This morning, The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia correspondent and political columnist Jim Camden filed a “Sunday Spin” column commenting on the unsuccessful NO on I‑1366 campaign that we were a part of, suggesting that the coalition relied on old tactics that have not worked in the past. He writes:
Opponents of Tim Eyman’s regular ballot measures for tax controls went to their standard playbook of denouncing the supermajority for tax increases plan, then filing a lawsuit to keep it off the ballot (which history showed was doomed to fai [sic], and it did), then excoriating it as undemocratic and unconstitutional, trashing Eyman and pointing to polls that showed the initiative was trailing.
“Standard playbook”? I know sports metaphors are popular with journalists and pundits, but let’s face it: Politics is not a game. If I‑1366 isn’t stopped, it will have grave ramifications for the future of our state.
Denouncing a bad idea is inherently what a NO campaign does, so I’m not sure why that’s included in the list of “tactics”. With respect to the lawsuit, the legal challenge to I‑1366 was a scope challenge that even defendant Kim Wyman acknowledged was properly brought, unlike past challenges. We did not get an injunction blocking I‑1366 from the ballot, but that doesn’t mean the challenge wasn’t worth it. We did win a ruling in King County Superior Court that 1366 was beyond the scope.
As for excoriating I‑1366 as undemocratic and unconstitutional, this year was the first time an effort was made to emphasize that argument with voters.
In 2007, when Eyman’s I‑960 was on the ballot, the opposition campaign portrayed I‑960 as a measure that would “tie Washington up in red tape”, as can be seen from watching the television spot that the campaign aired back then.
The TV spot did not assert that I‑960 was undemocratic or unconstitutional. It did not explain how requiring a two-thirds vote would transfer power from the majority to a submajority. Neither did the con voter’s pamphlet statement.
In 2010 and 2012, when Eyman’s I‑1053 and I‑1185 were on the ballot, Washington progressives failed to organize strong opposition campaigns, and the results were absolutely disastrous. We didn’t win a single county.
Very little money was spent against I‑1185 (less than $100,000) and nearly all of the larger sum spent against I‑1053 was spent too late to make a difference.
This year, in the campaign against I‑1366, Washington progressives finally ran a disciplined campaign explaining that Tim Eyman wants to sabotage the plan of government our founders gave us. That effort has been yielding results. A much larger percentage of the electorate is opposing I‑1366 than opposed I‑1053 or I‑1185… in a year when far fewer progressive voters are turning out.
Having spent little more against against I‑1366 than we did against I‑1185, we’re holding Eyman to a slim margin of victory in a year when we were at a structural disadvantage, turnout-wise. That is a big improvement. We did not defeat I‑1366, but we clearly ran a much better campaign this time around.
Lastly, with respect to the polling: There was one Elway Poll that showed I‑1366’s level of support at under fifty percent and its opposition at an equivalent level, but that same poll showed that a significant number of voters were undecided.
That poll suggested that we were making some headway in the campaign, which was encouraging. It did not predict victory.
Elway himself noted in his memo, “Previous late polls on initiatives to require a 2⁄3 vote to raise taxes have tended to underestimate support.”
Camden next asserted:
The outcome was the same as previous initiatives.
No, it wasn’t. I‑1366 is not enjoying anything close to the level of support that I‑1185 and I‑1053 got, because I‑1366 had organized opposition from the beginning. We likely could have beaten I‑1366 had our campaign had $3 million at its disposal, as the incredibly successful NO on I‑1033 campaign had in 2009.
Camden then claimed:
Eyman’s supermajority plans are 6–0 at the ballot box.
This is simply factually inaccurate. Prior to this year, Eyman had sponsored four initiatives to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. Three of those passed.
We often call these Eyman’s I‑601 clones, because they are successor initiatives to I‑601 from 1993, which Eyman was not involved with. Here is the list:
- Initiative 807, 2003: Did not qualify for the ballot
- Initiative 960, 2007: Passed by voters
- Initiative 1053, 2010: Passed by voters
- Initiative 1185, 2012: Passed by voters
This year’s I‑1366 does not restore the two-thirds vote scheme struck down by the Supreme Court. It instead threatens a huge sales tax cut ($8 billion over six years) if the Legislature refuses to pass a constitutional amendment permanently sabotaging Article II, Section 22, which the I‑601 clones all violated.
As long as we’re on the topic of the electoral history of supermajority vote requirements, let’s not forget that in 1993, at the same time they were narrowly approving I‑601, voters were also voting down I‑602, a similarly draconian measure to require a three-fourths vote to raise revenue — and that, in 2007, at the same time they were passing Eyman’s I‑960, voters also narrowly passed a constitutional amendment to allow majorities to pass school levies.
Those votes conflict with the narrative Eyman peddles, so he conveniently never talks about them, but journalists and columnists ought to talk about them in order to provide proper context. It is simply not the case that Washington voters have always voted to make it harder to raise taxes.
Back to Camden, one last time:
On Friday opponents were touting the fact that King County had voted 60 percent against the measure, and thanking voters there and in three other counties for recognizing the initiative is “bad public policy.” What, like voters in the other 35 counties are too stupid to understand?
Hardly. In this campaign, we worked to earn as many votes as we could, but we didn’t secure enough to prevail. We should have gone to greater lengths to reach out to voters about the consequences of I‑1366, particularly in swing counties like Spokane, Snohomish, Pierce, or Clark. Winning progressive campaigns simply must look outside of King County for votes. We’ve preached that here for a long time. Nevertheless, we are pleased that we were able to win convincing majorities in four counties. Winning in four better than winning in zero.
In a statewide election, every Washingtonian’s vote counts the same as every other Washingtonian’s. One woman, one vote. One man, one vote.
As of Friday evening, there were 670,085 votes cast against I‑1366 from all thirty-nine of Washington’s counties. We are grateful to all the Washingtonians who voted down I‑1366, no matter where they live.
They are now preparing for a court challenge. Eyman’s record isn’t as good in the courts, but without a change in the opponents’ playbook, that’s likely where they will continue to end up after voters pass them.
We already have one challenge pending with the Supreme Court pertaining to I‑1366. A second challenge may be filed, but as the Court made clear in its order of September 4th, the previous suit remains active (The first line of the order reads, “The appeal is retained by this Court for a decision on the merits.”)
Since NPI’s Permanent Defense was founded in 2002, Tim Eyman has had no consecutive victories at the ballot. Prior to PD’s founding, Eyman had been winning every year. Now he wins at the ballot far less often. We consider that a significant improvement. Unfortunately, Eyman only needs to win occasionally to stay relevant. And that is why the work of Permanent Defense is ongoing and vitally important. We want to be able to defeat Eyman every time he qualifies something.
We also need to get better as a movement about going on offense. Next year, we will be supporting initiatives to implement a cap and trade system to reduce pollution in Washington State, increase the minimum wage, and put our state on record as supporting a constitutional amendment to get big money out of elections.