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:
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.