This summer, for the first time ever, Tim Eyman himself will appear on Washingtonians’ ballots as a candidate… a candidate for governor.
The fifty-four year old has spent the last few decades heaping abuse on Washington State’s elected representatives while leaving them to deal with the consequences of his destructive initiatives and dismissing the notion of running for office himself… as recently, in fact, as November 2019.
But now Eyman is a candidate, and not just for any office, but for the most important office in the land, which heads the state’s executive department.
To say that Eyman despises incumbent Jay Inslee would be an understatement. While Eyman also disliked Inslee’s predecessors Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke, he particularly can’t stand Inslee, no doubt because Inslee has repeatedly refused to capitulate to Eyman’s demands to shred public services, gut our cherished tradition of majority rule, and yank investments in multimodal transportation projects.
In Jay Inslee, Eyman has an opponent who stands on principle and makes decisions based on sound science and what is best for the people of the state.
And that really, really bothers him.
Tim Eyman’s foremost skill is manipulating people, and when he runs into someone he cannot manipulate, that person typically becomes a foil for him to use in the course of manipulating other people, whether that’s reporters, voters, or even Eyman’s own admiring fan club, who he constantly requests money from.
It is important to understand that Tim deliberately makes provocative comments like the ones he made this week because he is always in pursuit of attention and media coverage… good or bad. (For reference, Eyman’s comments were: “Jay Inslee has his knee on the neck of millions of people he deems non-essential. And he calls them heartless and selfish for begging him to get off.”)
I have on several occasions heard reporters ask Eyman why be behaves the way he does… why he is so theatrical, why he dresses up in costume, why he embraces hyberbole and confrontation, why he is consistently rude and disrespectful.
And I’ve heard Eyman respond to this effect: Because that’s what I know works. That’s how I know I can get you guys to pay attention to me.
While much of what Tim Eyman says is false, I believe he was telling the truth when he said that he acts out in order to get attention. It works.
Eyman views media events as performances, and he always shows up ready to perform. Provocation is a strategy for drumming up interest, a tried and tested strategy that has been proven to work over the course of decades.
For anyone reading who works in the mass media, please understand this: As long as you cover Eyman, he will continue to behave this way.
This is hardly the first time that Eyman has made offensive comments. He has previously called Jay Inslee “a lying whore”, and refused to apologize for those comments even when other top Republicans urged him to. He has used an image of a woman holding a gun to a child’s head to denounce King County Executive Dow Constantine, which prompted the Washington chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue an unusual public statement of condemnation.
More recently, Eyman urged his followers to put their lives at risk for his benefit, exhorting them to come to a meet and greet for his gubernatorial candidacy by saying: “Let’s stick our finger in the eye of Jay Inslee… 251 is the # of patriots I hope will join me @ Oak Harbor today. I’m bringing a six-pack of Corona!”
Donald Trump is also a master of media manipulation and of hurling memorable put-downs. It is clear that Eyman deeply admires and appreciates Trump’s ability to run scams, con people, and demonize people who object.
Yeah… the courage to dupe and scam and trick people.
It is possible that Eyman changed his mind about running for office in part because of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory in the Electoral College.
Trump got elected to the highest office in the country without ever having previously served in a position of public responsibility, unlike pretty much every other president before him, who had either local and state government experience, congressional experience, military experience, or experience as Vice President prior to becoming the United States of America’s Commander-in-Chief.
Tim Eyman is likewise unfit for office… and not just governor, but any office, anywhere, ever. The people of this state and country deserve elected representatives who are honest, who are kind, who understand the meaning and value of service, and who adhere to the Platinum Rule.
Public service is a noble and important calling, but it isn’t for everyone. Some people simply don’t have what it takes to serve ably, or in Eyman’s case, at all.
It is telling that Eyman has not gotten any traction in his campaign for governor beyond the appreciation of his fan club. In fact, if KING5’s polling is accurate, he is experiencing negative momentum. In January, Eyman registered at 11% in a SurveyUSA poll on the gubernatorial race; last month, he registered at 8%… which is in the single digits. By way of comparison, four years ago, Inslee’s eventual Republican opponent Bill Bryant was polling in the thirties.
While Eyman has found some success running cons against Washington voters in the form of ballot measures, there’s a big difference between running a ballot measure and running for office as a candidate. It will be Eyman’s name and his party affiliation on the ballot this time, not a deceptive, badly written ballot title that Eyman massaged out of the Attorney General’s office.
It is my hope that Eyman’s candidacy not only fails, but fails spectacularly, so that we can affirm as a society that Eyman’s toxic politics are not in keeping with Washington values. Tim Eyman brings nothing to the table. Nothing.
Not once in his career has he done anything that I would consider constructive. All of his initiatives have sought to undermine or destroy public services.
Eyman is utterly unconcerned with worthy causes like ending systemic racism, improving access to housing, reducing climate damage, and improving mobility for Washingtons. He has instead used his talent for manipulation for destructive ends.
Eyman’s own followers have been injured the most by Eyman’s greed and dishonesty. Eyman has repeatedly lied to them, cheated them, and brought out the worst in them. For example, Eyman has:
- Steered money they gave him for campaigns into his own personal pockets without asking them or even telling them;
- Conducted campaigns of harassment against elected Republicans who took an action Eyman did not like, thereby fracturing Republican party unity;
- Used funds raised for one initiative to qualify a second, unrelated initiative without the knowledge or permission of his donors;
- Asked people to give money to a tax-exempt charity run by a friend with the understanding that the money would end up in Eyman’s pockets, with the charity functioning as a pass-through entity, in violation of federal law.
As a consequence of Eyman’s willful and repeated violations of public disclosure laws, he has been left in a position where he owes the people of the State of Washington hundreds of thousands of dollars. As Eyman has no occupation other than running political cons, the money to pay those penalties will be coming from his admiring followers, including his wealthy benefactors.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the man who built a reputation as anti-government political activist must now devote a significant portion of what he is able to raise so he can make payments to the Washington State treasury.
Despite his bluster and projection, this situation is entirely of Eyman’s own making. He has begun to reap what he has sown.
An empathic rejection of his candidacy would send a strong and necessary message that Washington wants leadership that is honest, caring, and inclusive… leadership that seeks to unite everyone behind our finest values and principles, not divide people and pit them against each other for selfish political gain.
We need and deserve effective government and respectful civil discourse here in Washington State, just like everywhere else.
We won’t get either if Tim Eyman’s gubernatorial candidacy is successful.
I have faith that it won’t be.