.

As Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lar­ry Seaquist explained last year, the quick­est route to peace in Europe is the defeat of the Russ­ian mil­i­tary, so that is the posi­tion that pro­gres­sive lead­ers and activists should be com­mit­ted to.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

NPI urges Senate to advance constitutional amendment to protect reproductive freedom

Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing are the pre­pared remarks of NPI’s founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor in sup­port of Sen­ate Joint Res­o­lu­tion 8202, a pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment which declares that “the state shall not deny or inter­fere with an indi­vid­u­al’s repro­duc­tive free­dom deci­sions.” The res­o­lu­tion, which would need a two-thirds vote of the Leg­is­la­ture to pass, was giv­en a pub­lic hear­ing in the Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Health & Long Term Care today.

Good morn­ing. For the record, my name is Andrew Vil­leneuve and I’m the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute. NPI is pleased to be here today in strong sup­port of this pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al amendment.

Gov­er­nor Inslee men­tioned as this hear­ing began that he firm­ly believes that our Con­sti­tu­tion should be amend­ed to enshrine repro­duc­tive auton­o­my in our state’s con­sti­tu­tion. NPI’s research shows that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans agree. Emphatically.

Last June, short­ly before the Dobbs deci­sion was offi­cial­ly pub­lished, we asked the fol­low­ing ques­tion of a large rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of statewide vot­ers:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose amend­ing the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion to pro­tect Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ free­dom to obtain repro­duc­tive health­care, includ­ing abor­tion care?

A total of 63% said they sup­port a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment, with 57% of the total say­ing they strong­ly sup­port­ed one. Just 28% were opposed — 21% strong­ly, 7% some­what. 8% were not sure. 1,039 like­ly vot­ers were inter­viewed as part of this sur­vey from June 1st-2nd, 2022.

This sur­vey was one of sev­er­al that NPI com­mis­sioned in 2022 that accu­rate­ly fore­shad­owed the sub­se­quent midterm results, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray’s com­fort­able vic­to­ry over chal­lenger Tiffany Smi­ley — an elec­tion that some believed would be very close, but which our polling con­sis­tent­ly showed wasn’t.

It is rare, espe­cial­ly on a con­tentious issue with strong­ly held views on mul­ti­ple sides, for more than fifty per­cent in a statewide sam­ple to say they strong­ly sup­port a pro­posed pol­i­cy direc­tion, espe­cial­ly some­thing as sig­nif­i­cant as a pro­posed change to our plan of government.

Yet that is what we see here. A major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans fierce­ly believe in repro­duc­tive free­dom — it’s real­ly, real­ly impor­tant to them.

This sup­port extends across all regions of the state.

East­ern and Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton favors a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment. The Olympic Penin­su­la and South­west Wash­ing­ton favor one. North Puget Sound favors one. The South Sound favors one. King Coun­ty favors one.

Strik­ing­ly, there’s even more sup­port and less oppo­si­tion for amend­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion to pro­tect repro­duc­tive rights than for keep­ing Roe v. Wade. 62% of vot­ers sur­veyed favored keep­ing Roe in this same sur­vey, while 31% were opposed. Net sup­port for this con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment is 4% higher.

That sug­gests there are a few folks not sup­port­ive of Roe who nev­er­the­less join the major­i­ty of their fel­low cit­i­zens in believ­ing that our state should exer­cise its author­i­ty to explic­it­ly rec­og­nize a right in our state con­sti­tu­tion that adds to the rights already explic­it­ly rec­og­nized in our fed­er­al and state constitutions.

The peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton should be giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to vote on this impor­tant ques­tion. We urge you to move this pro­posed amend­ment for­ward for fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion in the leg­isla­tive process.

Hap­py to field any ques­tions. Thank you.

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

National, state Republicans file against voters in signature verification legal challenge

When they gath­er at Ocean Shores this com­ing week­end for the four­teenth annu­al Roanoke Con­fer­ence, this state’s Repub­li­can activists will see on their sched­ules a pan­el enti­tled: “The Ele­phant in the Room: We keep los­ing, so what do we do next?” Defeat­ed U.S. Sen­ate can­di­date Tiffany Smi­ley is one of the speakers.

The imme­di­ate answer is appar­ent­ly a legal inter­ven­tion, one unlike­ly to help the party’s lack of pop­u­lar­i­ty or improve its elec­toral for­tunes in any way.

State and nation­al Repub­li­cans are fil­ing briefs in a law­suit that seeks to end the error-filled sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion process on Washington’s mail-in ballots.

The suit, filed ear­li­er this month in King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court, alleges that thou­sands of valid votes get reject­ed and that rejec­tions hit a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of younger, Black, Latino/Latina and dis­abled vot­ers.

The plain­tiffs include a trio of groups – VetVoice, El Cen­tro de la Raza and Wash­ing­ton Bus – as well as indi­vid­u­als who have had their sig­na­tures repeat­ed­ly flagged. They are rep­re­sent­ed by the Perkins Coie law firm.

State Repub­li­can Chair­man Caleb Heim­lich, new­ly reelect­ed to his post, announced last week that the Repub­li­can Par­ty would file a brief defend­ing the process of com­par­ing sig­na­tures on bal­lots with those on file.

“Rather than attempt to make changes to the law through the Leg­is­la­ture, left-wing groups and their Demo­c­rat [sic] allies are attempt­ing to do away with the entire ver­i­fi­ca­tion process through the courts,” said Heimlich.

“They have filed a law­suit attempt­ing to remove sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion from our elec­tion process. This is a bla­tant­ly par­ti­san attempt to remove the only secu­ri­ty mea­sure elec­tions have to pro­tect against fraud­u­lent activity.”

Embat­tled Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee Chair Ron­na McDaniel announced that the RNC, too, was weigh­ing in, say­ing: “Basic elec­tion safe­guards mat­ters – espe­cial­ly in Demo­c­rat-run [sic] states where few guardrails remain.”

The last few words speak to a wider agen­da. Five states have switched entire­ly or large­ly to mail-in vot­ing. They include Utah, which just reelect­ed ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mike Lee and four Repub­li­can House mem­bers, as well as “blue” states Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon and Hawaii.

Col­orado is, like Wash­ing­ton was many years ago, see­ing its polit­i­cal col­ors change from pur­ple to blue.

Hos­til­i­ty to mail-in vot­ing, and cast­ing sus­pi­cion, became part of the 2020 Trump reelec­tion strat­e­gy, and the evolv­ing plot to chal­lenge elec­tion results if “the Don­ald” lost. “Mail vot­ing is a ter­ri­ble thing… I think if you vote, you should go (to the polls),” the 45th pres­i­dent said in the spring of 2020.

Short­ly after, he request­ed a vote-by-mail bal­lot in Florida.

Ron­na McDaniel spout­ed the par­ty line that Democ­rats were using the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic to spread the polit­i­cal virus of mail-in vot­ing. “The Democ­rats’ all-mail bal­lots pro­pos­al is a ruse to legal­ize bal­lot har­vest­ing nation­wide,” McDaniel said in 2020, adding: “Mail-in vot­ing increas­es the oppor­tu­ni­ty for fraud.”

The Repub­li­cans’ prob­lem is, vot­ers like mail-in voting.

It’s easy and con­ve­nient, and allows for study of voter’s pam­phlets and oth­er elec­tion mate­ri­als with bal­lots in hand. The Democ­rats have adjust­ed their tac­tics. When count­ed, mail-in votes tipped Penn­syl­va­nia to Joe Biden in 2020 and led net­works to declare his vic­to­ry. Big mail-in vote totals car­ried Sen­a­tor (and Rev­erend) Raphael Warnock to his 2022 vic­to­ry in Geor­gia, and to reelec­tion of Sen­a­tor Mark Kel­ly in Ari­zona. Both states had flipped to Biden in 2020.

A few Repub­li­cans are urg­ing the par­ty to wise up. “We sim­ply have to beat them at this vote-by-mail game,” said Blake Mas­ters, defeat­ed by Kel­ly in the Grand Canyon State. Said Newt Gin­grich, lick­ing wounds on Sean Hannity’s Fox News pro­pa­gan­da broad­cast, “It means that you have to rec­og­nize ear­ly voting.”

The sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion process in Wash­ing­ton is flawed.

Peo­ples’ sig­na­tures change, sig­na­tures are scrib­bled: We can’t all be John Han­cock, or Don­ald Trump when he bold­ly signed a full-page news­pa­per ad urg­ing the death penal­ty for the “Cen­tral Park Five.” (The teenagers, charged with a bru­tal rape, were lat­er found to be innocent.)

When the suit against ver­i­fi­ca­tion was filed, 36,000 2022 elec­tion bal­lots across the state had already been rejected.

In the past three elec­tions, accord­ing to plain­tiffs’ brief, 113,000 bal­lots had been giv­en a thumbs down, 42,000 in King Coun­ty. “These vot­ers have their bal­lots reject­ed for vir­tu­al­ly no ben­e­fit to elec­tion integri­ty,” said the brief.

“The sig­na­ture matchup dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly hurts young vot­ers, vot­ers of col­or and active-duty ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies vot­ing overseas.”

By so doing, it added, sig­na­ture ver­i­fi­ca­tion vio­lates the right to vote as laid out in the Wash­ing­ton State Constitution.

Back­ing up their argu­ment, plain­tiffs found that young Latino/Latina and Black vot­ers have bal­lots reject­ed at twelve times the rate of white overs over the age of forty. Gen­er­a­tion X vot­ers, ages twen­ty-two to thir­ty, are six times as like­ly to get reject­ed as those over forty.

The rea­sons: Elec­tion offi­cials are not hand­writ­ing experts and have as many as three mil­lion statewide votes to count. Or in words of the brief: “They make mis­takes. They are rushed to ‘ver­i­fy’ mil­lions of sig­na­tures in just a few weeks. They aren’t experts in hand­writ­ing analy­sis. They are not trained as such.”

Plain­tiff Kaeleene Escalante Mar­tinez has seen her bal­lot reject­ed three times in as many elec­tions. Co-plain­tiff Bethan Cantrell has a chron­ic con­di­tion that makes writ­ing and sign­ing her name extreme­ly uncomfortable.

Co-plain­tiff Raisha Bratt has, in words of the brief, “a com­pli­cat­ed signature.”

It doesn’t stop there.

Elec­tion law expert Kevin Hamil­ton, part­ner at Perkins Coie, has become pub­lic advo­cate for the law­suit. “John Carl­son inter­viewed me a few weeks ago on his show about the case,” Hamil­ton said in an e‑mail. “Dur­ing that inter­view, he revealed that his sig­na­ture had been chal­lenged pur­suant to this process.”

A Los Ange­les Times reporter uncov­ered this nugget report­ing on the 2020 elec­tion: “Julie Wise, the top elec­tion offi­cial for King Coun­ty (which includes Seat­tle), said her own sig­na­ture has been chal­lenged twice, includ­ing once while she held her cur­rent position.”

Both Wise and Sec­re­tary of State Steve Hobbs are defen­dants in the ver­i­fi­ca­tion suit. Hamil­ton had his own vote chal­lenged in the 2004 elec­tion, in which he was co-lead coun­sel (with Jen­ny Durkan) defend­ing Gov­er­nor Chris Gregoire’s 133-vote vic­to­ry mar­gin against a Repub­li­can challenge.

The coun­ty had his sig­na­ture on “dozens (maybe hun­dreds) of legal briefs, pro­posed orders, dec­la­ra­tions and relat­ed papers” as part of the lit­i­ga­tion, which was tried in Chelan Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court.

Vot­ers are noti­fied if their sig­na­tures are reject­ed. They are giv­en twen­ty-one days to “cure” their bal­lots. In close con­tests, vol­un­teers from both par­ties set out to “chase” votes by con­tact­ing those whose bal­lots have been reject­ed and make them part of the process. Oth­er­wise, cur­ing is a cum­ber­some process. Perkins Coie is rep­re­sent­ing plain­tiffs in a sim­i­lar ver­i­fi­ca­tion law­suit in Colorado.

“None of the five states that held their elec­tions pri­mar­i­ly by mail has had any vot­er fraud scan­dals since mak­ing that change,” accord­ing to the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice at The New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law. “It is still more like­ly for an Amer­i­can to be struck by light­ning than to com­mit mail fraud voting.”

The state of Wash­ing­ton count­ed one hun­dred and forty-two poten­tial vot­er fraud cas­es out of 3.1 mil­lion votes cast in the 2018 midterm elections.

That amount­ed to 0.0004 per­cent of the bal­lots flagged.

The Repub­li­cans’ choice of this issue inter­ven­tion is wor­thy of seri­ous question.

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

Kshama Sawant joins Seattle City Council exodus; won’t seek reelection this year

Seat­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber Kshama Sawant has decid­ed not to seek reelec­tion this year, join­ing col­leagues Lisa Her­bold, Deb­o­ra Juarez, and Alex Ped­er­sen in announc­ing plans to step down at the end of 2023. Sawan­t’s deci­sion means at least four of the city’s sev­en dis­trict-based coun­cil posi­tions will be open seats this year, with no incum­bent con­tend­ing for anoth­er term.

Coun­cilmem­ber Andrew Lewis of the 7th Dis­trict has said he’ll be run­ning again, while Dan Strauss and Tam­my Morales have yet to announce their plans.

At-large Coun­cilmem­bers Tere­sa Mosque­da and Sara Nel­son aren’t up this year.

In a guest edi­to­r­i­al for The Stranger, Sawant said she will be focus­ing on launch­ing a nation­al polit­i­cal enti­ty, “Work­ers Strike Back.”

“We need a new par­ty for the work­ing class — one that holds elect­ed offi­cials account­able, that bases itself on social move­ments, that orga­nizes along­side work­ers on the streets and in work­places,” Sawant said. 

Of course, there is already the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Par­ty, the Green Par­ty, the Par­ty for Social­ism and Lib­er­a­tion, and numer­ous minor par­ties lack­ing bal­lot access like Social­ist Alter­na­tive, but hey, free­dom of assem­bly is a great thing and any­one who wants to can start their own brand new polit­i­cal par­ty if they’d like.

“Elec­tions are not the only, much less the pri­ma­ry, path to polit­i­cal change, because the polit­i­cal sys­tem is rot­ten from top to bot­tom under cap­i­tal­ism,” Sawant went on to say in her guest editorial. 

“Now, as the glob­al cri­sis wors­ens, the rot spreads deep­er and deep­er, and the threat of fur­ther cor­rup­tion by the far right hangs over us all. In India, the coun­try I was born in, the far right is in pow­er and rapid­ly con­sol­i­dat­ing it. In the US, the midterms were but a tem­po­rary reprieve, unless we get organized.”

“Cap­i­tal­ism needs to be over­thrown. We need a social­ist world. And that is only pos­si­ble by mobi­liz­ing many mil­lions of work­ing peo­ple around gen­uine social­ist ideas and fight­ing relent­less­ly for our inter­ests as a class. But the task of rebuild­ing the class strug­gle in Amer­i­ca will go nowhere if young peo­ple and the rank and file of the labor move­ment are not clear about the role of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty and the need for a new par­ty that serves us, not the rich.”

“Work­ing peo­ple want to fight back, but we need to get bet­ter orga­nized,” Sawant con­tend­ed. “We need a nation­wide move­ment — an inde­pen­dent, rank-and-file cam­paign orga­niz­ing in work­places and on the streets.”

“It should be pro­gres­sive labor unions using their resources to launch such a move­ment, as unions have in the UK with the Enough Is Enough cam­paign. But that has not hap­pened. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, much of the union lead­er­ship in this coun­try is close­ly tied to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment, afraid to call out the Democ­rats, afraid to run inde­pen­dent can­di­dates and build strong strike actions based on bold demands — afraid to rock the boat.”

“That is why, along with Social­ist Alter­na­tive and oth­ers, I am announc­ing the launch of such a nation­al move­ment, Work­ers Strike Back, instead of myself run­ning for re-elec­tion again in Seattle’s Dis­trict 3. We have no illu­sions that a mass move­ment can be built overnight, but we urgent­ly need to get started.”

Work­ers Strike Back is intend­ed to be a nation­al effort, but it won’t include some of the most rec­og­niz­able pro-work­er pro­gres­sive lead­ers in the Unit­ed States because Sawant and her team feel they are sellouts.

Sawant explic­it­ly cas­ti­gat­ed Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Prami­la Jaya­pal, Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, and the Squad as such again today along with labor lead­ers and activists who have cho­sen to con­tin­ue work­ing with­in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty for pro­gres­sive change. She also crit­i­cized the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Social­ists of Amer­i­ca (to which she remind­ed read­ers she belongs to) for not hold­ing them accountable.

Sawan­t’s guest edi­to­r­i­al notably did not name and shame Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont, who iden­ti­fies as an inde­pen­dent but who cau­cus­es with Democ­rats in the U.S. Sen­ate and has a lead­er­ship posi­tion in the cau­cus. Nev­er­the­less, the piece had a very strong every­one is a sell­out but me and my crew vibe.

The effec­tive­ness of the pol­i­tics of con­fronta­tion — Sawan­t’s pre­ferred response to the issues of the day — has long been debat­ed, and no doubt will con­tin­ue to be in the months and years ahead. It is an age-old debate, after all.

It is true that progress in the face of grave chal­lenges like income inequal­i­ty, access to hous­ing, and cli­mate dam­age has been frus­trat­ing­ly elusive.

But if you ask our team, big and dif­fi­cult prob­lems don’t become any eas­i­er to solve when one is more focused on crit­i­ciz­ing poten­tial allies than peo­ple who are res­olute­ly opposed to any and all pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy directions.

There is a rea­son that entrenched insti­tu­tions and inter­ests are entrenched; his­to­ry has shown remov­ing them or chang­ing them from the out­side is tough. Plen­ty of peo­ple have tried over the years and dis­cov­ered just that.

Giv­en Sawan­t’s inter­est in cre­at­ing Work­ers Strike Back — a name that cer­tain­ly evokes Sawan­t’s belief in the use­ful­ness and pow­er of con­fronta­tion — step­ping down from the Coun­cil this year seems like a log­i­cal move for her.

Joy Hollingsworth, Alex Hud­son, and oth­ers are inter­est­ed in bring­ing fresh rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the 3rd Dis­trict on the Seat­tle City Coun­cil, so we can expect to see a live­ly and inter­est­ing race for this posi­tion over the next ten months.

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