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, January 14th, 2020

We’re watching the seventh 2020 Democratic presidential debate. Join us!

Good evening, and wel­come to NPI’s live cov­er­age of the sev­enth Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial debate of the 2020 cycle.

NPI staff are watch­ing and shar­ing impres­sions of the debate as it pro­gress­es, which will take place over the course of sev­er­al hours in Des Moines, Iowa.

CNN is the media part­ner for this DNC-sanc­tioned debate.

The net­work’s Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip as well as The Des Moines Reg­is­ter’s Bri­anne Pfan­nen­stiel are the mod­er­a­tors for the debate. Blitzer has a lousy rep­u­ta­tion as a mod­er­a­tor and we’ll be watch­ing close­ly to see how many ques­tions he asks that are framed using right wing ideas.

“In order to qual­i­fy for the debate, can­di­dates need­ed to meet both polling and fundrais­ing min­i­mums,” CNN’s debate guide explains.

“For the polling cri­te­ria, can­di­dates need­ed to receive 5% in at least four DNC-approved nation­al or ear­ly state (Iowa, New Hamp­shire, Neva­da and South Car­oli­na) polls, or receive 7% in two ear­ly state polls.”

“Can­di­dates also need­ed to receive dona­tions from at least 225,000 unique donors, and a min­i­mum of 1,000 unique donors per state in at least twen­ty dif­fer­ent states.” Most of the can­di­dates still seek­ing the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s nom­i­na­tion for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States did­n’t meet this cri­te­ria.

The six who did and will appear onstage tonight are as fol­lows:

  • For­mer May­or Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indi­ana
  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders vof Ver­mont
  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts
  • For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden
  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Amy Klobuchar of Min­neso­ta
  • Bil­lion­aire Tom Stey­er

Our live cov­er­age begins below.

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Cory Booker abandons his presidential bid

U.S. Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er of New Jer­sey announced on Mon­day that he would be end­ing his cam­paign for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, less than a month before the first votes are cast. Booker’s cam­paign had been fac­ing a daunt­ing set of hur­dles, includ­ing his fail­ure to qual­i­fy for the Decem­ber and Jan­u­ary debates, seri­ous finan­cial strains to his orga­ni­za­tion, and the prospect of impeach­ment forc­ing him to stay in Wash­ing­ton D.C. in the run-up to the ear­ly pri­maries.

Cory Booker never got a breakout moment to make an impression on voters

Cory Book­er nev­er got a break­out moment to make an impres­sion on vot­ers (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Booker’s depar­ture leaves only one African-Amer­i­­can – for­mer Gov­er­nor of Mass­a­chu­setts Deval Patrick, who entered the race in mid-Novem­ber – in a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry field that was once the most diverse in his­to­ry. The only Lati­no can­di­date, for­mer H.U.D. Sec­re­tary Julián Cas­tro, dropped out a the start of the year.

Booker’s with­draw­al is a blow to his sup­port­ers, but one that has been a long time com­ing. As ear­ly as last Sep­tem­ber, Book­er warned that his cam­paign would not be able to con­tin­ue with­out a sig­nif­i­cant increase in dona­tions.

While Booker’s with­draw­al from the race at this moment is not par­tic­u­lar­ly shock­ing, his under­whelm­ing per­for­mance through­out his cam­paign (launched almost a year ago) has left both his fans and polit­i­cal ana­lysts scratch­ing their heads.

Book­er had all the mak­ings of a great can­di­date.

He is a rel­a­tive­ly young black man and a tal­ent­ed ora­tor, attract­ing com­par­isons between him­self and Barack Oba­ma for much of his polit­i­cal career. As may­or of Newark, he had a rep­u­ta­tion for not only being hands-on, but for almost super-hero­ic feats includ­ing once rush­ing into a burn­ing build­ing to save a neigh­bor.

As a Sen­a­tor, he began shak­ing off his con­nec­tions to Wall Street and the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try and embrac­ing pro­gres­sive poli­cies like the Green New Deal, and pio­neered a plat­form of inno­v­a­tive racial jus­tice poli­cies.

Book­er seemed to have the poten­tial to reunite the “Oba­ma Coali­tion” of young vot­ers, women, and peo­ple of col­or which crushed the Repub­li­cans in both 2008 and 2012. How­ev­er, it nev­er came to pass, and Book­er nev­er rose above a cou­ple of per­cent­age points in the polls for the entire­ty of his cam­paign.

This hap­pened for a vari­ety of rea­sons. First­ly, the diver­si­ty of the field in the ear­ly days of 2019 may have actu­al­ly under­mined Book­er: he was a for­mer may­or and Rhodes schol­ar, but so was Pete Buttigieg; he was a per­son of col­or, but so were sev­er­al oth­ers; he had a tal­ent for soar­ing rhetoric, but he had to com­pete with Kamala Har­ris’ aggres­sive pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al ora­tion, Bernie Sanders’ blunt and impas­sioned polit­i­cal exhor­ta­tions, and Joe Biden’s folksy spiel.

Book­er also suf­fered from an inabil­i­ty to cre­ate a “moment” for him­self in the cam­paign. Oth­er cam­paigns worked to take advan­tage of times dur­ing the pri­ma­ry where the full force of the media’s atten­tion turned to them – most notably, Har­ris rock­et­ed to sec­ond place in the polls after she chal­lenged Joe Biden on his past sup­port of poli­cies that per­pet­u­ate sys­temic racism in the first debate.

Book­er nev­er had such a moment, though not for lack of try­ing.

The lack of a break­through meant that there was nev­er a time where Book­er was con­sid­ered part of the top tier of 2020 can­di­dates. This con­tributed to his campaign’s finan­cial woes, forc­ing them to rely on a rel­a­tive­ly small num­ber of ded­i­cat­ed donors – in the last quar­ter of 2019, Booker’s cam­paign received $6.6 mil­lion, where­as Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg both raised over $20 mil­lion, and Bernie Sanders’ cam­paign raised a whop­ping $34 mil­lion.

Booker’s lack of fund­ing effec­tive­ly crip­pled his cam­paign; the mea­ger amount he was able to spend on adver­tis­ing essen­tial­ly ensured that his mes­sage would nev­er reach the broad­er pub­lic. In con­trast, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Stey­er have poured mil­lions from their per­son­al for­tunes into adver­tis­ing, ele­vat­ing these frankly far less-deserv­ing can­di­dates beyond Booker’s lev­el of sup­port.

The best exam­ple of this is in Iowa, where Book­er had pinned all his hopes of a break­out moment. The Book­er cam­paign spent around $300,000 on adver­tis­ing in Iowa over the past fort­night. By con­trast Michael Bloomberg (who has panned the impor­tance of the ear­ly states in the pri­ma­ry process) recent­ly spent $10 mil­lion for a Super Bowl ad that will air the night before the Iowa cau­cuses.

Senator Cory Booker at a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er at a cam­paign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Pho­to: Lorie Shaull, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Anoth­er nail in the cof­fin of Booker’s cam­paign was, sur­pris­ing­ly, Don­ald Trump’s impeach­ment. While Book­er was like­ly glad when the Pres­i­dent was impeached, it soon became appar­ent that the Sen­ate tri­al would pose a major prob­lem for the six sen­a­tors run­ning for the pres­i­den­cy, Book­er includ­ed.

If the tri­al begins this week, sen­a­tors will be oblig­ed to remain in the Dis­trict of Colum­bia to act as jurors, keep­ing them away from the cam­paign trail in the final weeks run­ning up to the Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus­es.

Book­er was tripped up by the same intra­party dynam­ic that also worked against the can­di­da­cies of Beto O’Rourke, Julián Cas­tro and Kamala Har­ris.

None of those can­di­dates could quite strad­dle the divide that has pit­ted the pro­gres­sive and neolib­er­al wings of the par­ty against each oth­er.

War­ren and Sanders have sewn up the sup­port of the pro­gres­sive wing and Buttigieg and Biden have sewn up the neolib­er­al wing, with the bil­lion­aires Tom Stey­er and Michael Bloomberg lurk­ing at the mar­gins along with entre­pre­neur Andrew Yang, whose uncon­ven­tion­al cam­paign is pow­ered by a small but intense base of sup­port­ers who affec­tion­ate­ly call them­selves “the Yang Gang”.

Despite his at times elec­tri­fy­ing charis­ma, Book­er doomed him­self with con­stant attempts to rec­on­cile the spar­ring fac­tions, instead of deci­sive­ly tak­ing a side.

The 2020 pri­ma­ry has become an ide­o­log­i­cal bat­tle with nei­ther wing of the par­ty in the mood to yield, at least not yet. Both wings of the par­ty believe that what one of their can­di­dates have to offer the Amer­i­can peo­ple would max­i­mize the par­ty’s chances of defeat­ing Don­ald Trump in the com­ing Novem­ber elec­tion.

Cory Book­er thought his mes­sage of uni­ty could bring the old Oba­ma coali­tion back togeth­er. But in a bleak­er, more ide­o­log­i­cal­ly bru­tal polit­i­cal land­scape, this approach did not yield results. Book­er is up for reelec­tion to his seat in the Sen­ate this year, and his prospects seem good in New Jer­sey – the Gar­den State has not elect­ed a Repub­li­can to the Sen­ate for forty years.

His with­draw­al from the race is unlike­ly to alter nation­al polling much, but it could have an impact in Iowa. Booker’s Iowa cam­paign team have been on the ground for months and have become an expe­ri­enced and capa­ble polit­i­cal force and oth­er cam­paigns would be well advised to hire them quick­ly. Book­er’s com­mit­ted major donors will now also be up for grabs at a cru­cial junc­ture in the con­test.

Monday, January 13th, 2020

New State Representative Alex Ramel talks to NPI about his priorities for the 2020 session

Alex Ramel — the new­ly appoint­ed State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the 40th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict — heads to the state­house today cham­pi­oning two vital­ly impor­tant leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties that he cam­paigned on back in 2018. One is increased access to afford­able hous­ing and the oth­er is cli­mate jus­tice.

Both are issues the Leg­is­la­ture has his­tor­i­cal­ly strug­gled to make head­way on, with last year’s ses­sion being a notable excep­tion.

Ramel wants to build on what was won in 2019. He says he’s try­ing to man­age his expec­ta­tions on what he can accom­plish giv­en his some­what last-minute addi­tion to the Leg­is­la­ture and the short ses­sion this year. “I’ll work to get the ball rolling on big­ger things that we’ll be able to tack­le over time,” he explained.

On con­fronting Washington’s hous­ing cri­sis, Ramel says there are two major his­tor­i­cal­ly fund­ed ser­vices that he believes should con­tin­ue and that can be expand­ed to be even more effec­tive. The first is the Wash­ing­ton Hous­ing Trust Fund, he said, to build homes that can be kept afford­able in the long term. The Trust sup­ports afford­able hous­ing pro­grams that serve low-income pop­u­la­tions.

Ramel also believes anoth­er exist­ing pro­gram that is work­ing well is the Hous­ing & Essen­tial Needs (HEN) Refer­ral pro­gram, which pro­vides access to essen­tial needs items, as well as rental assis­tance for low-income indi­vid­u­als who can’t work for at least 90 days because of a phys­i­cal or men­tal inca­pac­i­ty. Ramel says this pro­gram is essen­tial because it helps those indi­vid­u­als who have had “a run of bad luck for what­ev­er rea­son” and are about to lose their home.

“I’m absolute­ly per­suad­ed that we have to fund pre­ven­tion first. It’s some of the most cost-effec­tive work we can be doing [to address home­less­ness],” he said.

Anoth­er sig­na­ture issue for Ramel this year, and into the future, is tack­ling the cli­mate cri­sis. He says he sup­ports putting a price on pol­lu­tion if pos­si­ble, as well as the adop­tion of a clean fuels stan­dard to reduce pol­lu­tion in Washington’s air and water (also an NPI leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ty for 2020). He intends to join the Cli­mate Cau­cus, where he hopes to work on the state’s dis­trict heat­ing sys­tems.

“If we can pro­vide mul­ti­ple build­ings with elec­tric emis­sions-free heat­ing, over time it’s going to save build­ing own­ers mon­ey, they’re eas­i­er to main­tain, it’s nicer heat […] and it’s union jobs,” Ramel observed.

Ramel added that he’s hope­ful the Leg­is­la­ture can “cross the fin­ish line,” and adopt California’s zero emis­sions vehi­cle stan­dards to bring the full range of elec­tric vehi­cles avail­able in oth­er parts of the coun­try to Wash­ing­ton.

Anoth­er one of NPI’s leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties this ses­sion is sup­port­ing a ban on sin­gle use plas­tic bags in gro­cery stores and retail estab­lish­ments.

Ramel says this “sounds like good pol­i­cy,” and it’s a city-wide pol­i­cy he has wit­nessed suc­ceed in Belling­ham since 2011.

He says there is a path to do it that actu­al­ly sup­ports the gro­cery stores and busi­ness estab­lish­ments while also reduc­ing sin­gle-use plas­tic waste.

While he com­pares the start of his new posi­tion as “drink­ing from the fire­hose,” Ramel says he trusts the process.

“There are a lot of smart peo­ple that have been doing this for a long time in Olympia who I’m look­ing for­ward to work­ing with and learn­ing from,” he said.

The Leg­is­la­ture will con­vene for its short ses­sion today at noon.

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Donald Trump’s looming impeachment trial could shift the balance in Iowa

On Decem­ber 20th, 2019 the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed to impeach Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, to the over­whelm­ing approval of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers and with a plu­ral­i­ty of sup­port among the Amer­i­can elec­torate.

Impeach­ment was the prop­er, moral, and nec­es­sary course of action to take. It should have been pur­sued ear­li­er and more vig­or­ous­ly by Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers.

Although it is extreme­ly unlike­ly that Mitch McConnel­l’s Repub­­li­­can-con­trolled Sen­ate will vote to throw Trump out of office, the House had an oblig­a­tion and a duty to impeach Trump for vio­lat­ing the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion.

The impeach­ment vote was made pos­si­ble by the results of the 2018 midterms, where Democ­rats secured con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives with the largest major­i­ty in the his­to­ry of midterm elec­tions.

How­ev­er, among those Democ­rats com­pet­ing to replace Trump in the White House, the con­se­quences of impeach­ment are more com­pli­cat­ed than the sym­bol­ic con­dem­na­tion of a leader they all see as incom­pe­tent, cor­rupt and dan­ger­ous.

Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er of New Jer­sey said it the most blunt­ly, in an inter­view with the Asso­ci­at­ed Press: an impeach­ment tri­al could be a “big, big blow” to his (already strug­gling) pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Senator Cory Booker at a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er at a cam­paign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Pho­to: Lorie Shaull, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Booker’s con­cern is not based on the (high­ly con­test­ed) idea that vot­ers will turn against the Democ­rats for impeach­ing Trump, but is based on the nuts and bolts of polit­i­cal cam­paign­ing.

The impeach­ment tri­al – which could begin as soon as next week – will take place in the U.S. Sen­ate in Wash­ing­ton D.C. As a sit­ting sen­a­tor, Book­er will be oblig­ed to attend, tak­ing him away from where he will real­ly want to be – Iowa.

The Iowa Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus­es are to be held Feb­ru­ary 3rd, mean­ing that the impeach­ment tri­al in late Jan­u­ary will eat up the pre­cious final weeks that many of the can­di­dates seek­ing the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion have to cam­paign.

Iowa is famed for its sta­tus as a test­ing ground for retail pol­i­tics (“shak­ing hands and kiss­ing babies”), and long peri­ods of absence from the state in the run up to Feb­ru­ary 3rd could destroy any chance Book­er has of win­ning over unde­cid­ed vot­ers in the Hawk­eye State – a major blow to a can­di­date who con­tem­plat­ed drop­ping out of the race as ear­ly as last Sep­tem­ber.

Book­er is not the only can­di­date with this prob­lem. Five Demo­c­ra­t­ic sen­a­tors are cur­rent­ly run­ning for the nom­i­na­tion, and all want to do well in Iowa.

An impeach­ment tri­al would force all five to return to Wash­ing­ton D.C. from the cam­paign trail, and would give their rivals the chance to out-cam­­paign them in the cru­cial final stretch before vot­ers go to the cau­cus­es.

This con­se­quence of the impeach­ment tri­al is par­tic­u­lar­ly wor­ry­ing for sup­port­ers of the most pro­gres­sive can­di­dates.

Polls in Iowa cur­rent­ly show a three-way tie for first place between for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders, and for­mer May­or Pete Buttigieg with Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren hot on their heels. A tri­al in Wash­ing­ton D.C. would force the two most pro­gres­sive can­di­dates in the race – Sanders and War­ren – away from the cam­paign and leave the field more open to Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg (both of whom have more neolib­er­al ten­den­cies).

Mayor Pete Buttigieg at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa. He is expected to perform well at the state's caucus.

May­or Pete Buttigieg at a cam­paign event in Des Moines, Iowa. He is expect­ed to per­form well at the state’s cau­cus (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

This could have dra­mat­ic con­se­quences down the road, espe­cial­ly for Buttigieg. As the pre­vi­ous may­or of a small city, Buttigieg has faced ques­tions over his youth and polit­i­cal inex­pe­ri­ence. A vic­to­ry in Iowa could cement his campaign’s legit­i­ma­cy in the eyes of many vot­ers and qui­et his crit­ics.

Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa

Vice Pres­i­dent Biden cam­paigns in Des Moines. Suc­cess in Iowa would solid­i­fy his sta­tus as fron­trun­ner (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

For Biden, an impeach­ment tri­al in the Sen­ate would remove the only two can­di­dates who have come any­where near to chal­leng­ing his fron­trun­ner sta­tus nation­wide, and put him in an even stronger posi­tion in Iowa.

Iowa Democ­rats are more lib­er­al than Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers in oth­er states, but War­ren and Sanders’ absence in the final weeks might allow Biden to win over those skep­ti­cal of his pol­i­tics with his “Uncle Joe” per­sona – a pow­er­ful tool in a retail pol­i­tics ori­ent­ed state that is over­whelm­ing­ly white and large­ly rur­al.

Iowa is undoubt­ed­ly plays an out­sized role in pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics — over half of the time, the win­ner of the Iowa cau­cuses goes on to secure the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion from their par­ty. How­ev­er, that does not mean dis­as­ter for the sen­a­tors remain­ing in the race. With over a dozen can­di­dates still run­ning, a deci­sive vic­to­ry by any sin­gle cam­paign is high­ly unlike­ly.

Very few del­e­gates are at stake in Iowa, and of the sen­a­tors, at least Sanders and War­ren appear posi­tioned to be able to con­tin­ue cam­paign­ing for many weeks beyond the ear­ly states with the resources they’ve already secured.

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

Last Week In Congress: How Cascadia’s U.S. lawmakers voted (January 6th-10th)

Good morn­ing! Here’s how Cascadia’s Mem­bers of Con­gress vot­ed on major issues dur­ing the leg­isla­tive week end­ing Fri­day, Jan­u­ary 10th.

In the United States House of Representatives

Chamber of the United States House of Representatives

The House cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

ASSERTING CONGRESSIONAL CONTROL OVER WAR WITH IRAN: The House on Jan­u­ary 9th vot­ed, 224 for and 194 against, to require the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to obtain advance con­gres­sion­al approval for mil­i­tary actions against Iran or its proxy forces except when there is an immi­nent threat to the Unit­ed States, its armed forces or its ter­ri­to­ries.

The mea­sure (House Con­cur­rent Res­o­lu­tion 83) invoked the 1973 War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion, which asserts the pow­er of Con­gress to declare war under Arti­cle I of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Under the Viet­nam-era law, pres­i­dents must noti­fy Con­gress with­in forty-eight hours when they send the U.S. mil­i­tary into com­bat, then with­draw the forces with­in a spec­i­fied peri­od unless Con­gress has declared war against the ene­my or oth­er­wise autho­rized the action.

Democ­rats said the mea­sure will have priv­i­leged sta­tus in the Sen­ate and be eli­gi­ble for pas­sage by a major­i­ty vote there.

But Repub­li­cans called it non-bind­ing. The war pow­ers law has nev­er been suc­cess­ful­ly used to end hos­til­i­ties abroad. Last year, the House and Sen­ate invoked it to end America’s mil­i­tary involve­ment in Yemen’s civ­il war, but were turned back when Pres­i­dent Trump suc­cess­ful­ly vetoed the mea­sure.

Thomas Massie, R‑Kentucky., said: “This vote isn’t about sup­port­ing or oppos­ing Pres­i­dent Trump.… [It] is about exer­cis­ing our con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty. More impor­tant­ly, it is about our moral oblig­a­tion to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives.”

Don Bacon, R‑Nebraska, said the res­o­lu­tion “is designed to embar­rass our pres­i­dent in front of the world and, in real­i­ty, gives com­fort to Iran’s lead­er­ship. It weak­ens Amer­i­ca and embold­ens our ene­mies.”

A yes vote was to send the mea­sure to the Sen­ate.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck

Vot­ing Nay (3): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 11 aye votes, 5 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

REGULATING CANCER-LINKED “PFAS” CHEMICALS: Vot­ing 247 for and 159 against, the House on Jan­u­ary 10th passed a bill (H.R. 535) that would give the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency one year to des­ig­nate a class of chem­i­cals known as “PFAS” for cov­er­age by the fed­er­al Super­fund law (for­mal­ly known as the Com­pre­hen­sive Envi­ron­men­tal Response, Com­pen­sa­tion, and Lia­bil­i­ty Act of 1980), which requires aban­doned tox­ic sites to be cleaned up and impos­es retroac­tive legal lia­bil­i­ty on those respon­si­ble for the pol­lu­tion.

The des­ig­na­tion would require cleanup actions near scores of mil­i­tary bases and man­u­fac­tur­ing sites through­out the Unit­ed States where PFAS com­pounds have leached into ground­wa­ter and drink­ing water.

But they would join a long list of Super­fund sites await­ing reme­di­a­tion.

The bill also would require the EPA to set stan­dards for PFA air emis­sions and lev­els in drink­ing water and test all PFAS com­pounds with­in five years, and it would bar new com­pounds from the mar­ket­place.

“PFAS” stands for per­flu­o­roalkyl and poly­flu­o­roalkyl sub­stances.

They are com­po­nents of fire-fight­ing foam used at air­ports and mil­i­tary instal­la­tions as well as non­stick cook­ware; per­son­al-care prod­ucts includ­ing floss and make­up; house­hold items includ­ing paints and stains; water-repel­lent cloth­ing and car­pet­ing; and oth­er every­day prod­ucts.

There are more about 7,800 PFA com­pounds, some of which the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) has approved for use in food pack­ag­ing and med­ical devices, oth­ers of which are linked to extreme­ly seri­ous health con­di­tions includ­ing kid­ney, liv­er, tes­tic­u­lar and pan­cre­at­ic can­cers; infer­til­i­ty; weak­ened immune sys­tems and impaired child­hood devel­op­ment.

Mary Gay Scan­lon, D‑Pennsylvania, said: “The fact of the mat­ter is that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has known about the dan­gers pre­sent­ed by PFAs for years. The chem­i­cal indus­try has known for even longer and, unsur­pris­ing­ly, has fought tooth and nail against efforts to reg­u­late their dis­tri­b­u­tion and use.”

Deb­bie Lesko, R‑Arizona, said: “I don’t hear my Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­leagues here talk­ing about the PFAS chem­i­cals that are help­ing peo­ple,” such as devices that plug holes in infants’ hearts. She said the bill “cre­ates an unre­al­is­tic con­di­tion that EPA must require man­u­fac­tur­ers and proces­sors to test each chem­i­cal in the entire PFAS class.a task that will be enor­mous­ly expen­sive and time-con­sum­ing.”

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

Vot­ing Nay (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (8): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck; Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler

Vot­ing Nay (2): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Dan New­house and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Cas­ca­dia total: 12 aye votes, 4 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

PROTECTING FETUSES FROM PFAS: Vot­ing 187 for and 219 against, the House on Jan­u­ary 10th defeat­ed a Repub­li­can-spon­sored motion spec­i­fy­ing that “the unborn child” be includ­ed in the “vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions” pro­tect­ed from PFAS in H.R. 535 (above) sec­tions con­cern­ing the Safe Drink­ing Water Act.

Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, R‑Washington, said the act “already iden­ti­fies preg­nant women as an at-risk group. How­ev­er, there is not just one, there are two peo­ple at risk, the preg­nant woman and the unborn child.”

Deb­bie Din­gell, D‑Michigan, called the amend­ment unnec­es­sary because the bill suf­fi­cient­ly pro­tects vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

A yes vote was to adopt the motion.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Russ Fulcher

Not Vot­ing (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mike Simp­son

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Aye (1): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Greg Walden

Vot­ing Nay (4): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrad­er

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (3): Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, Dan New­house, and Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers

Vot­ing Nay (7): Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, and Den­ny Heck

Cas­ca­dia total: 5 aye votes, 11 nay votes, 1 not vot­ing

In the United States Senate

Chamber of the United States Senate

The Sen­ate cham­ber (U.S. Con­gress pho­to)

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATOR JOVITA CARRANZA: Vot­ing 86 for and 5 against, the Sen­ate on Jan­u­ary 6th con­firmed Jovi­ta Car­ran­za, the Unit­ed States trea­sur­er since June 2017, as admin­is­tra­tor of the Small Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, replac­ing Lin­da McMa­hon, who resigned in April 2019.

After a career of near­ly three decades with UPS, Car­ran­za served as deputy SBA admin­is­tra­tor under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush from 2006–2009. Car­ran­za, 71, was raised in Chica­go as the child of immi­grants from Mex­i­co.

Ben­jamin Cardin, D‑Maryland, said: “In near­ly 30 years at UPS, where she began as a part-time pack­age han­dler, Trea­sur­er Car­ran­za became the high­est rank­ing Lati­na in the his­to­ry of the com­pa­ny… I am opti­mistic that [she] can be the leader and advo­cate that SBA and Amer­i­can small busi­ness­es need right now.”

No sen­a­tor spoke against the nom­i­nee.

A yes vote was to con­firm Car­ran­za.

The State of Idaho

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors Jim Risch and Mike Crapo

The State of Oregon

Vot­ing Nay (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley

The State of Washington

Vot­ing Aye (2):
Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray

Cas­ca­dia total: 4 aye votes, 2 nay votes

Key votes ahead

The House will take up mea­sures con­cern­ing age dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place and stu­dent loan for­give­ness dur­ing the com­ing week of Jan­u­ary 13th, while the Sen­ate will vote on judi­cial and exec­u­tive branch nom­i­na­tions and pos­si­bly a mea­sure restrain­ing the admin­is­tra­tion’s actions against Iran.

Edi­tor’s Note: The infor­ma­tion in NPI’s week­ly How Cas­ca­di­a’s U.S. law­mak­ers vot­ed fea­ture is pro­vid­ed by Votera­ma in Con­gress, a ser­vice of Thomas Vot­ing Reports. All rights are reserved. Repro­duc­tion of this post is not per­mit­ted, not even with attri­bu­tion. Use the per­ma­nent link to this post to share it… thanks!

© 2020 Thomas Vot­ing Reports.

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Weekend Reading: All of the possible ways Tim Eyman’s I‑976 violates the Constitution

Today, the coali­tion of plain­tiffs suing to con­sign Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976 to the dust­bin of Wash­ing­ton State polit­i­cal his­to­ry filed their Motion for Sum­ma­ry Judg­ment, request­ing that King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son find the mea­sure uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and per­ma­nent­ly enjoin its enforce­ment.

In a 20,495 word mem­o­ran­dum, the coali­tion’s attor­neys pow­er­ful­ly lay out the case for I‑976 to be struck down, cit­ing more than a dozen ways in which the mea­sure vio­lates the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion.

“I‑976 had a decep­tive bal­lot title that mis­lead the vot­ers,” the brief’s con­cise con­clu­sion begins. “It lied about ensur­ing car tabs would be $30.”

“It com­bined mul­ti­ple unre­lat­ed sub­jects to cob­ble togeth­er enough sup­port to get the mea­sure passed, a clas­sic uncon­sti­tu­tion­al log-rolling guise.”

“I‑976 fails to set forth all statutes it amends ren­der­ing its appli­ca­tion con­fus­ing.”

“It intrudes on local home rule pow­ers of tax­a­tion for local pur­pos­es, seeks to over­turn local elec­tion results, and requires diver­sion of local­ly approved tax­es.”

“I‑976 impairs con­tract oblig­a­tions by seek­ing to elim­i­nate Burien’s VLF [vehi­cle license fee] that have been pledged to secure its bonds.”

“Each of these mat­ters are con­sti­tu­tion­al vio­la­tions requir­ing that I‑976 be struck down,” the brief con­cludes. “Plain­tiffs respect­ful­ly request that this Court grant them sum­ma­ry judg­ment and declare I‑976 uncon­sti­tu­tion­al.​”

The brief itself clocks in at six­ty-five pages, and exhaus­tive­ly dis­cuss­es the defects that make I‑976 the lat­est fatal­ly flawed Tim Eyman mea­sure. There are also a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of pages of sup­port­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion.

This is whol­ly inten­tion­al. It’s the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the plain­tiffs to prove beyond a rea­son­able doubt that I‑976 vio­lates the Con­sti­tu­tion. They have the bur­den of proof. Accord­ing­ly, the coali­tion suing to defeat I‑976 has thor­ough­ly exam­ined the ini­tia­tive under a micro­scope, and left no stone unturned in its legal analy­sis.

This is eas­i­ly one of the most com­pre­hen­sive and sat­is­fy­ing briefs I’ve ever read. Kudos to King Coun­ty, the City of Seat­tle, and Paci­fi­ca Law Group on a job well done. By far, my favorite part of the brief is the state­ment of issues, which nice­ly serves as an author­i­ta­tive, defin­i­tive list of all of the ways in which this dump­ster fire of an ini­tia­tive like­ly vio­lates the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion.

Here is that list, for your read­ing enjoy­ment on this sec­ond week­end of Jan­u­ary.

III. STATEMENT OF ISSUES

  1. Does the I‑976 bal­lot title vio­late arti­cle II, sec­tion 19 sub­ject-in-title require­ments because it deceives vot­ers with the mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions that “vot­er approved charges” are an excep­tion to the $30 cap on motor vehi­cle license fees, and that vot­ers will pay no more than $30 when licens­ing a vehi­cle?
  2. Does the I‑976 bal­lot title vio­late arti­cle II, sec­tion 19 sub­ject-in-title require­ments because it fails to include numer­ous nec­es­sary sub­jects and does not prompt inquiry into those omit­ted sub­jects?
  3. Does I‑976 vio­late the arti­cle II, sec­tion 19 sin­gle sub­ject require­ments because it com­bines mul­ti­ple sub­jects that are not ger­mane to each oth­er?
  4. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle II, sec­tion 37 by amend­ing exist­ing statutes with­out set­ting the amend­ments forth in full, there­by result­ing in con­fu­sion as to the effect of the new law?
  5. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle XI, sec­tion 12 by depriv­ing munic­i­pal gov­ern­ments of vest­ed local tax­ing author­i­ty for local pur­pos­es pri­or to expi­ra­tion of the local tax?
  6. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle I, sec­tion 19 by using a statewide vote to over­ride exist­ing local votes and dilut­ing the voice of local vot­ers on mat­ters of local con­cern?
  7. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle VII, sec­tion 5 by divert­ing tax dol­lars from the pur­pos­es approved by local vot­ers?
  8. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle I, sec­tion 23 by impair­ing bond oblig­a­tions?
  9. Does I‑976 vio­late Washington’s sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers doc­trine by intrud­ing on the exec­u­tive func­tion of admin­is­ter­ing bond repay­ment?
  10. Does I‑976 vio­late Washington’s sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers doc­trine by uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly del­e­gat­ing leg­isla­tive func­tions regard­ing the effec­tive dates of laws and the legal force of cer­tain statutes to the dis­cre­tionary deci­sions of a munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment?
  11. Does I‑976 vio­late arti­cle I, sec­tion 12 by con­fer­ring a spe­cial priv­i­lege on a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion by requir­ing DOL [Depart­ment of Licens­ing] to use the Kel­ley Blue Book val­u­a­tion prod­uct?

That’s eleven total poten­tial vio­la­tions of the Con­sti­tu­tion iden­ti­fied by the plain­tiffs. With cer­tain kinds of vio­la­tions, sev­er­abil­i­ty does not come into play, owing to the nature of the vio­la­tion, so a sin­gle strike against a mea­sure can be suf­fi­cient to void it in its entire­ty. (Logrolling would be a good exam­ple.)

Back in 2015, when we were work­ing against the last Tim Eyman mea­sure that appeared on the bal­lot (I‑1366), I often described it as “uncon­sti­tu­tion­al every way to Sun­day.” In 2016, the Supreme Court emphat­i­cal­ly agreed that I‑1366 was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al, unan­i­mous­ly strik­ing down the mea­sure in its entire­ty.

I‑976 shares the same char­ac­ter­is­tics as I‑1366. Giv­en how bad­ly writ­ten it is, I don’t think it stands much of a chance of with­stand­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al scruti­ny.

Tomor­row, we’ll have anoth­er install­ment of Week­end Read­ing that excerpts anoth­er one of my favorite pas­sages from the motion for sum­ma­ry judg­ment filed by the coali­tion of plain­tiffs in Garfield Coun­ty et al v. State of Wash­ing­ton et al.

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Right wing effort to recall Attorney General Bob Ferguson predictably ends in failure

A right wing attempt to recall Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son has end­ed in fail­ure after a judge pre­dictably deter­mined that there was insuf­fi­cient evi­dence to sup­port bogus charges con­coct­ed against Fer­gu­son by the recall mea­sure’s cre­ators Scott Ban­nis­ter of Yelm and Matthew Mar­shall of Roy.

King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Bill Bow­man ruled that Ban­nis­ter and Mar­shall had not demon­strat­ed that Fer­gu­son had com­mit­ted an act of mis­fea­sance or malfea­sance while in office, which is the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-imposed pre­req­ui­site for launch­ing a recall peti­tion. Con­se­quent­ly, there will be no recall.

(In oth­er states, includ­ing Ore­gon and Wis­con­sin, friv­o­lous or unjus­ti­fied recalls are allowed, but the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits them.)

Giv­en that Bob Fer­gu­son was already due to face the vot­ers this year, it’s unclear why Ban­nis­ter and Mar­shall were both­er­ing with try­ing to recall Fer­gu­son.

Even if a judge had allowed them to pro­ceed with a sig­na­ture dri­ve, and even if they man­aged to get the req­ui­site sig­na­tures (a tall order), they would still be wast­ing their ener­gy. The 2020 pres­i­den­tial cycle is upon us; the reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled elec­tions for statewide exec­u­tive posi­tions are about to be held. There is no point in try­ing to recall some­body who’s already due to face the vot­ers.

Appar­ent­ly it has not occurred to Ban­nis­ter and Mar­shall that the eas­i­est way to get what they want (Fer­gu­son out of office) is sim­ply to take advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ty to chal­lenge him in this year’s reg­u­lar­ly sched­uled elec­tion for AG. Log­ic, as we have seen, is not the strong suit of many right wing activists.

So far, two Repub­li­cans and one inde­pen­dent have lined up to chal­lenge Bob Fer­gu­son. Nei­ther of the Repub­li­cans have report­ed rais­ing any mon­ey yet, and their cam­paigns do not appear to be cred­i­ble.

Inde­pen­dent Brett Rogers seems to be Fer­gu­son’s only some­what active oppo­nent. Rogers has raised just $18,517.67 and spent $14,777.59. Fer­gu­son, mean­while, has a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar cam­paign trea­sury at his dis­pos­al.

In 2016, Repub­li­cans failed to recruit any­one to chal­lenge Fer­gu­son and he end­ed up on the gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot with a Lib­er­tar­i­an oppo­nent, whom he over­whelm­ing­ly defeat­ed. Though Repub­li­cans fre­quent­ly dis­play con­tempt for Fer­gu­son, they have not dis­played a will­ing­ness or inter­est to take him on.

Maybe that will change and the Repub­li­cans will recruit some­one like Steve O’Ban to chal­lenge Fer­gu­son this cycle. Even if they do find some­body, though, Fer­gu­son will be dif­fi­cult to beat. He has a work eth­ic that is sec­ond to none and he’s one of the nicest, most pleas­ant peo­ple alive on Plan­et Earth right now.

Per­haps most impor­tant­ly of all, Fer­gu­son gets results.

He has a stel­lar track record against the Trump regime and against pow­er­ful enti­ties like the Gro­cery Man­u­fac­tur­ers Asso­ci­a­tion. But it’s not just inside the court­room where he has been effec­tive. He often secures wins for fam­i­lies and work­ers with­out going to court, such as through his high­ly suc­cess­ful “no poach” ini­tia­tive, which has ben­e­fit­ed work­ing peo­ple all over this coun­try.

Though NPI does not endorse can­di­dates for any office, we’re guess­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans will be giv­ing Bob Fer­gu­son a ring­ing endorse­ment lat­er this year when they get their bal­lots. The major­i­ty of peo­ple in this state have every rea­son to want to keep Fer­gu­son on as their chief law enforce­ment offi­cer.

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Jay Inslee zings Eyman after Tim interrupts Q&A: “Please leave the chair when you leave”

Long­time Wash­ing­ton State con artist Tim Eyman today inter­rupt­ed yet anoth­er pro­ceed­ing at which he had not been invit­ed to speak, appear­ing at the Asso­ci­at­ed Press’ annu­al leg­isla­tive pre­view to con­front Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee about the fate of Ini­tia­tive 976, Eyman’s most recent con, which appeared on last Novem­ber’s bal­lot.

Unlike his pre­de­ces­sors, Inslee has refused to capit­u­late to Eyman’s demands to roll over and make Eyman’s agen­da his own fol­low­ing the pas­sage of an Eyman mea­sure at the bal­lot. That has made Eyman rather bit­ter and angry.

So Eyman showed up in Olympia pre­pared to insti­gate a con­fronta­tion with Inslee.

But the gov­er­nor was­n’t hav­ing any of it.

Inslee remind­ed Eyman that the pur­pose of the leg­isla­tive pre­view event is to allow jour­nal­ists to ask ques­tions of Wash­ing­ton State’s elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Eyman is of course nei­ther a jour­nal­ist nor one of the peo­ple’s elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives, although Eyman now claims to be run­ning for gov­er­nor against Inslee, after years of say­ing he had no inter­est in seek­ing office.

When Eyman refused to sit down or stop talk­ing, Inslee’s chief of staff David Post­man stepped for­ward to admon­ish Eyman and tell him to stop being dis­rup­tive. Eyman tried to ignore Post­man at first, but he even­tu­al­ly shut up and turned away. While he was yap­ping, Inslee took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to launch a zinger at him.

“Let me make a sug­ges­tion to you, Tim: You need to sit down. Just don’t steal that chair, okay,” Inslee said. “Just sit down on that chair and don’t steal it.”

This was, of course, a ref­er­ence to Eyman’s infa­mous and inex­plic­a­ble theft of an office chair from the Lacey Office Depot near­ly one year ago.

Tim Eyman walks out with office chair

Even­tu­al­ly, Eyman real­ized he was in dan­ger of being escort­ed out by secu­ri­ty, and he clammed up. As he sat down, Inslee took a part­ing shot at Eyman, direct­ing him: “Please leave the chair when you leave. Thanks very much.”

At present, as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976 is on hold, blocked from being imple­ment­ed by an injunc­tion issued by King Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge Mar­shall Fer­gu­son and upheld by the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court.

The Depart­ment of Licens­ing is still col­lect­ing the tax­es and fees that I‑976 attempt­ed to repeal, but per an instruc­tion from the gov­er­nor’s office, the mon­ey is being held in escrow for the time being. Osten­si­bly, that escrow sit­u­a­tion is what Eyman claimed to be ask­ing about today when he inter­rupt­ed Inslee’s press con­fer­ence. But I think Eyman sim­ply want­ed to make a scene.

Eyman has an insa­tiable need for atten­tion, just like his idol Don­ald Trump, and when he’s not the star of the show, he hijacks the pro­ceed­ings so that he can claim the spot­light for as long as he thinks peo­ple will tol­er­ate his dis­rup­tive antics.

A few days ago, Eyman claimed to be weigh­ing whether to run for gov­er­nor as a Repub­li­can instead of an inde­pen­dent. He says he has yet to make a deci­sion, but no doubt is being court­ed by Repub­li­cans to iden­ti­fy as an R in his cam­paign.

A Crosscut/Elway poll released today (PDF) found that 46% of Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed favored Inslee in the 2020 guber­na­to­r­i­al race, while a measly 7% favored Eyman. (The poll has a mar­gin of error of +/- 5%).

Oth­er right wing chal­lengers to Inslee fared even worse. Repub­lic police chief Loren Culp was favored by only 4% of respon­dents, while anoth­er 4% favored white suprema­cist state sen­a­tor Phil For­tu­na­to. 5% expressed a pref­er­ence for for­mer Both­ell May­or Joshua Freed. 34% said they were unde­cid­ed.

Gov­er­nor Inslee cer­tain­ly can­not take his reelec­tion for grant­ed, but at this point, it does not look like Tim Eyman or any of the oth­er declared can­di­dates would give him much of a chal­lenge. (Last fall, for­mer U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dave Reichert declined the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty’s invi­ta­tion to chal­lenge Inslee.)

Despite pos­sess­ing much more name recog­ni­tion than either For­tu­na­to or Culp, Eyman bare­ly gar­nered more sup­port than they did in the Elway Poll.

If Eyman gets pum­meled, it would not be the first time a pur­vey­or of destruc­tive bal­lot mea­sures was foiled in a guber­na­to­r­i­al bid by Pacif­ic North­west vot­ers.

In 1998, Eyman’s Ore­gon equiv­a­lent, Bill Size­more, ran for gov­er­nor as the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee and was sound­ly trounced by Demo­c­ra­t­ic incum­bent John Kitzhaber. Size­more received just thir­ty per­cent of the vote and lost in every sin­gle coun­ty in the state except for Mal­heur Coun­ty. In the twen­ty-two years since then, there has­n’t been a guber­na­to­r­i­al race in Ore­gon that lop­sided.

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

Diverting sales tax revenue from vehicle sales will not get us beyond I‑976, Republicans

About two months ago, the ear­ly returns in the Novem­ber 2019 gen­er­al elec­tion indi­cat­ed that Tim Eyman’s incred­i­bly destruc­tive Ini­tia­tive 976 would pass, set­ting in motion an urgent and heat­ed dis­cus­sion about the future of trans­porta­tion fund­ing in Wash­ing­ton State. I‑976 ulti­mate­ly did pass, with 52.99% of the 45.19% of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who turned out vot­ing yes, and 47.01% vot­ing no.

The objec­tive of Eyman’s I‑976 was to repeal bil­lions in bipar­ti­san, vot­er-approved trans­porta­tion fund­ing at three lev­els (state, region­al, and local), with the aim of elim­i­nat­ing fund­ing for all non-high­way modes of trans­porta­tion.

The mea­sure is cur­rent­ly on hold as a result of a court-ordered injunc­tion, but that has­n’t stopped Repub­li­can law­mak­ers from argu­ing that it should be imple­ment­ed (per­haps leg­isla­tive­ly) any­way. Of course, imple­ment­ing I‑976 would wreck the fis­cal foun­da­tion of the state’s trans­porta­tion sys­tem, result­ing in the can­cel­la­tion or delay of a long list of projects, includ­ing high­way projects.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers know that bud­gets can­not be bal­anced using Tim Eyman talk­ing points. Pub­lic ser­vices cost mon­ey, and mon­ey has to come from some­where. So they’re disin­gen­u­ous­ly propos­ing to divert fund­ing from schools, men­tal health, and oth­er essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices to make up the short­fall in the trans­porta­tion bud­get that would result from the imple­men­ta­tion of I‑976.

In a piece iron­i­cal­ly titled “Beyond I‑976: We need a bet­ter way to fund high­way projects,” Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Cur­tis King of Yaki­ma argues:

Some of my Sen­ate col­leagues are offer­ing a sen­si­ble long-term solu­tion for Washington’s trans­porta­tion needs — shift­ing the state sales-tax rev­enue from vehi­cle pur­chas­es into the state trans­porta­tion bud­get over sev­er­al bien­ni­um instead of con­tin­u­ing to put it in the state oper­at­ing bud­get. The oper­at­ing bud­get has seen huge increas­es in rev­enues, up 17% this bien­ni­um alone.

It’s log­i­cal, giv­en the rela­tion­ship between vehi­cles and trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, and would allow law­mak­ers to main­tain and increase trans­porta­tion invest­ments with­out adding a tax. That sounds like an approach the vot­ers would appre­ci­ate.

Rob­bing Peter to pay Paul is nei­ther log­i­cal nor an approach that the vot­ers will appre­ci­ate. A clear major­i­ty of 56% of like­ly 2019 Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed by NPI’s poll­ster Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling after the con­clu­sion of last year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sion in May said that they agreed that Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic schools were under­fund­ed, and that state rev­enue need­ed to be raised to ful­ly fund them.

This was after the Leg­is­la­ture had adjourned on April 28th hav­ing passed sev­er­al mod­est rev­enue reforms that increased fund­ing for our essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices.

Pub­lic schools and high­er edu­ca­tion make up the major­i­ty of expen­di­tures sup­port­ed by the state’s gen­er­al fund, which the state sales tax is the pri­ma­ry source of rev­enue for. So what Repub­li­cans are real­ly doing here is propos­ing raid­ing edu­ca­tion fund­ing so that they can have cheap vehi­cle fees and high­way projects.

The edu­ca­tion of our youth is our state’s para­mount duty — the Con­sti­tu­tion is very clear about this — but Repub­li­cans do not care. Their pri­or­i­ty is their cars. Not our kids, who are our future. Nope, got­ta put our cars first and per­pet­u­ate our cul­ture of auto depen­dence. Noth­ing is too good for our cars!

Gov­er­nor Inslee has jus­ti­fi­ably dis­missed this bad idea already, telling reporters at his bud­get roll­out press con­fer­ence last month that it would be irre­spon­si­ble.

But the absur­di­ty of this pro­pos­al actu­al­ly goes even deep­er.

See, Ini­tia­tive 976 did­n’t just tar­get vehi­cle fees for repeal.… it also tar­get­ed for repeal a por­tion of the sales tax on motor vehi­cles. Yes, the very rev­enue source Repub­li­cans like Cur­tis King are talk­ing about rely­ing on to get us “beyond I‑976” was among the tax­es and fees that Eyman tar­get­ed with I‑976!

You’d be for­giv­en for not know­ing this if you weren’t aware, because it was not men­tioned in the bal­lot title or the voter’s pam­phlet state­ment argu­ments sec­tion.

But if you read the text of the ini­tia­tive, or the fis­cal impact state­ment, you can see that the mea­sure does in fact attempt to repeal more than just vehi­cle fees.

Sec­tion 7 of I‑976 repeals the fol­low­ing por­tion of RCW 82.08.020:

(3) Begin­ning July 1, 2003, there is levied and col­lect­ed an addi­tion­al tax of three-tenths of one per­cent of the sell­ing price on each retail sale of a motor vehi­cle in this state, oth­er than retail car rentals taxed under sub­sec­tion (2) of this sec­tion. The rev­enue col­lect­ed under this sub­sec­tion must be deposit­ed in the mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion account cre­at­ed in RCW 47.66.070.
(4) For pur­pos­es of sub­sec­tion (3) of this sec­tion, “motor vehi­cle” has the mean­ing pro­vid­ed in RCW 46.04.320, but does not include:
(a) Farm trac­tors or farm vehi­cles as defined in RCW 46.04.180 and 46.04.181, unless the farm trac­tor or farm vehi­cle is for use in the pro­duc­tion of mar­i­jua­na;
(b) Off-road vehi­cles as defined in RCW 46.04.365;
© Non­high­way vehi­cles as defined in RCW 46.09.310; and
(d) Snow­mo­biles as defined in RCW 46.04.546.

The rea­son why Eyman tar­get­ed this por­tion of the sales tax on motor vehi­cles for repeal along with vehi­cle fees at the state, region­al, and local lev­els is sim­ple: His objec­tive with I‑976 was to destroy fund­ing for non-high­way modes. “Thir­ty dol­lar car tabs” was his slo­gan, but it was a smoke­screen.

The real objec­tive of I‑976 was to dev­as­tate fund­ing for tran­sit, bike paths, side­walks, and even local roads, because Eyman is ide­o­log­i­cal­ly opposed to tax dol­lars going to any trans­porta­tion pur­pose except for high­ways.

Notice in the excerpt above that it says “the rev­enue col­lect­ed under this sub­sec­tion must be deposit­ed in the mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion account.”

That mul­ti­modal account, as its name sug­gests, ben­e­fits all trans­porta­tion modes, not just high­ways. And that’s why Eyman tar­get­ed it. With I‑976, he want­ed to do as much dam­age as he could to mul­ti­modal infra­struc­ture in one fell swoop.

It mat­ters not to Eyman that his “thir­ty dol­lar car tabs” slo­gan is a lie, as his real aim was — and is — to defund tran­sit and peo­ple-ori­ent­ed trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture.

It is cru­cial that every­one in Wash­ing­ton under­stand this, which is why I’m choos­ing to be repet­i­tive here and restate this impor­tant point sev­er­al times. Cheap car tabs are mere­ly a side effect of Tim Eyman’s real agen­da.

When The News Tri­bune asked Eyman about the fact that I‑976 would not actu­al­ly reduce vehi­cle fees to thir­ty dol­lars like it promised, Eyman’s response was essen­tial­ly to shrug… because he real­ly and tru­ly does­n’t care.

He admit­ted, on the record, that I‑976 does­n’t do what it claims to do.

DOL said the ini­tia­tive did not repeal the fol­low­ing:

  • $8 ser­vice fee, which goes to the office that process­es the trans­ac­tion or to fund state fer­ry replace­ments if car tabs are renewed at a coun­ty audi­tor or at the DOL.
  • $4.50 fil­ing fee, which is kept by the coun­ty in which the car tab tax is paid.
  • 50 cent DOL license ser­vice fee, which is used to sup­port its com­put­er sys­tem and reim­burse­ment of coun­ty licens­ing activ­i­ties.
  • 25 cent license plate tech­nol­o­gy fee, which also is used to pay for DOL com­put­er work to charge the car tab.

The total: $43.25.

Eyman agrees.

“We were going after the big ones, the big guys. The fee itself is $30. There are some ancil­lary fees on there,” he said.

The ini­tia­tive elim­i­nates the addi­tion­al fee the state charges based on the weight of a vehi­cle, which can range from $25 to $65. It also bars local gov­ern­ments from tack­ing on car tab fees through trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­tricts.

Eyman said he doesn’t see a prob­lem because the ini­tia­tive will cut car tabs sub­stan­tial­ly by elim­i­nat­ing the weight fees and tar­get­ing Sound Transit’s MVET, which is col­lect­ed in the urban areas of Pierce, King and Sno­homish coun­ties.

“Are vot­ers going to be furi­ous because it’s $43? I don’t think so.”

Only 23.44% of the reg­is­tered vot­ers of Wash­ing­ton State vot­ed for Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976. Most vot­ers either vot­ed no or did not express an opin­ion one way or the oth­er. Nev­er­the­less, Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are press­ing for this sub­ma­jor­i­ty’s will to be hon­ored. They want I‑976 imple­ment­ed. But of course, that would mean cut­ting the sales tax on motor vehi­cles along with vehi­cle fees.

How much rev­enue would be lost? Hun­dreds of mil­lions by the end of the 2020s. The sales tax on motor vehi­cles is pro­ject­ed to raise $109.62 mil­lion dur­ing the 2019–2021 bien­ni­um, accord­ing to the state’s Trans­porta­tion Resource Man­u­al.

Trans­porta­tion Resource Man­u­al extract: Retail sales tax on motor vehi­cles

If you’re going to argue that vehi­cle fees have become rev­enue non gra­ta in the wake of I‑976’s pas­sage, then the same goes for the retail sales tax on motor vehi­cles. The peo­ple who vot­ed for “thir­ty dol­lar car tabs” also vot­ed to cut the por­tion of the sales tax on motor vehi­cles that goes to trans­porta­tion.

Sec­tion 7 is as much a part of Ini­tia­tive 976 as any of the mea­sure’s oth­er sec­tions.

And yet Cur­tis King and oth­er Repub­li­cans are out there say­ing we should use rev­enue from the sales tax on motor vehi­cles to fund trans­porta­tion.

To be clear, the rev­enue they want to divert is the por­tion that’s going to the gen­er­al fund, not the por­tion I‑976 is try­ing to repeal. But by their log­ic, the vot­ers just said we don’t want to fund trans­porta­tion projects with sales tax dol­lars.

So, on the one hand, they’re argu­ing that we should abide by the will of the group of vot­ers who backed I‑976, and on the oth­er hand, they are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly argu­ing that we should not abide by the will of that very same group of vot­ers.

It’s good to know they’re not sin­cere when they talk about the will of the vot­ers.

To tru­ly move beyond I‑976, it’s impor­tant that law­mak­ers first rec­og­nize that it was a scam and a con per­pe­trat­ed against the vot­ers of Wash­ing­ton State.

I‑976’s bal­lot title con­tained mul­ti­ple false­hoods (includ­ing the false promise of “thir­ty dol­lar car tabs”, as men­tioned above) and no men­tion or even allu­sion to the destruc­tive con­se­quences of its imple­men­ta­tion.

The result there­fore can­not be regard­ed as a use­ful mea­sure­ment of where peo­ple stand on how trans­porta­tion in this state ought to be fund­ed.

Because the I‑976 bal­lot title is a blaz­ing dump­ster fire, about the only con­clu­sion we can draw from the I‑976 result is that there are a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple who would like vehi­cle fees to be low­ered or assessed in a more equi­table way (or both). We can make this infer­ence in part because it is sup­port­ed by oth­er avail­able data, includ­ing cred­i­ble pub­lic opin­ion research on the sub­ject.

Instead of repeal­ing vehi­cle fees left and right as Eyman pro­posed, the Leg­is­la­ture should restruc­ture them and ensure low income fam­i­lies ben­e­fit in the process.

The Leg­is­la­ture for­tu­nate­ly pos­sess­es the pow­er to respon­si­bly rewrite the tax code. It is prob­a­ble that I‑976 will ulti­mate­ly fail to with­stand con­sti­tu­tion­al scruti­ny in the courts, which is why the Leg­is­la­ture had best start prepar­ing for that sce­nario with a plan that address­es the griev­ances of peo­ple who are frus­trat­ed about vehi­cle fees but also want trans­porta­tion projects fund­ed and built — an out­come that will not be pos­si­ble if I‑976 is imple­ment­ed as Tim Eyman intend­ed.

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Washingtonians will have thirteen Democratic candidates to choose from in March’s primary

The Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty today released the list of can­di­dates who have qual­i­fied to appear on the bal­lot in the state’s ground­break­ing 2020 pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry on March 10th. The list is as fol­lows:

  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Michael Ben­net of Col­orado
  • For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden
  • For­mer May­or of New York Michael Bloomberg
  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Cory Book­er of New Jer­sey
  • For­mer South Bend May­or Pete Buttigieg
  • For­mer U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive John Delaney of Mary­land
  • U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tul­si Gab­bard of Hawaii
  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Amy Klobuchar of Min­neso­ta
  • For­mer Mass­a­chu­setts Gov­er­nor Deval Patrick
  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders of Ver­mont
  • Bil­lion­aire activist Tom Stey­er
  • U.S. Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts
  • Entre­pre­neur Andrew Yang

Two oth­er can­di­dates (Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris and the for­mer Sec­re­tary of Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment, Julián Cas­tro) sub­mit­ted the required paper­work to appear on the bal­lot, but recent­ly dropped out of the race. They asked the state par­ty to remove their names from the bal­lot after sus­pend­ing their cam­paigns. Since drop­ping out, Julián Cas­tro has endorsed Eliz­a­beth Warren’s can­di­da­cy.

Wash­ing­ton will hold its pri­ma­ry on March 10th, along with Michi­gan, Mis­sis­sip­pi and Mis­souri. Many polit­i­cal observers believe this tim­ing will place Wash­ing­ton at the cen­ter of a cru­cial moment for the nom­i­na­tion quest.

Nor­mal­ly, mid-March pri­maries are total­ly over­shad­owed by Super Tues­day (which is sched­uled for March 3th). Super Tues­day sees can­di­dates com­pete for a gigan­tic haul of del­e­gates from four­teen states (includ­ing two of the largest states, Texas and Cal­i­for­nia), and sub­se­quent vot­ing days often feel anti­cli­mac­tic by com­par­i­son.

How­ev­er, a cou­ple of fac­tors make 2020’s post Super Tues­day nom­i­nat­ing events more impor­tant than they might oth­er­wise be.

First is the unprece­dent­ed num­ber of can­di­dates on the bal­lot, which will like­ly dilute the effect of the Super Tues­day del­e­gate haul. As a cam­paign strate­gist inter­viewed by Politi­co put it, “We’ve nev­er had a sit­u­a­tion where we get past Super Tues­day and there’s still five peo­ple in the field.” If, as seems like­ly, five or more can­di­dates get through March 3rd and still have a shot at win­ning, the com­pe­ti­tion between them for the remain­ing states (such as Wash­ing­ton) will be espe­cial­ly fierce.

Sec­ond is the pres­ence of bil­lion­aire and for­mer New York May­or Michael Bloomberg, who decid­ed to enter the race only a few weeks ago.

While most of the can­di­dates in the field have gone out of their way to denounce the cor­rupt­ing influ­ence of mon­ey in pol­i­tics, Bloomberg has decid­ed to embrace it ful­ly, pour­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars from his vast per­son­al for­tune into adver­tis­ing, and hir­ing armies of paid cam­paign work­ers.

Bloomberg has delib­er­ate­ly cho­sen to avoid cam­paign­ing in the ear­ly states of Iowa and New Hamp­shire – which are seen as a prov­ing ground for grass­roots cam­paign strate­gies – and set his sights on Super Tues­day states, where he can rely on his vast finan­cial reserves to blow the com­pe­ti­tion out of the water on the adver­tis­ing front in expen­sive media mar­kets such as Cal­i­for­nia.

Bloomberg’s expect­ed adver­tis­ing and media dom­i­nance in the Super Tues­day states has led oth­er, less well-fund­ed cam­paigns to seek alter­na­tive routes to vic­tory, and it seems like­ly that Wash­ing­ton and its fel­low March pri­ma­ry states will get a lot of atten­tion from these can­di­dates.

Washington’s vot­ers will receive their bal­lots by mail, and the eigh­teen-day vot­ing peri­od will begin on Feb­ru­ary 21st, last­ing until 8 PM on March 10th.

The Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty has nev­er before used a pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry to allo­cate its nation­al con­ven­tion del­e­gates, so this pri­ma­ry will be his­toric. The par­ty will still hold cau­cus­es in April and May for the pur­pos­es of del­e­gate selec­tion and par­ty­build­ing. The first cau­cus­es will take place on Sun­day, April 26th, at 1 PM in urban and sub­ur­ban leg­isla­tive dis­tricts.

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Alex Ramel appointed to the Washington State House of Representatives from 40th LD

For­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jeff Mor­ris, who resigned late last year to take a dream job with Schnei­der Elec­tric, has a suc­ces­sor: Alex Ramel.

The envi­ron­men­tal and cli­mate jus­tice activist was cho­sen by the What­com Coun­ty Coun­cil, Skag­it Coun­ty Com­mis­sion, and San Juan Coun­ty Com­mis­sion at a joint meet­ing today to rep­re­sent the 40th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict in the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly.

Ramel joins State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Debra Lekanoff and State Sen­a­tor Liz Lovelett as one of the peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Olympia from the 40th Dis­trict in the state’s north­west­ern cor­ner, which includes por­tions of Belling­ham and What­com Coun­ty in addi­tion to the San Juan Islands and parts of Skag­it Coun­ty.

Ramel was a con­tender two years ago to select a replace­ment for retir­ing State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris Lyt­ton. A total of four Democ­rats sought to take over from Lyt­ton: Ramel, Rud Browne, Debra Lekanoff, and Tom Pas­ma.

Lekanoff was the only Demo­c­rat to move on from the August 2018 Top Two elec­tion to the gen­er­al elec­tion. Ramel fin­ished in third place, just behind Repub­li­can Michael Petr­ish, who became Lekanoff’s autumn oppo­nent.

Ramel gar­nered 7,684 votes (19.13%) of the vote in that elim­i­na­tion elec­tion. While on the trail, he spoke to NPI’s Caitlin Har­ring­ton about his desire to serve the peo­ple as one of the state’s nine­ty-eight state rep­re­sen­ta­tives:

“The skillset I bring is being able finds ways to work togeth­er, find­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, and doing the hard work and sweat equi­ty of build­ing trust,” Ramel says. This is espe­cial­ly true in his cur­rent job at Stand.earth, where the cur­rent pri­or­i­ty is resist­ing oil indus­try expan­sion projects, and where Ramel has suc­cess­ful­ly found ways to col­lab­o­rate with (instead of alien­ate) refin­ery work­ers.

Ramel now has the oppor­tu­ni­ty not only to serve in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, but to serve with Debra Lekanoff. How about that!

Here’s a pho­to of the two of them togeth­er fol­low­ing Ramel’s appoint­ment, cour­tesy of Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty Chair Tina Pod­lodows­ki:

Alex Ramel and Debra Lekanoff

Alex Ramel and Debra Lekanoff fol­low­ing Alex’s appoint­ment to the Wash­ing­ton State House (Pho­to: Tina Pod­lodows­ki)

Ramel will remain in office as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive at least through the end of next Novem­ber. A spe­cial elec­tion to fill the remain­der of Jeff Mor­ris’ term will be held con­cur­rent­ly with the elec­tion for a new two-year term. If Ramel runs and wins, he would then serve in the House until Jan­u­ary of 2023.

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

What drove Donald Trump’s decision to kill Iranian General Qasem Suleimani?

In the ear­ly hours of Fri­day morn­ing, a pil­lar of flame unex­pect­ed­ly rose over the tar­mac at Bagh­dad Air­port. At the blaz­ing epi­cen­ter of the explo­sion was a man who – until that moment – was per­haps the most influ­en­tial geopo­lit­i­cal fig­ure in the Mid­dle East, the comman­der of Iran’s Quds Force, Gen­er­al Qasem Soleimani.

General Suleimani was one of Iran's top soldiers

Gen­er­al Soleimani was one of Iran’s top sol­diers (Pho­to: Sayyed Sha­hab, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Soleimani had many pow­er­ful ene­mies, but the killers soon made them­selves known. The Pen­ta­gon took respon­si­bil­i­ty for the bomb­ing, say­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump him­self had ordered Soleimani’s death.

This is a shock­ing esca­la­tion in a region where the del­i­cate bal­ance of pow­er and peace has, in many cas­es, rest­ed on the shoul­ders of the Iran­ian gen­er­al.

Soleimani mold­ed Iran­ian pol­i­cy in the Mid­dle East, a role that saw him trav­el to Iraq, Syr­ia, Lebanon and beyond to advise and direct a pletho­ra of mili­tias, armies and polit­i­cal groups towards the goal of increas­ing Iran’s geopo­lit­i­cal pow­er.

Soleimani became the leader of the Quds Force – the for­eign affairs branch of Iran’s Islam­ic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps, com­pa­ra­ble to the CIA – in 1998 and played a key role in orga­niz­ing Shia mil­i­tants around the region.

He is known to have advised Lebanon’s Hezbol­lah orga­ni­za­tion in their war against Israel and pro­vid­ed sup­port for Shia mil­i­tants in their vio­lent resis­tance to Amer­i­can forces after the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq.

When the civ­il war in Syr­ia broke out, he orga­nized a pipeline of weapons and fight­ers to sup­port the mur­der­ous dic­ta­tor­ship of Bashar al-Assad.

Soleimani came to inter­na­tion­al promi­nence with the explo­sive expan­sion of the Islam­ic State group (ISIS) across north­ern Iraq in 2014. Before the U.S. and its allies orga­nized to take on the rapid­ly expand­ing jihadist “caliphate,” Soleimani him­self was on the ground, ral­ly­ing and advis­ing the Iraqi and Kur­dish para­mil­i­taries that would do the vast major­i­ty of the hard fight­ing in the war.

Soleimani’s strate­gic genius and tal­ent for lan­guages made him a key asset in unit­ing a diverse range of eth­nic and polit­i­cal groups against the threat of ISIS.

And now he is dead.

The killing is the lat­est and most dra­mat­ic in a series of esca­la­tions in bal­loon­ing con­flict for pow­er and influ­ence that pits Iran against the U.S. and its region­al allies (such as Sau­di Ara­bia and Israel).

The con­flict – which began to accel­er­ate after Don­ald Trump abrupt­ly aban­doned the Iran nuclear deal – has seen both sides use proxy forces from Syr­ia, Iraq and Yemen, influ­enc­ing sand pro­long­ing con­flicts that have tak­en thou­sands of lives.

In recent months, ten­sions have ratch­eted up even fur­ther, as the two sides have tak­en increas­ing­ly bold mea­sures against each oth­er.

In May and June of last year the U.S. and Sau­di Ara­bia blamed a series of attacks on oil tankers on Iran. In Sep­tem­ber, drones launched by an Iran­ian ally struck an oil refin­ery inside Sau­di Ara­bia. A month lat­er, an Iran­ian oil tanker was struck by a mis­sile off the Sau­di coast.

Towards the end of 2019, the sit­u­a­tion devolved fur­ther.

In mid-Novem­ber, a cache of Iran­ian intel­li­gence doc­u­ments was leaked to The Inter­cept, reveal­ing the broad scope of Iran­ian ambi­tions in the Mid­dle East and aggra­vat­ing lead­ers from both sides.

Decem­ber saw the U.S. encour­age Iraqis protest­ing against Iran­ian influ­ence, as well as anti-gov­­ern­­ment pro­test­ers inside Iran itself.

The last days of the year saw a cas­cad­ing series of esca­la­tions:

The death of Gen­er­al Soleimani moves the sit­u­a­tion into a new par­a­digm. It is the first exam­ple of the U.S. direct­ly attack­ing a mem­ber of the Iran­ian armed forces. Iran’s Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamanei (report­ed­ly a per­son­al friend of Soleimani) today vowed “force­ful revenge” against the U.S.

Iran's Supreme Leader comforts relatives of General Soleimani. The two men were reportedly personal friends.

Iran’s Supreme Leader com­forts rel­a­tives of Gen­er­al Soleimani. The two men were report­ed­ly per­son­al friends. (Pho­to: Fars News Agency, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Why is all this hap­pen­ing now?

Trump has repeat­ed­ly said that, going into an elec­tion year, a war with Iran would be “a pos­i­tive from a polit­i­cal stand­point” and “the only way to get elect­ed,” espe­cial­ly since the Com­man­der in Chief “has absolute­ly no abil­i­ty to nego­ti­ate.”

Except he wasn’t dis­cussing the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion; Trump’s entire career has shown that that lev­el of self-aware­­ness is entire­ly beyond him. These state­ments are in fact from 2012, an elec­tion year in which Trump believed that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma would cyn­i­cal­ly start a war with Iran to improve his polit­i­cal for­tunes.

Of course, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma did not go to war with Iran, instead opt­ing to bring togeth­er a coali­tion of inter­na­tion­al part­ners (includ­ing Chi­na, Rus­sia and the Euro­pean Union) for years of painstak­ing of nego­ti­a­tion with the Islam­ic Repub­lic over its nuclear pro­gram. This effort result­ed in the 2015 Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action (JCPOA), com­mon­ly known as the Iran nuclear deal, one of the most impres­sive acts of inter­na­tion­al diplo­ma­cy this cen­tu­ry.

When Don­ald Trump took over in 2017, he began gut­ting all that work.

Pre­fer­ring to dom­i­nate the spot­light, he aban­doned Obama’s approach of mul­ti­lat­er­al con­sen­­sus-build­ing between expe­ri­enced diplo­mats, and tried to con­duct per­son­al diplo­ma­cy one-on-one with the world’s lead­ers, from his enor­­mous­­ly-hyped meet­ings with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to the Sin­is­ter Glow­ing Orb inci­dent with the dic­ta­tors of Sau­di Ara­bia and Egypt.

And of course, there is Trump’s mys­te­ri­ous deter­mi­na­tion to have nobody else in the room while meet­ing with Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s fond­ness for dic­ta­tor­ships does not extend to Iran. From the begin­ning of his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign there were obvi­ous signs that he would take an aggres­sive pos­ture to the Islam­ic Repub­lic, from the role of Michael Fly­nn – a vir­u­lent­ly islam­o­pho­bic and bel­liger­ent for­mer gen­er­al – in his elec­tion team to his racist efforts to ban all Mus­lims from enter­ing the U.S., to the promi­nent role of neo­con­ser­v­a­tive, islam­o­pho­bic war hawks in his ever-chang­ing cab­i­net.

It makes per­fect sense that this esca­la­tion is hap­pen­ing at the start of what most Amer­i­cans hope is Trump’s last year in office. Trump made clear with his 2012 state­ments that he believes in the “ral­ly round the flag” phe­nom­e­non – the idea that vot­ers will sup­port an incum­bent leader in wartime. In Trump’s mind, what bet­ter way to win over vot­ers than to start a war?

President Trump may be trying to create a "tough guy" image ahead of November's election.

Pres­i­dent Trump may be try­ing to cre­ate a “tough guy” image ahead of Novem­ber’s elec­tion. (Pho­to: Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

How­ev­er, the phe­nom­e­non Trump seems to be plac­ing his chips on doesn’t real­ly apply to the 2020 elec­tion. “Ral­ly­ing round the flag” cer­tain­ly boost­ed the pop­u­lar­i­ty of lead­ers like Har­ry S. Tru­man and John F. Kennedy, but it rarely helps mod­ern pres­i­dents. George W. Bush won the 2004 elec­tion in spite of the occu­pa­tion of Iraq  not because of it, and his father lost the 1992 elec­tion even though he had over­seen the deci­sive U.S. vic­to­ry in the 1991 Gulf War.

Don­ald Trump him­self won elec­tion in 2016 in part because Hillary Clin­ton was seen as com­plic­it in U.S. pol­i­cy towards con­flicts in Iraq, Libya, and else­where.

Suc­cess­ful pres­i­dents also use wartime expe­ri­ence to pro­mote the idea that they are calm under extreme pres­sure. Even the slight­est glance at Don­ald Trump’s Twit­ter account would dis­pel that notion, espe­cial­ly if he is faced by an expe­ri­enced states­man like for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden.

Speak­ing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates, they have all con­demned Soleimani’s killing in strong terms. Biden com­pared the move to “toss­ing a stick of dyna­mite into a tin­der­box,” while oth­er can­di­dates called Trump “reck­less” and promised to do every­thing to avoid con­flict. Trump him­self, per­haps see­ing the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of his action, has along with his lack­eys already made the spu­ri­ous claim that Soleimani’s killing was intend­ed “to stop a war, not start one.”

How­ev­er, the Pres­i­dent may have already set an unstop­pable process into motion. Iran is deter­mined to find any way to avenge the death of a nation­al super­hero and with the Pen­ta­gon send­ing thou­sands of troops to the region, the Quds Force and its allies will have many oppor­tu­ni­ties to inflict harm on Amer­i­cans.

In that event, Trump will not only have his deep-seat­ed inse­cu­ri­ties dri­ving him towards a mus­cu­lar response, he will doubt­less have to deal with pres­sure from the lead­ers of both Israel and Sau­di Ara­bia (who have both shown an abil­i­ty to influ­ence Trump) to strike at Iran – both coun­tries have a his­to­ry of using Amer­i­can pow­er to advance their own inter­ests.

In the com­plex and frac­tured land­scape of the Mid­dle East, destruc­tive rec­i­p­ro­cal exchanges (“an eye for an eye”) can all too often descend into some­thing far worse, and the U.S. cur­rent­ly lacks a pres­i­dent who can nav­i­gate the dan­ger with any degree of calm­ness, self-restraint or even dig­ni­ty. It is now up to Con­gress and the Amer­i­can peo­ple to avoid anoth­er dis­as­trous war.

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

Iranian-American citizens detained at the border on the orders of Donald Trump’s goons

Iran­ian-Amer­i­can cit­i­zens return­ing from Cana­da are being harassed and detained at the Unit­ed States Bor­der by immi­gra­tion offi­cials, the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions declared in an urgent bul­letin pub­lished today.

“The Wash­ing­ton state chap­ter of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions, CAIR Wash­ing­ton (CAIR-WA) is assist­ing more than 60 Ira­ni­ans and Iran­ian-Amer­i­cans of all ages who were detained at length and ques­tioned at the Peace Arch Bor­der Cross­ing in Blaine, Wash­ing­ton,” the bul­letin begins.

“Many more were report­ed­ly refused entry to the Unit­ed States due to a lack of capac­i­ty for Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol (CBP) to detain them. Oth­er Iran­ian-Amer­i­cans are about to cross the Peace Arch Bor­der as they returned from an Iran­ian pop con­cert that was tak­ing place on Sat­ur­day in Van­cou­ver, Cana­da.”

“Those detained report­ed that their pass­ports were con­fis­cat­ed and that they were ques­tioned about their polit­i­cal views and alle­giances,” the bul­letin went on to explain. “CBP offi­cials con­tact­ed at the Blaine Port of Entry pro­vid­ed no com­ment or rea­sons for the deten­tions.”

But, of course, there is a rea­son… and it has to do with the Trump regime’s fear of reprisals fol­low­ing Trump’s deci­sion to assas­si­nate Sole­na­mi:

Crys­tal, a 24-year-old Amer­i­can cit­i­zen and med­ical stu­dent was alleged­ly detained and inter­ro­gat­ed for more than ten hours with her fam­i­ly at the Peace Arch Bor­der Cross­ing before being released ear­ly this morn­ing.

The vast major­i­ty of peo­ple being held last night were Amer­i­can cit­i­zens,” said Crys­tal.

“We kept ask­ing why we were being detained and asked ques­tions that had noth­ing to do with our rea­son for trav­el­ing and were told, ‘I’m sor­ry, this is just the wrong time for you guys.’”

A source at CBP report­ed that the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) has issued a nation­al order to CBP to “report” and detain any­one with Iran­ian her­itage enter­ing the coun­try who is deemed poten­tial­ly sus­pi­cious or “adver­sar­i­al,” regard­less of cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus. CBP at the Peace Arch Bor­der Cross­ing did not con­firm or deny this report.

Empha­sis is mine.

The offi­cial gov­ern­ment line is, of course, denial. Who, us? says CBP.

Matt Leas, a spokesman for Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, dis­put­ed the accounts and reports from advo­ca­cy groups that the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty had issued a direc­tive to detain those with Iran­ian her­itage enter­ing the coun­try, despite their cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus.

“Social media posts that C.B.P. is detain­ing Iran­ian-Amer­i­cans and refus­ing their entry into the U.S. because of their coun­try of ori­gin are false,” Mr. Leas said. Offi­cials from the agency added secu­ri­ty at ports of entry across the coun­try after the threat from Iran.

CAIR Wash­ing­ton sub­se­quent­ly report­ed that those who were being detained have been released. But what about those Iran­ian-Amer­i­cans who need to cross the bor­der in the next few hours or days? Will they also be sub­ject­ed to this immoral, unac­cept­able treat­ment?

Sev­er­al mem­bers of Con­gress say they are work­ing to assist those who may have been harassed, delayed, or detained at the bor­der by the CBP.

“I am active­ly work­ing to get more infor­ma­tion on the reports of Amer­i­cans and law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dents of Iran­ian descent being detained by CBP, includ­ing at the Canadian‑U.S. bor­der in Wash­ing­ton,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Smith. “It is unac­cept­able for the civ­il lib­er­ties of Amer­i­cans and immi­grants to be vio­lat­ed. We can­not let dis­crim­i­na­tion dic­tate our poli­cies and actions.”

“We have heard reports of Iran­ian Amer­i­can cit­i­zens being detained at the Blaine bor­der cross­ing,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzan Del­Bene, who rep­re­sents bor­der neigh­bor­hoods. “My team and I are work­ing with state and fed­er­al offi­cials to get to the bot­tom of these reports. If you or your fam­i­ly have been impact­ed and require assis­tance please reach out to my office in Both­ell at (425) 485‑0085.”

“Deeply dis­turbed by reports that Iran­ian Amer­i­cans, includ­ing U.S. cit­i­zens, are being detained at the Cana­di­an bor­der with Wash­ing­ton State,” said U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal. “My office has been work­ing on this all morn­ing. Please con­tact us with infor­ma­tion on direct­ly affect­ed peo­ple at WA07PJ_casework@mail.house.gov.”

If you’d like to assist those affect­ed, con­sid­er a dona­tion to CAIR Wash­ing­ton.

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Jesse Johnson, Jamila Taylor and Sam Rise nominated to succeed Kristine Reeves in 30th

A spe­cial nom­i­nat­ing cau­cus called by the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee today select­ed three nom­i­nees to suc­ceed depart­ed State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris­tine Reeves in the 30th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, which encom­pass­es Fed­er­al Way in South King Coun­ty along with neigh­bor­hoods in Algo­na and Pacif­ic and a hand­ful of precincts with­in Pierce Coun­ty.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic precinct com­mit­tee offi­cers in the 30th were tasked with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of pre­sent­ing to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party’s statu­to­ry state cen­tral com­mit­tee a list of three names to be for­ward­ed to the King and Pierce and Coun­ty Coun­cils for a pos­si­ble joint appoint­ment. It is the party’s duty under the State Con­sti­tu­tion to pro­pose nom­i­nees for leg­isla­tive vacan­cies.

This morn­ing, the 30th’s PCOs select­ed the fol­low­ing indi­vid­u­als to be for­mal­ly nom­i­nat­ed by the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty:

  1. Fed­er­al Way City Coun­cilmem­ber Jesse John­son
  2. Jami­la Tay­lor, who ran for Fed­er­al Way City Coun­cil in 2019 and near­ly won
  3. Sam Rise, a teacher work­ing for the Fed­er­al Way School Dis­trict

John­son has been a can­di­date for the Wash­ing­ton State House since before Kris­tine Reeves resigned, as he had been plan­ning on run­ning for the seat cur­rent­ly held by Mike Pel­lic­ciot­ti, who is vacat­ing it in order to run for a four year term as State Trea­sur­er. If John­son is appoint­ed to Reeves’ seat, then he would pre­sum­ably run to be retained in that posi­tion instead.

In a recent update sent to sup­port­ers, John­son explained why he decid­ed to switch from run­ning for Pel­lic­ciot­ti’s seat to seek­ing the appoint­ment:

Recent­ly, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kris­tine Reeves announced that she is resign­ing from the Wash­ing­ton State House. This means our dis­trict will be short a rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Olympia as the Leg­is­la­ture pre­pares for an impor­tant ses­sion to begin in Jan­u­ary.

There will be an appoint­ment process to fill her seat, and I believe it is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant that who­ev­er is select­ed be ready to hit the ground run­ning on day one and advo­cate effec­tive­ly and whole­heart­ed­ly for our dis­trict, its com­mu­ni­ties, and pri­or­i­ties. It is for that rea­son I have decid­ed to pur­sue this appoint­ment.

I was raised in Fed­er­al Way, nav­i­gat­ed the pub­lic school sytem, went to Fed­er­al Way High School, and am excep­tion­al­ly grate­ful to serve as Fed­er­al Way’s youngest City Coun­cilmem­ber.

This place is home to me. Over the last two years on the Fed­er­al Way City Coun­cil, I have worked every day to advance a pro­gres­sive and com­mon­sense agen­da, rep­re­sent­ing all mem­bers of our diverse com­mu­ni­ty – youth, work­ing fam­i­lies, vet­er­ans and seniors. This is the same com­mit­ment, mind­set, and focus I will bring to Olympia.

Both on the City Coun­cil and in my job work­ing with High­line Pub­lic Schools, I have sought to ensure we are pro­vid­ing equi­table access to qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion for every stu­dent – from cra­dle to career.

I’ve worked to increase stu­dent expo­sure to career path­way and train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, high­er edu­ca­tion, and trade/vocational pro­grams, all while encour­ag­ing youth to engage in civic life and deci­sion mak­ing. In the Leg­is­la­ture, I’m excit­ed to con­tribute to the work­force of our next gen­er­a­tion ini­tia­tives, so that every stu­dent and work­er has access to a sta­ble and reward­ing career that also allows for them to thrive in a vibrant local econ­o­my.

Juve­nile jus­tice reform and youth vio­lence pre­ven­tion is anoth­er impor­tant area I have brought atten­tion to and secured fund­ing for on the City Coun­cil, and it’s an issue I’d like to address in the Leg­is­la­ture. Let’s make sure we’re address­ing the root caus­es and sys­temic prob­lems that lead to crime and vio­lence; increas­ing wrap-around ser­vices, coun­sel­ing, and restora­tive jus­tice pro­grams; and final­ly putting an end to the school to prison pipeline.

I helped lead the effort to form Fed­er­al Way’s first Senior Advi­so­ry Com­mis­sion, and, as this region con­tin­ues to grow, I know we need to be proac­tive in pro­tect­ing our com­mu­ni­ties by con­cen­trat­ing on hous­ing and health­care afford­abil­i­ty for seniors and work­ing fam­i­lies. As your State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, I will build on my efforts and accom­plish­ments on the City Coun­cil and work to make sure every­one has access to the same oppor­tu­ni­ties that my fam­i­ly and I have.

I am ready to get to work in Olympia next month fight­ing for these pri­or­i­ties, our local val­ues, and more. And, I promise to run a strong and enthu­si­as­tic cam­paign to retain this seat after ses­sion. You can count on me to put the issues that mat­ter first – I do not and will not accept cor­po­rate PAC mon­ey or con­tri­bu­tions.

Sin­cere­ly,

Jesse John­son

John­son’s Coun­cil biog­ra­phy notes that he has deep roots to the coun­ty’s fourth largest city (after Seat­tle, Belle­vue, and Kent).

“Jesse moved to Fed­er­al Way with his fam­i­ly in 1996. He attend­ed Nau­tilus Ele­men­tary, Saca­jawea Mid­dle School and Fed­er­al Way High School where he grad­u­at­ed with Hon­ors. After com­plet­ing his Bach­e­lors and Mas­ters at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, Jesse returned to Fed­er­al Way where he pur­chased a home with his fiancee. His par­ents and sib­lings all still reside in Fed­er­al Way.”

Next to be nom­i­nat­ed was Jami­la Tay­lor, who came up just short in a recent cam­paign for the Fed­er­al Way City Coun­cil.

Here’s Tay­lor’s argu­ment in favor of her can­di­da­cy, pub­lished a few days ago:

It is crit­i­cal that the 30th LD present of slate of three strong can­di­dates ready to serve in Olympia. This appoint­ment is also about keep­ing pro­gres­sive can­di­dates in elec­tive office.

The can­di­date must be able to mount a well-fund­ed and orga­nized cam­paign in the face of strong Repub­li­can chal­lengers.

As you may recall, I com­plet­ed a cam­paign for Fed­er­al Way City Coun­cil in Novem­ber 2019.

Despite being a first-time can­di­date with lim­it­ed name recog­ni­tion, I was able to cap­ture 48.41% of the vote against a pop­u­lar con­ser­v­a­tive incum­bent in an [odd]-year elec­tion. And Fed­er­al Way, the largest city in the 30th Dis­trict, is still very pur­ple.

Man­ag­ing a cam­paign for pub­lic office requires sig­nif­i­cant resources. I raised more mon­ey than all of the oth­er Fed­er­al Way City Coun­cil can­di­dates. More than 200 indi­vid­ual donors con­tributed to my cam­paign. I mobi­lized more than 120 peo­ple to get involved with the cam­paign. From retirees, young pro­fes­sion­als, youth, first-time vot­ers, to oth­er indi­vid­u­als with a vest­ed inter­est in see­ing a pro­gres­sive can­di­date get elect­ed in our com­mu­ni­ty, I con­nect­ed peo­ple to the pow­er of engag­ing in the civic process.

This was no easy feat. I’ve already set the stage to mount a for­mi­da­ble cam­paign where the stakes are high.

“Jami­la Tay­lor could be a future star if elect­ed,” wrote Bob Roeg­n­er in the Fed­er­al Way Mir­ror, pub­lished dur­ing my city coun­cil race.

In the very short time since for­mer Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Reeves announced her res­ig­na­tion, I have reached out to elect­ed offi­cials and oth­ers for endorse­ment and sup­port. So far, I have received endorse­ments for this appoint­ment from:

Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son
Sen­a­tor Rebec­ca Sal­dana
Sen­a­tor Mona Das
Sharon Tomiko San­tos
Nation­al Women’s Polit­i­cal Cau­cus

I am a pub­lic inter­est attor­ney with skills in nego­ti­a­tion and advo­ca­cy and I share your pro­gres­sive val­ues.

For more details about my back­ground and endorse­ments from the city coun­cil race, you can go to [my web­site].

You will see that my pas­sion and expe­ri­ence serv­ing our whole com­mu­ni­ty through my var­i­ous pub­lic ser­vice, social and eco­nom­ic jus­tice endeav­ors spans more than 20 years. And, you will see that my pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence as an attor­ney rep­re­sent­ing some of the most vul­ner­a­ble in our com­mu­ni­ty demon­strates a will­ing­ness to tack­le some of our tough­est chal­lenges.

I am ready to serve our com­mu­ni­ty in Olympia and then launch a full cam­paign imme­di­ate­ly after the leg­isla­tive ses­sion. I look for­ward to chat­ting with res­i­dents of the 30th dis­trict, PCOs and oth­er mem­bers of our extend­ed com­mu­ni­ty. Through our col­lec­tive efforts and advo­ca­cy for the 30th Dis­trict, our whole com­mu­ni­ty can thrive.

I am also avail­able by phone for ques­tions.

In Sol­i­dar­i­ty,

Jami­la E. Tay­lor
Attor­ney & Res­i­dent of 30th Dis­trict

The third nom­i­nee is Sam Rise, a pub­lic school­teacher who is active in the lead­er­ship of the Fed­er­al Way Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion. He is an out­spo­ken sup­port­er of pro­gres­sive caus­es and an obser­vant activist who isn’t afraid to call out right wing can­di­dates in pub­lic, as he demon­strat­ed last autumn with this let­ter that was pub­lished in the Fed­er­al Way Mir­ror.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to all three of them on their selec­tion by the cau­cus.

The King Coun­ty Coun­cil and Pierce Coun­ty Coun­cil will meet togeth­er on Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 13th (the same day that the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture is set to con­vene) to delib­er­ate on a pos­si­ble joint appoint­ment.

If they can­not agree to appoint John­son, Tay­lor, or Rise, the respon­si­bil­i­ty for mak­ing an appoint­ment will even­tu­al­ly pass to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee in accor­dance with the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion.​