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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.

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

A growing number of likely 2022 voters favor continued Democratic control of the Washington State Legislature, NPI poll finds

A major­i­ty of like­ly 2022 vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State favor con­tin­ued Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture fol­low­ing the loom­ing midterms, up from a plu­ral­i­ty in Feb­ru­ary, a statewide sur­vey con­duct­ed for NPI last week has found.

51% of 1,039 like­ly vot­ers said they pre­ferred a Demo­c­ra­t­ic-run State House and Sen­ate Sen­ate, while 42% said they’d rather have divid­ed gov­ern­ment with Repub­li­cans in con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture. 7% said they were not sure.

In a pre­vi­ous statewide poll con­duct­ed for NPI in Feb­ru­ary, 49% said they pre­ferred Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture, while 44% said they pre­ferred Repub­li­can con­trol. This new find­ing — a four-point shift in Democ­rats’ favor — along with our find­ings regard­ing the U.S. Sen­ate race and the con­gres­sion­al gener­ic bal­lot sug­gests that enthu­si­asm is build­ing for Democ­rats in Wash­ing­ton State, despite Repub­li­can claims that 2022 is going to be a great year for them.

June 2022 legislative control poll finding

Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s June 2022 leg­isla­tive con­trol poll finding

Spend any amount of time lis­ten­ing to Repub­li­can Par­ty offi­cials, like top House Repub­li­can J.T. Wilcox or top Sen­ate Repub­li­can John Braun, and it’s easy to see that they are bull­ish — well, at least pub­licly — about their prospects this autumn.

J.T. Wilcox, for exam­ple, occa­sion­al­ly tweets pho­tos from can­di­date kick­offs and brags about how Democ­rats failed to recruit any­one to run in Repub­li­can dis­tricts like the 15th, while con­ve­nient­ly fail­ing to men­tion his cau­cus is not field­ing any­one in Demo­c­ra­t­ic dis­tricts like the 33rd or the 43rd this year.

Repub­li­cans con­tend that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans are fed up with one par­ty rule in Wash­ing­ton, and eager for a change in Olympia. They feel that angst on cost of liv­ing and pub­lic safe­ty is some­thing they can exploit. They’ve also argued that Gov­er­nor Inslee has abused his pow­er to the state’s detri­ment and that vot­ers are hun­gry — no, make that des­per­ate — for a Repub­li­can check on his authority.

Our research sug­gests otherwise.

We asked a neu­tral ques­tion of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple and most respon­dents said they’d rather have a Demo­c­ra­t­ic House and Sen­ate than a Repub­li­can one.

Here’s the exact text of that ques­tion and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Who do you want to see in con­trol of the Wash­ing­ton State House and the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate in Olympia after the next elec­tion: the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty or the Repub­li­can Party?

ANSWERS:

  • Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty: 51% (+2% since February)
  • Repub­li­can Par­ty: 42% (-2% since February)
  • Not sure: 7%

Our sur­vey of 1,039 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, June 1st through Thurs­day, June 2nd, 2022.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

Any Repub­li­cans read­ing this who are smart enough to refrain from dis­miss­ing our research sim­ply because it does­n’t sup­port their nar­ra­tives might be won­der­ing, how on earth can vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State be grav­i­tat­ing to the Democ­rats right now!? After all, the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom is that the par­ty that holds the White House usu­al­ly takes a bath in the midterms. And, to Repub­li­cans’ dis­may, Democ­rats have had a state­house tri­fec­ta in Wash­ing­ton State for five years.

But that tri­fec­ta has been get­ting results.

After flip­ping the Sen­ate with Man­ka Dhin­gra in 2017, Democ­rats went on to pass many con­se­quen­tial new laws. In the last half-decade, Democ­rats have levied a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy to fund edu­ca­tion and child­care, made it eas­i­er to vote and reg­is­ter to vote with pre­paid postage and auto­mat­ic vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, strength­ened gun safe­ty by ban­ning high capac­i­ty mag­a­zines, bump stocks, and ghost guns, pro­vid­ed for com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion across the state, as well as enact the most cli­mate and tran­sit friend­ly trans­porta­tion pack­age in mod­ern his­to­ry: Move Ahead Washington.

Repub­li­cans opposed these pri­or­i­ties — often bit­ter­ly — but our research and research by oth­er orga­ni­za­tions have con­sis­tent­ly found that the poli­cies the Leg­is­la­ture has adopt­ed are pop­u­lar with vot­ers. Vot­ers sent Democ­rats to Olympia to get results, and they have deliv­ered, ses­sion after session.

What would hap­pen in 2023–2024 if the Leg­is­la­ture had Repub­li­can majori­ties instead — or even a sin­gle cham­ber con­trolled by the Repub­li­can Party?

In a word: grid­lock.

The last time Repub­li­cans had a Sen­ate major­i­ty, they turned the cham­ber into a grave­yard of progress. They reg­u­lar­ly ran out the clock and forced the Leg­is­la­ture into spe­cial ses­sion to increase their lever­age in bud­get negotiations.

Let’s run through a sam­pling of cur­rent press­ing issues and con­tem­plate what a Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture would mean for each.

Budgets and revenue

A Repub­li­can Leg­is­la­ture would attempt to cut tax­es for the wealthy while using aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures to try to force the defund­ing of Wash­ing­ton’s already under­fund­ed essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices. Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee would be able to use his line item veto pow­er to delete some bad bud­get pro­vi­sions, but he would­n’t be able to cre­ate or increase appro­pri­a­tions that don’t exist.

Any pos­si­bil­i­ty of fur­ther improve­ments to Wash­ing­ton’s tax code to make it fair­er and less regres­sive would evap­o­rate for the dura­tion of Repub­li­can control.

Reproductive rights

In today’s Repub­li­can Par­ty, there is no such thing as a Jen­nifer Dunn Repub­li­can any­more. Even Dun­n’s son, Rea­gan Dunn, has been vot­ing against repro­duc­tive rights late­ly. To our knowl­edge, there isn’t a sin­gle pro-repro­duc­tive rights Repub­li­can left in either the House or Sen­ate Repub­li­can cau­cus­es. They all believe that the right to ter­mi­nate a preg­nan­cy should be tak­en away.

A Repub­li­can Leg­is­la­ture could be expect­ed to send Gov­er­nor Inslee mul­ti­ple bills to weak­en or restrict access to abor­tion care, even though J.T. Wilcox and John Braun insist that is not a pri­or­i­ty issue for their caucuses.

Education

Repub­li­cans would try to divert fund­ing from under­fund­ed pub­lic schools to pri­vate­ly run schools if they had con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture. They’d also like­ly attempt to engage in union-bust­ing schemes to go after polit­i­cal foes like the Wash­ing­ton Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion and AFT Wash­ing­ton, which rep­re­sent edu­ca­tors and which stand in the way of their pri­va­ti­za­tion dreams.

Gun safety

Repub­li­cans have uni­form­ly opposed most bills to pro­tect Wash­ing­to­ni­ans from the scourge of gun vio­lence. If Repub­li­cans gain con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture, there would be no pos­si­bil­i­ty of pass­ing a ban on mil­i­tary-style assault weapons in the 2023 ses­sion. A Repub­li­can Leg­is­la­ture could be expect­ed to try to roll back the already passed ban on high-capac­i­ty mag­a­zines and rescind vot­er approved mea­sures like I‑1639, which was resound­ing­ly adopt­ed in 2018.

Climate justice

Many Repub­li­cans believe that the cli­mate cri­sis is a hoax, and are uncon­cerned about cli­mate dam­age. A Repub­li­can Leg­is­la­ture would try to under­mine the state’s new cap and invest sys­tem as well as block­ing any pro­pos­als to accel­er­ate a tran­si­tion to a just and respon­si­ble clean ener­gy future. A Repub­li­can Leg­is­la­ture would also be very def­er­en­tial to lob­by­ists for major polluters.

Fur­ther changes to the law need­ed to bet­ter pro­tect Wash­ing­ton from threats like drought, wild­fires, and extreme weath­er would not get made. This would pre­vent Wash­ing­ton from being a state that leads on cli­mate justice.

Voting rights

Wash­ing­ton’s sys­tem of vot­ing at home would come under assault in a Repub­li­can Leg­is­la­ture, and debunked con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries would have a big­ger plat­form from which to spread. Many Repub­li­cans have intro­duced or voiced sup­port for bills aimed at end­ing uni­ver­sal vote at home and insti­tut­ing dis­crim­i­na­to­ry schemes such as vot­er ID. Their pro­pos­als would­n’t get past Gov­er­nor Inslee’s veto pen, but they would con­sume valu­able pub­lic resources nevertheless.

Public safety

Repub­li­cans would try to undo the work pre­vi­ous­ly done by the Leg­is­la­ture to com­bat racism and cor­rup­tion in our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem. They would dou­ble down on mass incar­cer­a­tion and schemes like three strikes. That would put more Wash­ing­to­ni­ans at risk of becom­ing vic­tims of police mis­con­duct and police bru­tal­i­ty. There would be no pos­si­bil­i­ty of fur­ther changes to the law to make Wash­ing­ton a safer place for com­mu­ni­ties of col­or to thrive.

Concluding thoughts

With­out con­trol of the gov­er­nor’s man­sion, Repub­li­cans would not be able to get most of the extreme­ly bad right wing poli­cies they want enact­ed into law.

But they would be able to stymie progress on pret­ty much every issue. With con­trol over the Leg­is­la­ture’s com­mit­tees, they’d decide what bills get heard and which ones did­n’t. They’d be writ­ing the state’s bien­ni­al and sup­ple­men­tal bud­gets, and they’d decide which agen­cies’ deci­sion pack­ages were wor­thy of being act­ed on. They would have a lot of pow­er they don’t cur­rent­ly have.

At least right now, our polling indi­cates that a major­i­ty of vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton would rather stick with proven Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance than exper­i­ment anew with divid­ed gov­ern­ment… an exper­i­ment that would assured­ly lead to dys­func­tion and pre­vent the state from becom­ing more social­ly and eco­nom­i­cal­ly inclusive.

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