This morn­ing, as I had rather expect­ed he would, Tim Eyman sent out a cel­e­bra­to­ry email bask­ing in the results of the 2014 midterms, which Pres­i­dent Oba­ma referred to ear­li­er today as a good night for Repub­li­cans.

Eyman did his very best to spin the results of the elec­tion in Wash­ing­ton as some kind of sweep­ing repu­di­a­tion of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and his agen­da, even call­ing Inslee “the biggest polit­i­cal los­er last night”. When I saw that sub­ject line, I had a good, long laugh, and knew imme­di­ate­ly what the title of this post would be.

Espe­cial­ly com­pared to many oth­er Democ­rats across the coun­try, Jay Inslee had a decent night. It was­n’t great, but it also was­n’t terrible.

While it’s true Democ­rats did­n’t elect a major­i­ty to the state Sen­ate, the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus did­n’t lose any­body (it’ll still have twen­ty-three mem­bers after the elec­tion), and the House will still have a Demo­c­ra­t­ic majority.

The most impor­tant result of the night, though (which Eyman neglect­ed to even men­tion) is the over­whelm­ing pas­sage of I‑594 and the defeat of I‑591.

As the gov­er­nor said in his remarks in Seat­tle and Wood­inville last night, this is a water­shed moment. Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have deci­sive­ly vot­ed to make our com­mu­ni­ties safer and require uni­ver­sal back­ground checks on gun sales.

Inslee not­ed that he was turned out of office in 1994 after vot­ing to ban assault weapons. (He was a mem­ber of Con­gress from East­ern Wash­ing­ton from 1993–1994). He knew that vote might cost him, and it prob­a­bly did. Nev­er­the­less, he has no regrets about it. Stop­ping gun vio­lence is some­thing Inslee cares deeply about, and for him, the pas­sage of I‑594 and fail­ure of I‑591 are great victories.

Fur­ther­more, vot­ers are reelect­ing Suzan Del­Bene and appear to have cho­sen Dan New­house to rep­re­sent the 4th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, not Tea Par­ty dar­ling Clint Didi­er. New­house served in Chris Gre­goire’s admin­is­tra­tion and is a major upgrade over Doc Hast­ings, who opt­ed to retire this year.

The reten­tion of Del­Bene and the elec­tion of New­house are cer­tain­ly out­comes that Inslee and his admin­is­tra­tion were hop­ing for. Inslee is also undoubt­ed­ly pleased that Seat­tle vot­ers approved more fund­ing for Metro and signed off on a pilot project to imple­ment uni­ver­sal preschool.

Real­ly, the biggest polit­i­cal los­er in Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics last night was Tim Eyman. Not only did Tim not have an ini­tia­tive on the bal­lot for the first time in eight years, he did­n’t get the results he want­ed from his “advi­so­ry vote” push poll scheme. Vot­ers are vot­ing “Main­tained” on both Advi­so­ry Votes 8 and 9, even though the word­ing of both encour­aged a vote for the oth­er option… “Repealed”.

Some back­ground: Advi­so­ry votes are required by a pro­vi­sion in I‑960, which was nar­row­ly passed in 2007. They are trig­gered when­ev­er the Leg­is­la­ture takes an action that rais­es or recov­ers rev­enue for the state trea­sury. Their results are not bind­ing (mean­ing state law is not changed at all) and their wording/format is dic­tat­ed by I‑960. As we explained in a spe­cial report for Per­ma­nent Defense last year, these “advi­so­ry votes” are akin to push polls that ask lead­ing questions.

This year, the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office deter­mined that there were two bills passed that trig­gered advi­so­ry votes, and so we end­ed up with Advi­so­ry Votes 8 and 9.

We believe Eyman’s advi­so­ry votes scheme is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. The state Con­sti­tu­tion is very clear and spe­cif­ic about how direct democ­ra­cy works in Wash­ing­ton State. There are ini­tia­tives, ref­er­en­da, and con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments. Ref­er­en­da can be ini­ti­at­ed by cit­i­zen peti­tion or by leg­isla­tive refer­ral. But in either case, a con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly valid ref­er­en­dum has a bind­ng outcome.

The Con­sti­tu­tion does not pro­vide for non­bind­ing ref­er­en­da or plebiscites, which is basi­cal­ly what the advi­so­ry votes amount to. Con­se­quent­ly, the pro­vi­sion of I‑960 that requires them is invalid and should be struck down or repealed.

Telling­ly, all the email Eyman has been send­ing to his fol­low­ers late­ly has con­tained a pitch focus­ing on next year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion, not a promise of a new ini­tia­tive. Eyman’s not say­ing, Give me mon­ey so I can get ready to launch a new ini­tia­tive after the new year. Instead, he’s say­ing, Help me gear up for the 2015 leg­isla­tive ses­sion. Or, in Eyman’s words:  “Next year’s ses­sion is still going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight… Will you help us rep­re­sent and defend the tax­pay­ers next year?”

Is Eyman mor­ph­ing into a lob­by­ist? If he is, it’s not by choice. Eyman loves doing ini­tia­tives, but he has been unable to mount a suc­cess­ful sig­na­ture dri­ve since I‑517 and I‑1185 in 2012. Late­ly, he’s been try­ing to get busi­ness groups inter­est­ed in fund­ing an ini­tia­tive to pre­vent min­i­mum wage increas­es at the local level.

But so far, only two Seat­tle Repub­li­cans have giv­en him mon­ey (that we know of, any­way): Fre­mon­t’s Suzie Burke and Faye Gar­neau. They’ve each put up $50,000, which is not enough to run a sig­na­ture drive.

As we have seen the last two years, the gears of Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry sim­ply can­not turn if they are not being lubri­cat­ed with mon­ey… lots of money.

We have no doubt that Eyman will con­tin­ue try­ing to find a new wealthy bene­fac­tor in an attempt to stay rel­e­vant, but there is no good rea­son why any­one should trust him or pay him to do any­thing. His pol­i­tics are tox­ic, his con­duct unpro­fes­sion­al, and his ini­tia­tives destruc­tive. It was fan­tas­tic that Eyman had noth­ing on the bal­lot this year; that needs to become the norm in Wash­ing­ton, not the excep­tion to the norm.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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