NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Biggest political loser last night: Tim Eyman

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.

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