Tim Eyman waves dismissively
Tim Eyman gladly puts lives at risk in order to stroke his own ego (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

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.

Eyman in 2016 got his pic­ture tak­en with Trump and effu­sive­ly told his fan club that when he met Trump, he said: “I admire your courage.”

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.

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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