Judge Marshall Ferguson admonishes Tim Eyman
King County Superior Court Judge admonishes an unhappy Tim Eyman at the end of oral argument for and against a possible injunction barring Eyman's I-976 from taking effect (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Late last year, after vot­ing con­clud­ed in the 2019 gen­er­al elec­tion, dis­hon­est ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman announced that his sin­gu­lar focus in 2020 would be get­ting rid of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, as opposed to attempt­ing to qual­i­fy an ini­tia­tive to the pres­i­den­tial gen­er­al elec­tion ballot.

Eyman has now spent almost a year bash­ing Inslee and run­ning for office him­self, with noth­ing to show for it. Vot­ers resound­ing­ly reject­ed his guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­da­cy and then reject­ed the can­di­da­cy of Repub­li­can Loren Culp (who Eyman had endorsed), over­whelm­ing­ly back­ing Gov­er­nor Inslee’s bid for a third term.

Inslee’s big vic­to­ry has had quite the effect on Eyman.

Instead of ques­tion­ing the results of the elec­tion (as Loren Culp has), Eyman has sim­ply stopped talk­ing about the guber­na­to­r­i­al race alto­geth­er, at least in pub­lic. He has cho­sen to focus on anoth­er, even more painful loss… the demise of I‑976, his 2019 ini­tia­tive, which the Supreme Court unan­i­mous­ly over­turned last month.

Since Novem­ber 3rd, Eyman has sent four con­sec­u­tive emails ask­ing his band of loy­al fans to lob­by the nine mem­ber Supreme Court to recon­sid­er its rul­ing, pri­mar­i­ly with polit­i­cal argu­ments, as opposed to legal arguments.

The jus­tices are not leg­is­la­tors, but Eyman does­n’t care. He’s treat­ing them as such any­way, and ask­ing his fans to fol­low his example.

Eyman’s bud­dy Stephen Pid­geon has also filed a recon­sid­er­a­tion motion ask­ing for the Court to reverse itself, which the Court will most assured­ly deny.

Hilar­i­ous­ly, both that motion and the the pre­fab­ri­cat­ed email Eyman is sup­ply­ing to his fans relies heav­i­ly on the legal con­clu­sions of King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son, who Eyman harsh­ly attacked dur­ing the ear­li­er phase of the case as hope­less­ly in the pock­et of I‑976 opponents.

When Judge Fer­gu­son land­ed the case, Eyman argued he should be dis­qual­i­fied on the basis that he sits on the bench in King Coun­ty and was appoint­ed by Gov­er­nor Inslee… stu­pid, utter­ly non­sen­si­cal argu­ments that were not tak­en seri­ous­ly by Judge Fer­gu­son or the oth­er par­ties in the case, but which were sad­ly repeat­ed by many media out­lets. After Judge Fer­gu­son issued an injunc­tion about a year ago block­ing I‑976 from going into effect, Eyman was livid.

Lat­er, how­ev­er, when actu­al­ly weigh­ing the ini­tia­tive’s con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty or lack there­of, Fer­gu­son upheld much of I‑976, which pleased Eyman. Though Fer­gu­son did strike down two of I‑976’s pro­vi­sions, he left the rest of the mea­sure intact.

The case then moved up to the Supreme Court, where it had been des­tined to go from the begin­ning. All nine jus­tices dis­agreed with Judge Fer­gu­son’s analy­sis, and I‑976 was void­ed in its entire­ty, leav­ing Eyman seething.

Eyman’s anger is understandable.

He real­ly, real­ly, real­ly wants I‑976 to be imple­ment­ed. He is deeply and per­son­al­ly obsessed with wreck­ing tran­sit fund­ing in Wash­ing­ton State.

Specif­i­cal­ly, Eyman wants to see bus routes dis­con­tin­ued, rail expan­sion projects ter­mi­nat­ed, fer­ry rid­ers made to shoul­der even more of WSF’s oper­at­ing costs, and local roads left in a state of neglect and dis­re­pair… all because he believes the only trans­porta­tion-relat­ed pub­lic ser­vice worth invest­ing in is highways.

Eyman delib­er­ate­ly engi­neered I‑976 to be a wreck­ing ball for mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, tar­get­ing not only vehi­cle fees for repeal, but even the slice of the sales tax that goes to the state’s mul­ti­modal account.

Eyman was trans­par­ent about his agen­da with Repub­li­can audi­ences, but to the gen­er­al pub­lic, he pitched I‑976 as a tax fair­ness mea­sure, because his tran­sit destroy­ing agen­da is not some­thing most peo­ple agree with.

Enough vot­ers were duped by Eyman’s lies (not con­fused, but duped) that I‑976 was on its way to being imple­ment­ed as of Elec­tion Day a year ago, despite the efforts of a broad and diverse coali­tion to defeat the measure.

For­tu­nate­ly, after the elec­toral effort end­ed, a coali­tion of local gov­ern­ments and pro-tran­sit orga­ni­za­tions joined forces to keep the fight against I‑976 going.

Since Eyman had not both­ered to take care when draft­ing I‑976 to ensure it could with­stand judi­cial scruti­ny, there were plen­ty of defects avail­able for the coali­tion to cite as a basis for argu­ing that I‑976 should be struck down.

All nine Supreme Court jus­tices agreed that I‑976 was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al on Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 19 grounds. That’s the very same pro­vi­sion that has been the undo­ing of many oth­er Eyman ini­tia­tives, too. Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 19, which dates back to state­hood, requires that the titles of bills and bal­lot mea­sures express­ly state what the mea­sure is about. It also pro­hibits the prac­tice of logrolling: tying mul­ti­ple unre­lat­ed things togeth­er into one piece of legislation.

In strik­ing down Eyman’s I‑976, the Court was dis­charg­ing its duty and respon­si­bil­i­ty to uphold the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion, with­out regard to whether its deci­sion would be well-received or not.

The Court’s nine jus­tices are all for­mi­da­ble jurists. Many of them were once Supe­ri­or Court judges them­selves, includ­ing incom­ing Chief Jus­tice Steven Gon­za­lez (the author of the opin­ion in the case), Jus­tice Mary Yu, Jus­tice Raquel Mon­toya-Lewis, and Jus­tice G. Helen Whiten­er. Oth­er jus­tices have worked in dis­trict and munic­i­pal courts, like Jus­tices Bar­bara Mad­sen and Susan Owens.

Unlike Tim Eyman, each of the jus­tices has a strong back­ground in the law. Many of them even teach the law in addi­tion to serv­ing on the Court.

Sad­ly, rather than respect­ing their wis­dom and judg­ment, Eyman is attack­ing them, base­less­ly accus­ing them of vio­lat­ing their oaths of office and return­ing a deci­sion based on pol­i­tics.… while plead­ing them with them to over­turn them­selves so that Eyman’s plot to defund tran­sit can go ahead.

Pret­ty pathetic.

It won’t be long before Eyman drops this futile effort to res­cue I‑976 from the legal grave­yard where it’s now buried and switch­es gears to pro­mote a new con. In fact, Eyman has indi­cat­ed he’ll be shar­ing his plans for 2021 lat­er today in a Face­book stream­ing appear­ance with his fan club.

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.

Adjacent posts