NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Cheer up, Seattle Times: There will be plenty of exciting in-state political drama in 2024

Governor Jay Inslee’s decision last week to exit the presidential race and instead seek a third term as Washington’s chief executive in 2020 has not been well received by the state’s newspaper of record, The Seattle Times.

To date, the Times has published an editorial and a column by Danny Westneat bemoaning the state’s “pecking order politics” and arguing that Washington would “benefit from a slate of new leaders”. In other words, the newspaper would like to see a slew of Democrats run against each other for higher office next year.

“Governor Jay Inslee should reconsider seeking a third term as governor after dropping his presidential bid. Washington voters deserve the opportunity to choose from a variety of new political candidates who have patiently waited in the wings for his decision,” the Times editorialized on August 23rd.

“So Jay Inslee is going instead for a third term as governor, which means Dow Constantine is probably headed for a fourth term as King County Executive and Bob Ferguson for a third term as attorney general, which in turn means state Rep. Drew Hansen will stay on for a sixth term in the state House and M. Lorena González will stay on the Seattle City Council and Hilary Franz will stay … zzzzzz,” agreed Westneat in an August 24th column.

What’s wrong, y’all? Tired of watching Survivor: White House?

If so, I can’t blame you, but still… isn’t the drama in the other Washington enough? I mean, just last week the man pretending to be our President canceled a trip to our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally Denmark after being rebuffed on his desire to buy Greenland, referred to himself as “the Chosen One”, and repeated an adoring admirer’s reference to himself as the “King of Israel”.

Every day, Individual Number One tweets out a steady stream of insults and put downs and signs off on reckless, irresponsible schemes from his minions intended to open the floodgates to further pollution of our planet, further concentration of wealth in the hands of the already rich, and further chaos in global markets.

Keeping up with Trump’s various campaigns of destruction (his assault on our environment, his attacks on immigrants, his racist fearmongering against communities of color, his undermining of farmers and American businesses that export products abroad) is exhausting. Why would anyone be hungry for political drama in this Washington when we have such an excess of it on the other coast?

Our country is metaphorically on fire right now.

Fortunately, there is an opportunity to douse the flames next year.

To me, that’s what the 2020 election is and should be about: saving the United States of America from doom and ruin at the hands of a narcissistic, neofascist sociopath. Dislodging an incumbent President isn’t a simple or trivial task.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve already got dependable leadership. Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have been a great team.

Again and again they’ve stood up for Washingtonians, not just resisting the horrible excesses of the Trump regime, but actively fighting to get Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional actions stopped in the courts.

Inslee and Ferguson are often joined at press conferences by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, two other high profile Democrats who have made no secret of their gubernatorial ambitions.

It is evident that these people all genuinely like and respect each other. They share many of the same qualities: they are results-oriented, for example, and optimistic about what can be accomplished through hard work and perseverance.

No governor has run for or secured a third term in Washington since 1972, but Inslee has a solid case to make that he should remain the state’s chief executive.

This year, under Inslee, Washington was ranked the number one state in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Not the number one state for business, a title the state has previously achieved, but the number one state overall.

What’s more, Moody’s just bestowed upon Washington a sterling Triple AAA credit rating, recognizing Washington’s fiscal strength and great potential.

And a new study was just published finding that Washington is one of the best states to grow old, with the eighth highest life expectancy in the U.S.

The leadership we’ve already got has a proven track record of getting results. The 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions produced waves of new laws that will improve lives and strengthen our communities. The Legislature has tackled healthcare and behaviorial health, education, access to democracy, pollution and environmental protection, net neutrality, social justice, equal pay, and reproductive rights.

Many of the bills that have been signed into law could have landed on Inslee’s desk sooner, had there been a progressive majority running the Senate in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Unlike his predecessor Chris Gregoire, Inslee did not have cooperative legislative majorities in both chambers for his first term or even all of his second. But there’s a good chance he will if he secures a third term.

Westneat wondered in his column if Inslee’s heart is still in the job.

I think it is. I think Jay Inslee really enjoys being Washington’s governor and could get a lot done for this state if he were to be reelected to a third term.

He will have to earn it: voters tend to punish complacency when least expected to, so Inslee will need to hustle if he wants to cruise to a third term.

The governor should make visiting Washington’s rural communities a top priority in his 2020 campaign. He should show up in places like Newport (Pend Oreille County), Dayton (Columbia County), or Cathlamet (Wahkiakum County).

Inslee owes voters a new strategic plan for building a more inclusive economy. Places far away from the tech boom taking place in King County (like farmers in Chelan County) need to hear from Washington’s governor and know that he has a plan to improve their economic security and well-being.

If the governor runs a thoughtful, meaningful reelection campaign, there’s no reason to believe Washingtonians won’t renew his mandate for another four years.

This may not be to the liking of The Seattle Times’ editorial writers, columnists, or even reporters. Cheer up, y’all: there’s always another election on deck. You’ll get your exciting in-state political drama soon enough. Those chutes and ladders will get deployed. Not in 2020, perhaps, but 2024 will be here before we know it.

In the meantime, we have a lot of fires to put out. Some metaphorical. And some literal. South of the equator, in Brazil, South America’s largest country, much of the incredibly diverse Amazon rainforest is currently on fire. This is a catastrophic ecological emergency that demands our attention.

We could certainly use a few more editorials and columns on that subject.

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

Elizabeth Warren electrifies Emerald City at huge Seattle Center rally with 15,000 people

If you are a hardy Northwest progressive, it’s hard to top a chance to listen to one of the leading progressive candidates for president of the United States. For free!

Alongside 15,000 others, three of us from the Northwest Progressive Institute attended Elizabeth Warren’s rally at Seattle Center Sunday.

The impressive attendance figure was a new record for the 2020 Warren campaign, and it’s part of a trend of burgeoning crowds turning out to hear from the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts. Only a few days ago, about 12,000 people showed up to a rally in Minnesota to hear Warren’s message.

Elizabeth Warren jogs onstage

Senator Elizabeth Warren jogs onstage after being introduced by State Senator Joe Nguyen (Photo: Bobby Aiyer/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Introducing Warren was Joe Nguyen (D-34th District: Seattle), State Senator from the 34th Legislative District representing parts of West Seattle and the surrounding area. Nguyen, eight months into his first term, is a strong progressive who was supported for the Senate by the Washington Conservation Voters, the Regional Council of Carpenters, and Seattle Transit Blog, among other organizations.

After Nguyen’s introduction, Warren sprinted onto the stage, warmly greeting Nguyen and thanking the multitude from across the Pacific NW for showing up.

Warren also praised Washington Governor Jay Inslee for his contribution to the primary conversation. Inslee announced Wednesday that he would end his presidential campaign; the next day, he declared a gubernatorial reelection bid.

Warren touted the Governor’s climate-focused agenda, and later made clear in the press gaggle that she shares Inslee’s view that the Democratic field needs a climate debate – contradicting DNC Chair Tom Perez and his supporters, who voted Saturday against a resolution that would have sanctioned a climate debate.

Warren has not made climate action the single overarching theme of her campaign like Inslee did. But she has emphasized climate justice in her proposals for heavy infrastructure investments, public domain technological innovation, and a climate-focused foreign policy. For Warren, climate justice is more of an integrated concern woven into every plan and every related than a single-issue crusade.

Elizabeth Warren at Seattle Center

Elizabeth Warren speaks to a crowd of 15,000 at Seattle Center on Sunday, August 25th, 2019 (Photo: Bobby Aiyer/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Sitting in the background of the rally in the shade were State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlowski and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. (Podlodowski, as a state party chair, is neutral in the presidential contest and is not backing anyone.)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan at Elizabeth Warren’s Seattle Center rally (Photo: Bobby Aiyer/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Mayor Durkan was thanked by Warren for being a “progressive mayor of a progressive city”. This comment received a notably muted response from the otherwise-boisterous and energetic crowd.

With her style weaving in and out between that of a cheery aunt and somber storyteller, Warren shared with the crowd her life story – beginning with her childhood, and how after her father passed when she was twelve, her mother was able to work hard and support her family on a minimum-wage, a very faint reality for many Americans today.

Before delving into policy specifics (which you can find here) Warren explained how affordable educational opportunities made a huge difference for her: paying $50 a semester for college and $450 a semester for law school opened doors to teaching and government otherwise unattainable.

Then came a discussion of Warren’s plans. Big cheers were heard when Warren vowed to reverse the Citizens Corporations United decision. Warren’s wealth tax plan – a 2% tax on assets over $50 million – was also well-received.

Elizabeth Warren onstage

Senator Elizabeth Warren onstage in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Seattle Center (Photo: Bobby Aiyer/Northwest Progressive Institute)

After the rally (billed as a town hall) had concluded, every single attendee who wanted a selfie with Warren was given the opportunity. The line snaked all the way around the lawn south of the International Fountain.

Nationwide, Warren has been polling between 14-20%, which leaves her in either second or third place overall. In Washington, a statewide poll with a sample of six hundred and nineteen likely voters conducted July 22nd – August 1st has Warren at 14%, behind Biden (19%) and Sanders (18%).

For the 2020 nomination cycle, the Washington State Democrats have revised the delegate allocation process. In years past, voters will remembers local precincts hosting caucuses to determine the electorate’s preferred nominee.

In 2020, the Washington State Democrats will allocate delegates through a presidential primary that concludes on March 10th.

Idaho’s Democratic primary will also conclude on this date, just shy of three weeks earlier than the 2016 Washington caucuses. Oregon will hold its presidential primary two months later, in May, like it has in past years.

The Washington State Democratic Party’s switch to a primary for allocation purposes was made possible by legislation supported by NPI that tweaked the Revised Code of Washington to make the existing presidential primary statute respective of the parties’ First Amendment rights.

Under the plan adopted by the party’s governing body, the party will hold legislative district caucuses to select delegates to the state convention and congressional district caucuses about one month after the presidential primary is certified. Because all but one level of the caucuses are being retained for delegate selection and partybuilding purposes in 2020, the plan adopted by the WSDCC has been called a “primary-caucus hybrid” approach.

Among the WSDCC’s aims in adopting a primary-caucus hybrid plan was to encourage more candidates to visit Washington and spend time in-state.

So far, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden have both held fundraisers in the state, but Sunday marked the first time a major candidate (polling in the double digits) has held a public event in Washington. (Biden held a closed-door fundraiser.)

Here’s to hoping many more candidates from across the Democratic field will make the journey to Cascadia, engage with activists from across the region, and help voters figure out who they want to cast their ballot for next spring.

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Bernie Sanders unveils bold plan for securing climate justice in the 2020s and beyond

Until he dropped out of the race on Wednesday, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was the unrivaled Democratic champion of climate justice.

On Thursday, either by accident or design, Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled the most expansive, bold climate action plan of anyone left running for president.

Bernie Sanders walking in a parade

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders walking in the Independence Day parade with supporters in Ames, Iowa. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Sanders chose Paradise, California – the epicenter of wildfires that took over 80 lives last year – to lay out a $16.3 trillion plan of national mobilization.

By comparison, Inslee’s far-reaching plan allocated around $9 trillion to averting climate catastrophe.

None of the other current candidates’ plans come anywhere close to the ambition of the Senator’s proposal. Vice President Joe Biden’s current plancriticized fiercely for its insufficiency by Jay Inslee in the second night of the July debate – dedicates $1.7 trillion to climate action and aims for pollution neutrality (which is zero net emissions, not zero emissions overall) by 2050.

Even Elizabeth Warren’s plan is small in comparison to Sanders’. Her proposal calls for the investment of $2 trillion in green research, manufacturing and exporting.

Sanders’ plan – which draws heavily from Green New Deal concepts being developed by progressive Democratic leaders in Congress – aims to eliminate U.S. emissions by 2050, in line with the recommendation of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The plan specifically targets the electricity and transportation industries (the two biggest polluters in the U.S. economy), aiming to reach 100% renewable power for both by 2030. The plan goes even further for the electricity sector.

Drawing from his left wing roots, Sanders wants to expand public ownership of power companies until electricity is “virtually free” in 2035.

His plan addresses pollution both at home and abroad. Countries in the Global South will be given assistance to reduce their emissions by over a third by 2030, through the establishment of a $200 billion Green Climate Fund.

On the morning of November 8th, 2018, the Camp Fire erupted 90 miles (140 kilometers) north of Sacramento, California. The Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 acquired this image on November 8th, 2018, around 10:45 AM local time (06:45 Universal Time). The natural-color image was created using bands 4-3-2, along with shortwave infrared light to highlight the active fire. (Photo: NASA).

While $16.3 trillion is a mind-boggling amount of money – an amount Republican propagandists will undoubtedly have a field day with – it pales in comparison to the costs of climate damage if we do not act.

Research projects that climate damage will shatter the U.S. economy by the end of the century, knocking off as much as $34 trillion in American productivity.

What’s more, Sanders’ team plans to make the policies pay for themselves. The way to do that is by “making the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution through litigation, fees, and taxes, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.” While this seems overly punitive on its face, the policy should be taken in the context of decades of energy corporations suppressing climate science to boost profits.

Besides the populist appeal of punitive measures against destructive fossil fuel corporations, Sanders’ plan could have huge benefits for the broader American public. The Sanders campaign claim that this proposal could effectively “end unemployment” by creating over twenty million new clean energy jobs and helping workers to transition to more environmentally friendly industries.

Sanders’ plan also includes measures targeted at increasing environmental justice, promising to put marginalized groups at the front of the line when it comes to reaping the benefits of the planned trillions of dollars of investment.

While Sanders’ plan is clearly a challenge to the other candidates to step up, parts of it are likely to cause future controversy even among environmental activists, perhaps chiefly its anti-nuclear provisions and the fact that it rules out investment in pollution capture and storage technologies.

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

Jay Inslee makes it official: He’s running for Governor of Washington State in 2020

Hours after withdrawing from the Democratic presidential field, Governor Jay Inslee has announced that he will be a candidate for Governor of Washington State in 2020, via an email blast sent out to his list. Here’s the text of that message:

As you know, I join you in being rightfully proud of Washington state and what we have accomplished together.

It has been a profound honor to represent our state on the national stage in the presidential race. I am grateful for the opportunity to have told the country about Washington state’s successful model of progressive action we are building together.

We have provided the nation a road map for innovation, economic growth, and progressive action. And we’re not done yet.

I want to continue to stand with you in opposing Donald Trump and rejecting his hurtful and divisive agenda, while strengthening and enhancing Washington state’s role as a progressive beacon for the nation. Which is why I’m announcing today my intention to run for a third term as Washington’s governor.

I’m excited to do so — because our great success as a state these last few years gives me confidence that we can continue to lead the nation in so many ways. Our multiple accomplishments have paved the way for much to come in the next term.

We’ve created the first public option for health care in the nation, the highest increase in average public school teacher pay in the country, and the fastest growing economy in America.

That’s what we do in Washington — we’re innovators, builders, creators — and I am eager to build and expand on this unique record of progress and economic success for the people of our great state.

Together, we’ve built an economy that works for working people. Washington has raised the minimum wage to one of the highest in the nation, provided paid sick leave for every worker, and created a best-in-the-nation paid family leave program.

We were the first state to protect net neutrality, and we have passed the most sweeping package of voting rights laws in the nation.

We have protected LGBTQI Americans from discrimination, provided affordable health care to over 800,000 Washingtonians through Obamacare, and passed reproductive parity protections for all women. We became the first state to sue against Trump’s Muslim ban and passed historic investments in public schools, teacher pay, and infrastructure.

We’re also leading the nation in tackling the climate crisis. Our efforts to protect Washington’s clean air and water, invest in people’s economic security, and stand up for the values of inclusivity and diversity have created thousands of clean energy jobs and made Washington state “the epicenter of resistance to Trump’s agenda.”

These progressive policies have propelled Washington’s economy to be the best in the nation — and the only state that has been ranked both the best place to work and the best place for business.

Since I became governor in 2013, Washington state has ranked number one in both wage growth and GDP growth.

Washington’s story shows the economic power of progressive action.

We’ve made incredible progress together, but there’s much more to do. Make no mistake — we will not be resting on our laurels.

We fully intend for Washington’s future to be every bit as dynamic, innovative, and inclusive as its past.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and organize. Let’s get to work building an even greater Washington together.

Very truly yours,

Jay

Inslee’s presidential campaign website has already been taken down and replaced with a splash page for his gubernatorial reeelection campaign.

Splash page for Jay Inslee's reelection camapign

The new splash page for jayinslee.com, replacing Inslee’s presidential campaign website

Republicans are trying their best to pretend that they have a legitimate shot at capturing the governor’s mansion in 2020, a claim that has no basis in reality. Republicans haven’t won a gubernatorial race in the state since 1980, when John Spellman was elected. It’s the longest gubernatorial losing streak in the country.

Even State Republican Chair Caleb Heimlich understands this.

In a tacit admission of the extremely long odds Republicans face in 2020, Heimlich ended a fundraising email by saying: “With your donation of $20 today, we can show the truth about Governor Inslee and organize in every corner of the state to elect a Republican Governor for the first time in my lifetime!”

Heimlich and other Republicans have been very critical of Inslee’s presidential campaign, repeatedly dismissing it as a “vanity run” and whining incessantly about the cost to taxpayers for Inslee’s State Patrol provided security detail, while remaining quiet as churchmice about Donald Trump’s failure to reimburse taxpayers for his campaign-related travel and his travel to his golf courses.

As a presidential candidate, however, Inslee had the opportunity to crisscross the country pitching Washington State as a great place to live and work.

His presidential run therefore had value to the taxpayers of Washington State, even if it didn’t catch fire. There is arguably no better or more credible spokesperson for a state’s business climate than its governor. Inslee has a compelling story to tell about Washington and he’s been telling it. And, as a candidate, he’s also had the opportunity to learn what other states are doing on a number of fronts.

That could make him a more effective, knowledgeable chief executive.

Inslee’s decision will, as I explained last night, likely defer a political realignment in state Democratic politics until after the 2020 presidential election cycle is over.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and King County Executive Dow Constantine have all consistently said they would support Inslee in the event he wanted to seek a third term.

Now he is — so that means their own gubernatorial ambitions are on hold.

Franz has actually already said as much to the Associated Press, noting that she’s quite focused on her current job. As Commissioner of Public Lands, Franz heads the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which is responsible for geologic hazards research and fighting wildfires. Franz is in her first term as Commissioner and is well positioned to secure reelection in 2020 to a second term.

Bob Ferguson, meanwhile, is in a similar boat. He is in his second term as Attorney General and can seek a third term next year, like Christine Gregoire did in 2000. (Gregoire served as AG for twelve years before running for Governor.)

“Governor Jay Inslee should be proud of his success promoting climate change as an urgent issue demanding immediate action,” said Ferguson in a statement.

“There would not be climate town halls if it were not for Jay Inslee calling for a real climate change conversation. I’ve spoken with Washingtonians across the state who appreciate Governor Inslee working to highlight Washington state’s leadership, including our efforts defending workers, enforcing civil rights, protecting our environment, growing our economy — and our undefeated record stopping the harmful policies of President Trump. I support Governor Inslee’s re-election, and I will pursue another term as Attorney General.”

With Franz staying put and Ferguson choosing the same path, there won’t be openings for Lands Commissioner and Attorney General in 2020.

That means the “exploratory committees” of Noah Purcell, Drew Hansen, Lorena Gonzalez, and Christine Rolfes will be winding down. All had been prepared to seek higher office had Inslee chosen not to run for a third term.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has already been elected to his current post three times: in 2009, 2013, and 2017. Constantine’s third term runs through 2021. Given that Constantine was largely unopposed in his last two reelection bids, he might choose to seek a fourth term after the 2020 presidential cycle ends.

No incumbent in Washington’s executive department has announced that they will not be a candidate for their post in 2020. If anyone does retire, it would probably be Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who is closing in on nearly twenty years as the state’s overseer and regulator of private insurance companies.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Why it makes sense that Jay Inslee will likely seek a third term as Governor of Washington

Tomorrow, after returning to the Evergreen State from the east coast, Jay Inslee is expected to announce that he will seek a third term as Washington’s Governor next year, having pulled the plug on his climate-focused presidential campaign.

If Inslee makes his 2020 gubernatorial campaign official, he will be the first incumbent chief executive in almost fifty years to seek a third term.

Washington’s last three term governor was Republican Daniel J. Evans, a true Cascadian living legend if ever there was one. Evans headed the state’s executive department for twelve years, for 1965 to 1977. Working with the Legislature, Evans twice secured House and Senate passage of a constitutional amendment that would have explicitly permitted Washington to levy an income tax.

Voters rejected both proposals despite remaining fond of Evans. He went on to serve as Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson’s successor in the United States Senate for six years. Appointed to the post by his successor, Governor John Spellman, he was retained by the voters in a 1983 special election, defeating Democratic opponent Mike Lowry, who would later go on to serve as Governor in the 1990s.

Jay Inslee is now hoping to replicate Evans’ feat of winning three successive gubernatorial elections. To pull it off, he’ll have to unify the Democratic Party in support of his candidacy (which ought not to be too difficult) and dispatch whoever ends up being his Republican rival — which he was able to do in 2012 when he defeated Rob McKenna and again in 2016 when he beat Bill Bryant.

People close to Inslee have told The Associated Press that he’s seeking a third term. Official confirmation is expected tomorrow; Inslee himself told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow he will make a statement tomorrow about his next steps, upon having returned to Washington from New York.

Inslee has already reached out to the three Democratic elected leaders who have been openly mulling gubernatorial bids for 2020 to give them each a heads up about his plans: King County Executive Dow Constantine, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Both Constantine and Franz confirmed to The Seattle Times that Inslee had spoken with them; the newspaper was unable to reach Ferguson. Appropriately, neither Constantine nor Franz would comment about what Inslee’s plans are.

But it’s pretty evident that Inslee is going for a third term.

And it’s a sensible, defensible move for a host of reasons.

Inslee has the potential to accomplish much more as Governor of Washington State if he secures another four years because he could regain time that was lost due to several years of legislative gridlock produced by divided government.

Legislatively speaking, Inslee’s first term was pretty much sabotaged by the treachery of turncoat Rodney Tom, who engineered a Republican takeover of the Washington State Senate in the weeks following Inslee’s first gubernatorial victory.

Voters had elected a Democratic Senate in addition to Inslee; but Tom conspired with fellow turncoat Tim Sheldon to deliver the chamber into Republican hands.

In exchange, Tom got a nice corner office and the title of Majority Leader.

Sheldon, meanwhile, was slated to become President Pro Tempore, but Democrats foiled that plan by backing the incredibly obnoxious Pam Roach for the position instead, as a means of punishing Sheldon for his treachery.

Following Tom and Sheldon’s coup, Republicans remained in control of the Senate for five years, using their majority to turn the chamber into a graveyard of progress. Their stranglehold was broken in 2017 when Democratic phenomenon Manka Dhingra (a member of the board of NPI’s sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation) won a special election in the 45th District, turning the chamber blue.

Dhingra’s victory finally gave Inslee the slim Democratic Senate majority he ought to have started out his governorship with — one year into his second term.

The result was a resounding series of legislative victories for progressive ideas.

Last year, in the 2018 midterms, voters expanded the Democratic Senate majority from twenty-five seats to twenty-eight, while enlarging the party’s House majority from fifty to fifty-seven. Those wins paved the way for a 2019 legislative session full of climate action and environmental justice wins championed by Inslee.

Having now experienced what it’s like to work with cooperative Democratic majorities for two consecutive sessions, Inslee is no doubt hungry for more opportunities to make progress on a multitude of fronts. A third term might net him as many as four more legislative sessions with Democratic majorities.

And with Laurie Jinkins taking over as Speaker of the House of Representatives this January, Inslee will soon have a new legislative partner who is supportive of more of his priorities (like the abolition of the death penalty) than Frank Chopp was.

Inslee’s reported decision to seek another term could also help the Washington State Democratic Party focus on expanding its majorities and flipping the two seats in the executive department that it doesn’t control (Secretary of State and Treasurer). Without Inslee at the top of the ticket, there likely would be a contested Democratic race for Governor, setting up contested Democratic races for Attorney General and possibly one for Commissioner of Public Lands.

And that, in turn, would have led to open seats on both sides of the rotunda, with Democratic legislators running for statewide office instead of pursuing reelection.

Now it appears that realignment may be pushed out to the 2024 cycle, allowing the Washington State Democratic Party to focus on its offensive priorities, including the aforementioned state-level pickup opportunities as well as the 3rd Congressional District, which the party believes can be flipped.

Given that the other Washington is presently the site of an unprecedented, frightening political drama starring a narcissistic, neofascist sociopath named Donald Trump, there’s arguably a real benefit to postponing the row of falling dominoes that would be triggered by Inslee’s exit from state politics.

That line of thinking, stated at greater length, goes something like this: If we can’t have stability in the other Washington, at least we can enjoy it here. Why change horses midstream when we have sound leadership already? Under Jay Inslee, Washington has been rated the best state in the country. We’re Number One!

And, if Inslee remains governor, then at least one state in the country will be led by someone who is willing to make tackling the climate crisis their top priority.

2020 was already going to be high stakes battle for the future of the United States as a whole. Washington will not be a battleground state; but big picture minded Washingtonians may want to do work in states that are battlegrounds.

It will undoubtedly be easier for Washingtonians to export time, talent, and treasure to places where they could affect the trajectory of the entire country if the in-state political landscape remains stable through the 2020 election cycle.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Washington Governor Jay Inslee ends his candidacy for President of the United States

Jay Inslee has pulled the plug on his presidential campaign.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Washington State’s chief executive announced that he has decided to withdraw from the 2020 field, having concluded that his candidacy was not gaining traction.

Inslee recently met the donor threshold for the third Democratic presidential debates in Houston, but he hasn’t been polling well enough to meet the public opinion threshold. Having concluded there was no way to be included in next month’s debates, Inslee has decided to leave the race.

“I want to share a tough decision with you,” Inslee said in an email to his list.

“I know you agree that our mission to defeat climate change must continue to be central to our national discussion — and must be the top priority for our next president. But I’ve concluded that my role in that effort will not be as a candidate to be the next president of the United States.

(Emphasis is the campaign’s.)

“On Monday, our campaign hit one of two critical DNC thresholds to qualify for the next debate — 130,000 grassroots donors. Reaching that challenging milestone proves the strong support that defeating climate [damage] has amongst the grassroots of our party. However, at the same time we reached this threshold, it became clear that we would not meet the DNC’s polling threshold, thus we would not have been invited to the fall debates.”

“As a result, I don’t believe we can compete for the attention and exposure needed to have a reasonable shot at the nomination.”

“Trudi and I love you,” Inslee added in closing.

Now the question is: Will Inslee seek a third term as Governor of the State of Washington? We won’t have to wait very long to find out.

“I will have statements tomorrow about my intentions,” Inslee told Maddow in MSNBC’s New York studios, refusing to say anything more about his plans.

“I need to go back to the State of Washington,” he emphasized, when Maddow pressed him for an answer on whether he would run for governor.

He isn’t endorsing a rival candidate at this time, he said.

Several of Inslee’s rivals praised his candidacy.

“Thank you Jay Inslee for fighting every day to make sure that climate change remains a primary focus of this election. Climate change is real and it’s a crisis —and I will keep fighting alongside you to take bold action before it is too late,” tweeted Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a leading contender.

“Few leaders have done more to shine a light on the climate crisis than Jay Inslee,” tweeted Senator Kamala Harris of California. “His voice will be missed in this primary but I know he will continue this fight.”

MORE FROM NPI’S RUAIRI VAUGHAN: Governor Inslee’s campaign was laser-focused on the issue of climate damage, correctly arguing that maintaining a habitable earth has a tie-in with every other important issue.

Inslee had a detailed, ten-year plan to tackle the climate crisis, with bold measures including a transition to 100% clean energy, a $9 trillion investment plan, a new approach to foreign policy, and cutting the flow of fossil fuels.

During the debates Inslee didn’t get a whole lot of speaking time. He played second fiddle to better known candidates who the moderators urged to take each other on, like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. But when the discussion turned to what to do about the climate crisis, he owned the issue. In the July debates he stood out by calling out the former Vice President’s middle-of-the-road environmental plan for its lack of ambition, saying “the time is up. Our house is on fire!

Even when other candidates tried to tout their own environmental policies, they felt the need to also praise Inslee’s comprehensive policies.

Inslee’s withdrawal will disappoint environmental organizations; he consistently topped Greenpeace’s 2020 climate ranking, and gained the love of the youth-led Sunrise Movement by battling with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) over the merits of a climate change-focused debate. The Movement’s executive director, Varshini Prakash, tweeted on Wednesday, “We’ll miss you in this race @JayInslee.”

Inslee’s withdrawal from the race sparked a shower of praise from all the other major candidates, who all noted his campaign’s impact on the national discourse. Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted that “the people of Washington are fortunate to have a Governor who fights to make their lives better now and to protect our planet in the future.”

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Republican State Senator Barbara Bailey to resign effective September 30th, 2019

One of the Washington State Senate’s most vulnerable Republicans is calling it quits ahead of the 2020 short session and presidential election cycle.

Senator Barbara Bailey (R-10th District: Island County, Stanwood), who defeated veteran Democratic Senator Mary Margaret Haugen in 2012, has decided to resign and leave the Senate early instead of serving out of her term and retiring.

In a letter to Governor Inslee, Bailey explained her decision.

After much prayer and discussion with my family, I have made the decision to step down from my Senate seat effective September 30th, 2019. This decision was not taken lightly; however, I believe now is the best time to make this move. I have been giving this decision a lot of thought for the past three-four months.

Spending quality time with my family and church has been difficult at best, and unworkable at other times. There are significant projects and ventures in which my husband and I want to be involved while we are still reasonably healthy and mobile.

I leave with a great sense of accomplishment of some significant issues which were passed into law, and which have made life for our citizens more efficient and meaningful. Specifically, making higher education more affordable in our public institutions, better support for our veterans and their dependents, improved health care for our aging population, and as Chair of the Select Committee for Pension Policy, ensuring long-term sustainability at a time when other pension systems around the country were in crisis.

Our pension system now ranks among the most stable in the nation.

I plan to stay engaged with those programs affecting the well-being of our senior citizens to ensure they have improved access and resources for their care and dignity.

It has been my honor to have served the state of Washington, and specifically the citizens of the 10th District. I will always be available for consultation and continued service when and where needed.

The Senate Republicans today responded to the letter by issuing a public statement lavishing praise on Bailey for her contributions as a legislator.

What Bailey doesn’t say in her letter is that she was facing an uphill battle to secure reelection in 2020. Democratic challenger Helen Price Johnson declared her candidacy for the Washington State Senate a few weeks ago, and Democrats believe the 10th is ripe for flipping, especially given Dave Paul’s victory last year.

(State Representative Dave Paul unseated incumbent Republican Dave Hayes for one of the 10th’s two House seats last cycle, taking over the position Bailey once held while a state representative after prevailing in a close race.)

By resigning, Bailey is making way for a fellow Republican — perhaps State Representative Norma Smith, one of the most thoughtful and liberal Republicans in the statehouse — to serve in the Senate ahead of the 2020 presidential election and gain some of the advantages of incumbency prior to facing the voters.

It will still be an open seat, though, and Democrats will make it a top priority, along with Smith’s House seat, which she nearly lost last year. If Smith moves over to the Senate, it presents House Democrats with an opportunity for another pickup.

In accordance with the Washington State Constitution, the Central Committee of the Washington State Republican Party (presently chaired by Caleb Heimlich), must now draw up a list of three possible successors for Bailey.

This list will then be presented to the Island and Skagit County Commissions plus the Snohomish County Council, as the 10th is a multi-county district. The county legislative authorities will then have the opportunity to jointly make an appointment. If they cannot reach agreement, Governor Inslee will make a choice.

We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is coming to Cascadia; will hold 08/25 Seattle town hall

Want to engage with one of the leading Democratic candidates for President of the United States? Here’s your chance! Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is bringing her burgeoning presidential campaign to the Pacific Northwest this weekend. Her campaign has announced that the centerpiece of the trip will be a Sunday afternoon town hall in downtown Seattle at the WaMu Theater.

The event is free to attend, but registration is requested.

Here are the details:

Seattle Town Hall with Elizabeth Warren
Sunday, August 25, 2019
WaMu Theater
800 Occidental Ave S
Seattle, WA 98134

Doors open at 12:15 PM. Event starts at 2:15 PM.

You can RSVP online if you’d like to attend.

Warren is the third Democratic contender to visit Seattle (not counting Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, who calls Cascadia home). Vice President Joe Biden had a couple of closed door fundraisers here a few months ago, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg held a fundraiser at The Showbox a few weeks ago.

Neither Biden nor Buttigieg held events that were free to attend.

Warren’s town hall, on the other hand, does not have an admission fee. Warren says her objective is to run a grassroots-oriented campaign that is powered by people instead of armies of lobbyists and the welathy interests they work for.

NPI is planning to cover the town hall here on The Cascadia Advocate as well as In Brief. If you go, pack your patience, as lines could be long.

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Former Governor John Hickenlooper ends his stalled presidential campaign

On August 14th, FiveThirtyEight’s weekly politics chat discussed the likelihood of struggling Democratic presidential candidates dropping out of the race in the near future. Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, the former governor of the Centennial State, was the first name to be brought up (by elections analyst Geoffrey Skelley).

John Hickenlooper

John Hickenlooper’s campaign for president has officially ended (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Less than twenty four hours later, the prediction came true; Hickenlooper declared via tweet that he was ending his campaign for president.

Hickenlooper’s withdrawal is hardly a surprise.

At the start of July, stories started coming out of his campaign was seriously struggling: he had lost key staff members (including his campaign manager, communications director, digital director and finance director); fundraising was so lackluster that the campaign risked running out of cash entirely by the end of August; his staff were practically begging him to consider other options.

The Hickenlooper campaign’s internal struggles were only a sign of his overall efforts; he was getting nowhere in his bid for the White House. Hickenlooper was unlikely to even make it into the third round of Democratic debates – he only qualified in one or four required polls, and he only had 13,000 individual donors (10% of the number required to get to the stage in September).

Aside from his troubled organization, Hickenlooper was uninspiring as a candidate. He positioned himself as a “pragmatic” alternative to progressive candidates like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but in the July debate against those two he seemed unprepared, tripping over his words, and at one point – seeming to lack a plan on immigration – asked, “How hard can it be?”

Off the debate stage, he didn’t endear himself to Democratic activists.

In May, he earned the ire of progressives by comparing the leftward turn in American politics to, “the discredited ideas of Karl Marx and Josef Stalin.”

At the California Democratic convention in June, he returned to his old tactic of attacking socialism, but was booed by the crowd.

There were plenty of factors that nudged Hickenlooper out of the race, but there was also an enticing pull; he now has the chance to run for the Senate in Colorado.

Not only that, but he has a good chance of winning; one poll shows that he currently leads Republican incumbent Cory Gardner 51% to 38%. In 2020, every Senate seat will count for the Democrats, as the Party has only narrow margins to win a majority there, even if their candidate is elected to the White House.

Hickenlooper’s allies and supporters have been encouraging him to “drop out gracefully” from his quixotic presidential bid and run for Senate for months now, from both outside and within the campaign team. The first sign that he was considering such a move came a couple of weeks before his withdrawal, when a company linked to Hickenlooper registered the web domain, “HickForSenate.com”

John Hickenlooper will not be much of a loss to the Democratic presidential field. Aside from his own inadequacies as a candidate, there is just not enough space for a candidate like him in a field that includes Joe Biden, and in a party that is gravitating towards candidates who are truly representative of its increasingly younger, more ethnically diverse, and progressive base.

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Georgia’s Stacey Abrams is (definitely) not running for President of the United States

One of the biggest storylines in Democratic politics since the 2018 midterm elections has concerned the future ambitions of Georgia state representative and gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams.

Representative Stacey Adams

Former Representative Stacey Adams, the Democratic Leader in the Georgia General Assembly, explains what needs to be done to turn states in the Deep South blue (educate, activate, and agitate!) at Netroots Nation 2014.

In 2018, Abrams barely lost the gubernatorial race to Republican Brian Kemp, in a race plagued by rampant voter suppression and discredited by the fact that – as Georgia’s sitting Secretary of State – Kemp was supervising the race he himself was running in. After defeat, Abrams began the organization Fair Fight Action, which sued the new governor over his handling of the elections.

At the beginning of this year, influential Democrats were determined to persuade Abrams to run in 2020 against Georgia’s Senator David Perdue.

These included presidential candidates (Senators Harris and Gillibrand were both reported to have encouraged Abrams to run), Chuck Schumer and others in the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leadership, and major donors to the Party including close supporters of her 2018 campaign.

In May, Abrams brushed aside suggestions of a Senate run, seemingly in favor of even bigger plans; she tweeted that a 2020 run for the White House was “definitely on the table,” and rejected the suggestion from the Biden campaign of a Vice Presidential position saying, “I don’t think you run for second place…if I’m going to enter a primary, then I’m going to enter a primary.”

Stacey Abrams in Seattle

Stacey Abrams listens to an audience question at her April 2019 Seattle Town Hall appearance (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

However, the speculation has at last been ended; Abrams will not be running for high office in 2020. She made the announcement on Tuesday in Las Vegas while addressing the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

In the speech, she laid out her plan to expand and re-brand Fair Fight Action into Fair Fight 2020. The initiative will expand from Georgia to 20 states in the Midwest and Southeast of the country, focusing on state-level voter protection. This is an issue close to Abrams’ heart; she lost the 2018 election by under 55,000 votes, which is almost precisely the number of new voter registrations that Brian Kemp delayed in the run-up to voting in one of many blatant acts of voter suppression.

Fair Fight 2020 will work with state political parties to correct inaccurate voter rolls, address shortages of voting machines and provisional ballots, and standardize procedures for counting absentee ballots.

The initiative also plans to set up state-by-state hotlines, so that communities can report election irregularities. The amount of investment the initiative is expected to put into these efforts could be as high as $5 million.

While her decision will see her increasingly lose the spotlight as the 2020 presidential primaries and general elections inevitably swallow up national news coverage, Abrams’ choice may indicate her real goal – a re-match with Brian Kemp for the Governor’s Mansion in 2022.

An organization like Fair Fight 2020 will keep Abrams in the spotlight regularly, give her a large pool of political experts to recruit from for future campaigns and, most importantly, will hopefully break down some of the egregious state laws that suppressed the vote in black and Democratic neighborhoods in 2018.

If Stacey Abrams is playing the long game and aiming at 2022, it will be much harder for Brian Kemp to rob her of her prize a second time.

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

Tim Eyman associate Mike Fagan eliminated in Top Two for Spokane City Council President

Longtime Tim Eyman associate Mike Fagan will be departing the Spokane City Council at the end of this year after failing to clinch a spot on the general election ballot for Spokane City Council President, early returns suggest.

As of the last count, there were 16,135 votes for Breean Beggs (35.84%), 13,785 votes for Cindy Wendle (30.62%), and 11,856 votes for Fagan (26.34%). Last place finisher Phillip Tyler has 3,067 votes, or 6.81%. Only the top two vote getters advance to the November runoff, so Fagan’s campaign is at an end.

Fagan, fifty-nine, occasionally appears alongside Tim Eyman at press conferences with his father, Jack. The Fagans have been associated with Eyman for nearly twenty years. Originally, they and Eyman were part of a quartet that also included Monte Benham of the Tri-Cities in the early days of Eyman’s initiative factory.

However, Eyman and the Fagans parted company with Benham in 2003; Benham objected to their plans to continue profiting from sponsoring initiatives.

This is Fagan’s second loss as a candidate for Spokane City Council.

He also came up short in his first campaign ten years ago, at the same time Eyman was trying to bring destructive Colorado-style expenditure limits to Washington State with Initiative 1033 (which failed). However, Fagan tried again two years later. His 2011 bid for District #1 was successful, and he secured reelection in 2015.

Despite having become a local elected official responsible for making crucial budgeting decisions, Fagan has remained a zealous proponent of gutting public services in Washington, putting him at odds with his Spokane City Council colleagues as well as municipal leaders around the state.

The last time a destructive tax-cutting Eyman measure (cosponsored by Fagan) appeared on the ballot, the Spokane City Council voted to oppose it, over Fagan’s objections. Fagan is currently the cosponsor of Tim Eyman’s I-976, which would rescind the vehicle fee that Spokane collects to fund basic street maintenance.

Beggs is a fellow Spokane City Councilmember who represents an adjoining district, District #2. Beggs is in the middle of a term, so if he doesn’t win in November, he would remain on the council. Fagan’s term expires at the end of this year, so as mentioned, he will be off the Council in a few months.

Beggs is a longtime advocate for the disadvantaged.

“For more than twenty years he has effectively presented causes and cases to juries, appellate judges, arbitrators, mediators, community groups and the media,” his biography states. “Highlights include substantial police reform measures in Spokane, Washington, in connection with the death of a mentally disabled janitor; substantial national reform on oil pipeline safety in connection with the death of three children in the Olympic Pipeline Explosion, and multiple jail reform and LFO issues in Spokane County in connection with class action lawsuits.”

Former bank manager Cindy Wendle looks like Beggs’ opponent. Wendle edged out Fagan despite not having run for office before. She has proved to be adept at fundraising. She has the endorsement of outgoing Mayor David Condon and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, both conservative Republicans.

“For three years she helped lead the efforts of Washington Trust Bank to open branches in Pullman, Moscow, and Lewiston,” Wendle’s campaign biography states.

“In 2015, Cindy was given the opportunity to manage the Spokane Main branch at Washington Trust Bank headquarters. […] Since May of 2018, she has assisted with property management issues and been a part of lease negotiations with their national and local business tenants. Her goals are to provide a first-class property to help businesses achieve their goals, and market Spokane to out of area retailers so they will open stores here and help invest in our economy.”

“In the months leading up to the [Top Two election], Wendle substantially outspent Beggs, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin,” noted the Spokesman-Review’s Kip Hill and Adam Hanks in a report last week. “In addition to the $57,591 Wendle’s campaign spent on the race directly, she was the beneficiary of $80,679 in independent expenditures made by political action committees in support of her candidacy. Beggs spent $33,633 on the race, Fagan $18,665, and Tyler $6,098.”

Current Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart is a candidate for Mayor. He’s placing second in the Top Two, behind ex-television anchor Nadine Woodward.

Seven candidates are vying for Fagan’s current council position. The leaders are Tim Benn (with 25.99% of the vote) and Michael Cathcart (with 23.3%). They appear set to advance. Doug Salter, Jerrall Haynes, Naghmana Sherazi, Krys Brown, and Louis Lefebvre will not be joining them on the November ballot.

Fagan’s successor is pretty much guaranteed to be someone with a similar far right wing political outlook, as both Benn and Cathcart are Republicans.

Benn has the support of hardcore militant extremist Matt Shea, while Cathcart is an associate of U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

King County Parks For All levy will pass; park improvements to continue over next six years

We all benefit from our public parks and trails in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. County, whether that’s by hiking in the Cascade foothills, bringing our kids to play sports at public ballfields, or cycling on our many public trails.

King County manages two hundred parks, one hundred and seventy-five miles of trail, and 28,000 acres of open space. While a county with many urban residents, King County must manage both green spaces within urban growth boundaries and larger, rural parks in the eastern areas of the county.

Thanks to King County voters, local parks, trails, and open spaces will continue to be fully maintained and upgraded during 2020-2025.

As of the end of the day Wednesday, Proposition 1 (the Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Spaces Levy) is passing with 68.32% of the vote.

Around two-thirds of the anticipated votes expected to be cast have been tallied.

This levy will raise $810 million over its six years, or an average of $135 million per year. This represents a significant boost to parks funding compared to the expiring 2014-19 levy, which generated around $66 million per year.

Redmond's Marymoor Park

Redmond’s Marymoor Park, seen from the air (Yes for King County Parks campaign)

Of that $810 million, 39% will be used to maintain parks and trails; 24% used to make open spaces more equitable through community and city partnerships as well as grants; and 20% used to improve regional trails, such as the recently-launched Eastside Rail Corridor (Eastrail) project.

Remaining funds will be used to acquire new space to meet expanding public recreation demand. Quite a lot of benefit for a levy with a modest cost!

There are specific projects for which funding from this levy has been earmarked. The East Lake Sammamish Trail, Green River Trail, Interurban South, and Burke-Gilman trails will all receive service improvements.

Parking will be improved at three popular trailheads: Rattlesnake Mountain (North Bend), Little Lake (Enumclaw), and the Island Center Forest (Vashon Island).

Successful endangered species conservation and outreach to under-served communities programs at the Woodland Park Zoo will receive funding from this measure, as will improvements at the Seattle Aquarium’s Ocean Pavilion.

Eight percent of levy revenue will be granted to cities and towns to use for city-managed public spaces as well.

In King County, the maintenance and improvement of these critical public services is funded by ballot propositions every six years.

With the current levy expiring at the end of 2019, the Metropolitan King County Council passed Ordinance 18890 this April, authorizing voters to decide on these improvements this August. Sponsors of the ordinance were Councilmembers Balducci, von Reichbauer, Kohl-Welles, McDermott, and Dembowski.

These types of parks levies were first put to voters in 2003; you can see information about past levies here.

Kudos to King County voters for approving a progressive parks measure that will keep our citizens healthy and happy for years to come!

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Big East Link milestone: Sound Transit’s light rail bridge over I-405 is structurally complete

Perceptive drivers stuck in gridlock on I-405 in Bellevue have probably noticed a new bridge being built above the interstate over the past year or so. What they may not know is that in just a few short years, trains will be zooming across that bridge as they carry passengers to and from downtown Bellevue.

Construction of East Link, Sound Transit’s big light rail extension that will connect Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Overlake with Downtown Seattle in 2023 and Redmond in 2024, is more than 55% complete.

This includes significant portions through Downtown Bellevue.

East Link will have three stations near the Bellevue downtown core:

  • East Main: south of Main Street on 112th Ave SE;
  • Bellevue Downtown: just east of the Bellevue Transit Center and south of the Meydenbauer Center; and
  • Wilburton: east of I-405, at the intersection of NE 8th St and 118th Ave NE.

To get light rail moving through Bellevue’s dense central business district with minimum surface-level disruption, Sound Transit contractors have dug a tunnel underneath the city, connecting East Main and Bellevue Downtown stations.

Bellevue Downtown north light rail tunnel portals

The Downtown Bellevue light rail north tunnel portals, seen from the I-405 light rail bridge (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

This is a sequentially excavated tunnel, where opposite-direction tracks run right next to each other – unlike the light rail tunnels in Seattle, where two separate tunnels carry trains in between stations on the underground alignments.

The big advantage of the approach utilized in Bellevue is a reduction in cost and risk: why dig two tunnels when you could dig just one? According to Sound Transit engineers, many lessons were learned from previous tunnel projects, including the infamous problems with Bertha, which dug the State Route 99 tunnel.

Improvements to technology mean that larger tunnels carrying two tracks can be dug reliably. In fact, the Bellevue tunnel was successfully excavated five months ahead of schedule – fantastic news for the on-time completion of East Link and a great factoid to share with friends and family who might not support NO on I-976 concerned about delays on big transit projects!

The Bellevue Downtown Link station is located right next to the existing transit center, connecting well to existing and future transit service. This includes the RapidRide B Line to Redmond, the I-405 Bus Rapid Transit corridor (future), as well as existing King County Metro and Sound Transit service. While touring the work site, NPI staff saw buses making frequent trips from the transit center – including this double-tall Route 535 bus headed to Lynnwood!

Northbound Sound Transit 535 Express

A double tall Sound Transit 535 Express bus leaves downtown Bellevue (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

East of Bellevue Downtown station, East Link rises above I-405 on a specially-constructed bridge sixty feet above mainline expressway traffic. Construction started with metal falsework (akin to an exoskeleton) going up above the interstate in early 2018 (link, page 19). Now, the bridge is complete, stretching from the tunnel portal to Wilburton station before descending to the ground.

The bridge is eight hundred and ten feet long, with a a three hundred and fifty foot span across I-405. It was cast-in-place, meaning that concrete was poured and solidified on the construction site, unlike the bridge spanning I-90 in south Bellevue, which is a balanced cantilever bridge.

The concrete bridge has been post-tensioned, making it able to withstand a “2,500 year event” – meaning that even in the case of rare natural disasters, light rail infrastructure will remain safe and usable.

The main span of the bridge is hollow, with fourteen-inch thick walls and ten-to-sixteen-inch thick horizontal slabs. Due to the cast-in-place nature of the structure, it was hand-built entirely by workers on-site, and all materials were U.S.-sourced.

View of Bellevue from I-405 East Link alignment

A view of downtown Bellevue from the new East Link light rail alignment, which will carry Blue Line trains across I-405 to and from the city center (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Metal support structures were used to support the entire bridge as the deck and pillars were being filled out. Now that the bridge has been structurally completed, it is time for the external metal that currently stretches between the concrete bridge and active lanes of interstate traffic to be removed.

Moving to this phase of construction means that I-405 through Bellevue will have to be closed during parts of the next two weekends.

Southbound ramps will be closed the night of Friday, August 9th through Saturday, August 10. Southbound mainline traffic will then be closed from Sunday, August 11th at midnight until just before the morning commute on Monday, August 12th. Northbound ramps will be closed the night of Friday, August 16th through Saturday, August 17th. Likewise, northbound mainline lanes will be closed early Sunday morning until the morning commute on August 19th.

“During the weekend closures, crews will use an electric winch to remove and lower the heavy falsework to the road surface, where it will be completely disassembled and removed,” Sound Transit explained in an advisory about the work.

“Without the weekend directional closures, this complex process would have taken more than twenty weeks of weeknight work to complete,” the agency added.

Visit Bellevue’s city government website for detour information and Sound Transit’s website for more information on the closures.

Despite the closures, light rail will be coming to the Eastside in four short years. Once here, it will be here to stay, with light rail running every six minutes connecting Redmond and Bellevue to Seattle, Northgate, and Seatac for decades, even centuries, to come. It will revolutionize travel on the Eastside.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Sam Cho, Grant Degginger, Fred Felleman, Garth Jacobson advance in Seattle Port races

A few weeks ago, a total of ten candidates filed to run for two positions on the Seattle Port Commission that must be filled this year. Of those ten, just four candidates will advance onwards to the November general election, which is really a runoff under the zany Top Two system that Washington State uses.

In initial returns, King County voters were backing Sam Cho and Grant Degginger for Position #2, along with Fred Felleman and and Garth Jacobson for Position #5. (Despite its name, the Port of Seattle’s jurisdiction extends far beyond the borders of the City of Seattle; its boundaries mirror that of King County.)

Incumbent Felleman, who is coming off a successful first term, looks like a lock for reelection. He has 69.85% of the early vote and is enthusiastically backed by the labor movement and the environmental community.

Felleman’s two challengers have just 30% of the remaining vote. Garth Jacobson attracted 21.66% support and will face Felleman in November. Challenger Jordan Lemmon’s campaign is over. Lemmon is receiving just 7.69% of the vote.

For Position #2, which is an open seat created by the departure of incumbent Courtney Gregoire (and once held by NPI’s Gael Tarleton), voters were favoring Sam Cho and Grant Degginger over five other candidates: Pretti Shridhar, Kelly Charlton, NPI alum Dominic Barrera, Nina Martinez, and Ali Scego.

Cho is an entrepreneur and former analyst for the United States Department of State who also spent time working for the federal General Services Administration and State Senator Bob Hasegawa. His campaign was supported by the King County Labor Council, King County Democrats, and the ILWU (which represents maritime workers) as well as Hasegawa and State Senator Joe Nguyen.

Cho’s campaign made effective use of direct mail to connect with voters, sending out a well timed piece emphasizing his credentials and vision for the Port.

Cho currently has a plurality of the vote (28.27%), with 69,673 votes cast in support of his candidacy so far. He appears positioned to move on.

In second place is former Bellevue City Councilmember Grant Degginger, who has 25.97% of the vote (64,017 votes). Degginger is a well known figure on the Eastside, owing to his service on the governing body of King County’s second largest city. He served a stint as Chair of the Public Disclosure Commission following his retirement from the Bellevue City Council.

Now he’s looking to get back into politics — this time as a port commissioner.

Degginger says his priorities are continued investment in cleaner fuels, conversion of port vehicles and truck fleets, reducing the wait times in the security lines at SeaTac International Airport, and open, transparent, and accountable Port operations, particularly with respect to the capital projects the Port has planned.

Current third place finisher Preeti Shridhar — who has extensive experience working with cities in King County on environmental protection initiatives — appears to have fallen short of making the November runoff.

Shridhar was supported in her campaign by The Urbanist, Washington Conservation Voters, OneAmerica, State Senator Manka Dhingra, State Representative My-Linh Thai, and NPI’s Gael Tarleton.

Shridhar has 17.19% of the vote (42,377 votes) and is 21,640 votes behind Degginger. That’s a deficit that will be difficult to overcome in late ballots.