Poll results chart from GBAO
Charts from GBAO showing the performance of Brian Heywood and Jim Walsh's slate of initiatives

A right wing effort to over­turn laws fund­ing cli­mate action, edu­ca­tion, and long term care through the peo­ple’s pow­er of ini­tia­tive is on course to fail this Novem­ber, research recent­ly con­duct­ed for the oppo­si­tion Defend Wash­ing­ton coali­tion suggests. 

The coali­tion, to which the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and its Per­ma­nent Defense and Stop Greed projects belong, today made pub­lic some of the toplines from a recent sur­vey of like­ly vot­ers show­ing that Ini­tia­tives 2109, 2117, and 2124 are all on a neg­a­tive tra­jec­to­ry, which is very good news for Wash­ing­ton’s future.

The poll, which field­ed about a month ago, on April 11th-14th, found that 62% of vot­ers would vote no on I‑2109, which seeks to repeal the state’s cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, 57% would vote no on I‑2117, which seeks to repeal the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, and 49% would vote no on I‑2124, which seeks to sab­o­tage the WA Cares Fund.

Poll­ster GBAO test­ed the bal­lot titles for each ini­tia­tive along with hypo­thet­i­cal fis­cal impact dis­clo­sure state­ments which are required for mea­sures that would raise or slash state rev­enue under a law that NPI cham­pi­oned two years ago that is wild­ly pop­u­lar with Wash­ing­ton vot­ers. Vot­ers react­ed neg­a­tive­ly to all of them to vary­ing degrees.

  • Ini­tia­tive 2109 (attempt to repeal cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy) 
    • Yes: 3%
    • No: 62%
    • Not sure: 6% 
  • Ini­tia­tive 2117 (attempt to repeal the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act) 
    • Yes: 37%
    • No: 57%
    • Not sure: 6%
  • Ini­tia­tive 2124 (attempt to sab­o­tage the Wash­ing­ton Cares Fund) 
    • Yes: 41%
    • No: 49%
    • Not sure: 10%

“This new round of polling con­firms two pre­vi­ous rounds of polling from late last year that show all three of these extreme ini­tia­tives trail­ing bad­ly,” said strate­gist Kurt Fritts in a state­ment on behalf of Defend Washington. 

“While Bri­an Hey­wood and Jim Walsh may be han­ker­ing to slash pub­lic ser­vices, large majori­ties of vot­ers here val­ue efforts to improve edu­ca­tion and ear­ly learn­ing, to pro­tect and clean our air and water, and to pro­vide long-term care ben­e­fits for mil­lions of work­ers. They don’t want to see big cuts in fund­ing for these pri­or­i­ties, and when they real­ize what will hap­pen if these mea­sures pass, they turn deci­sive­ly against them.”

These find­ings are entire­ly con­sis­tent with the polling that NPI and Stop Greed have com­mis­sioned to date on Hey­wood and Wal­sh’s slate of ini­tia­tives. We haven’t pub­licly released any of that data, but we have been using it to help the coali­tion and the indi­vid­ual NO cam­paigns build the strongest pos­si­ble effort to defeat these measures.

Hey­wood, Walsh, and their entourage of oper­a­tives and asso­ciates — includ­ing crim­i­nal Glen Mor­gan and Repub­li­can State Trea­sur­er can­di­date Sharon Hanek — will prob­a­bly laugh at or quick­ly dis­miss this research. They seem to have con­vinced them­selves that their pro­gres­sive oppo­si­tion is delud­ed, dis­con­nect­ed, and out of touch. 

In truth, they’re the ones who are mis­read­ing the electorate. 

They’re set­ting them­selves up nice­ly to learn a very hard les­son this autumn. 

If we pre­vail — and I share the con­fi­dence of fel­low strate­gists work­ing to secure the defeat of Hey­wood and Wal­sh’s slate that we’re on a win­ning tra­jec­to­ry — Hey­wood will have spent mil­lions of dol­lars stag­ing votes that prove pro­gres­sive ideas are popular. 

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty went all-in on giv­ing the peo­ple a chance to pass judg­ment on key ele­ments of the work of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture dur­ing the third term of Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s gov­er­nor­ship, believ­ing that vot­ers would jump at the oppor­tu­ni­ty to pun­ish Democ­rats for over­reach­ing. They think Democ­rats have been win­ning elec­tions in spite of their leg­isla­tive accom­plish­ments as opposed to because of them. But our research has con­sis­tent­ly found that majori­ties favor the ideas that Democ­rats have passed into law — before, dur­ing, and after their enactment. 

An increas­ing num­ber of lev­el-head­ed Repub­li­cans rec­og­nize NPI is very com­mit­ted to the sci­en­tif­ic method and that we have a stel­lar record in elec­toral polling. This year, because Repub­li­cans have forced statewide votes on the future of the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust, the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act, and the WA Cares Fund, the stage is set for a fresh and sig­nif­i­cant con­ver­gence between our elec­toral and pol­i­cy polling. 

It has been years since we had this many statewide ini­tia­tives to poll on. 

But our ini­tia­tive polling has con­sis­tent­ly been on the mark since its incep­tion, both in cas­es where we have been ahead, such as in 2016 when we found mas­sive sup­port for Ini­tia­tive 1491 (extreme risk pro­tec­tion orders), and where we have been behind, such as in 2019, when we found Tim Eyman’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and decep­tive­ly-word­ed Ini­tia­tive 976 in a posi­tion to pass despite all of our hard work to defeat it. 

Here, all the cred­i­ble data sug­gests Let’s Go Wash­ing­ton is not going to pass go and col­lect any­thing. Hey­wood and Walsh have bragged that their own polling shows vot­ers like their ini­tia­tives. We can’t repli­cate those find­ings — and we have tried. 

I asked Bri­an Hey­wood to his face back in Decem­ber if he’d show his work by divulging the polling he has occa­sion­al­ly been talk­ing about in pub­lic or semi-pub­lic appear­ances. He declined. He’s under no oblig­a­tion to share it, but if he does­n’t, he can hard­ly expect any reporter, inde­pen­dent observ­er, or oppo­si­tion strate­gist to take it seriously.

Hey­wood and Walsh have acknowl­edged the pos­si­bil­i­ty of los­ing only a cou­ple of times in pass­ing in pub­lic com­ments that I’ve heard. It’s not a sce­nario they seem to have giv­en much thought to. If they lose, they’ll have hand­ed us a moun­tain of fresh evi­dence vin­di­cat­ing our ideas and our research sup­port­ing those ideas. 

Giv­en how ram­pant elec­tion denial­ism has become in the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, I expect many Repub­li­can activists and PCOs — some of whom have got­ten quite brag­gado­cious in online forums — will sim­ply refuse to accept any loss, whether that’s the defeat of these mea­sures or a Demo­c­ra­t­ic vic­to­ry in the guber­na­to­r­i­al race. 

It would­n’t be the first time they did­n’t believe one of their mea­sures had real­ly failed: Four years ago, failed guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Loren Culp and oth­er Repub­li­cans cit­ed not Inslee’s vic­to­ry in assail­ing the 2020 elec­tion as rigged, but the result of Ref­er­en­dum 90. That was the statewide vote on keep­ing or reject­ing a com­pre­hen­sive sex­u­al health edu­ca­tion law the Leg­is­la­ture had passed. Repub­li­cans ful­ly expect­ed the vot­ers to jump at the chance to dis­card the law. Instead, Wash­ing­to­ni­ans vot­ed by a large mar­gin to keep it, as our polling indi­cat­ed would hap­pen.

Lots of Repub­li­cans were shocked and infuriated. 

It seems like we’re head­ed towards a sim­i­lar denoue­ment this year. Pol­i­tics is unpre­dictable, though, so it’s impos­si­ble to say what will hap­pen. Our coali­tion can’t take vic­to­ry for grant­ed… we have to work every day to earn it. And we will. 

We invite read­ers who want to help defeat these mea­sures to make a con­tri­bu­tion to Stop Greed. All dona­tions will be used to oppose Ini­tia­tives 2109, 2117, and 2124.

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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