Signature thermometer for Let's Go Washington
Signature thermometer for Let's Go Washington, as of November 14th (screenshot)

A right wing group orga­nized and fund­ed by right wing mil­lion­aire Bri­an Hey­wood and front­ed by recent­ly elect­ed Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty Chair Jim Walsh plans to begin sub­mit­ting sig­na­tures for a slate of ini­tia­tives to the 2024 Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture lat­er this month and will turn in even more next month as the end of year qual­i­fi­ca­tion dead­line approach­es, accord­ing to one of its affil­i­ate groups, which goes by the name Change Washington.

“Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton will be turn­ing in enough sig­na­tures to qual­i­fy one of its 6 ini­tia­tives in late Novem­ber,” Change Wash­ing­ton announced to its fol­low­ers yes­ter­day. “Five more to go before the end of the year. There is a good chance all 6 will qual­i­fy. Need your help today! Click below and sign the petitions.”

A fol­low­er call­ing them­selves Man­dra sub­se­quent­ly com­ment­ed: “I signed them all” and then asked “Which one made it through already?” 

Change Wash­ing­ton replied: “It is believed that the ini­tia­tive to repeal Inslee’s 48 cents a gal­lon gas tax will have enough sig­na­tures in cou­ple of weeks.” 

That’s a ref­er­ence to I‑2117, Jim Walsh and Bri­an Hey­wood’s ini­tia­tive to repeal the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, which was adopt­ed in 2017.

Peti­tion­ers for Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton have been instruct­ed to put I‑2117 first when pre­sent­ing vot­ers with a stack of peti­tions to sign, so it isn’t sur­pris­ing to hear that I‑2117 could be the first mea­sure Hey­wood and Walsh sub­mit sig­na­tures for.

The Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton web­site now has a sig­na­ture ther­mome­ter which dis­plays a claimed count of sig­na­tures and a goal. The ther­mome­ter, a recent addi­tion, was last updat­ed today, as you can see from this screenshot:

Signature thermometer for Let's Go Washington
Sig­na­ture ther­mome­ter for Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton, as of Novem­ber 14th (screen­shot)

The sup­posed cur­rent total is 2,107,222 sig­na­tures and the goal (for all six ini­tia­tives that Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton wants to qual­i­fy) is 2,520,000 signatures.

The six mea­sures seek to:

  • repeal the state’s new cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy
  • nix the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act
  • sab­o­tage the state’s long term care system
  • pro­hib­it the levy­ing of any income taxes
  • allow the police to resume dan­ger­ous high speed pursuits
  • and estab­lish a “parental noti­fi­ca­tion” sys­tem in pub­lic education

It has­n’t been a smooth sig­na­ture drive.

Last month, NPI report­ed on some of the inter­nal tur­moil that has been afflict­ing the six mea­sure cam­paign, includ­ing the alleged ouster of con­vict­ed forg­er Brent John­son, whose firm Your Choice Peti­tions, LLC was giv­en the “exclu­sive” con­tract for paid sig­na­ture gath­er­ing ser­vices after an in-house attempt by Hey­wood and oper­a­tive Sharon Hanek to pay peti­tion­ers on an hourly basis did­n’t work.

Nev­er­the­less, Hey­wood has plowed ahead. He has donat­ed and loaned Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton a small for­tune for this project, total­ing an eye-pop­ping $5,241,888.21. A few oth­er donors have recent­ly stepped up, includ­ing the BIAW and a JPMor­gan wealth man­ag­er named Phil Scott, but Hey­wood remains the source of the lion’s share of fund­ing. Hey­wood’s $5.2+ mil­lion rep­re­sents 87.56% of the con­tri­bu­tions to Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton, which now stand at $5,986,544.98.

Most of that $5.2 mil­lion — $3,720,000 to be spe­cif­ic — came to Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton in the form of sev­en loans of dif­fer­ent amounts — some sev­en fig­ures, some six fig­ures, and one in the five figures.

Hey­wood is evi­dent­ly hop­ing to be repaid at some point down the road, judg­ing by his deci­sion to make these loans instead of sim­ply con­tribut­ing the funds.

At present, the com­mit­tee has no means with which to repay the loans. Its C4 for Octo­ber 2023 says cash on hand is now just $102,142.24. That’s not a whole lot of cash for a cam­paign at a crit­i­cal moment in a mul­ti-ini­tia­tive sig­na­ture drive.

Although Wash­ing­ton vot­ers haven’t seen any statewide ini­tia­tives for sev­er­al years, they used to be a com­mon sight at the top of the bal­lot, par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing the two decade stretch when Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry was active.

These days, Eyman is no longer try­ing to get his own schemes fund­ed. Instead, he’s embraced a new role as a cog in Hey­wood’s machine.

While Hey­wood may be the bankroll, State Repub­li­can Par­ty Chair Jim Walsh is the spon­sor of all six ini­tia­tives and will prob­a­bly be doing plen­ty of pub­lic speak­ing in sup­port of them — if they qualify.

That remains an if.

Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton is try­ing to make look like it’s all down­hill from where they are now, but if an abnor­mal­ly large chunk of their sig­na­tures hap­pen to be invalid, dupli­cate, or fraud­u­lent — which seems like a pos­si­bil­i­ty giv­en who they hired to gath­er sig­na­tures — then they are not as close to the fin­ish line as they’re por­tray­ing them­selves to be. Hey­wood and com­pa­ny have just a month and a half left to sort out any prob­lems hin­der­ing them before the clock runs out. The sig­na­ture sub­mis­sion dead­line is 5 PM Pacif­ic on Decem­ber 29th, 2023.

Each ini­tia­tive needs the valid sig­na­tures of at least 324,516 reg­is­tered vot­ers. The Sec­re­tary of State rec­om­mends that spon­sors sub­mit at least 405,000 sig­na­tures to allow for invalid sig­na­tures. Inclu­sive of the rec­om­mend­ed cush­ion, that means Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton needs 2,430,000 sig­na­tures. A sin­gle reg­is­tered vot­er could legal­ly pro­vide up to six sig­na­tures for Hey­wood and Wal­sh’s slate if those sig­na­tures were each affixed to a peti­tion belong­ing to a dif­fer­ent initiative.

There are three ways in which the House and Sen­ate can respond to the ini­tia­tives if any qual­i­fy, all set forth by the Constitution.

Option num­ber one is to adopt the ini­tia­tives. The House and Sen­ate are both Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled and these ini­tia­tives for the most part repeal bills the Leg­is­la­ture has recent­ly passed, so this option will not be considered.

Option num­ber two is to reject or ignore the ini­tia­tives, in which case they would be auto­mat­i­cal­ly for­ward­ed to the 2024 gen­er­al elec­tion ballot.

Option num­ber three is to sub­mit alter­na­tives along­side the mea­sures spon­sored by Walsh. If the House and Sen­ate were to do this for any of the six ini­tia­tives, vot­ers would be asked to choose between a Walsh scheme and the Leg­is­la­ture’s com­pet­ing pro­pos­al address­ing that same topic.

NPI oppos­es all six of these destruc­tive right wing ini­tia­tives and will be work­ing to secure their defeat if any should man­age to qualify.

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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