Last night, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington held a candidate forum in Redmond to give candidates running for the Washington State Legislature in the 45th District an opportunity to share their views on women’s health and reproductive rights.
The six candidates seeking to represent the district in the 2015-2016 Legislature were all invited to participate, but unfortunately, only the Democrats (Matt Isenhower, Larry Springer, and Roger Goodman) showed up.
Topics discussed included the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, the Senate’s repeated failure to pass the Reproductive Parity Act, and consequences for women’s health resulting from public/private hospital mergers or partnerships. But the Democratic candidates also commented on the absence of their Republican opponents, who were represented by empty chairs.
(Full disclosure: I am an officer of the 45th District Democrats, which is working to elect Matt Isenhower, Larry Springer, and Roger Goodman).
“It really speaks volumes that my opponent is not here,” Isenhower told the audience. “Again and again in the media, unfortunately, people refer to him as pro-choice. But my question would be, if he is pro-choice, why is he not here? Why did he not fill out the questionnaire for NARAL? Why has he not gone for endorsement for both NARAL and Planned Parenthood? Those things, those actions, speak a lot louder than any words I can say.”
Isenhower could have been more specific and said, Again and again in the Seattle Times, unfortunately, editorial writers have referred to him as pro-choice – for it is Frank Blethen’s editorial page that keeps crediting Hill as having that stance.
Hill represents his socially liberal district, supporting abortion rights, gay marriage and the state allowing students without legal residency status access to financial aid.
But by trying to take out moderate, pro-choice Republicans such as incumbent Andy Hill for not being more assertive or rabid about supporting abortion rights, they risk affecting issues that go way beyond women’s health.
Pro-choice groups need moderate Republicans, a growing group locally that includes not just Litzow but state Sens. Joe Fain of Auburn and Andy Hill of Redmond. Lawmakers may think twice next time about bucking their party to join a team that might bite them next election.
Actually, history has shown that when advocates of women’s health back Republicans, they get burned. Steve Litzow, Andy Hill, and Rodney Tom were in a position to bring up the Reproductive Parity Act in the Senate during each of the two sessions their caucus has controlled the floor. They failed to deliver.
The legislation could have passed with what Tom likes to call a “philosophical majority”, possibly even without Hill. But it was never brought to the floor for a vote. (It did, of course, pass in the Democratically-controlled state House.)
There is no evidence that Andy Hill supports reproductive rights, including a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Hill does not even advertise himself as pro-choice or pro-liberty. Instead, he has allowed (and perhaps encouraged) The Seattle Times to do that for him, while avoiding the issue on the campaign trail, presumably so as to avoid offending his base. Hill is trying to have it both ways.
I’ll add that there is no such thing as a moderate Republican, or a moderate Democrat, for that matter. The mass media loves the label moderate, but it’s useless. It doesn’t stand for anything. Progressive/liberal and conservative refer to a system of values, principles, and policy directions. Moderate doesn’t. There is no moderate worldview. There is no consistency to what so-called moderates believe.
Most of the time, when someone says moderate, they mean biconceptual. Biconceptuals are individuals or groups that use the progressive values system in certain areas of their political thinking, and the conservative values system in others. I can’t stress this enough: Biconceptuals are ideologically different.
And most people are, to some degree, biconceptuals.
Biconceptualism helps explains the phenomenon of strange bedfellows, which is when unusual coalitions form to achieve a common goal (for instance, reforming the NSA or preventing an expansion of gambling).
Frank Blethen and his editorial writers would have us believe Andy Hill is partially progressive. They can credibly argue Hill supports marriage equality, because Hill did vote yes on the bill that brought the freedom to marry to Washington. But again, there is no evidence that Hill supports reproductive rights.
As Representative Larry Springer explained when it was his turn to speak:
[Andy Hill] is in his leadership. He is one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the Senate.
He’s the Chair of the Ways & Means Committee. He has – I believe – a responsibility to represent his district, and to say to his leadership: We need to do this. This needs to come to the floor for a vote.
I have never, ever heard Andy Hill say “I’m pro-choice.” He waffles; he walks around that constantly. In fact, we had to… [looking at seatmate Roger Goodman] You and I had to bail him out at the town hall meeting in Sammamish three years ago because the questions were relentless. And he just wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t answer… and it was clogging up the meeting, so we said, okay, time to move on.
UPDATE, October 20th, 2014: After this post was published, Representative Larry Springer reached out to NPI to let us know that the town hall story he shared at the NARAL forum stemmed from questions concerning Andy’s position on marriage equality, not reproductive rights. Representative Springer checked with Representative Roger Goodman, and that was Roger’s recollection as well.
At the time, Andy had not taken a position on the issue and the Legislature had not voted on Ed Murray and Jamie Pedersen’s historic bill.
We regret any confusion (as does Representative Springer) and appreciate the clarification. If anything, this additional context indicates that Andy has a history of being evasive and ducking tough questions on multiple issues.
Now, back to the original post…
Springer’s opponent Brendan Woodward also skipped the forum, as did Goodman’s opponent, Joel Hussey. However, they are at least not using a major daily newspaper to suggest they hold a position they don’t really hold.
It’s too bad the Republicans chose not to attend. Had they participated, they might have learned something. They would have had to field tough questions, sure, but that’s what real leaders have to do.
As I said earlier, a number of important topics were covered, including the ramifications of the Hobby Lobby decision. The candidates even delved into topics themselves without being prompted. Representative Springer, for instance, brought up the importance of medically accurate sex education in his opening remarks.
These issues aren’t going away, and the incoming Legislature would be making a serious mistake if it does not address them in the 2015 session.