Category Archives: Legislature

Sheldon goes after teachers, Democrats go after Sheldon for skipping work

In competing press releases sent out on Tuesday Tim Sheldon takes teachers to task for missing work for a strike and for not using a strike day to come to Olympia. Washington State Democrats say that’s Sheldon operating under a “Do as I say, not as I do,” program, citing his absences from county meetings.

We had a story on the hearing.

The dueling press releases follow:

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Here’s how the two major state budgets differ

If you want a quick, spoken explanation of the differences in the House Democratic and Senate Republican budgets, Robert Mak has you covered.

Rachel La Corte from the Associated Press gave you a written explanation on Tuesday.

Senate Republicans offer a tuition cut and reject a collective bargaining agreement the governor’s office reached with state employees. The party then offers $1,000 per year to all state employees. A statement issued by the Washington Federation of State Employees argues that the Legislature can reject an agreement, but not make a new proposal.

“If contracts are rejected, the process calls for a return to negotiations. In this instance, Senate budget writers have by-passed our rights by instead authorizing flat raises of $1000 per full-time employee (prorated for part-time positions) per year of the two-year biennium. Under the collective bargaining statute, they cannot offer alternatives. In this case, the Senate has offered an alternative that is illegal under the law.”

State Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, highlights the “no new taxes” feature of the Republican budget, making no mention of the state employee clause. State Sen. Tim Sheldon, the Potlatch Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, also highlighted the “no new taxes” feature of the Senate budget, but also addressed the collective bargaining rejection. He said the budget, “Provides a flat $2,000 annual cost-of-living increase for state employees – meaning 25,000 state workers will see a larger increase than under agreements bargained between the governor’s office and public employee unions.”

Those were the only locals who commented.

Their full statements follow.

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Angel, Eyman not seeing eye-to-eye on this one

hpim4414It took a while, but we heard back from state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, regarding an email blast Friday critical of her from initiative guru Tim Eyman.

This issue comes from a bill Angel cosponsored with two other Republicans and a Democrat. It passed 41-8 in the Senate earlier this month, with all three Kitsap senators voting in favor. All but one of the eight who voted “no” were Republicans. That’s seven Republicans voting, “no,” which means 18 favor the bill. The legislation is in the House now.

The bill would require that any initiative that the state budget office determines will either add more than $25 million in costs or cut more than $25 million in revenues to the state have the following statement added to the initiative title on the ballot, “The state budget office has determined that this proposal would have an unfunded net impact of [amount] on the state general fund. This means other state spending may need to be reduced or taxes increased to implement the proposal.”

Eyman said the emails reveal Angel’s true intent was to stop some initiatives from happening, naming possible voter actions authored by the Washington Education Association and the Service Employees International Union.

“This is extremely disturbing.  Having legislators plotting and scheming to ‘stop’ certain initiatives ‘from getting on the ballot’ is a gross abuse of power.  It doesn’t matter whether it is politicians conniving to block liberal initiatives or politicians scheming to undermine conservative initiatives,” Eyman wrote.

Angel responded by email saying, “I am a co-sponsor of this bipartisan bill  SB5715 which is a ‘transparency’ issue for the voter to help make a decision  when voting. It passed in a strong bipartisan fashion off the Senate floor with a vote of 41-8.  The ballot title would include a fiscal note only under certain circumstances and doesn’t affect the citizen initiative process at all.”

What follows is Eyman’s email blast to supporters and reporters, Angel’s response and video from Wednesday’s House hearing.

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Adele Ferguson’s shoes

Doing an interview during the 1950s. Contributed photo / Secretary of State’s Office. Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Doing an interview during the 1950s. Contributed photo / Secretary of State’s Office. Copyright 2015 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

There was far more material than I could use in the story about the passing of Adele Ferguson. Here are some more comments I think you’ll enjoy. There could be a few more. I received some written stories, but I’m double-checking to make sure the writers would be fine with me including them. Check back. They’re good ones.

“I always liked Adele because she would stab me in the front.” — Former Gov. Dan Evans. This quote actually was told to me by David Ammons, former AP statehouse reporter now with the Secretary of State’s office, but Evans confirmed that he said it.

“She was the den mother in a moveable feast. She was absolutely hilarious; I’ve never known a better story teller.” John Hughes, former editor of the Aberdeen Daily World, now overseeing the Secretary of State’s Legacy Project.

“They called her’Senator Adele,'” Rachel Pritchett, former Kitsap Sun reporter who met Adele in the 1980s. Pritchett was a communications staff member in the state Senate at the time.

“She was tough as nails, but she was also very feminine and dressed smartly. She was not feminist in the modern sense of the word. She pushed for the right for women reporters to wear pants on the floor.” — David Ammons

“She was a phenomenal asset to Bremerton. She defended Bremerton and she defended the Navy to the hilt.” — Ralph Munro, former Washington Secretary of State

“Adele was great. She could swear and drink with the best of the backroom politicians.  I remember one time late in Warren G. Magnuson’s career he came into the office assisted by two of his aides. They had hold of each of his elbows so he wouldn’t fall down. He stopped right next to my desk to steady himself and catch his breath. He still had about 30 feet to go to get to Adele’s office and made it in another couple minutes. The next day in her column Adele called Magnuson ‘robust and healthy.’ That was so far from the truth, but only Adele could get away with that. All the top politicians made appearances in her office. She was one of a kind, and I really liked her and got along great with her because she called them like she saw them, except for Warren G.)” — Terry Mosher, former Kitsap Sun reporter

“She was the only media person who sat through the Gamscam trial from day one to day end, so she had an opportunity of hearing all the testimony and listening to the various witnesses. She was a steadfast in my defense in that time and continued to be so.” — Gordon Walgren, former state legislator who served about two years in prison in connection with the Gamscam scandal.

“She was such a person of such stature. The Kitsap Sun should be so proud.” Rachel Pritchett.

“She never did go for a tape recorder to record. She was about the last reporter who depended on her own shorthand, but she easily the most accurate reporter that covered me.” — Dan Evans

“Adele could punish when she thought you did something wrong. Several times she would lay me out, but we were always friends.” Norm Dicks, former congressman.

“She was bigger than life for me when I was very young.” — Rachel Pritchett

“She gave as good as she got. She was deliciously bawdy and funny. Boy could she write.” — John Hughes.

“She had more insight in the capitol building than anyone, by far. She could smell a story two or three days before the next guy knew there was even one coming.” — Ralph Munro

“At times she would be salty. She could be critical, but she was always fair.” — Norm Dicks

“Feisty. Opinionated. Conservative. She had her own ideas and carried them out as best she could. Most of all she was a good friend.” — Gordon Walgren

“If Lehman (John Lehman, former secretary of the Navy) was at the Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce and he and I had gone fishing that day, she wanted to know all the details.” Norm Dicks, explaining Adele’s love of salmon fishing.

Dan Evans said Adele was covering an event in Washington, D.C. and was sitting next to him. A button came off his sport coat. She looked in her purse and found a sewing kit and sewed the button back on. “It was the last thing you would expect out of adele. She said, ‘You tell anybody about this and I’ll kill you.'”

“I was sitting next to her. I asked her what it would take to get onto the Bremerton Sun. She said, ‘Not much, apparently.” — Rachel Pritchett

One of Adele’s fellow Olympia reporters was on deadline to send in a column, but “he was so drunk there was no way he could have written that column.” Adele said, “‘I wrote the column for him. I knew how he wrote.’ I don’t think you could get away with that nowadays.” — Dan Evans

“She would invite people into her office and say, ‘Don’t sit down.” — Rachel Pritchett

When I got to spend those four days up there, (Hughes interviewed Adele over four days for the Legacy Project oral history about Adele. about the fourth day I decided it would not be imprudent. I allowed myself to have a little beaker; I think it was MacNaughton’s. I kissed her on the forehead and she said, ‘Don’t be fresh.’” — John Hughes

“She was a superb political reporter. She feared no one and she was always up front in her feelings.” Dan Evans

Point of personal privilege: In the first six years I worked for the Kitsap Sun beginning in 2002 I knew Adele Ferguson mostly through her columns in the local biweeklies and from her questions at debates during election season. It was in 2008 that things changed for me. We attended both county party conventions, offering coverage for our different publications. Again, she was writing for the biweeklies. I was writing for the paper she had been the voice of for almost five decades.

At the Republican convention the party gave her a Barnes & Noble gift card. I sat next to her at the Democratic convention and the party didn’t give her any gifts, but several delegates came to the table to say “Hello” to her. This was the first time I ever had a lengthy conversation with Adele and I was charmed like you wouldn’t believe. Maybe if you ever met her you would believe it.

A few things charmed me. One, she was a vivacious story teller, and I’m a sucker for stories. Secondly, she had all kinds of respect from a large number of Democrats that day. Certainly they didn’t like her politics, but they loved her. Third, she said she used the gift from the Republicans to buy Barack Obama’s books. Fourth, for all that she had accomplished she didn’t ever treat me as anything but a peer, and given her history and all she accomplished she had every right to act superior.

After that I got to meet with her at her home in Hansville when the state made her one of three oral history subjects. At other times I would call her when I needed a quote about someone with political history here in Washington or for other various reasons. In every instance she was gracious to me. I know others can’t say that. I guess I was a lucky one.

It is true that she wrote columns later in life that were unsupportable. Not that many, but how many does it take? Set that aside for a moment and consider the woman’s life as a whole. We, both women and men, walk through doors she opened. It’s hard for me to imagine some of our open government laws existing without reporters like Adele Ferguson, who called nonsense on secrecy. Women, particularly journalists, owe their opportunities to Adele and others like her.

I’m 53 and I enjoy political reporting, but I’m content in the reality that my chances of ever filling Adele’s shoes as a political reporter are slim. Perhaps that time has passed for anyone, but even if it hasn’t it would be akin to matching the greatness of a Willie Mays or Sandy Koufax. She meant that much. Big shoes.

For me, even though Adele will be remembered generally for her work as a political reporter, I’ll remember her most through two stories she told me at that Democratic convention. From that moment on I was a fan. She also told them to John Hughes, who wrote her biography and oral history for the state’s Legacy Project. Those stories will conclude this insufficient memorial. Allow me to add one more thing. I’m really going to miss Adele. I feel lucky that I ever got to meet her.

Now, here are the stories, both involving shoes. I’ve taken these stories from Hughes’ work, The Inimitable Adele Ferguson.

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Pam Roach wants names

Eyman performed well, but Roach was the star.
Eyman performed well, but Roach was the star.

UPDATE: Pam Roach received a letter from Lt. Gov. Brad Owen regarding her behavior in this hearing and others. The link to the story is at the end of this post.

NOTE: We have placed a survey on the right relating to this post.

John Stang from Crosscut provided us a great rundown on a hearing of a bill that made it into committee last week in the Senate but isn’t likely to make it out.

I got interested in the legislation, which would call for more reporting and training on paid signature gatherers, because in Tim Eyman’s email he described it as the hearing blowing up. He was right. For me it was an amazing show mostly by Senate Government Operations Committee Chairwoman Pam Roach, an Auburn Republican.

I’ve never witnessed a Roach-led hearing before and if they’re all like this I don’t think I ever want to miss another one. It began when the Fred Meyer/QFC’s Melinda Merrill dared say store customers were being harassed by signature gatherers at their stores. Roach was willing to entertain that idea for somewhere south of a couple seconds. As Stang reported, Roach wondered if Merrill could provide names. Merrill could not but vouched for the honesty of their customers and store employees.

There were four reps from grocery stores there, and Roach took every opportunity she could to interrupt to turn the conversation to one about her last election, which she reminded the audience she won. This was less a hearing about the deportment of signature gatherers than it was about payback for grocery store lobbyists favoring her opponent in November.

It was a show that didn’t need Eyman to spice it up, but he was there. Eyman, if you’re new to these parts, is most often identified as Washington’s “initiative guru,” having turned a passion into a living several years ago and working every year to generate mostly tax-saving ballot measures. Eyman not only dismissed the claim that a signature gatherer would harass any customer, he said it was a strategy by opponents of his initiatives to go into store managers and falsely claim that they were harassed.

And while I don’t cotton much to conspiracy theories, my own experience makes me wonder if he has a point. So here, and in the right rail of this blog, is my question. I think Sen. Roach would appreciate you answering, too. Have you ever been verbally harassed by a signature gatherer?

Yes or no, go answer the survey. If yes, Sen. Roach wants to hear from you if you’re willing to provide your name. At least that’s what I think she was inviting at the hearing.

The reason I ask is because I haven’t told a single signature gatherer “yes” to signing any initiative in the 14 years I’ve lived in this state and I’ve only experienced anything close to harassment twice. Both times it was when a reporter tried to explain that we reporters don’t sign those things, ever.

The first one was at the Seattle Center when a friend of mine made the mistake of trying to explain why to someone who clearly had ingested so much Red Bull that the sensitivity portion of his brain had been snuffed out. I say my friend made a mistake because there was plenty of room to walk away from the miscreant, but my friend wanted him to agree.

The second time, though, was here in Bremerton when there was a meeting about Washington State Ferries and there was a petition being circulated dealing with a local ferry initiative. A reporter from a rival paper tried to explain why she wouldn’t sign a petition and the ferry zealot tried to talk her into it, as if her several minutes of badgering would override years of being told by journalism professors and bosses that signing a petition is no better than planting a campaign sign in your yard or your copy. Still, she persisted, shutting up only because the meeting was starting.

Other than those two incidents, I can’t remember a single time an initiative gatherer tried to get strong with me. I say “No, thank you.” and walk inside the store. I’ve sensed disappointment, but I don’t stick around long enough to verify it.

This is why I want to ask you whether you’ve ever been addressed more aggressively by a signature gatherer than you’d like. Story commenter dardena said he was by someone gathering ink for Initiative 502, the one dealing with marijuana.

Lest you worry, this legislation’s sponsor, Democrat Marko Liias of Lynnwood, told Stang he didn’t think the bill would make it out of committee. If true, this means we don’t need to discuss the merits and cons of the legislation. A similar bill that received 71 votes in the House last year got blasted by newspapers and didn’t get far in the Senate.

Again, though, the entertainment factor provided by Roach was stellar. I’ve never seen a committee hearing that was so much about the committee chair. If only someone had thrown Roach a football she could have spiked  like Gronk.

UPDATE: Rache La Corte from the AP’s Olympia bureau wrote the story Monday (Feb. 16) that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen sent Roach a letter admonishing her for her behavior as chairwoman in this committee and others. Writes La Corte:

The four-page letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press was sent to Roach on Friday. In it, Owen states that her “abusive behavior” must stop. He also informs her that she can only meet with nonpartisan committee staff when in the presence of another senator on the committee, Republican Sen. Kirk Pearson.

Roach said Monday that she hadn’t yet read the letter in its entirety, but said it was a “very unfair assessment.”

“I am a fair chair,” she said. “I am a tough chair.”

In the original post here we didn’t mention a couple other moments that might be sparking the concern from Owen. At one point a committee staffer reads the information about the bill. There is nothing remarkable about his reading and is done as it has been in every other bill hearing I’ve witnessed. These bills are also discussed at length after these reports, so in some sense the non-partisan staffer’s reading appears some pro forma. But Roach told him that next time he ought to slow down. She wasn’t harsh, but that’s not something I’ve ever seen in committee, and his reading was not at all unusual.

Another piece that Owen doesn’t mention is that during the committee hearing Don Benton, a Vancouver Republican who with every Senate Democrat helped Roach take the Senate Pro Tempore position away from Democrat Tim Sheldon, questioned Sen. Marko Liias’ argument that Washington State Patrol had nine investigations on signature gatherers during a recent election, but because of lax reporting requirements could only fully investigate one of them. Benton said he found that hard to believe. At the end of the hearing Liias wanted and opportunity to respond with his evidence, but Roach wouldn’t let him, saying she had to keep control of the hearing.

According to La Corte’s story Roach is crafting a response to Owen, part of which argues that she has “been the most unfairly treated senator in state history.”


Non-Father’s day in question in Olympia

UPDATE — I might have painted too optimistic a picture on the chances on this bill. On Feb. 5 the Senate Law and Justice Committee voted 4-3 to send SB 5006 to Ways & Means. But it wasn’t as easy as all that. The explanation follows the original post.

“Time makes more converts than reason.” — Thomas Paine

A year ago a bill dealing with the rights of men who prove the children they support financially are not biologically theirs received enough support to make it to the state Senate floor, but not enough to get a vote on time.

By all indications the bill, SB 5006, should have an easier time of it this year than last.

The legislation would not apply to children conceived through fertility treatments or for children who were adopted by a non-biological father. Existing law would allow a man to question paternity within four years of accepting it, but judges have more discretion in allowing testing than the new law would dictate.

103579072We wrote about the bill last year, giving some attention to how it came to be. It was presented to Angel by Naomi and Andrew Evans of Bremerton. They have been dealing with the kind of situation in question for some time, saying Andrew was told when he was 19 that he was the father of the baby his girlfriend was carrying. They married and divorced and both sides have seen their share of days in court. Andrew questioned whether he was the father, said he got tested and found out he wasn’t. The way the law stands now he has no recourse. Should the bill pass the courts would have to give him a hearing.

We reached out to the mother in question and someone who contacted us on her behalf said there would be no comment.

The disagreement between adults is not the child’s fault, which is why opponents of the bill argued last year that the welfare of the child should not be threatened as this new legislation could do.

But Angel and others have said this is a fairness issue, that fathers who are led to believe they are biologically responsible and therefore financially responsible should not have to continue being responsible if genetic testing proves they were wrong or lied to about paternity.

If a mother is financially harmed by this legislation, she could turn to the state to make up for it, so there could be a cost to taxpayers. But again, Angel argues that a duped non-biological father shouldn’t pay the price for a child that isn’t his. The mom needs to go where anyone would go when faced with a new financial hardship.

And this time, by all indications, legislators seem to agree. The House companion to Angel’s bill, sponsored by state Rep. Michelle Caldier, a Port Orchard Republican, was sent to Judiciary and has seven co-sponsors, three of them Democrats.

A delay in the bill moving forward is happening, Naomi Evans said she was told, because state officials want to be sure that men who have been paying won’t be entitled to back payments, so an amendment is in the works.

Naomi Evans said she and other advocates spent a day in Olympia talking to 50 legislators from the Senate and House committees that are home to the bill and found only one legislator who outright said he would oppose the bill. Another one or two were iffy. All others expressed support, she said.

If that’s true it looks like legislators getting a year to think about it has made a difference, because any changes to this year’s version of the bill were not substantial, according to Angel. The angst about the child being harmed over the loss of money does not seem to be trumping the question of fairness in dictating who pays the bill.

Earlier in the session I questioned whether that was the case. I wondered if opponents were waiting for a House hearing to pile on in hopes of swaying a more sympathetic Democratic leadership. That might also be the forum where any perceived substantive technical problems could be aired, making it too late to pass. But I’ve seen no evidence of that.

Time, which seems to have won some legislators over, will tell.

UPDATE — As mentioned earlier, the Senate Law and Justice Committee voted 4-3 to send an amended bill to the Ways and Means Committee, from where it could go to the floor.

The amendment does specify that non-bio fathers would only be saved any future payments, that the state wouldn’t be liable to pay them back should genetic testing prove the father was not biologically related to the child. A man who was behind in payments would still have to make up however much he hadn’t payed, perhaps ensuring that no dad just stops paying in anticipation of expected developments in the future in court.

The one-vote split reflected party differences, however, with the four “do pass” recommendations coming from Republicans and the three “do not pass” votes coming from Democrats. Should that hold it’s fine for the Senate, but could present problems in the House, even though three Democrats co-sponsored the House version.

The bigger problem is one of the Republican votes was from state Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn. Democrat Jamie Pedersen said he had problems with the bill because he said it undermines a state policy on what parentage is and because of the way it could affect parenting plans.

Roach, while she agreed to send it on, said she had concerns and that the bill needed work. She said she wondered if fathers would still have access to the children, and while she agreed with the overall aim of the legislation, I wouldn’t take her willingness to move it as a guarantee she would vote for it on the floor. “I vote it out and I say I think it needs some work,” she said.

According to the report on the bill the Department of Health would like implementation of the law delayed so it has time to develop policies to match the mandate.

Meanwhile, in the House there has been no movement at all on the companion bill.

Angel optimistic about keeping teachers’ COLA in budget

Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, was one of several local (Kitsap and Mason County) legislators who responded to my request for input on the education budget for 2015. Specifically I asked for their thoughts on the chances of a teacher’s COLA being reinstated and other thoughts on teachers’ salaries. Perhaps due to crossed wires on her part, mine or both, Angel’s response came late for inclusion in my article, which ran today.

Note, Jan. 28: I have heard from Senator Angel that she did send the response last week, so apparently there was a technical glitch in the email on our end. My apologies, Jan.

I am posting her comments here, along with links (here) to the full responses I got from Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, and Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo.

Chris Henry, education reporter
Sen. Jan Angel

Describe the pressures you will face as a legislator to reinstate the COLA?

Budget challenges have forced the Legislature to delay or set aside I-732 as we worked to pay for our priorities of government and, when it comes to education, we had to pay for what is most effective for student achievement first. This year with $3 billion additional revenue in state coffers, we potentially have the ability to pay for increased maintenance costs, the minimum investment in schools required by McCleary and the teacher COLA required by I-732. Of course, the specifics of the budget will go through negotiations and restructuring, but as our revenue outlook currently stands, we are likely to have enough money to provide the teacher COLA this year, which I do support.

Describe the pressures you will face as a legislator to suspend the COLA to pay for other education expenses.

We want to prioritize our education spending toward what will do most to address our 77% graduation rate and our lacking student achievement rates. I believe that providing a great teacher in every classroom is very important for student success and making sure we provide them competitive compensation is part of reaching that goal. Our teachers are hard-working and dedicated to our children and I want to make sure we do the best we can for them. As the budget is scrutinized and negotiated, I hope we can reach a solution that supports our teachers while meeting our obligations on other budget demands.

What, in your opinion, are the chances the COLA will be reinstated?

Based on our revenue outlook and initial reactions from budget-writers, the chances are positive.

The governor’s office projects a $2 billion shortfall, despite rising revenue. Randy Dorn at OSPI thinks, with the class size initiative, the real cost could be at least $4.5 billion and possibly closer to $7 billion for the 2015-2017 budget. Given the projected budget shortfall, is it realistic for the Legislature to discuss teacher/school employee compensation in the upcoming session?

The Governor assumes some cost increases that are not required for the government to keep running, but I think the importance of supporting teachers and the fact that we have a statutory commitment suggests that we give it our most thoughtful consideration.

In your opinion, why is/isn’t compensation a compelling issue at this time?

As mentioned before, the direct correlation between student achievement and teacher compensation is not clear, so it is difficult to prioritize when we are trying to reach higher student success rates. Prioritizing a budget is difficult work, but I hope we can address this with the tax dollars we’ve been given to work with. I would also like to see additional training dollars allocated. Our teachers have been asked to perform a number of new duties without training provided to do so – – this creates frustration and puts them in a difficult position.

If you support a compensation reset for school employees, how should the Legislature pay for it?

This is a complicated budget issue that requires negotiation and the prioritization of available funds. We are still in the process of determining what is the best use of taxpayer dollars so we’ll have to see how much we have to work with before we can begin the strategy of putting these pieces together. Teachers receive several different types of pay so this can be complicated.

End Jan Angel

Sheldon upended by Senate minority coalition

Standing at the rostrum Washington state Senator and soon-to-be-defeated in his bid to repeat as Senate President Pro Tem Tim Sheldon gets a photo taken by staff photographer Aaron Barna holding his new grand-daughter Scarlett born on Dec.13. 2014, while joined by his wife Linda and daughter Alex on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, during the opening day for the 2015 legislative session in Olympia. (AP Photo/The Olympian, Steve Bloom)
Standing at the rostrum Washington state Senator and soon-to-be-defeated in his bid to repeat as Senate President Pro Tem Tim Sheldon gets a photo taken by staff photographer Aaron Barna holding his new grand-daughter Scarlett born on Dec.13. 2014, while joined by his wife Linda and daughter Alex on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, during the opening day for the 2015 legislative session in Olympia. (AP Photo/The Olympian, Steve Bloom)
Call it symbolic revenge for a real defection. One party pulled two of the opposite party over to form a coalition. That was true two years ago when Republicans lured Potlatch Democratic state Sen. Tim Sheldon, along with Rodney Tom, to form a de fact majority in the chamber, a majority that was boosted by the election of real Republican Jan Angel.

One of Sheldon’s rewards in return was election to what (Tacoma) News Tribune reporter Jordan Schrader described as a “mostly ceremonial job,” of president pro tempore.

Sheldon lost that gig on Monday.

Even after the Republican Party announced in early December Sheldon’s return to the role, which would have put him in charge of the chamber in the case of Lt. Gov. Brad Owen’s absence, Democrats helped maneuver to get Sheldon out of the seat. They nominated Republican Pam Roach. Republicans tried to counter by nominating Democrat Karen Fraser. But Democrats, Fraser included, voted as a bloc and along with Vancouver Republican state Sen. Don Benton, elected Roach to the position.

The Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate described it as Democrats settling a score with Sheldon, making “the most of an opportunity to hold Tim Sheldon accountable for his treachery.”

Sheldon told Schrader he thought Democrats were retaliating and that they will want something in return. Roach said they did not ask for anything.

It’s a mostly symbolic victory and will do little to change the agenda in the chamber. The first evidence of that was the Senate’s vote to require a two-thirds vote to approve any tax increases, a rules change in the chamber that passed with a 26-23 vote, exactly the number of the Republican+1 majority.

The Sheldon upset went down officially within 12 minutes, which is on the video that follows. Of course, it really took flight in conversations for which there is no video, so this will have to do.

Legislators say Supreme Court should be a party affair

courtcoverThere is enough Supreme Court aversion to go around, even to the state version of the highest court in the land.

Sometime before Christmas, among the multitudes of greeting cards I received was the one you see here on the left. You probably have to click on each image to see them clearly.

My favorite part is at the end of the inside part of the courtinsidecard. “This card is a parody and not actually from Chief Justice Roberts.” It’s a good thing that disclaimer is there, because Roberts could sue and eventually appeal the case all the way to himself.

The message of this card is that the U.S. Supreme Court is secretive and accountable to no one. State lawmakers have a different complaint about the state nine, and they say partisanship is the answer.

The bill is unlikely to get a hearing, according to other news reports and one local legislator. It sends a message, nonetheless. House Bill 1051, sponsored by state Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, and co-sponsored by 15 Republicans and three Democrats, begins with this subtle epistle:

The legislature finds that because the supreme court has decided to act like the legislature and has thus violated the separation of powers, the supreme court should be considered partisan like the legislature.

Why the dig? Because the state Supreme Court has not only ruled that the state is not meeting its paramount constitutional duty in adequately funding education, the court has a bucket of solutions it can choose from should the Legislature’s response to that ruling be deemed inadequate.

Two local legislators, Democrat Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo and Republican Jesse Young of Gig Harbor, are among the co-sponsors.

Young did not respond to requests for comment. Appleton responded to an email saying she believes the bill will not even get a hearing. Asked why why she is backing it, she replied that she isn’t. “It was just a message to make people aware there are three branches of government, and we don’t make constitutional rulings, and they should not tell us how to write budgets.”

Asked what the court should be allowed to do in its role as a check against the state government’s two other branches, Appleton said the court’s job is to determine the constitutionality of laws. “We have a job to do, and they are part of the solution, but not doing the legislature’s business by telling us how to write a budget.  We know full well what we have to do, and we will do it, in spite of the Supreme Court, not because of it.”

Among the solutions the court has discussed should the Legislature fail to meet the court’s definition of “adequate” education funding is one that would void the budget completely, undoing all tax loopholes. It seems unlikely the court would resort to that option first, but should it employ anything there are legislators who believe it would be out of its bounds.

Hugh Spitzer, a constitutional law professor at the University of Washington, said any constitutional revenge by the Legislature would require near unanimity of the lawmaking body, which doesn’t seem likely. More within reach is legislators stalling state law fixes requested by the courts.

Legislators have threatened the court financially in the past, but that seems unlikely, too. Punishing the courts financially “punishes the public if the public doesn’t have access to the courts,” Spitzer said. Furthermore, in a pinch the Supreme court could order funding from the state. It never has, but it could.

Washington would not be the only state with partisan judges and it wouldn’t be the first time the state had such a setup.

According to Judgepedia, seven states elect Supreme Court justices in partisan elections. In two states the justices are nominated in party primaries or conventions and other states involve the parties in lower court assignments.

Spitzer said Washington judges were elected in partisan elections until 1907. Partisanship came back came back a few years later when Republicans were upset that a Democrat had been elected in a non-partisan election. GOP legislators managed to put two more seats on the bench, got two of their own elected and then made the judge races non-partisan again.

Maybe this Legislature ought to consider doing that. If they did it during presidential election years, when all our televisions are affixed to Fox News and MSNBC, we might not notice. The newspapers would cover it, but who reads those anymore?


Kitsap’s state senators assume leadership roles

All three of the Kitsap Caucus’ state senators will have leadership roles in the 2015 Legislature. Two of them are repeats, while Jan Angel takes on a new responsibility.

Jan Angel
State Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, was elected Senate Majority Coalition Caucus vice chairwoman and named to the panel that selects committee leaders.
Angel, first elected to the Senate in 2013, was re-elected in November and will begin a four-term in January.
The caucus position puts Angel in place to be a liaison between coalition leadership and committee chairs and to lead caucus deliberations when the chairwoman, Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, is not available. Angel also will be part of the effort to hire and fire coalition staff.
“I’m excited to get to work building on the bipartisan success we achieved as a caucus last year,” Angel said in a written statement issued by the coalition. “I have all the right tools to be a leader in this role with my previous experience leading committees and developing employees as a small-business owner and I am very grateful for the confidence of my Senate colleagues.”
The senator was also appointed to the Committee on Committees, which helps select which coalition senator goes on which committees.

Tim Sheldon
State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, retains his role as Senate president pro tem, even though Republicans have and outright majority now.
Sheldon, along with former state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, began caucusing with the 23 Republicans in 2013, giving the GOP a de facto 25-24 majority known as the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus. With the election of Angel later that year the coalition’s majority rose to 26-23.
Tom retired from the Senate, but Republicans won the major contested races and took actual control of the Senate 25-24. Sheldon said all along he would continue to caucus with Republicans, so the coalition remains intact. His reward is keeping the leadership position.
“This recognition I have received from my colleagues is a demonstration of the bipartisan ideals that have governed our coalition since Day One,” Sheldon said in a statement. “We always said our chief concerns were jobs, education and the budget, and not partisan politics.”

Christine Rolfes
State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, resumes her role as floor leader for the Washington State Senate Democratic Caucus. This is her second year in that job.
The floor leader is the party’s point person on parliamentary procedure and in facilitating floor debate on the Senate floor.
“I am honored to have been selected again by my colleagues to serve as their floor leader,” Rolfes said. “We are facing some significant challenges in 2015, but I look forward to working across the aisle to ensure things run smoothly.”

ALEC returns as a campaign issue in the 26th

perryState Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, is getting heat from her opponent regarding Angel’s involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council. This is something we addressed in the 2013 election, but since this treads into matters of substance, it’s worth revisiting.

ALEC is a nationwide organization that goes to great efforts to get conservative policies enacted in state legislatures. Angel is a conservative and has been affiliated with the organization for some time. She has never really denied that, but when she wrote the Facebook post you see pictured on the left here, she never let on that Rick Perry, Texas governor and one-time candidate for president who recalled two of the three agencies he planned to eliminate, was speaking at an ALEC conference when she snapped his picture and gushed, “what a champion!”

At its core the question that seems worth asking is whether Angel or Arbogast better represent the values of the 26th District, and Angel’s affiliation with ALEC could be evidence to support whatever conclusion you make. Instead much of the debate centers on whether legislators should be sponsoring what are called “model bills.” A model bill is one written in one place and used either verbatim or as a template in several states.

Some of ALEC’s model legislation would ban states from prohibiting insurance companies from using credit scores to deny or charge more for coverage, is tough on minimum wage standards, goes after Obamacare and would limit how much a state could require electric utilities to provide a certain percentage of its energy from clean energy sources.

Those are some examples. You can go to and to get a bigger picture.

This issue arises from the following exchange that took place in the Oct. 7 Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues forum between Angel and Democrat Judy Arbogast.

Question: Can ALEC really write laws that best serve a state as diverse as Washington, and if yes, how?

Arbogast: Absolutely not. ALEC provides ready-made legislation for every state and that’s the biggest problem. It’s also backed by big corporations, not the people who are trying to actually solve the problems. People who know me know that I’ve been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I certainly know that it’s not good for the people. That’s why any bills that I propose will come from the people themselves, They will not be premade as some of the bills have been presented by my opponent.

Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC bill that I’m aware of, (And at this point you can hear people laughing at the statement) the only ALEC bill, seriously, the only ALEC bill that’s come to the Legislature actually came through your governor, Gov. Inslee, And I want to talk, I’m so glad this question came up, because ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission statement is free market and individual liberties. I am proud to stand for that. I make no apology and I actually question anyone that would question those values. As far as model legislation, we sit on task force, which I am proud to sit on Economic Development, Commerce and Insurance. That task force works on issues nationally. The last task force meeting I attended we worked on national catastrophes like the slide that we just had, how did that affect everybody ’s insurance premiums. Now if a model bill is written it is up to the legislature whether they take it back to their state. And if the state House and Senate pass it and the governor signs it, maybe it’s a good bill.

We’ll dissect those arguments later, but following the debate and after my story was written, Samara Ressler, campaign manager for Arbogast, sent me an email titled “Forum Clarification.” She then provided a list of three bills Angel co-sponsored Ressler said come from ALEC model bills. They are Senate Bills 6300 and 6307 during the 2014 session and House Bill 1804 in 2011.

SB 6300 would have required more unions to increase financial reporting requirements and does seem to have much the same language as ALEC’s model legislation, “Union Financial Responsibility Act.” SB 6307 prohibits local jurisdictions from enacting minimum wage requirements higher than the state’s. It is much the same as ALEC’s “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act.”

The House Bill 1804 in 2011 would have prevented the state from spending any money to implement Obamacare. At the time the justification was the health care reform measure was still making its way through constitutional challenges. Supporters said they didn’t want to burden the state with efforts for a program that could become moot. I don’t see ALEC’s direct fingerprint on this bill, but it’s old enough that it might have just disappeared from the organization’s website. And ALEC wrote a lot of legislation aimed at weakening health care reform, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility this started with ALEC.

This gets to the core issue. Whether the bill was an ALEC model or not, it would have limited the impact of federal health care reform efforts. What is the more important factor to you?

When we addressed this similar question in 2013, we pointed out that lots of organizations write model bills. ALEC might do it the most, but several organizations do it. Legislators don’t write many of the bills they propose. They are written by lobbyists, lawyers and others who have an interest. And I’m willing to bet that when legislators do write their own bills, they get lots of help.

This is not to say that finding out whether a bill is a model bill is unimportant. An organization like ALEC has a specific mission and won’t typically write legislation that doesn’t forward that mission.

So let’s break down the forum comments.

Arbogast: ALEC provides ready-made legislation for every state and that’s the biggest problem.

“Model” legislation is a “problem” in the sense that it could be trying to solve a problem no one was aware anyone had. Beyond that, though, you have to give the Legislature enough credit that it will tackle issues it deems important. If a model bill, tweaked to reflect what’s needed in legislative language in Washington, addresses an issue enough legislators think is worthy of attention, the bill can make it to the governor’s desk.

Arbogast: People who know me know that I’ve been very opposed to ALEC since I first heard about it. I certainly know that it’s not good for the people.

This is the values statement that would seem to be the more important issue.

Arbogast: That’s why any bills that I propose will come from the people themselves, They will not be premade as some of the bills have been presented by my opponent.
Angel: Your opponent has never offered an ALEC bill that I’m aware of.

If Arbogast wins I suspect some on the right will watch the bills she sponsors to see if there’s anything else out there that’s similar to trace a bill at its roots. It might be a model bill from an organization on the left.
Angel’s claim that she never offered an ALEC bill rests on whether you think “offered” means she was the prime sponsor. We showed that she co-sponsored bills using ALEC bills as models, but she has not been prime.

Angel: The only ALEC bill that’s come to the Legislature actually came through your governor, Gov. Inslee.

We did address that claim last year and there is some dispute. The governor’s office said its bill dealing with one aspect of climate change did not come from an ALEC model, but a spokesman for the Washington Policy Center said that it did. Angel is off in saying the “only ALEC bill” unless what she meant by “come through to the Legislature” was “passed the Legislature.” Otherwise, her co-sponsorship of two ALEC-based bills seems to negate her statement.

Angel: ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. I belong to that. The mission statement is free market and individual liberties. I am proud to stand for that. I make no apology and I actually question anyone that would question those values.

When Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Bershire Hathaway Energy, Intel, Bank of America, etc. decided to stop participating with ALEC I doubt any of them were troubled with the concept of free markets or individual liberties. Google’s Eric Schmidt was especially harsh answering a question from a caller to the Diane Rehm show:

Kristen: I’m curious to know if Google is still supporting ALEC, which is that fund lobbyist in D.C. that are funding climate change deniers.
Schmidt: We funded them as part of a political game for something unrelated. I think the consensus within the company was that that was sort of a mistake. And so we’re trying to not do that in the future.
Rehm: And how did you get involved with them in the first place? And were you then disappointed in what you saw?
Schmidt: Well, the company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. What a shock. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring. And the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.

I’m guessing Angel would differ with Schmidt on that.

LD 26-2 puts on a side show, unless this is the main event we can expect from here on out

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, and his Republican challenger, Michelle Caldier of Port Orchard, engaged in two robust debates last week on the issues. One of the debates was in Bremerton on Tuesday. The other was in Gig Harbor on Thursday. They have at least three more forums scheduled before the election.

Before that they sat in the same room for an Aug. 29 meeting with the Kitsap Sun editorial board. In all those meetings they focused on issues one of them will try to tackle as a legislator in Olympia in 2015.

An incident after the editorial board meeting launched a side show that has picked up steam. Caldier said Seaquist is trying to intimidate her. Seaquist said Caldier’s allegations are false and that he is consulting with an attorney. Both say they want the escalation to stop.

For the Kitsap Sun meeting both candidates had driven their cars, with Caldier parking directly in front of Seaquist. After the meeting they separated to their cars and Seaquist took at least a couple of photos. Caldier said he did it as she was getting into her car. He said that is not true, that she was in the car when he snapped the shots.

This is the photo Seaquist provided. He said there is one other, but that it would look just like this one because the two shots he took were one right after the other.
This is the photo Seaquist provided. He said there is one other, but that it would look just like this one because the two shots he took were one right after the other.

Seaquist said he was checking messages on his phone when he saw the the trunk open on Caldier’s car and the hard top slide into the trunk. He said he hadn’t seen a hard-top convertible in some time and wanted to snap a quick photo to discuss the car with someone he knows. The model of the car was prominent on the car’s tail section and he said he knew he would never remember it. So he took a shot.

Caldier confronted him about the photo and both agree he acknowledged snapping a picture. Her recollection of the conversation afterward was a little fuzzy this week, but he said she complained that she had been photographed at her house. He said he told her it wasn’t anyone doing it on his behalf.

On Sept. 2, four days later, Caldier posted a Facebook entry reading: “I came out of a candidate interview and saw Rep. Larry Seaquest, my opponent, taking pictures of me as I got into my car. Wow…. I felt like I was being stalked!” Some of her Facebook friends described that as “creepy” or “gross,” and some suggested it was an act of desperation.

On Sept. 5, three days after the Facebook post and a week after Seaquist took the photo, she filed a report with the Bremerton Police Department. The report includes a couple of statements Caldier said do not reflect what she told police. The report said Caldier told police Seaquist had taken other photos of Caldier in the past and that he just laughed at her when she asked him why he was snapping more pictures. On Friday she said she told police other people had snapped pictures, that Aug. 29 was the first time Seaquist himself had done it. Also, she said Seaquist did talk to her about the photos when she confronted him.

Both candidates question the other’s motives in the incident. Caldier said she doesn’t believe his story that he was impressed with the car because she believes he has seen it before. She said it’s another chapter in a long history of the opposition trying to intimidate her. Seaquist said he hadn’t seen her car before and that he did nothing wrong, that his sole interest was the car and that Caldier is falsifying what happened to turn it into a campaign issue.


Candidates can expect to have their photos taken in odd places, to be followed. One of the comments on Caldier’s Facebook post came from state Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, who wrote: “They pulled that on me all last run. I was followed frequently and many other weird things. What a journey.”

Keith Schipper, Angel’s communications director in the 2013 campaign, said he was tasked by the state Republican party to track Angel’s opponent, Nathan Schlicher, for part of that campaign. A tracker’s job is primarily to go to all the opponent’s events possible and to film, seeing if a candidate can be caught saying one thing to one group and something else to another. Or, if the tracking yields real gold, the candidate has a “Macaca” moment, a reference to the 2006 Virginia Senate race when Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen referred to a Democratic operative as “Macaca,” which he said was gibberish, but Democrats said was an intentional racial slur. Allen lost the election.

Schipper, who also tracked Jay Inslee in 2012 when he ran for governor and is working on Republican legislative campaigns again this year, said officials from the candidate and the party are mostly polite to the opposition tracker. It’s the people hosting the events who can get hostile. So parties’ and candidates’ campaigns in larger races typically know better than to hassle the tracker.

The 2013 26th District Senate race was unique, though, in how high profile it was for a legislative race. That each side employed trackers was because it was so high stakes. It was the most expensive legislative race in state history. It was the only Republican-Democrat race in the state and affected the balance of power in Olympia. Both candidates said they were followed.

That race was a legislative exception. The Seaquist-Caldier race, while close, is unlikely to draw so much attention that the state party would employ operatives. And even if the state party did, taking pictures at a candidate’s house is unlikely.

Nonetheless, Caldier said that when she was living in a home she rented before she bought her current home she saw people taking pictures of her at her house. She said some were also taking pictures of her sister. And one day a neighbor caught people going through her mail. Since Caldier recently returned to Kitsap County after years living in Kenmore, it’s possible someone supporting Seaquist was trying to investigate whether she deserved a residency challenge.

You might remember the private investigation that went into former County Commissioner Josh Brown’s residency during his first run. When Lary Coppola ran for mayor he found matches stuck in his door, presumably a tactic to see whether he lived where he claimed his residence.

If the Caldier mail incident was campaign related, Schipper and Fred Finn, who represented the 35th Legislative District as a Democrat for four years, said it was unlikely it was ordered by the party or Seaquist’s campaign. Schipper likened it to supporters who go out and vandalize campaign signs, adding it would more likely be a supporter going rogue. Finn agreed. “Sometimes supporters have more energy and enthusiasm than common sense,” Finn said. “I can’t imagine it’s anything organized.”


Whatever motive Seaquist had in taking the picture, it is unusual for a candidate to be taking a photo of another candidate. “You don’t ever see candidates doing that to each other,” Schipper said. “You don’t see their staff members doing it.”

Caldier again looked at the incident in context of the whole campaign. “I’ll take a lot, but this one was kind of the last straw. This is moving forward to November and it feels like the behavior is escalating,” she said. “I want the behavior to stop. I would never take pictures of him without asking his permission. For him to be sitting in his car taking photos of me without asking my permission is wrong.”

Seaquist makes no apologies and said he has no interest in meeting with Caldier to resolve the issue. “Everything here has been created and invented by Dr. Caldier. Nothing here was started by me,” he said. “This is not a misunderstanding on my part. This is entirely a creation of hers. I have done nothing intimidating.”

Particularly galling to Seaquist was another single assertion in the police report. Caldier, when told Seaquist had not committed any crime, said his action concerned her because “she has been told that Seaquist had been violent in the past with people.”

On Friday Caldier said that comment referred to what she heard from Marlyn Jensen, a Gig Harbor Republican who ran against Seaquist in 2008. Jensen, also contacted Friday, said her relationship with Seaquist was fine during the 2008 campaign, but repeated a charge she made in newspapers in 2009, that when she went to Olympia to lobby on a couple of issues he yelled at her in his office. She was lobbying on a property rights issue and neither he nor his legislative assistant were there when she went by, so she and others left bags of dirt from their properties with a handwritten note urging Seaquist to vote for property owners.

A few days later Jensen returned to Olympia to lobby on another issue and said she went back to his office and was told by his receptionist to go in. She said Seaquist berated her for leaving the dirt. On Friday she repeated what she said five years ago, that she feared for her safety.

In 2009 Seaquist denied he did anything to make her fear for her safety. He said he can be firm, but invited anyone to call any legislator or member of a Navy crew he was ever affiliated with and that they will confirm that he is “famous for being calm and cool under pressure.”

Caldier said she filed the police report to end the escalation of intimidation. Seaquist doesn’t believe that, because the final statement in the report is, “Caldier does not want Seaquist contacted.” He said he thinks that’s evidence she plans to use the police report to escalate her own personal campaign against him.

Seaquist said he is “prepared to launch a lawsuit. The very essence of my character is being challenged.”


At their core you have two candidates who have fundamentally different ideas about how state government should operate. That might be the focus of the remaining campaign.

In 2013, during the most expensive legislative race in history the campaign became particularly nasty. Angel accused Schlicher of taking the low road with his ad that said she would cut mammograms. Schlicher took exception to campaigns targeting him for voting for budgets he said she voted for, too.

Schlicher’s backers put out ads saying Angel supported tax breaks first for A. deceased millionaires and B. big oil companies over education for kids. Angel’s supporters advertised that Schlicher was against early reading intervention for children because a contributor didn’t like it and that he opposed a 2/3 majority for tax increases.

All of those arguments mischaracterized the opponents’ positions, but anyone willing to make a concerted study at least could look at those claims and make a calculation as to where the candidate stood on issues that would face the Legislature. A resident of the 26th might not have appreciated the inundation of advertising that blanketed the district, but do you think that same resident might not prefer that to what we’re seeing in the 26th Legislative District Position 2 race this year?

Spoilers and underdogs in the 35th

Someone who didn’t want to be named said to me within the past few days that Tim Sheldon and Travis Couture should be considered the front-runners in the 35th Legislative District Senate primary race. Someone else said that Tim Sheldon might come in third, that Irene Bowling is the odds on favorite to come in first. Others wonder if there is any way Sheldon could come in third. There is.

We’ve addressed this question before, but it merits repetition, especially in light of the fact that some are speculating that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, or democratic socialist, is pondering whether to run for president in 2016. Should he run it could spell November doom for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Warren or whoever gets the Democratic nomination. I don’t seem him winning as an independent, but I know enough people who appreciate him for his candor. And sometimes candor like that resonates enough with voters that they shed their traditional patterns and make an exception in an election.

You know what else makes me think Sanders plans to run? I just received an emailed newsletter from him, the first time that has ever happened.

Chances are Sanders would be a spoiler for someone else. To see how that works, consider the presidential election of 2000. I’m the first to say that the primary responsibility for Al Gore’s loss that year was Al Gore himself. He disappointed voters in nearly every opportunity he could. But Ralph Nader’s Green Party candidacy was a factor among many. Gore lost by less than 600 votes in Florida, where Nader received more than 97,000. New Hampshire also went for Nader in big enough numbers that it’s conceivable Gore could have won that state’s four electoral college votes had Nader not run. Tough to say. But this provides the definition of a spoiler, someone who doesn’t have much chance to win, but can spoil it for someone else.

Technically, there can be no spoilers in the 35th District primary. It would take four candidates for that. If the fourth-place candidate takes enough votes to cause another candidate to come in third instead of second, that’s a true spoiler. With only three candidates in this primary, the loser in this case just loses without damaging anyone else.

Here are some reasons to consider, though, that someone could in effect fit the spiritual definition of spoiler.

Democrat Tim Sheldon has a long history in Olympia and has added to it as a Mason County commissioner. In 2006 Sheldon received 72.3 percent of the vote in the general election. In 2010 his numbers were down, getting about 62 percent in the primary and general election while running against someone who barely campaigned. That was a down year for Democrats, even for those who often side with Republicans. That’s a tough hurdle to beat, making Bowling and Couture underdogs by default.

Democrats came relatively close to unseating Sheldon in 2006, but it was in the primary. That’s one key.

That year, 2006, was when Washington voters had to pick a party to vote in during the primary election. That meant Republicans who wanted Sheldon to return to Olympia had to select a Democratic ballot and pick him. The Republican, Mark Shattuck, came in third, but advanced, because thems was the rules. With that, Sheldon received 43.1 percent of the vote to Kyle Taylor Lucas’ 32.5 percent. This year there is no such burden. Sheldon only has to come in second to advance. It’s possible that perception of an easier path could make some of Sheldon’s traditional supporters more relaxed about voting.

Meanwhile, it’s the more passionate voters who take part in primaries. Bowling will certainly get all the support Lucas did, and probably more. Traditional Democrats who pay attention will vote for her. Lucas carried some baggage for being perceived as a carpetbagger, and some people were incensed that Sheldon had to run against anyone. Now that Sheldon has caucused with Republicans for two years, some of those who were outraged in 2006 are not so surprised.

Speaking of passion, Couture describes himself on his website as a “conservative libertarian.” Have you ever seen Ron Paul supporters at a convention? There’s your passion. So while Sheldon has some cred with conservatives, it is not out of this world to think that Couture’s following will represent well in August. Shattuck received 24 percent of the vote in the 2006 primary back when A. It was a pick-a-party primary, and B. Ron Paul had not yet risen to national relevance and C. Sheldon didn’t have the negatives he has now.

Those negatives include his decision to caucus with Republicans and a couple of local issues. I didn’t hear much local fallout from anyone about Sheldon’s decision to caucus in the Senate with Republicans, other than the complaints from those who would never vote for him anyway. There might be a fair contingent out there, though, who were rubbed the wrong way by Sheldon’s decision, people who didn’t yell and scream about it but are moved to believe that the maverick might have gone too far off the ranch for their tastes. They could either vote for someone else, or not vote at all.

The local issues are ones that arise more out of Sheldon’s service as a county commissioner. New Belfair sewer customers don’t like the price they’re paying for service they’re getting in large part because of Sheldon’s insistence. And just last week Sheldon and a fellow commissioner enacted a six-month moratorium on marijuana grow operations. I’m not sure how much angst that is going to inspire, but there is potential.

In 2012 voters in the 35th District picked Democrat Barack Obama for president and Republican Rob McKenna for governor. They split on state House representatives, backed Democrat Derek Kilmer, voted against gay marriage and for legal marijuana. On statewide issues voters in the 35th come in consistently a few points more conservative than the state as a whole. They’re not afraid to elect traditional Democrats, though, and have sent Kathy Haigh to Olympia in the House year after year. It’s a tough district to pigeonhole.

Sheldon likes to appeal to people who don’t make political parties their number one priority. That plays better in a general election, when turnout is high, than it does in a primary, which appeals to more committed voters. Should Bowling and Couture finish 1-2 or 2-1, then one of them, the second place finisher in November, could be seen as the spoiler. The other one will go to Olympia. Should Sheldon come in first or second in the primary, the spoiler factor goes away and we focus on favorites and underdogs.


Fearing an October surprise, we discover a candidate lives here

This election, like any other, could see its fill of well-timed surprises. We tried to avoid one recently and might have prevented it all together. In the end it might never have happened, because there doesn’t seem to be much reason to launch a residency challenge of Republican Michelle Caldier.

Caldier is running to unseat state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, in the 26th District.

Looking into candidates is something we should do as a matter of course, but we don’t find everything. We check court records, including the bankruptcy courts. We don’t hire private investigators. A candidate’s opposition sometimes does. They’re free to spend the money.

Part of my motivation goes back to 2004. Sherry Appleton, who has represented the 23rd District since then, was running against two Republicans, back when Washington primaries meant picking one candidate from each party. Frank Mahaffay beat Paulette DeGard for the Republican spot on the ballot. It was in October that I learned of Mahaffay’s court-verified financial issues. Because it was so late in the election season Scott Ware, then the editor, and I debated whether to include the problem in the election profile. In the end we decided we couldn’t leave it out. Appleton won by a large margin, so I don’t think that one piece of information ruined it for the Mahaffay, but I wished I had found it before the primary.

I learned of Mahaffay’s financial issue through a tip. Since then I have found some things ahead of the partisan tipsters, one candidate’s two bankruptcies, for example. Still, political parties are working hard to find any indiscretion they can. No doubt we will get emails from people doing opposition research. It was an email from an oppo researcher that informed me of auditor candidate Kelly Emerson’s recent employment as commissioner in Island County. I don’t mind investigating the stuff sent to me by the studious partisan operatives, but the more we rely on them the bigger the chance that they will sit on an issue waiting for the most opportunistic timing to lob a bomb.

With Michelle Caldier I did wait a while to see if someone would publicly ask the question how a Kenmore dentist came to seek election in a district that is miles from either of the 26th District’s book-end bridges. I gave the operatives some time to speak up. After all, the primary between Seaquist and Caldier will be little more than a straw poll. There are other races with more on the line in August. Eventually, though, I gave in to my question.

Using basic Internet skills I found two addresses for Caldier, one in Kenmore and another in Port Orchard. Searching county records the Kenmore property was still listed in her name. The Port Orchard property was not. Moreover the Kenmore property had four bedrooms while the Port Orchard place had one. I then contacted the Kitsap County Elections office to find out when she had registered to vote here. It was in November. I then found evidence that she had sold her home in Kenmore in May. Pictures of the home on a real estate listing looked to me that the house had been staged to present well for potential buyers, that it was unlikely someone had been living there too recently.

That was the information I had when I called Caldier and asked when she moved here. She responded that she would like to meet with me in person. I was a bit frustrated that she wouldn’t just deliver an immediate answer, but after asking again and getting the same response, I agreed. She came in the next morning with Chris Tibbs, Kitsap County Republican Party chairman. He took the blame for her reluctance to speak on the phone, saying he had coached the candidates, the first-time candidates anyway, to request a sit-down meeting.

The meeting itself was valuable and in the end I see no evidence of a residency issue. I’ll provide more details about her story later. She’s providing them, too. In short, she was motivated in large part to consider running by work she did on legislation in 2013. She grew up in Kitsap County, said she always considered it home, but established her dental practice to have enough business to serve the market she sought. For family reasons she and her sisters have moved back here. Her dental practice is a mobile one, stretching from Pierce to Skagit County. What’s more, in May she took ownership of a house in Port Orchard after renting a home or staying with family here since sometime last year.

The question over Caldier’s residency was an easy one to form. It came up for me from the moment she announced her candidacy. Seaquist, for his part, said he hadn’t been too concerned over it. But that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t make an issue of the residency based just on the question, planting doubts late in the game.

If you have a question about any candidate, feel free to email me at and we might look into the issue that makes you wonder. And do it as soon as you think about it. With Washington’s three-week election window from when ballots go out and when they get returned it’s even more important to avoid October surprises. Let’s keep peace at hand, if you know what I mean.


Tim Eyman audio on latest initiative

This is the audio from Tim Eyman’s speech to the Central Kitsap Republican Women, who met for their luncheon at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton on May 8, 2014.

One final note: This is something we might consider doing more of in the future. That might mean posting audio from events like this, but I also could see us recording interviews and doing other kinds of storytelling on a regular podcast.

I’m a fan of the podcast medium itself, but I don’t know how much demand there is for a hyperlocal podcast. Let me know and if there is enough interest I will do my best to make this a regular thing. Comment here, or email me at

One more on the homeless bill, and then we are likely done for maybe three years

Ed Friedrich’s story on the bill that prolonged a real estate transaction fee to pay for housing for the homeless gives a good synopsis of what went down. We’ve paid a lot of attention to this bill in some part because of state Sen. Jan Angel’s role in stopping it from going to the floor from her committee.

Hours before the session ended Angel was able to introduce the final version of the bill that keeps the funding going, but also addresses some problems Angel and others had with the overall program.

One of Angel’s objections when the bill was in committee was that this fee is only charged in real estate transactions. While individuals who buy homes, change titles, etc. are the ones paying the fee, Angel suggested it unfair that the real estate industry was the only being asked to shoulder the burden. She has also made the case that the real estate market is cyclical, so funding for the program is subject to the market’s whims.

The final bill passed by the Legislature does not change any of that, but it puts in place the possibility that the state could find a different funding source to either supplement or replace the current fee. Following a performance audit of the program the state will convene a task force that will report on other funding possibilities by the end of 2017. Legislators would then have two years to come up with something different before facing another deadline worse than the one they just faced. Missing this deadline would have seen the fee drop and then go away. Missing the 2019 deadline set by the new legislation means the fee just goes away.

Department of Commerce statistics conclude the program has dropped homelessness in the state by 29 percent overall. For families the number is 74 percent. For individuals it’s 5 percent.

In Kitsap County the drop in homelessness appears to be well above the 50 percent target, but that assumes I’m reading the state Department of Commerce report correctly. I’ll check on Monday. In Mason County it looks like homelessness has actually gone up.

The bill also stipulates that at least 45 percent of the funding wind up in the hands of for-profit landlords. Again, assuming I’m reading the Commerce report correctly, I don’t see where that has been a problem anywhere. In Kitsap County $648,478 went to for-profit landlords in 2012. Another $177,529 went to what the state defines as “public” landlords. Nothing went to non-profits. In Mason County $112,379 went to for-profits, and that was all of it.

In the end eight senators and 22 representatives voted against the program, all of them Republicans. All nine of Kitsap’s legislators voted for it.

Below you can watch the conversation on the Senate floor, a discussion led off by Angel.

Recording fee for homeless funding likely to pass

The bill to continue charging the $40 fee on real estate transactions to fund programs for the homeless has a good shot of being passed. State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, said a Republican version would have extended the program for one year and required that 45 percent of the money go to private, for-profit landlords. Democrats are dead set against setting a fixed number on the private landlord question and want five years on the extension.

So the two sides are still talking.

If the session does get extended, Rolfes said, it will only be to be in compliance with 24-hour requirements on bills.

Nonetheless, if there is a short special session, that’s when the recording fee bill would likely be voted on, so that it can be part of the budget negotiations, Rolfes said.

Another source, Joaquin Uy from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance emailed confirming the private landlord issue and the sunsets as key issues. He also said the two sides are debating reporting and auditing requirements.

Rolfes said Republicans have committed to passing a bill this session.

Angel at center of controversy over funding for homeless

State Sen. Jan Angel, the Republican elected to finish the final year of a four-year term, pulled a parliamentary move she is allowed to in her role as committee co-chair, prompting at least one howl from within her own party and a failed Democratic countermove in the main chamber.

At issue is a bill, House Bill 2368, that helps counties and the state fund programs for the homeless. Counties charge a $40 fee on real estate transactions and apply it toward state and county efforts to assist with rental housing payments, grants for transitional housing, emergency assistance, overnight shelters for young people, emergency shelters, and to help human trafficking victims and their families. Under the legislation originally passed in 2005 the fee was set to go down to $30 next year, and then to $10. This year’s bill would essentially make the $40 fee permanent.

Supporters of the bill argued that attaching the fee to documents related to real estate was appropriate, because reducing homelessness helps protect property values, keeps people out of jail and out of emergency rooms. Opponents contend that real estate fees are not an appropriate way to fund efforts to reduce homelessness and that the law was supposed to be temporary when it was written in 2005.

The bill was among those expected to be heard in a Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee hearing, but Angel gaveled the meeting before the bill could be discussed. Once the gavel is hit, TVW stops recording video, but there was audio, (Start at 1:03:45) and the first voice complaining about the meeting’s quick conclusion is Republican Sen. Don Benton of Vancouver, who is hardly liberal lion. Benton, in fact, working with a Democrat from the House, had helped create the compromise bill the committee was supposed to consider. Benton asks about 2368 and Angel says, “The meeting is now adjourned.” Benton expresses disappointment. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who co-chairs the committee said the bill was a bipartisan/bicameral piece of legislation everyone had agreed to, to which Angel said all parties are not in agreement. “We’ll continue to work on this during interim,” she said, to create a bill that works.

Hobbs told the (Tacoma) News Tribune that Angel was operating with orders from Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom. Angel denied it, saying even if he had issued orders, “I work for the people of my district.”

On Friday Senate Democrats issued a statement that included comment from another Kitsap senator. “In my district, and in districts across the state, this is the most important source of funding we have to help the homeless,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island. “People are playing politics with an issue that should be supported by everyone. There shouldn’t even be a second thought.”

The bill was an amended version that had passed out of the House with a 62-36 vote. All six Kitsap legislators in the House voted for the bill.

Democrats tried to pull a procedural move to get the bill heard on the main floor, but the majority caucus, including Benton, held firm in denying them. The News Tribune said the bill could be part of last-minute dealmaking before the session ends March 13.

The chance of intrigue in the 35th LD Senate race

If you’re watching the state political landscape and in particular the 35th Legislative District, you might have long ago stopped looking at the Senate race to focus on the campaigns being waged by two Republicans for the opportunity to unseat a Democratic incumbent.

You might be assuming that Tim Sheldon will again open an unlocked door to another term as a state Senator. The primary, though, could be interesting. And Sheldon has made some critics out of people who once were his backers, primarily people in Belfair, because of his work as a county commissioner.

Sheldon, as most of you know, is a Democrat, albeit (How should we put this?) an atypical one. For years his votes on most controversial issues have been aligned with the Republicans. The Democrats enjoyed their majority status in the chamber with his insistence on remaining a Democrat and have been safe from his maverick ways as long as the margin never got close. Once Democrats outnumbered Republicans by just three in the Senate, though, the GOP leadership was able to poach away control by nabbing Sheldon and Rodney Tom, the Democrat who once was Republican and is now the figurehead for the Senate Majority Coalition.

In Mason County, which is the bulk of the 35th, Sheldon has held strong. In 2010 he received 57 percent of the vote against Nancy (grandma) Williams, though that big margin might be deceiving, because she didn’t wage much of a campaign.

The election of 2006 might be a more telling picture. That year, one in which voters had to pick a party, Sheldon only received 43.1 percent in the primary against two challengers. One was a Democrat from the Howard Dean wing. The other was a Republican. In fact, the Democrat, Kyle Taylor Lucas, accused by many of moving into the district just to run against Sheldon, came in second place, netting 32.5 percent of the primary vote. Had she run in 2010 or this year and seen the same result, she would have been on the General Election ballot because of the state’s Top Two primary system.

So far Sheldon faces two opponents in the primary this year. Travis Couture, the Republican, describes himself on his website as “a conservative libertarian.” His arguments espousing that philosophy is clear on the website, and he delivers a message that might well resonate with the 35th District’s more conservative voters. So might his Facebook criticism of Sheldon, “Next time you see an illegal immigrant going to college on your taxpayer dime, just thank Tim Sheldon for voting to pass that this year in the Senate.”

The Democrats have Irene Bowling so far. She has run a music instruction business in Kitsap County and has been well known locally. During the selection process for the county commissioner position left open by Josh Brown, Bowling proved herself a competent candidate. She answered questions well and swayed enough precinct committee officers to make her the second choice as Brown’s successor. I have little doubt that the vast majority of people who voted for Taylor Lucas in 2006 will side with Bowling this time around in the primary. If she gets more than the 32.5 percent Taylor Lucas got, she could even emerge as the 35th District’s first choice out of the primary.

If that were to pan out, then the question becomes whether Couture can cut enough into Sheldon’s lead to do the unthinkable, putting Sheldon into third place.

One of Couture’s challenges could be raising money for the race, at least from the state party. Party organizations get to donate in big amounts. Sheldon isn’t going to get money from either party, but he already has almost $80,000. Sheldon has in the past, though, prevented Republican candidates from getting GOP party money to run against him, or so I’m told. It’s as if every dollar he gets has a huge multiplier effect. It’s early in the game, but that could be tough for Couture. If he as a first-time candidate proves especially adept at raising money and getting signs on voters’ lawns, he could make it interesting. Where Couture might make his biggest splash is on social media, which doesn’t cost a lot and can have a big connector factor.

If there is enough anti-Sheldon sentiment out there then this race could be highly entertaining. In the 2012 Mason County Commissioner primary race Sheldon received 29.4 percent of the vote as an incumbent, a half point ahead of the second-place candidate, Democrat Roslynne Reed. Sheldon won by 8 percentage points in the general election, but those 2012 numbers demonstrate he is not invincible. He does not enjoy the kind of support Norm Dicks had in the Sixth Congressional District.

If you were betting money on the 35th District race, I still wouldn’t dissuade you from betting on Sheldon. But you might look at 2012 and have reason to question your certainty. If he makes it to the general election I don’t see him losing that one. The best chance to unseat him is likely the primary. Bowling, assuming she is the only Democrat who runs, will get the votes from those leaning left. The question will be how the conservative votes will split, whether Couture can effectively make the case that he is more their representative than the incumbent.