Having seemingly not learned any lessons from Dino Rossi’s four unsuccessful bids for higher office this century, Kim Schrier’s Republican opponent Matt Larkin declared this week in an interview with The Herald of Everett that Washington’s minimum wage should be “closer” to the federal hourly minimum of $7.25.
That’s right: Larkin thinks Washington should lower its minimum wage, which is presently $14.49 an hour and due to rise to $15.72 as of January 1st, 2023. (In accordance with two voter approved initiatives, it’s periodically adjusted upwards to account for the cost of living, unlike the federal minimum wage.)
While other local Trump followers, like Loren Culp, have run campaigns in recent years that tried to appeal to working class voters, Larkin appears not to be making any such effort. Instead, he’s handing Democrats a late October gift.
The minimum wage has surfaced before as a key dividing line between candidates for high profile office in Washington State. As mentioned, Republicans like Dino Rossi have paid a political price for siding against working families.
In 2008, Washingtonians had a choice between Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire and Rossi, who had narrowly lost to Gregoire four years prior.
Gregoire campaigned on her support for the minimum wage, while Rossi declared that the minimum wage had never been meant to be a living wage — just an entry wage. Governor Gregoire won reelection without difficulty.
Eight years later, when Governor Jay Inslee was running for his second term against challenger Bill Bryant, the minimum wage was again a campaign issue.
Bryant argued that wage increases should vary by region within the state, and said that Initiative 1433, a ballot measure to increase the state minimum wage to $13.50 per hour by 2020, would harm most businesses.
Inslee said raising the wage was necessary to help working families make ends meet and boost the economy — that there was no place in the state where a family could survive on an income of $1,500 a month. “You can’t do it in Spokane, Ellensburg, or Washtucna.” Governor Inslee easily won reelection.
Nobody making our state’s minimum wage is well-off… any worker who is employed full time and making minimum wage isn’t making more than around $30,000 per year, and that’s before taxes. Republicans, Larkin included, have been complaining nonstop about inflation and the rising cost of living, urging voters to blame any economic anxiety or unease they feel on Democrats.
Yet it’s candidates like Larkin who want to increase low income families’ financial pain and hardship by cutting their pay! Republicans have offered no solutions to address the cost of living during these midterms. Instead, all they’ve offered are schemes to make things worse. Like gutting Washington’s minimum wage.
Democrats say that Larkin signaled that he was glass half-empty thinker early on this cycle when he adopted the nonsensical mantra “Make Crime Illegal Again” as the slogan for his campaign. Crime is of course already illegal, as Democrats like Steve Hobbs and Bob Ferguson have pointed out during campaign speeches. If an activity or behavior isn’t against the law, then it can’t be criminal.
Larkin would say that what he means is that crime is getting worse and that’s going unaddressed. In reality, though, we’ve seen a decline in overall crime. Violent crime and murder have spiked and are higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, but not as high as in decades past, like the 1980s.
It might not seem that way to those who watch the five o’clock news every night, because the police blotter is the favorite beat of many local news outlets.
Like the old adage says, it it bleeds, it leads.
Larkin and other Republicans say Democrats are to blame for increases in violent crime, but if we look across the country, we can see that Republican-run places are suffering from as severe a disruption as Democratic-controlled cities often falsely characterized by right wing media such as FNC as hellscapes.
Schrier and Larkin are set to debate tonight in Ellensburg at Central Washington University, in what will be their only debate prior to November 8th.