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.

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Could Washington see a November election with no statewide ballot measures? Possibly

We are now one third of the way through 2017, and polit­i­cal­ly speak­ing, it’s already turn­ing out to be a very unusu­al year, thanks to the con­tin­ued, destruc­tive ascen­dan­cy of Don­ald Trump. As Seat­tle Times colum­nist Dan­ny West­neat explains in today’s edi­tion of his semi­week­ly col­umn, all pol­i­tics seem­ing­ly now revolves around Trump, which was par­tic­u­lar­ly true this past week with the polit­i­cal­ly-moti­vat­ed dis­missal of FBI Direc­tor James Comey.

That’s not to say that Trump per­me­ates every dis­cus­sion about every issue, just that it feels that way. Life is now imi­tat­ing art; the dai­ly hap­pen­ings in the White House could pass for scenes from Net­flix’s House of Cards or ABC’s Scandal.

In the wake of last year’s elec­tions, Amer­i­ca’s rat­ings-dri­ven big media con­tin­ue to cov­er and ana­lyze Trump’s every move, now hav­ing the excuse that Trump is the pres­i­dent of the coun­try, so every­thing he does is arguably “news­wor­thy”.

(Since Trump now dom­i­nates media cov­er­age, the only escape is to shut off one’s screens and unplug… some­thing I strong­ly rec­om­mend to every read­er of this blog. The weath­er is warm­ing up, and our pub­lic lands are beck­on­ing to us. I high­ly rec­om­mend plan­ning at least a few back­pack­ing trips for this sum­mer. Even if all you can man­age are some day hikes, you won’t regret spend­ing time in our region’s beau­ti­ful sub­alpine mead­ows, tem­per­ate rain­forests, or sandy beaches.)

The unusu­al polit­i­cal land­scape has pro­duced equal­ly unusu­al side effects. As Dan­ny West­neat dis­cov­ered, it looks like 2017 might be the first year in decades that Wash­ing­ton winds up with a Novem­ber bal­lot with no statewide mea­sures on it. Mean­ing, no ini­tia­tives, no ref­er­en­da, no con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments. Nothing.

Not­ed West­neat:

Peren­ni­al ini­tia­tive push­er Tim Eyman has a prop­er­ty-tax-cut­ting mea­sure, but it appears stalled with very lit­tle mon­ey. Anoth­er mea­sure, Ini­tia­tive 1552, the bath­room bill to man­date sep­a­rate restrooms by gen­der, had only raised $87,000 by the end of April. Both cam­paigns have until July to turn in more than 300,000 sig­na­tures. But at this late date it would like­ly take a sud­den infu­sion of major cash, upward of half a mil­lion dol­lars or more, for that to happen.

“We are going to be Eyman-free for the sec­ond year in a row,” crowed Andrew Vil­leneuve, 30, a Red­mond-based activist who has been oppos­ing Eyman’s anti-tax and anti-tran­sit efforts for 15 years (yes, since he was 15 years old).

Vil­leneuve, who as direc­tor of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute also tracks lefty caus­es, said there’s a strange void right now in state pol­i­tics. The over­whelm­ing spec­ta­cle and ongo­ing shock of the Trump pres­i­den­cy has dis­tract­ed everybody.

“There just isn’t any­thing pro­gres­sive in the works,” he said. “There’s a desire to take advan­tage of the anti-Trump momen­tum out there, but it’s direct­ed more toward 2018.”

As I men­tioned to West­neat dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion last week, anoth­er rea­son why there’s noth­ing pro­gres­sive in the works for 2017 is that we just had a bumper crop of pro­gres­sive ini­tia­tives on the bal­lot last year.

Vot­ers approved ini­tia­tives to increase the min­i­mum wage and require paid leave (I‑1433, which recent­ly sur­vived a con­sti­tu­tion­al chal­lenge), pro­vide for extreme risk pro­tec­tion orders (I‑1491), put Wash­ing­ton State on record in sup­port of a fed­er­al con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment declar­ing that cor­po­ra­tions aren’t peo­ple and mon­ey isn’t speech (I‑735), and exempt some infor­ma­tion about in-home care­givers from being har­vest­ed by right wing stink tanks (I‑1501).

Vot­ers in Puget Sound also approved Sound Tran­sit 3, which Repub­li­cans like Dino Rossi and Steve O’Ban are absolute­ly obsessed with under­min­ing. (They’d rather attack Sound Tran­sit than do the jobs they were elect­ed to do — sad!)

Con­sid­er­ing what’s hap­pen­ing at the fed­er­al lev­el though, this is a year when there real­ly should be pro­gres­sive ideas on the bal­lot in Wash­ing­ton. Pro­gres­sivism, after all, is about for­ward move­ment, and the only way to achieve pro­gres­sive change is to stay on offense. But run­ning suc­cess­ful statewide ini­tia­tives isn’t easy. It takes a lot of resources and a lot of orga­niz­ing. It requires focus.

And it’s tough to focus right now, with all the uncer­tain­ty in the air.

Mean­while, as men­tioned, the oth­er side is try­ing to reach the bal­lot, but is hav­ing grave dif­fi­cul­ty. Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry is idle, brought low by self-inflict­ed wounds. And the reli­gious right can’t seem to muster the mon­ey to force unnec­es­sary votes on the civ­il rights of oth­er Washingtonians.

So here we are, look­ing at a 2017 bal­lot that could be devoid of any bal­lot mea­sures… statewide bal­lot mea­sures, that is. There will still be local propo­si­tions to vote on in juris­dic­tions around the state. But unless the Leg­is­la­ture puts some ques­tion before the peo­ple to decide, or adopts a bud­get that trig­gers an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al Eyman advi­so­ry vote push poll, this could be the first odd-year elec­tion since 1985 that is tru­ly a local elec­tion, with no statewide bal­lot measures.

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