Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Another breakthrough: Sound Transit reports that North Link tunnel mining is complete!

The contracting team working to dig the tunnels needed to bring Link light rail to Northgate via the University District and Roosevelt has successfully completed its mining work, Sound Transit announced today.

The milestone was actually reached yesterday when a tunnel boring machine operated by contractor JCM Northlink LLC holed through to the construction retrieval shaft adjacent to UW Station at Husky Stadium.

JCM Northlink is a joint venture of three companies: Jay Dee Contractors, Frank Coluccio Construction Company, and Michels Corporation. The contracting team began digging the seven miles of light rail tunnels in 2014; Sound Transit says the mining operation resulted in the excavation of more than 500,000 cubic yards of soil and the installation of 7,352 concrete tunnel liner rings.

“In just a few years, light rail riders will be enjoying fast, frequent, congestion-free service to the U-District, Roosevelt and Northgate,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine in a press release. “By this time next month, we’ll have opened the Angle Lake station in SeaTac, our third new station in six months. These are just two examples of Sound Transit’s steady progress as we work to expand light rail throughout the Central Puget Sound region.”

Sound Transit kindly invited NPI and other media outlets to take a look at the tunnel boring machine’s cutterhead following its breakthrough this morning.

NPI’s Rennie Sawade was able to get several excellent wide angle shots while at the construction zone, which we’ve posted to our microblog, In Brief, for your viewing enjoyment. Our photo of the cutterhead (which we think you’ll agree is a pretty impressive sight!) has been republished by Sound Transit on its official Instagram feed with a brief description of this morning’s event.

A Link light rail train departs UW Station

A Link light rail train departs UW Station. In 2021, Link trains will travel underground to three new stations: University District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. (Photo: Rennie Sawade/NPI)

Sound Transit’s North Link tunnelling milestone ironically occurred the same day that the Seattle Times published the latest in a series of editorials intended to undermine Sound Transit 3, the agency’s 2016 proposal for system expansion.

ST3 would bring light rail to Ballard, West Seattle, downtown Redmond, Everett, Tacoma, and communities in between. It would also expand Sounder commuter rail and ST Express bus service. ST3 is truly the bold investment in high quality transit that our region needs. The Times, however, is opposed, and has been beating the drum against ST3 for months, along with other foes of the agency.

The Times has tried to make its opposition to Sound Transit 3 sound more reasonable by urging the Board to “slow down” and work on “a leaner Plan B” that would go before the voters in some future year, conveniently failing to acknowledge that ST3 is based on years of public outreach (including countless community workshops), consultations with cities across the region, and opinion research.

(After Sound Transit’s Board wisely ignored this concern trolling and unanimously sent ST3 to the ballot, the Times shifted its stance slightly and began calling for a “robust” debate over ST3 so voters could make an “informed” decision.)

“A pause and reset would not stop Sound Transit’s progress,” the Times editorialized in June. “It has funding for years to build and complete rail from Seattle north to Lynnwood, south beyond Sea-Tac and east to Redmond.”

Nowhere in that editorial or in subsequent editorials did the Times mention that in 2008, it was completely and totally opposed to authorizing Sound Transit to raise the funding to bring Link north, south, and east — as the agency is now doing.

The “progress” we’re seeing now is only happening because the people of Puget Sound ignored the Sound Transit bashing Seattle Times editorial board and gave a big thumbs up to ST2. In the eight years that have transpired since, Sound Transit has been hard at work trying to deliver the projects the voters authorized.

Now is the perfect opportunity to ensure that the agency has the backing it needs to keep system expansion going for years to come. ST3 is all about bringing more high quality, high capacity transit to our congested urban corridors as quickly as possible, so that fewer of us are forced to drive to get to where we want to go. A bold investment is precisely what’s needed to combat the gridlock we’re stewing in.

Sound Transit has proved, repeatedly, that it can deliver transit expansion projects to the people of this region. Under the leadership of Joni Earl, ST adopted a posture of striving for continuous improvement in all facets of project management, from conceptualization to design to construction to communication to mitigation.

Earl’s successor Peter Rogoff has continued to build on the culture of excellence Earl fostered during her incredibly successful tenure at the agency’s helm.

Impressively, Rogoff has taken the time to meet with the public at ST’s community workshops. He’s led presentations, fielded questions and made himself available for conversations with taxpayers. He’s an accessible CEO… our favorite kind.

Sound Transit knows what the public wants because it has made a concerted effort to ask the public for input. By sending ST3 to the ballot, it’s acted on that input.

ST3 reflects the public’s desire for a transportation system that is oriented around people, not cars, and allows for a reliable commute.

With ST3, we are deciding as a region whether we want to authorize Sound Transit to further expand the network of high quality, high capacity transit it has been building to more places. The actual design and construction will only proceed if voters give the green light, as was the case with Sound Move in 1996 and ST in 2008. Sound Transit now has twenty years of experience with project management, and after a rocky start, it has demonstrated it is worthy of our trust.

This North Link tunnelling milestone is the latest indication that ST2 is going well. Sound Transit’s on a roll, and we should keep it that way by saying YES to ST3.

Tim Eyman: “I can’t wait to go to Trump’s rally in Everett tomorrow”

Deranged tycoon and neofascist Donald Trump is returning to Washington State tomorrow for a rally and a fundraiser with the same people who have kept initiative profiteer Tim Eyman’s initiative factory going with cash in the past.

As you might expect, Eyman’s pretty excited about Trump’s visit, and he wants everyone to know just how excited he is. This morning, he sent out an email inviting his followers to join him tomorrow for the big event:

RE: I can’t wait to go to Trump’s rally in Everett tomorrow — it’s the Super Bowl of politics in my own back yard!

We’ve now learned that Establishment Republicans only believe in “party unity” when the nominee is a squoosh. They always stand there in their suits and ties and admonish and shame the party’s grassroots activists into voting for (and choking down) “their” candidates (Romney/McCain/Dole).

But along comes a nominee who truly excites the party’s grassroots activists and the electorate at large, and where are the Establishment Republicans? They’re hiding out, taking cheap shots, pissing, moaning, and complaining. And when the party’s grassroots activists say to them “What about party unity?”, the Establishment Republicans say it doesn’t apply to them because they’re too important.

Remember in that first presidential debate where all the Republican candidates were asked to sign an oath promising to support the eventual nominee? Every hand went up … except Trump’s. They howled, they screamed, they all attacked him for failing to sign the pledge. Eventually he did sign it.

Then Trump beat ’em — he beat all 16 of ’em. And that oath they all signed? That pledge they all made? It meant nothing to them. Party unity? It only applies when the nominee is a squoosh.

I can’t wait to go to Trump’s rally tomorrow at XFINITY arena in Everett. Doors open at 4 pm and the rally is scheduled to start at 7 pm.

It figures that Eyman is psyched about Trump’s candidacy. Both Eyman and Trump are trash talking, militant right wing extremists who love to put down their opponents. And both of them seek the destruction of our commons.

Earlier this year, Eyman was at events for Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, where he kept a fairly low profile.


“I’m a political junkie. I love this stuff.  For me, a political rally is like going to Woodstock in the 60’s.  It’s how normal people feel like going to the Super Bowl,” Eyman explained. He went on to add: “I live in Mukilteo, so Trump’s rally at XFINITY arena in Everett is in my own back yard. It’s just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away. So I’m definitely gonna be there. Join me. It’s gonna be a blast!

More like a hatefest, actually.

Many of the people Eyman is closest to in Washington politics are also enthusiastic Trump boosters: Doug Ericksen of Whatcom County and Don Benton of Clark County have been doing work for Trump for months, and Eyman’s associate Mike Fagan participated in Trump’s Spokane event earlier this year. As mentioned, many of Eyman’s wealthy benefactors are also opening their checkbooks for Trump.

It is Eyman’s custom in a presidential year to say something good about the Republican nominee while trashing the Democratic nominee. But it’s obvious that Eyman feels an affinity for Trump he simply hasn’t felt for past Republican nominees. In Trump, Eyman has a candidate that he really, really, really likes.

Our state and country have been threatened before by con men like these. The greed and bigotry they represent can and must be defeated. At many junctures throughout our history, true patriots have risen up to unite our country behind its finest traditional values and steer our nation away from a dark and destructive path. It is now our turn to do likewise.

Hey, Seattle Times editorial board! Care to step aside and let Sound Transit 3 proceed?

On Monday afternoon, for Tuesday morning’s newspaper, the Seattle Times published an editorial applauding Senator Reuven Carlyle for his recent pronouncement that he can’t vote for Sound Transit 3, while also scolding ST3 supporters for allegedly treating Carlyle “like a dissident in North Korea or China”.

The unsigned editorial, titled “Reuven Carlyle is right to be asking the driving questions about Sound Transit 3“, does not urge ST3’s rejection. Instead, it calls for “robust debate and scrutiny”. Nonetheless, the publication of this editorial was akin to a poker tell. It’s likely that within the next few weeks, we’ll see an editorial from the Times in which it overtly makes the case for voting no on Sound Transit 3.

I say this because if you’re a longtime reader of the Times, like I am, then you know that when Frank Blethen and his editorial team believe a public works project (or package of projects) is essential and needed, they adopt a very different posture than the one on display in this editorial. Reading it brought to mind many recollections of past debates over public works projects in the greater Seattle area — most of which the Times has weighed in on.

In particular, I was reminded of all the times that the Times told former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to shut up and stop quibbling over public works projects already approved by the Legislature and the City Council.

McGinn’s view on megaprojects like the Alaskan Way and Evergreen Point Floating Bridge replacement facilities could charitably be summed up rather simply by one of the lines in this week’s editorial: Voters and elected leaders have a responsibility to ask if they’re getting the best deal possible.

But McGinn got no respect from the Seattle Times for being a mayor unafraid of trying to get what he thought was the best deal possible, even if that meant challenging what the Times calls orthodoxy. Instead, he got put down…. repeatedly.

Consider this editorial from Friday, April 9th, 2010, which began as follows:

Mayor McGinn should step aside and let the 520 project proceed

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is trying once again to stall the Highway 520 bridge project to assure that light rail could be included sooner rather than later. It’s time to move forward.

IN every public debate, in the run-up to every major project, the time comes to move out of the planning phase and into action mode. That moment has arrived with the Highway 520 bridge replacement connecting Seattle and Bellevue.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has offered the community a chance to consider, and reconsider, the possibility of slowing down efforts to retool the project to accommodate light rail. But he arrives very late to the party. Too late.

Sound Transit 3’s fate has yet to be decided by voters, but with respect to the financing of the package and the mix of projects it contains, the decisions have been made. Years of public outreach, consultation with cities, and debate in the Legislature over revenue authority are complete. Now the people will decide.

Senator Carlyle is free to critique ST3, but the best time to raise concerns about the financing was back when the Connecting Washington package was being negotiated. As Carlyle’s colleague Joe Fitzgibbon pointed out, Carlyle never introduced an amendment or proposed an alternative financing plan to his liking — nor did he oppose Connecting Washington when it came up on a final vote. But he is now saying he can’t support ST3 because his concerns weren’t addressed.

Curiously, 2016 Seattle Times wants to put Carlyle on a pedestal for “bravely stepping onto the stage” to say he can’t vote for Sound Transit 3.

Isn’t Carlyle arriving very late to the party? Apparently not, for he is skeptical of a public works initiative the Seattle Times does not like. And so it is the ST3 supporters who the Times hyperbolically admonishes — not him:

Carlyle rightly said the state and region need a coordinated strategy to make both our education and transportation systems world-class.

Yet for questioning the transit orthodoxy, Carlyle was treated like a dissident in North Korea or China. When there’s $54 billion at stake, members of the ruling party must apparently toe the line and keep quiet, at least until the election is over.

Toeing the line and keeping quiet was what 2010 Seattle Times wanted Mayror McGinn to do, though. Here’s the closing bit from that April 9th editorial:

McGinn believes what he believes.

But he is neither grasping nor respecting the enormous amount of regional negotiation and planning that occurred before he arrived. He needs to stop trying to block the Highway 520 project and get out of the way. This project is moving forward.

The following year, the Times had similarly strong words for McGinn and his supporters when the time came to vote on Referendum 1, an attempt to put the brakes on the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel:

McGinn, for lack of a more politically correct term, lied. He has done everything imaginable to stop the tunnel. He lent staff, his wife gave money and he provided mayoral cachet to the effort to secure the Aug. 16 public vote, the latest method of stalling.

But what about the rest of us average Joes who just want to get from, say, West Seattle to Magnolia or from South Seattle to the North End?

The Times went on to say:

Seattle is an hourglass-shaped city. For many decades, the city has needed additional north-south capacity to move people around.

Do not listen to those with Sierra Club beanies and numbers that suggest otherwise. There is no way Seattle could be better off without four lanes of the tunnel. That makes no sense in a city so narrow in the middle.

Seattleites should vote to approve the oddly constructed Referendum 1. Do it to move forward with commuter and freight mobility, for safety on a dangerous roadway and to cap an endless debate.

Hmmm. Given Seattle’s narrowness, given its hourglass shape, shouldn’t we all be enthusiastic about adding additional north-south capacity to move people around? Hey, what do you know — that’s exactly what ST3 would do!

The city itself would get new light rail service connecting downtown to Ballard and downtown to West Seattle. Other communities to the north and south of the city would also gain connections to the center of Seattle if ST3 is approved, because light rail would go all the way to Tacoma and Everett.

And isn’t it time to move forward with commuter and freight mobility? We could have an endless debate about what the proper mix of projects is, and what’s the best way to finance them. But then, we might never get anything built. Our region has a transportation choices deficiency because our public planning has been oriented around cars for years. It is time for that to change.

Sound Transit 3 is the result of a great deal of planning. The agency, which has a strong recent track record of delivering projects on time and under budget, commissioned research that found the people of the region are hungry for more light rail and want the opportunity to vote on a far-reaching package of rail and bus projects. Informed by this research, agency leadership has come up with a plan and submitted it to the voters for their consideration this year.

With respect to ST3’s financing mix: Remember that last time around, during and after the vote on Sound Transit 2, the agency was criticized for sending voters a plan that relied exclusively on volatile sales tax revenue to fund the projects in the package. The sales tax was the only revenue source Sound Transit had to work with in 2008, so that’s how we ended up in that boat.

Sound Transit leaders, listening to the critics and seeking to ensure ST3 would have more stable financing, approached the Legislature last year for the authority to (re)levy vehicle fees and also levy property taxes, so its next phase of projects would be less vulnerable to unexpected fiscal problems.  (When sales tax revenue falls below projections due to economic slowdowns, it affects Sound Transit’s ability to deliver projects as promised to voters.)

The Legislature granted Sound Transit’s request as part of the Connecting Washington package, although not unconditionally.

We are in agreement with fellow activists and elected leaders who say that Washingtonians deserve progressive revenue options. We agree our state’s tax code is very regressive and needs overhauling. At the same time, we believe we must significantly bolster funding for our public schools, as the Supreme Court has ruled the Washington State Constitution requires us to do.

That is a job the Legislature must take on. Sound Transit’s job is building a regional transit system that empowers people to get where they want to go without being forced to drive to get there. Sound Transit’s options for financing this work are limited to what the agency can get the Legislature to agree to.

ST’s work is simply too important to be held up by our gridlocked, procrastinating Legislature, which regrettably continues to pass budgets that rely on gimmicks, fund transfers, and accounting tricks to balance.

Given all the work that has simply gone into getting Sound Transit 3 on the ballot (it’s been a rather long journey to get to where we are), we sincerely wish that we could campaign for it alongside our friend Senator Carlyle.

Though he has declined to endorse the campaign, we remain grateful for his willingness to challenge the status quo in the Legislature and push for better outcomes there. We truly need legislators who will stand up and demand tax fairness and corporate tax accountability.

We also need a robust free press to report on the issues, promote open government, and advocate for the greater good.

Regrettably, Seattle’s newspaper of record — which is controlled by the fickle Blethen family — has too often used its editorial space irresponsibly, in addition to occasionally practicing gotcha journalism. The Times has unnecessarily feuded with elected leaders, repeatedly antagonized readers with indefensible candidate endorsements, and seriously undermined its own credibility by backing right wing initiatives purposely intended to sabotage our public services and plan of government while claiming to want to strengthen those very things.

If the current editorial board of the Seattle Times really thinks that ST3 supporters are treating Reuven Carlyle like a North Korean dissident, then I wonder how they feel about their past treatment of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. The two editorials I excerpted from are just a sampling of a large number they published during the Mayor’s time in office that excoriated McGinn and his leadership team.

The Times tries to make it sound as though Carlyle is getting reamed for having the audacity to criticize “transit orthodoxy”. But most of the negative responses I have seen are activists registering their unhappiness with Carlyle because they think his argument against ST3 makes no sense, not because he has an argument against ST3. As Representative Fitzgibbon subsequently explained, Sound Transit 3 doesn’t poach potential funding from our public schools.

We, along with other ST3 supporters, are all for discussing priorities, seeking better deals and trying to coordinate major policies. That’s why we went down to Olympia to participate in the legislative process when Connecting Washington was being negotiated. It’s why we engaged with Sound Transit and showed up at the community workshops earlier this year and in previous years, when the Long Range Plan was being updated. It’s why we’ve maintained an ongoing dialogue with individuals and organizations who want to improve regional mobility.

As I’ve documented in this post, the Seattle Times has gone on record many times saying we have to get moving on highway projects. They have been very, very clear: we’ve had enough debate, let’s respect the consensus.

Strangely, though, when years of time and money are invested in painstakingly building a consensus concerning the future of regional transit, the Times has not wanted to respect that consensus. They were fiercely opposed to Sound Transit 2, and now it looks like they’ll be opposing Sound Transit 3. That’s a shame.

We’ll just have to overcome their opposition — again —  since it’s unlikely they’ll step aside and allow us to proceed with investing in the transit our region needs.

Angle Lake Link will open to the public on Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Sound Transit’s newest Link light rail extension will open on Saturday, September 24th, just thirty-one days from now, CEO Peter Rogoff and Board Chair Dow Constantine announced at a press conference this morning.

“Opening the Angle Lake Station marks another milestone in building a vibrant, regional light rail system,” said Constantine. “Trains running every six minutes will give thousands of riders fast, reliable service to jobs, schools, and Huskies, Seahawks, Sounders and Mariners games.”

The Angle Lake Station is located at South 200th Street and 28th Avenue, a little more than one and a half miles south of the SeaTac/Airport Station. It is an elevated station, gracefully looming above the intersection. From the station platform, riders will be treated to excellent views of Mount Rainier on clear days.

Angle Lake Station from South 200th Street

Sound Transit’s Angle Lake Link Light Rail Station as seen from South 200th Street (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

What’s particularly notable about the station is that it has been designed as a park and ride, with a massive 1,050 stall parking garage and an additional seventy spaces in a surface lot. There’s also dedicated space for vanpools to park and bicycle lockers for bicyclists, plus a passenger pickup and dropoff area.

The SeaTac/Airport Station, which has been the southern terminus of the line since December of 2009, when Airport Link opened, does not have the capacity for vans, cars, or bikes that Angle Lake will offer. It will be interesting to see if Sound Transit’s critics will give it any credit for having accelerated development and construction of a new southern terminus for Link that has ample parking and bicycle storage.

For people living in the area, the Angle Lake Station will provide a convenient connection to many destinations: Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field, Husky Stadium, the UW Medical Center, Westlake Center, the International District, Columbia City, bars and nightclubs on Capitol Hill, and countless other places within walking distance of the other stations served by Central Link.

Anticipated travel times, courtesy of Sound Transit:

  • To SeaTac Airport: Four minutes
  • To Westlake Center: Forty-one minutes
  • To UW Station at Husky Stadium: Forty-eight minutes

By 2018, the station is forecast to have 5,400 boardings every weekday.

The artwork at the station is fabulous. The theme for the art is elements in motion, and one of the centerpieces is Laura Haddad’s “Cloud”.

“The sculpture, installed on the elevated platform straddling South 200th Street, consists of 6,000 hanging disks that change appearance in response to fluctuations in light, weather, or at the approach of a train,” noted Sound Transit’s press team in a news release sent to NPI and other media outlets.

Angle Lake Link cost $383 million to build. The project, part of the Sound Transit 2 package approved in 2008, is $40 million under budget and scheduled to open four years earlier than planned — a remarkable accomplishment, aided by federal funding secured by Washington’s senior United States Senator, Patty Murray.

(Those with long memories will recall that a light rail station in this area was promised as part of the Sound Move plan in 1996. That original plan had to scrapped because it was unrealistic. However, Sound Transit has most certainly kept its promise to get the station built as part of ST2.)

Sound Transit’s recent track record (no pun intended) shows it is capable of delivering high quality transit expansion projects on time or ahead of schedule and under budget. The agency is giving voters the opportunity this autumn to choose whether to expand Link further north, south, and east with Sound Transit 3, an ambitious package that would also add more express bus and commuter rail service. NPI strongly supports Sound Transit 3 and urges a “yes” vote.

We’ve published a number of high quality snaps showing today’s press event and the new station to NPI’s In Brief. Take a look and enjoy the pictures.

After Angle Lake Link opens, it will many years before we are able to celebrate another light rail station opening, as U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate aren’t due to be completed until 2021. So, railfans, be sure to show up to enjoy the festivities as new light rail service comes online next month!

Hey Link riders: Cellular service is rolling out to Sound Transit’s underground facilities

Tired of losing cellular service when you descend into an underground Link light rail station? Then rejoice, for Sound Transit has announced that customers on all four of America’s major wireless providers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) will soon be able to get a signal in its underground facilities, which include the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, Beacon Hill tunnel, and University Link tunnels.

Said the agency in a news release:

Sound Transit has partnered with wireless infrastructure provider Mobilitie to design and install a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) network that will allow transit riders to use their cell phones while traveling underground. The DAS network, which has been under construction since earlier this year, is beginning a phased rollout this week. By late September, the Mobilitie network will provide wireless cellphone coverage to the tunnel between University of Washington and Westlake in Downtown Seattle, followed later this fall to the tunnels in Downtown Seattle and to Beacon Hill in 2017.

T-Mobile customers will be the first to get service in the U-Link tunnels (starting this week), followed by customers of Verizon and AT&T in September. Sprint will follow along sometime after that, Sound Transit says.

Because the DAS network installed by Mobiltie is so new, connectivity ought to be decent, though it remains to be seen how the network holds up when there’s a lot of demand. The company’s “high-density wireless infrastructure is designed to enable rich, interactive mobile experiences, including real-time video streaming, 5G, and other mobile applications,” Sound Transit says.

That suggests that riders who want to watch YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, or other video sites on their smartphone, tablet, or notebook will be able to do so.

Public Wi-Fi is currently available at the DSTT’s four stations (International District, Pioneer Square, University District, Westlake) but cellular service is spotty or nonexistent in the transit tunnels, hampering riders’ ability to make plans with friends and family, or simply get some work done.

That’s all about to change now.

The availability of cellular service in the tunnels will also mean that phone conversations can be held underground. Hopefully, Sound Transit will double down on posting riding etiquette reminders to encourage riders to refrain from having loud phone conversations on trains, buses, and station platforms.

Why say NO to I-732? It’s about justice — environmental and social justice

Editor’s Note: The team at NPI is pleased to welcome Robin Barnes to the Cascadia Advocate. Robin holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She currently works on international non-profit projects that promote gender equity, human development, and environmental justice. In this special guest post, she explains why voters should reject CarbonWA’s I-732.

The warming effects of Earth’s atmosphere were first discovered in the year 1820 by Joseph Fourier. It was well understood and quantified by Svante Arrhenious at the turn of the twentieth century. It is scientifically well established that our planet has a fever, and there is no dispute about its cause. Our world’s climate has been damaged by burning fossil fuels on a massive scale, which has significantly increased the amount of pollution in our atmosphere. To address this environmental crisis, we need to change our behavior — and we know this.

While the science is indisputable, humanity can’t seem to agree on solutions to protect ourselves and the Earth, the only inhabitable planet we’ve got.

Proponents of Initiative 732, which will appear on Washington State’s November ballot, say Washington’s response to the crisis should be to start levying a carbon tax on emissions of air pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane — and use the revenue from that tax to lower other regressive taxes.

But this approach is fatally flawed. Here’s why.

Let’s begin by establishing the following root principle: A carbon tax, by itself, does not curb consumption of fossil fuels, the main driver of air pollution. People changing their behavior to avoid paying the tax is what lowers emissions. A carbon tax can reduce emissions if and only if it will tax people who are able to mitigate their consumption of fossil fuels, thereby avoiding the tax.

If the purpose of a carbon tax is to lower emissions, imposing it on people or entities who lack the means to aggressively reduce their emissions is simply ineffective. Imposing this tax on people who are not in an economic position to lower their carbon consumption is misdirected and unjust.

Corollary: If a carbon tax actually lowers emissions, it will lower its own revenue generating power as well. A carbon tax that effectively lowers emissions will minimize or eliminate itself by design – if emissions fall, so does revenue. As people avoid paying the tax, the revenue from the carbon tax diminishes. That is, unless the tax is set to be revenue neutral. If it succeeds in lowering carbon emissions, we will have to continuously raise the carbon tax rate to make up for revenue loss.

What does I-732 do?

  • It significantly lowers the Business and Occupation (B&O) Tax, and replaces it with a carbon tax of $25 per ton minimum, increasing up to $100 per ton max in four years to maintain revenue neutrality;
  • It lowers the retail sales tax by 1%;
  • It funds the Working Families Rebate (an attempt to create a state-level earned income tax credit) so qualifying families see their obligations reduced. This is $1500 per family annually for up to 400,000 families.

Proponents of I-732 are marketing the initiative as a highly progressive change to our tax code, primarily because it funds the Working Families Tax Rebate and gives earned income credit to qualifying low income families. This is a nice feature, but what does this tax swap do to families that cannot qualify for earned income credit?

I-732 redistributes B&O tax obligations to all Washington State residents by imposing a carbon tax. Shifting tax obligations from businesses and transferring them to low and middle income families is not a progressive tax maneuver. It is true that businesses will pay a carbon tax, as well, but that is also a regressive choice.

Businesses and citizens who have the means to aggressively able to lower their carbon emissions are the ones who will pay the least tax.

Who are those people? They are the wealthy who can afford to solarize, replace their windows, insulate their walls, and buy efficient appliances and electric cars. Those who cannot choose to make these changes are trapped paying an ever-increasing tax. And they continue to pay that tax, even though they cannot contribute to lowering emissions in a significant way.

There is nothing in I-732 that helps low and middle income families improve their energy efficiency or decrease their dependence on fossil fuels.

What’s more, Washington State’s “big polluters” are mostly energy sector companies. What does it mean to impose a carbon tax on a company that runs on, or sells, fossil fuels? We know that sometimes, big corporations make empty threats about passing costs onto their customers. But I-732’s own proponents have acknowledged that Washington families will be directly impacted.

What does I-732 look like from a 20,000 foot view? Well, after two years of phasing in, it starts at $25 per ton and can grow to $100 per ton. As acknowledged by proponents, this is 25 cents per gallon at the pump that can grow to $1 per gallon, plus the relevant taxes on utilities. Details about the tax rate vary from household to household, depending on the fuel mix that it uses.

CarbonWA claims that at around 25 cents per ton, electricity will be taxed around 1 cent per kwh, and natural gas at around 13 cents per therm.

That is a modest 8% to 10% increase at my house. When the rate increases by a factor of four, though, it’s blistering. And because it is tied to non-discretionary public sector budgets, it will never go away.

CarbonWA claims that a 1% sales tax decrease will offset this tax for most families. That might be true for wealthy households that have a lot of discretionary income. Low and middle income households spend much more money on food, transportation, housing, and utilities as a percentage of their budget – all expenses that are not subject to sales tax. The corresponding decrease in the sales tax wouldn’t amount to much more than a hundred bucks a year.

A family of four in Woodinville that makes $50,000 to $60,000 per year can deduct $813 in state sales tax on their federal income tax return. The 1% state sales tax reduction for this taxpayer amounts to about $125 annually. CarbonWA tells us that this offsets this family’s carbon tax expenditures.

Suppose that this is true for the average household at the introductory rate. If the initiative expects to lower emissions of CO2, methane, and other air pollutants at all, that rate will have to increase sharply. At a rate of $100 per ton, that offset is not even close. And consider that I-732 pays up to $1,500 per year into the Working Families Tax Rebate to offset the carbon tax for one low income household.

This raises the question: is I-732 actually about lowering emissions? Can we expect carbon emissions to drop and painlessly maintain revenue neutrality over time? Who is it painless for? Or is the goal of the initiative to replace a statewide production tax with a consumption tax?

Proponents of I-732 like to point to British Columbia’s experience, citing our northern neighbor as a role model. But as Jens Wieting of the Sierra Club of B.C. pointed out in a post for The Huffington Post last year, the province is no climate action leader. It has a carbon tax, but its emissions are going up, not down!

If you live in British Columbia you might think that our province is a climate champion, because you heard it from our government.

Last month, for example, the provincial government sent out a bold press release touting B.C. as a world leader in climate action. The release highlighted B.C.’s carbon tax and the accomplishment of “meeting our 2012 GHG reduction target.”

However, just a few days later, the Canadian government released its latest greenhouse gas emissions data showing that B.C.’s emissions actually increased by 2.4 per cent in 2013 (to 63 million tons of greenhouse gases, from 61.5 in 2012. This is a big deal, because the threat of global warming has reached a point at which we cannot afford our annual emissions to continue to increase.

What about environmental and social justice? Many people get by on fixed or limited incomes. They are not in a position to lower their emissions much.

Geographically speaking, Central and Eastern Washingtonians could be more affected by I-732 than their fellow citizens on the western side of the Cascades because their climate features more extreme temperatures (colder winters mean higher heating bills, hotter summers necessitate air conditioning for comfort) and their transportation expenses can be higher due to living further away from places of business like the grocery store or doctor’s office.

If the revenue from I-732 were going to investments that would speed our transition to a clean energy economy, that’d be one thing.

But that’s not the case. Proponents of I-732 deliberately created a proposal that wouldn’t result in any funding for environmentally friendly infrastructure, whether that be light rail, weatherized schools, or anything else.

Walk through a neighborhood in any city, and start making a mental inventory of the infrastructure changes that need to take place in order to substantially reduce the air pollution that is damaging our climate. It is daunting – especially in neighborhoods where low and middle income people live. Upgrading the infrastructure is often cost prohibitive.

What would an environmentally just pollution tax look like? Ideally, it would be tied to projects that lower pollution. It would tax only people and entities that have the means to lower their emissions in a meaningful way. It would be able to manage a reduction in revenue (as carbon dioxide and methane emissions fell) without having to raise rates to maintain revenue neutrality.

We do need to put a price on pollution. But the revenue we raise should go to priorities like solarizing neighborhoods, making renewable energy more accessible to low and middle income families, providing zero emissions infrastructure to city governments, and so forth. If we institute a pollution tax, then we have to make sure the people paying the tax can reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, or that the projects we embark upon enable them to do so.

I-732 does none of these things. It proposes to change the tax code in a vastly complicated way – and one that benefits wealthier people and wealthier businesses over time. It taxes people who are not in a position to change their emissions, and that will do nothing to address our pollution problem.

To recap:

  • I-732 is a regressive tax shift from businesses to families and individuals. Wealthier families will be in a position to avoid the tax, while middle and low income families will not. They’ll be trapped, because I-732 doesn’t put the revenue it raises to work for the public goods needed to allow us to lower our emissions on a massive scale, nor will its offsets be enough to allow most Washingtonians to lighten their environmental footprint on their own.
  • There is no reason to believe that I-732 will reduce emissions significantly over time. Because its leverage is exerted on people who do not have the means to change their behavior, there is a hard limit to its effect.

We can put a price on pollution in a way that is both fair and effective at lowering emissions. To do that, though, we must first vote NO on I-732 this November.

Three of Tim Eyman’s wealthiest benefactors are hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump

Faye Garneau, one of Seattle’s richest denizens and a major donor to disgraced initiative profiteer Tim Eyman, says she’s planning on participating in a fundraiser for Donald Trump in Seattle, even though the mogul is running an un-American presidential campaign and tanking in the polls.

“He’s honest, he’s talking bluntly. He’s not really a true politician in some respects,” Garneau told The Seattle Times’ Jim Brunner.

Garneau must be living in some alternate universe if she actually believes that. Donald Trump is perhaps the most dishonest person ever to be nominated by a major party for the office of President of the United States. Trump lies with impunity; much of what he says is rated False by independent fact checkers.

Only last week Trump doubled down on his assertion that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton “founded ISIS” — an utterly preposterous fabrication.

But perhaps Garneau is attracted to con men. After all, she’s supported Tim Eyman and given him money for years, and there’s arguably none better in this state at parting rich fools from their money than Eyman. Eyman has been enriching himself at the expense of his donors for years. It is now a proven fact that Eyman has been double-dipping on his campaigns — paying himself a salary and accepting kickbacks from his buddies Roy Ruffno and Eddie Agazarm, who run his signature drives.

Most of the other hosts of the fundraiser also have an association with Eyman:

[Garneau] joins several previously named Trump hosts, including billionaire money manager Ken Fisher and real-estate developer Clyde Holland, both big GOP donors from the Vancouver area. The location of the fundraiser has not been disclosed.

Hosts also include state Republican Party Chairman Susan Hutchison, Clyde Hill developer Hossein Khorram and Brina Sanft, volunteer chair for Trump’s campaign in King County.

State Sens. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Brian Dansel, R-Republic, who have been working as paid staff for the Trump campaign, also are hosts.

The extremely wealthy Fisher and Holland were the two men who put up most of the money for Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366 in 2015.

I-1366 would have wiped out $8 billion in funding for public services over six years unless the Legislature had agreed to sabotage Washington’s cherished tradition of legislative majority rule. I-1366 was unanimously declared unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court in May.

Benton and Ericksen are among Eyman’s chief pals in the Senate. (Eyman is also very close to Pam Roach, R-31st District). Benton carries Eyman’s water in committee hearings and on the Senate floor, and can be seen conversing with Eyman on the Capitol Campus during session.

Ericksen often appears at Eyman press conferences to watch from doorways, and subs for Eyman on the campaign trail when Eyman doesn’t want to be the face of his own initiative campaign, or when Eyman isn’t available. In debates, he’s been known to fiercely defend the giant oil companies that operate in his district, like BP.

Ericksen, along with Spokane County’s Michael Baumgartner, helped engineer an endorsement of I-1366 by the Washington State Republican Party last year.

WSRP Chair Susan Hutchison, who seven years ago ran for King County Executive and publicly came out against Eyman’s 2009 initiative, has hitched her wagon to Trump, repeatedly insisting that The Donald will make Washington State competitive in November, a fantasy that nobody else seems to share — not even the party’s gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant, who had been trying for months not to antagonize Trump supporters, but now says he won’t vote for Trump.

Poll Watch: Latest survey by Stuart Elway finds CarbonWA’s I-732 is in huge trouble

CarbonWA’s poorly conceived I-732 is under water and faring worse than the other five initiatives certified to Washington’s ballot this year, according to a new survey released this morning by longtime pollster Stuart Elway.

I-732 would institute a pollution tax and use the proceeds to lower other taxes. Its promoters say it’s revenue neutral, but the state Office of Financial Management and the Department of Revenue don’t agree.

The Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy last year tested the I-732 ballot title and found it started out at just 39%. Subsequent polling by NPI found I-732 at 52% in June of 2016 (which is better, but still precarious for a campaign out of the gate).

Now Elway, who was in the field from August 9th-13th, has found the following:

CarbonWA’s Initiative 732

  • For: 34%
  • Against: 37%
  • Undecided: 30%

I-732 does best with Seattle voters (51% support) and Democratic voters (45%) — note the softness of those figures. It does the worst with Republicans (54%), which validates the Alliance’s criticism — which we agree with — that attempting to craft an initiative to appeal to Republican/conservative voters was a folly.

Integrity Washington’s I-1464 also clocks in with just 34% support; however, its opposition only registers at 23%. CarbonWA’s I-732 is the only initiative in Elway’s survey with a higher percentage of voters in the “against” column than the “for” column. It is the first thing voters will see on their ballots statewide.

It should be noted that Elway’s survey is of registered voters, not likely voters:

500 registered voters, selected at random from registered voter lists in Washington state, were interviewed August 9-13 2016 by live, professional interviewers. 36% of the interviews were conducted on cell phones. The margin of sampling error is ±4.5% at the 95% level of confidence. This means, in theory, had this same survey been conducted 100 times, the results would be within ±4.5% of the results reported here at least 95 times.

However, 70% of respondents had voted two or more times in the past four elections, which suggests that most respondents in the poll will end up being voters in the November 2016 general election. The remaining 30% of the sample only voted once in the past four elections, or not at all.

CarbonWA doesn’t have the money to go up on television or radio, or to do much of any advertising at all. It seems their plan is to rely on word of mouth, earned media, and grassroots organizing to win. If their ballot title was strong, their idea sound, and the progressive movement united behind them, that might be enough, in a presidential year, to sweep to victory. However, none of those things are true.

If the polling has consistently shown anything, it’s that Republican and conservative voters are hostile to I-732. A few token endorsements from the likes of Republicans Mark Miloscia and Bill Finkbeiner isn’t going to change that.

CarbonWA has repeatedly alienated progressives — the very people who most want to address the damage to the climate — while failing to attract conservatives to its cause. Its I-732 was conceived out of the belief that a “revenue neutral” tax swap would engender broad bipartisan support. That’s not happening. The evidence suggests that the other side’s voters are going to give I-732 a big thumbs down. And progressive voters are likely to be split. That’s a recipe for defeat.

Last December, CarbonWA’s leadership contemplated not turning in all of their signatures, and working with the Alliance instead on an alternative plan. They ultimately turned in their signatures and declared they were in it to win it.

But it looks like they’re going to lose.

Meanwhile, Democrats are seeking to recapture the state Senate while holding the House. They need to pick up two Senate seats without losing any.

If they’re successful, that could set the stage for a 2017 session in which Governor Inslee’s cap and trade proposal might actually get a vote.

Voting in the November general election will begin in two months.

Washington’s voter turnout has been declining under Kim Wyman, data shows

For the past three and a half years, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman has served as the lone Republican in the state’s executive department, having taken over for Sam Reed following the 2012 presidential election.

In that time, Washington has experienced an extremely worrying decline in voter participation, culminating in last year’s worst-ever general election turnout.

Wyman has repeatedly claimed that turnout isn’t something she has any control over, saying her job is to administer elections, not get people to vote in them.

Wyman’s 2016 Democratic challenger Tina Podlodowski sees it differently. She thinks the job is much more than that. “We need a voting system that gives everyone equal access to our right to vote! As Chief Voting Officer, Tina will restore Washington as a national leader in democracy,” her campaign website says.

Podlodowski is an enthusiastic backer of the Washington Voting Rights Act, supports Oregon-style automatic voter registration, and wants to figure out how to provide prepaid postage so that voters don’t need stamps to return their ballots. She’s been campaigning on expanding participation and lowering barriers to voting.

Reading Wyman’s website, you wouldn’t know that Washington has a voter turnout problem, because Wyman doesn’t acknowledge one exists. On her website, she has an “Accomplishments” page, where her campaign says:

Washington State leads the nation in voter registration and elections innovation. I am proud to have worked in elections for the past 23 years, overseeing over 100 elections at the county and state level. Washington consistently ranks amongst the top states for voter turnout, ballot accessibility, and voter outreach and information.

Wyman goes on to outline her priorities for the next four years:

While we’ve accomplished much in the Secretary of State’s Office, we have more to do. Starting next year, I will work to reform our Presidential Primary with an earlier date and the return of the unaffiliated ballot option for voters. I want to finish the elections technology modernization project that we began with all 39 counties two years ago to update our voter registration systems. I also want to protect our state’s rich history by co-locating our State Library, State Archives and Records Center into a single location to improve public access and efficiency. This is what Washingtonians expect and deserve.

Notice what’s missing? Increasing voter turnout!

Podlodowski has tried to hold Wyman accountable by pointing out that voter turnout has been in decline during Wyman’s tenure in office.

Podlodowski’s campaign produced a chart to illustrate this point, but unfortunately the chart didn’t include annotations or put the data in context, which left her open to charges of misrepresentation.

On Friday, Wyman sent out a fundraising appeal to her supporters with the subject line “Truth Matters”, in which she attacked Podlodowski as “not qualified” to serve as Secretary of State. The email, signed by Wyman, read in part:

I am grateful to The Tacoma News Tribune and The Olympian for correcting the misinformation and false statistics that my opponent, Tina Podlodowski, has been circulating.

They point out that Podlodowski’s claim that voter turnout has fallen dramatically is laughably wrong, because it confuses different kinds of elections, and ignores nationwide trends that have been occurring for decades. Another reporter called Podlodowski’s tactics “pretty deceptive” – more evidence that Podlodowski is simply too partisan and unqualified to run our election system.

Take a moment to appreciate the irony here. Kim Wyman, herself a partisan candidate for a partisan statewide office, says her opponent Tina Podlodowski is “simply too partisan and unqualified” to take over for her… all while refusing to acknowledge that voter turnout is down and that action is sorely needed to reverse this dangerous trend. Gee, that seems… pretty deceptive.

Let’s take a look at the data that Wyman conveniently doesn’t bother to share on her website or in campaign materials.

Here is a chart showing voter turnout going all the way back to the 1930s, when voter registration began. That’s context for you!

Washington Voter Turnout, 1936-2015

As we can see, there are mountains and valleys in the chart. The mountains correspond to presidential years, when there is higher interest and higher turnout. The valleys initially correspond to midterm years, up until the 1970s, when Washington began holding general elections in odd-numbered years. Past the 1970s, the valleys correspond to odd-numbered years.

Under Wyman, Washington has experienced consecutive low turnout elections. Every year is different, so it’s tricky to make apples-to-apples comparisons, but we can see there’s a trend going on, and it’s not a good one.

Let’s start with 2013, Wyman’s first year as Secretary of State. 2013 was an odd-numbered local election year that followed a presidential year. The last such similar election was in 2009, which took place after the state’s shift to vote-by-mail was largely complete. In 2013, as in 2009, there was a competitive Seattle mayoral election and multiple statewide initiatives on the ballot to draw voters.

But, as you can see, there was a drop in turnout in 2013 vs. 2009.

  • 2009 Top Two turnout, statewide: 31.04%
  • 2013 Top Two turnout, statewide: 25.99% (-5.05)
  • 2009 general turnout, statewide: 50.89%
  • 2013 general turnout, statewide: 45.27% (-5.62)

For 2013, Wyman and her team predicted that Top Two turnout would be 30%, and that general turnout would be 51%. Both estimates were off.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman is forecasting 51 percent voter participation, about average for an [odd]-year election. That would be nearly double the August primary turnout of 26 percent, but well below the 81 percent last year for a ballot that included the White House race, governor and three other wide-open statewide elective offices, gay marriage and marijuana legalization, all 10 congressional seats and most of the Legislature, and judicial races.

Blog post by Wyman’s communications director David Ammons, October 15th, 2013

And here’s the Top Two prediction:

State Elections Division officials predict that Primary voter turnout will be about 30 percent, which is in the same range as the 2011 Primary (29.54 percent) and 2009 Primary (31.04 percent).

— Wyman media advisory from July 18th, 2013

The situation got even worse in 2014, a midterm year. There was a dramatic decline in turnout compared against the previous midterm cycle, in 2014.

  • 2010 Top Two turnout, statewide: 40.97%
  • 2014 Top Two turnout, statewide: 31.15% (-9.82)
  • 2010 general turnout, statewide: 71.24%
  • 2014 general turnout, statewide: 54.16% (-17.08)

Now, in 2014, Washington had no U.S. Senate race, so part of the decline can be attributed to that. But Wyman had actually factored that into her erroneous forecast. She was expecting turnout to be higher — much higher:

Secretary of State Kim Wyman is forecasting a 62 percent voter participation for the mid-term election, or roughly double the turnout in this year’s primary. The 62 percent figure is lower than the turnout for the two previous midterm elections (71 percent in 2010 and 65 percent in 2006), primarily because this year we have no U.S. Senate race to spur public attention and media coverage/advertising. In both 2010 and 2006, a Senate race was on the ballot. The turnout in 2002, the last midterm election without a Senate race, was 56.4 percent.

Blog post by Wyman’s communications director David Ammons, September 19th, 2014

The Top Two forecast was also off:

Secretary of State Wyman predicts that [Top Two] voter turnout will be about 40 percent, which is in the same range as the 2010 [Top Two] (41 percent) and 2006 Primary (38.8 percent).

— Wyman media advisory from July 15th, 2014 (email)

Turnout in the Top Two ended up a measly 31%. In the general, it was just 54%.

The downward spiral proceeded to continue into 2015. Compared to 2011, the last odd-numbered local election year preceding presidential year, turnout was again way down. The 2011 ballot had three statewide initiatives and two constitutional amendments; the 2015 ballot had two initiatives and four Eyman “advisory votes”.

  • 2011 Top Two turnout, statewide: 29.54%
  • 2015 Top Two turnout, statewide: 24.37% (-5.17)
  • 2011 general turnout, statewide: 52.95%
  • 2015 general turnout, statewide: 38.45% (-14.5)

Last year’s 38.45% turnout set a new record as the worst general election turnout in state history. Fewer than two in five voters voted.

Was Wyman expecting turnout to be historically bad? The worst ever? Nope:

The state Elections Division has forecast a 46 percent ballot return in this vote-by-mail state. That is a little better than the 2013 participation rate and a bit lower than previous [odd]-year elections when ballot propositions and hot races seemed to spur stronger interest.

“This is the voter’s moment,” said state Elections Director Lori Augino. “Most ballots should arrive by the weekend and election administrators are eager to get a healthy response.”

— Wyman media advisory from October 14th, 2015 (email)

Wyman’s team got closer to the mark with the 2015 Top Two, forecasting 26% turnout. Actual turnout was 24.37% — less than a quarter of voters voted.

Local races dominate this [odd]-year election. This year’s [Top Two] features more than 220 local contests (and 767 candidates), including nine Seattle City Council seats featuring 47 candidates.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, Washington’s chief elections official, predicts a 26 percent [Top Two] turnout.

— Wyman media advisory from July 15th, 2015 (email)

How about this year’s presidential primary? Did we buck the trend with that election? Nope — we were down compared to 2008, the last open seat year and the last year a presidential primary was held. The ’08 election took place in February, but the circumstances were similar — the Republican contest ended before we could get our election going, while two Democratic candidates soldiered on.

  • 2008 presidential primary: 41.88%
  • 2016 presidential primary: 34.78% (-7.1)

The 2016 Top Two election has yet to be certified, but the counting is pretty much over, and we’re not going to do better than 2012:

  • 2012 Top Two turnout: 38.48%
  • 2016 Top Two turnout, so far: 34.82% (-3.66)

In the runup to the current Top Two election, Wyman shied away from making a prediction, instead issuing a vague statement hoping for “strong” turnout:

Secretary of State Kim Wyman urges a strong turnout for the [Top Two election]. The last comparable elections, in 2012 and 2008, had a turnout that averaged 41 percent, with a General Election average of double that, 82 percent.

“This Primary is an important opportunity for the voters to express themselves on the leaders who will guide the state and our communities in the coming years,” she said. “I know people are really engaged in this highly unusual election year, and I’m hoping they will use their ballots as a means of expression.”

— Wyman media advisory from July 11th, 2016

We’re not going to get anywhere close to 41% turnout in this year’s Top Two.

Speaking of predictions… Wyman may not have gone out on a limb with a prediction for this election, but last autumn, she was visiting media outlets around the state, cheerfully predicting high 2016 turnout “across the board”:

The state’s chief elections officer and her staff have been busy behind the scenes, preparing the stage for voters in what promises to be an interesting and contentious 2016 campaign, nationally and locally.

Historically, turnout is high when an open-seat U.S. presidency is up for grabs. In Washington, a probable two-horse race between the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Jay Inslee, and Republican challenger Bill Bryant, should stoke a strong statewide vote.

“We’re going to see a huge year across the board,” said Wyman, on a visit to the Reporter office in Kent last week. “We expect a record-breaking turnout, which is exciting.”

So far, turnout has been lower than in past cycles — not record breaking.

The trend is clear: Washington State’s voter turnout is going down. In election after election, we’re seeing a smaller percentage of voters participate compared to the equivalent election from four years prior.

Did Kim Wyman create this problem? No, but it’s fair to say she isn’t responding to counteract it — and an aggressive response is what is needed.

Wyman and her people have certainly seen this data — they know fewer voters are voting. But Wyman’s reaction has been essentially to shrug. And her 2016 campaign doesn’t even want to admit there’s a problem. That’s not leadership.

Sadly, no one in Wyman’s party seems interested in holding her accountable, even though the party’s strategists have asserted that a failure of Republican voters to turn out in 2012 cost Rob McKenna the governor’s mansion.

(As reporters know, Bill Bryant’s campaign has harping on this point nonstop for months, and Randy Pepple has been grousing about it for the last three years.)

Want more evidence that Wyman’s not delivering for Washingtonians? The Pew Charitable Trusts maintains a project called the Elections Performance Index. The purpose of this project is help elected officials like Wyman and the people who work for her in the Elections Divisions do the following:

  • Evaluate elections based on data, not anecdote.
  • Compare the performance of elections across states and time.
  • Identify potential problem areas that need to be addressed.
  • Measure the impact of changes in policy or practice.
  • Highlight trends that otherwise might not be identified.
  • Use data to demonstrate the need for resources to state and local policymakers.
  • Educate voters about election administration.

How did Pew put it together? Answer:

Pew partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to bring together an advisory group of state and local election officials and academics from the country’s top institutions to guide development of the index. The advisory group held a series of meetings beginning in July 2010 to select the best ideas from indices in other public policy areas, identify and validate existing data sources, and determine the most useful ways to group available data.

The index tracks 17 distinct indicators of election performance, which were selected from more than 40 prospective measures based on their completeness, consistency, reliability, and validity.

So, how does Washington stack up against the other states and the District of Columbia? Well, as recently as 2012, we ranked twelfth, but since Kim Wyman took over, we’ve ingloriously dropped to twentieth place. (In 2008, Washington ranked eighth; we dropped to twelfth place in 2010.)

Oregon, meanwhile, has been heading in a positive direction. From 2012 to 2014, under Kate Brown (who is now Governor of the Beaver State), Oregon moved from twenty-third place to tenth, while we slid backwards. Washington now ranks below Ohio, Illinois, and Nebraska. (Idaho, Washington’s other neighbor, remained a cellar dweller, dropping from forty-sixth to forty-eighth, as did California, the nation’s largest state, which went from forty-ninth to fiftieth).

The conclusion the data in this post supports is a sobering one, to be sure. Tina Podlodowski’s chart may not have made the point well, but we think Podlodowski is absolutely correct when she asserts that voter turnout is down and that Kim Wyman’s response to this awful trend has been inadequate and unacceptable.

Kristine Reeves takes thirteen vote lead over Teri Hickel in 30th District House race

Democratic challenger Kristine Reeves has regained a narrow lead over Republican incumbent Teri Hickel in the contest for 30th LD State Representative, Position 2, as of the completion of the fourth tabulation of ballots since Election Night.

On Friday, Hickel had a lead of just two votes, with a total of 9,009 votes to Reeves’ 9,007. Reeves had been ahead in the initial two counts on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, but was overtaken by Hickel in the Thursday count.

Hickel’s seventy-one vote lead lasted all of twenty-four hours, and now it’s completely gone, with Reeves having won back a small lead of her own.

Who wins is inconsequential for the purposes of qualification for the November ballot, because the Top Two is an election that produces two winners — and Reeves and Hickel were the only people who filed to run House, Position 2 in the 30th. They’ve both been guaranteed a spot on the November ballot since the close of Filing Week back in May. And they are so close together in this beauty contest that the race can be called a textbook case of a dead heat.

Regardless, there is a symbolic victory to be won here. Whoever emerges as the candidate with the most votes at the end of counting will be able to declare on the campaign trail from now until November 8th that they received the most votes in the first round. Symbolic victories are useful for energizing supporters and donors.

Democrats and Republicans are watching the contest between Reeves and Hickel closely (along with the contest between Democratic challenger Mike Pellicciotti and Republican incumbent Linda Kochmar for the other House position) because it’s in the 30th that control of the House of Representatives could well be decided.


Thursday afternoon update: Counting continues in Top Two election

As the votes in Washington’s 2016 Top Two election continue to be counted, here is the latest tabulations in several of the closest races.

All data is from the Secretary of State and county elections officials.

Lt. Governor

  • Cyrus Habib (D) – 20.78%
  • Marty McClendon (R) – 19.81%

1st Legislative District, Senate

  • Mindie Wirth (R) -39.89%
  • Guy Palumbo (D) – 30.62%
  • Luis Moscoso (D) – 29.5%

5th Legislative District, Senate

  • Mark Mullet (D) – 50.74%
  • Chad Magendanz (R) – 49.26%

17th Legislative District, Senate

  • Tim Probst (D) – 49.94%
  • Linda Wilson (R) – 50.06%

30th Legislative District, House Position 1

  • Linda Kochmar (R) – 48.18%
  • Mike Pellicciotti (D) – 51.82%

30th Legislative District, House Position 2

  • Teri Kickle (R) – 50.22%
  • Kristine Reeves (D) – 49.78%

41st Legislative District, Senate

  • Lisa Wellman (D) – 48.13%
  • Steve Litzow (R) – 48.23%

Top Two results show Washington Democrats are poised to win both houses of Legislature

You might not know it from reading mass media coverage of Washington’s Top Two election, but the biggest story of tonight is that Democrats appear poised to win both houses of the Legislature this autumn, expanding their House majority and recapturing the Senate majority with a compelling slate of candidates.

Some background: At present, Democrats hold the slimmest of majorities in the Washington State House. They have fifty seats (the minimum needed for a working majority); the Republicans have forty-eight. In the Senate, meanwhile, Democrats are currently in the minority, with twenty-three seats, and need to take at least two seats away from the Republicans get to a working majority.

But if tonight’s initial results are any indication, the party is poised to accomplish both objectives in the coming months. Let’s take a look at the matchups in the swing districts, where legislative majorities are won and lost.

5th District, King County

Senate: One of this year’s marquee contests for Senate will take place in the 5th, pitting incumbent Democrat Mark Mullet against Republican Chad Magendanz. Both have served the district in the Legislature for years on opposite sides of the dome. Given that Magendanz has faced the voters more recently, and given that the 5th has a long history of supporting Republicans, you might think Magendanz would have an advantage, especially in a low-turnout election like this one. But remarkably, Mullet is ahead of Magendanz, which bodes well for Democrats.

  • Democratic incumbent Mark Mullet: 50.15%
  • Republican challenger Chad Magendanz: 49.85%

House, Position 2: The seat Magendanz vacated to challenge Mullet is up for grabs, and Democrats will be looking to take it with Darcy Burner, who beat out Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson for second place. Together, Burner and Larson are winning around 53% of the vote, keeping Republican Paul Graves under fifty percent. If Burner can fire up the base and bring enough independent/biconceptual voters along to support her candidacy, she could become the first Democratic candidate in state history to win a House seat in the 5th this November.

  • Democratic open seat contender Darcy Burner: 36.14%
  • Democratic open seat contender Matt Larson (eliminated): 16.69%
  • Republican open seat contender Paul Graves: 47.17%

House, Position 1: The Democratic Party’s candidate against Jay Rodne, Jason Ritchie, has a steeper hill to climb this autumn. He’s got around 44% of the vote in early returns against Rodne. There is no third candidate to be eliminated in this election, so this is essentially a straw poll preview of November. Ritchie is the first Democratic challenger Rodne has had to get within ten points of him.

  • Republican incumbent Jay Rodne: 55.79%
  • Democratic challenger Jason Ritchie: 44.21%

41st District, King County

Senate: It took a long time for Democrats to find a worthy challenger to Steve Litzow, a smooth-talking Republican narrowly elected in 2010. But in experienced business executive Lisa Wellman, they seem to have found the perfect challenger. In the span of a few weeks, Wellman has put together a strong campaign and rallied Democrats across the district. She’s running neck and neck with Litzow.

  • Republican incumbent Steve Litzow: 48.72%
  • Democratic challenger Lisa Wellman: 47.69%
  • Libertarian challenger Bryan Simonson (eliminated): 3.59%

Democrats already control both House seats in the 41st and ought not to have any trouble reelecting Judy Clibborn and Tana Senn.

30th District, King County (with a tiny slice of Pierce County)

House, Position 1: Democrats recruited a stellar candidate to take on incumbent Republican Linda Kochmar this year: Assistant Attorney General Mike Pellicciotti. Pellicciotti is showing everyone tonight why he’s a formidable candidate. In a straw poll matchup against Kochmar, with no third candidate on the ballot to be eliminated, Pellicciotti is winning.

  • Republican incumbent Linda Kochmar: 48.23%
  • Democratic challenger Mike Pellicciotti: 51.77%

House Position 2: Pellicciotti’s fellow challenger Kristine Reeves is also ahead of the Republican incumbent she’s running against — Teri Hickel. Hickel was elected to the House just last year, defeating Carol Gregory, who was appointed to fill a vacancy left by the death of Roger Freeman. Republicans were giddy a year ago when Hickel knocked out Gregory, but they can’t be feeling giddy about this result.

  • Republican incumbent Teri Hickel: 49.77%
  • Democratic challenger Kristine Reeves: 50.23%

The 30th is a Democratic district that Republicans have made inroads in due to complacent campaigning by Democrats. If these seats flip, as they appear likely to, House Democrats are pretty much assured of having a majority for 2017-2018.

17th District, Clark County

Senate: Democrats haven’t forgotten losing to Tim Eyman cohort Don Benton (Donald Trump’s biggest in-state booster) four years ago, by the narrowest of margins. Democrats forced Benton into retirement when they recruited Tim Probst to seek a rematch with Benton for Senate. Benton’s seatmate Lynda Wilson, who serves in the state House, filed to take his place, but early returns show Probst ahead of Wilson, which bodes very well for November.

  • Democratic open seat contender Tim Probst: 50.67%
  • Republican open seat contender Lynda Wilson: 49.33%

28th District, Pierce County

Senate: Democrats believe they have a shot at knocking out Republican incumbent Steve O’Ban with Marisa Peloquin, a former 82nd Airborne Company Commander. Peloquin is one of the party’s top recruits of the cycle, and has inspired and impressed Democratic activists by responding aggressively to Republican attacks against her. She’s not that far away from O’Ban in early results.

  • Republican incumbent Steve O’Ban: 53.91%
  • Democratic challenger Marisa Peloquin: 46.09%

House, Position 1: Two Democrats filed to challenge Republican incumbent Dick Muri: Mari Leavitt and Anne Setsuko Giroux. Leavitt, as expected, will go on to November against Muri. Together with Giroux, she’s currently holding Muri to 53% in the Top Two. This is a contest Democrats may want to invest in to broaden the playing field, to borrow a sports metaphor.

  • Republican incumbent Dick Muri: 53.25%
  • Democratic challenger Mari Leavitt: 38.92%
  • Democratic challenger: 7.84%

House, Position 2: Democrats’ top defend this cycle is arguably Chris Kilduff. Kilduff was able to win two years ago in a tough cycle for Democrats, so the party feels good about her reelection prospects. And tonight, Kilduff is showing she’s in good shape, with an outright majority of the vote against three opponents.

  • Democratic incumbent Chris Kilduff: 50.81%
  • Republican challenger Paul Wagemann: 27.46%
  • Republican challenger Michael Winkler: 18.61%
  • Libertarian challenger Brandon Lyons: 3.12%

26th District, Pierce and Kitsap County

House, Position 1: One of the Democratic Party’s biggest recruiting coups of the cycle came late, when the party persuaded Larry Seaquist to abandon his campaign for OSPI and instead run to return to the state House of Representatives. This decision looks like it could pay off handsomely, for Seaquist is running almost even with Republican incumbent Jesse Young, who’s seriously under water.

  • Republican incumbent Jesse Young: 37.74%
  • Democratic challenger Larry Seaquist: 36.95%
  • Democratic challenger Alec Matias: 13.64%
  • Republican challenger Bill Scheidler: 11.67%

House, Position 2: Michelle Caldier, who defeated Seaquist in the midterms, is seeking reelection, and Democrats are taking her on with Randy Spitzer. Caldier’s initial numbers are reasonably strong and she’ll be tough to defeat, but Spitzer is a decent candidate who’s still got a shot, especially if he works hard to close the gap.

  • Republican incumbent Michelle Caldier: 56.26%
  • Democratic challenger Randy Spitzer: 43.74%

Other districts

Democrats are expecting to hold House and Senate seats in the 1st, 19th, 24th, and 44th Districts despite retirements there.

In the 1st, for Senate, Guy Palumbo and Luis Moscoso are battling for second place, splitting the Democratic vote (whoever emerges victorious will be favored to win in November). For House, Position 1, Democrat Shelley Kloba has a comfortable lead over everyone else for second place. She’ll also be favored to win in November.

In the 19th, incumbent Democrat JD Rossetti is being hotly trailed by Democratic challenger Teresa Purcell for House, Position 1. Whoever gets second place will square off against Republican Jim Walsh.

There’s less drama in the 24th, the district that spans most of the Olympic Peninsula, where Steve Tharinger is crushing his Republican opponent for Senate, seeking to take over for Jim Hargrove. Democrat Mike Chapman ought to be able to hold on to Tharinger’s House seat, keeping the district 100% Democratic.

The Senate contest in the 10th District (Island County/North Sound) is worth keeping an eye on. Democrats Angie Homola and Nick Petrish are collectively holding incumbent Republican Barbara Bailey to just 51.44%. Homola, a former Island County Commissioner, will be moving on against Bailey. Can Democrats make this contest competitive? We’ll soon find out.

Meanwhile, in the 45th, incumbent Democrat Roger Goodman has 62% of the vote in early returns. Republicans thought they had a strong challenger for him in Sammamish City Councilmember Ramiro Valderrama, but Valderrama is faring even worse than Goodman’s past opponents. Republicans can forget about defeating Goodman — he’s in strong position for reelection.

To recap: Democrats showed tonight they’re poised to pick up seats in both the House and Senate while defending what they have.

If Democrats can defend Mark Mullet and get Lisa Wellman and Tim Probst elected, they should have a bare majority in the Senate going into 2017. The electorate in the coming general election will be larger and more progressive than the electorate in this Top Two election, which is bad news for Republicans. If Democrats campaign effectively, they ought to be able to gain ground across the board.

Ten years ago, during the 2006, Democrats had a very good year, clobbering Republicans in legislative races in swing district after swing district. They assembled supermajorities in both houses. It’s unlikely Democrats can repeat that feat this year, but solid gains that lead to control of both houses are very possible.

2006 was a banner cycle, but the party has been losing legislative seats or treading water every year since. The Senate majority disappeared nearly four years ago when Democrats In Name Only Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon conspired with Republicans to seize power and take over the Senate. The House majority, meanwhile, was whittled down to one seat and is barely intact.

Democrats see 2016 as the year to arrest and reverse this long, painful trend of legislative losses. Tonight’s results show that the party is within striking distance of winning working majorities on both sides of the dome this fall. Much work will be required for the party to be successful, but the stage has been set for victory.

Hilary Franz ahead of four other Democrats in contest for Commissioner of Public Lands

Futurewise Executive Director Hilary Franz appears to have earned a spot on the November general election ballot as the Democrat with the most support for Commissioner of Public Lands. She’s currently ahead of four other Democratic candidates — King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, former Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, Karen Porterfield, and John Stillings.

Republican Steve McLaughlin is in first place with 39% of the vote, having not had any other Republicans to split the vote with.

How they fared: Candidates competing for Commissioner of Public Lands

  1. Steve McLaughlin, Republican: 39.12%, 293,190 votes
  2. Hilary Franz, Democrat: 20.83%, 156,112 votes
  3. Dave Upthegrove, Democrat: 13.53%, 101,396 votes
  4. Mary Verner, Democrat: 12.85%; 96,345 votes
  5. Karen Porterfield, Democrat: 5.13%; 38,472 votes
  6. Steven Nielson: 4.68%; 35,096 votes
  7. John Stillings, Democrat: 3.85%; 28,878 votes

Upthegrove and Verner are well behind Franz, so it’s unlikely they have a chance of becoming competitive for second place. Franz enjoyed the support of a number of local Democratic and progressive organizations that bestowed a sole endorsement on her, which undoubtedly helped her candidacy.

In the general election, she will have no Democratic rivals, so she should be able to consolidate the Democratic vote behind her candidacy. Democrats captured the office of Commissioner of Public Lands eight years ago with Peter Goldmark, who defeated entrenched Republican incumbent Doug Sutherland.

At summer parades, Franz and her dedicated supporters have been marching to the catchy chant of “Hilary Franz for Public Lands!”

A graduate of Smith College and Northeastern University Law School, Franz served for three years as a Bainbridge Island city councilmember.

As her biography notes, she has extensive relevant board service:

She sat on the Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management Board, the Puget Sound Regional Council Economic Development District Board, the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, and the Puget Sound Transportation Futures Task Force. She was appointed by Governor Gregoire to Washington State’s Climate Action Team IWG on the State Environmental Policy Act. She has served on numerous boards, including Conservation Northwest, the Washington Environmental Council, the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and Friends of the Farms.

Franz was able to edge out Upthegrove by winning a plurality of the vote in King County (32.58%) and also besting her Democratic rivals in Pierce County and Snohomish County, which together are the state’s largest counties.

Upthegrove is ahead of Franz in Thurston County, while Verner is unsurprisingly ahead of Franz in Spokane County, where she’s from. Whatcom, Whitman, and Yakima favored Franz over the other Democrats, as did Clark.

POSTSCRIPT: Upthegrove has gracefully conceded.

Just got off the phone with Hilary Franz to congratulate her on advancing to the general election along with the Republican in the Lands Commissioner race. If she runs the agency with even half the passion and energy that she brought to her campaign, the state will be in great hands. Let’s all now help make sure she makes it all the way in November. I get to take a vacation and return to a job I love. Thank you to everyone who supported me!

Hilary’s response:

Dave — it was an honor to run with you. You are a class act. We raised critical awareness in this campaign of the importance of this office and the issues we face regarding addressing climate change and ensuring a healthy environment and strong local economies for present and future generations. Thank you for who you are and what you stand for and how you have worked tirelessly for the people of Washington state.

A classy way for both leading Democratic candidates to end this contest.

VICTORY! Delaware Supreme Court declares state’s death penalty law unconstitutional

A significant victory for human rights has been won today:

The Delaware Supreme Court has ruled the state’s death penalty law is unconstitutional – and the only chance at fixing it is to punt the issue to the already-divided General Assembly.

The top court released its ruling Tuesday that said Delaware’s current capital punishment statute violates the U.S. Constitution by giving judges, and not juries, the final say to impose a death sentence.

The opinion is available online here (PDF).

The Court’s ruling will have the effect of preventing any more people from being sentenced to death in Delaware, the nation’s first state.

The right wing will undoubtedly try to get this ruling overturned, but that will be difficult for them, because a majority in Delaware’s state Senate support abolition — as does Governor Jack Markell, who had praise for today’s decision.

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s finding that the state’s death penalty law is unconstitutional,” Markell said in a statement.

“As I have come to see after careful consideration, the use of capital punishment is an instrument of imperfect justice that doesn’t make us any safer.”

“We have been watching legal developments and supporting organizing efforts in Delaware and are so pleased to add another state to the death-penalty-free column,” said Zach Everson in a statement to supporters of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP).

“Momentum continues to build against the death penalty, and Delaware today has joined a growing majority on the right side of history,” said James Clark, senior death penalty campaigner at Amnesty International USA.

“Today more than half of U.S. states do not carry out executions. Those few that continue must end this failed system and abolish this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment once and for all.”

We commend Delaware’s Supreme Court for its decision today.

Every time a state does away with the barbaric practice of executions, our country stands taller. We cannot be a human rights champion around the world when we are putting people to death here at home. Regrettably, the laws of the Pacific Northwest still allow people to be put to death. In Washington, in Oregon, in Idaho, we need to change our laws so that abolition becomes a reality. If Nebraska can do it, if New Mexico can do it, if Delaware can do it, then we can do it, too.

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