It is not lost on us as
reporters how much work our governments dedicate to fulfilling
requests for public records from the likes of us and citizens. We,
most of us anyway, try to be reasonable.
We know it also might seem unfair that we can and do attend
meetings some government officials would rather we didn’t. I was
once asked by a well-intentioned elected official to not attend a
meeting. Asked. Then when I attended I was asked what I was doing
there. Neither question was legally justifiable, though I trust
there wasn’t malice in either of them.
Perhaps you know some government folks who you could encourage
to partake in some training. Perhaps you are a government official
willing to get a refresher course. Washington State Auditor Troy
Kelley is offering to provide it. From 3-5 p.m. on March 24 he will
offer a free Open Government & Transparency training session in
the Auditor’s Office building in Tumwater. The office did
open-government trainings across the state last year it says were
For what it’s worth, most government officers I’ve worked with
have been entirely cooperative about sharing what was needed. But
the law being the law and open government being something we value,
this kind of training can save a local government a lot of A.
money, B. time, and C. embarrassment when something that should be
in the sunshine is hidden, intentionally or not.
Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times wrote a story detailing a
disconnect in what oil and gas industry officials say publicly and
how they’re responding to Gov. Jay Inslee’s cap-and-trade proposal.
Industry officials say they support cap-and-trade, but they’re no
fans of Inslee’s proposal or of what’s happening in California.
When asked what kind of proposal they would favor, they don’t offer
Included with the story, however, is a chart that is useful, but
illustrates how easy it is to make a false equation in politics.
The chart shows that state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, has
received more campaign money from oil and gas interests than all
but one other legislative politician in the state. State Sen. Jan
Angel, R-Port Orchard, comes in at No. 8 for donations she received
for her 2013 campaign. Here is a list of the oil and gas industry
contributions that went to Kitsap candidates in 2013 and 2014.
The easy accusation is to say that a legislator, once gifts are
offered, is paid for. I won’t argue that money has no influence,
but its bigger influence is in who gets elected, not in what the
politician does once in office. To illustrate that point, let me
ask you this question: If the oil and gas industry hadn’t
contributed $13,700 to Tim Sheldon’s campaign, do you think he
would then favor Inslee’s proposal? I seriously doubt it. If you
doubt me, do you think that same amount of money would have
influenced Irene Bowling’s vote?
I could give you new evidence about the impact of money and
politics, but instead I’ll give one I’ve offered before.
More than years ago This American Life, addressed
the issue. Andrea Seabrook asked Democrat Barney Frank if money
Barney Frank: People say, “Oh, it doesn’t
have any effect on me.” Look, if that were the case, we would be
the only human beings in the history of the world who, on a regular
basis, took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and
made sure that it had no effect on our behavior. That is not human
Andrea Seabrook: On the other hand, he
says, there are things that influence a politician besides
Barney Frank: If the voters have a
position, the votes will kick money’s rear end any time. I’ve never
met a politician — I’ve been in the legislative bodies for 40 years
now — who, choosing between a significant opinion in his or her
district and a number of campaign contributors, doesn’t go with the
And I have had people tell me — and we talk honestly to each
other, we don’t lie to each other very often. You don’t survive if
you do. As chairman of a committee, I’d be lobbying for votes.
I have had members say to me, Mr. Chairman, I love you.
Barney, you’re right. But I can’t do that politically because I’ll
get killed in my district. No one has ever said to me, I’m sorry,
but I got a big contributor I can’t offend.
I’m not defending anyone here. I’m just suggesting that the oil
and gas industry ponied up money for Tim Sheldon and Jan Angel
because they knew Tim Sheldon and Jan Angel. I don’t think either
has ever shown any sign of being a fence sitter on cap and
Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is proposing the
state’s political parties use the presidential primary results
to allocate at least some part of their delegates to the national
political conventions. And she has provided a carrot, or maybe it’s
a stick, to get them to go along.
Some history is in order.
In 2008 Washington Republicans allocated half
their delegates from the February primary, which according to the
Secretary of State’s office is what they have always done. The
Democrats allocated none in 2008. It would have played more of a
factor on the Democratic side, too, because Barack Obama won by a
big margin in the caucuses, but just by a few points in the state
primary, a reflection of what happened nationwide. Clinton fared
much better with everyday Democratic voters across the country,
while Obama did well with people more willing to take a day off to
weigh in at the caucuses.
Of the state’s pledged 78 Democratic delegates
in 2008, 52 went to Obama and 26 went to Clinton. Had Democrats
done what Republicans did, the margin would have been 26-13 from
the caucuses, and something like 20-18 from the primary, with John
Edwards picking up the straggler. The final delegate count
combining the caucus and primary would have been Obama 46, Clinton
31, and Edwards 1. The Edwards delegate would have probably ended
up in Obama’s totals.
Obama ended up winning the national pledged
delegate count by 102 delegates, but didn’t secure the majority
until June. And by the time the Feb. 9, 2008 caucuses began he was
only up by 11 delegates overall.
Looking back at how the election played out,
had Washington Democrats done what Republicans did with the primary
in 2008, the ultimate result would likely have been the same. Obama
would have won. But perhaps there are some who could argue that a
five-delegate shift, which amounts to 10 points in the margin,
could have made a psychological difference. The fact is, though, we
don’t know how many people skipped out on the 2008 Washington
presidential primary or voted Republican, because the Democratic
primary was a taxpayer-funded beauty contest.
The reason we have a presidential primary at
all is because voters submitted an initiative to the Legislature in
1989 asking for one. In 2012 (Just as it did in 2004.) the state
suspended the presidential primary to save $10 million. As the law
stands now the parties don’t have to recognize the numbers from the
primary. Bills in the House, HB 2139, and Senate, SB 5978, would change that.
If each party agrees to allocate part of their
delegate count from the primary, voters would have to declare a
party for that election and choose among that party’s candidates.
Your party prefence selection would be a matter of public record,
so if you pick a Republican or Democratic ballot, everyone in the
state has the right to know that. If you sit out the election no
one will know which party you prefer. If the parties don’t
agree the state would create a single ballot with every candidate’s
name. In no circumstance would anyone know who you voted for.
That, in fact, is where the carrot and stick
come in. The state Republican and Democratic parties both love
getting the lists of which voters picked which party. They haven’t
received one of those since 2008, so a fresh list would update
their data for fundraising and mailing. Under the terms of this
law, if they don’t each allocate at least part of their pledged
national delegates from the primary, there is no such list, because
the Secretary of State would create one ballot that tells the
Presidential primaries do more for parties in
years when there is no incumbent running, because in theory each
race has a real contest. Another reason for parties to like
primaries comes in years when candidates at the extreme end of
party philosophy capture less affection from regular voters than
they do from the more devoted. In 2008 any of the Democratic
frontrunners could have fared well in November and Dennis Kucinich
wasn’t getting enough support even at the caucuses to threaten
Obama, Clinton or Edwards, so strategically the party could afford
to ignore the primary. For Republicans in 2008 the thorn to the
party bosses was Ron Paul, who received 8 percent of the
primary vote (compared to 50 percent for John McCain), but 22
percent at the state caucuses, just 3 percentage points behind
The Legislature has to allocate funds to have
the primary. Kitsap County would spend an estimated $345,000 to
hold the election, but like all counties would be reimbursed by the
A story we reported in 2008 from the
presidential primary follows.
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
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
“Time makes more converts than reason.” — Thomas
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.
We 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
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
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
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
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
We haven’t talked about this in a while here, and probably with
good reason. Once I saw the birth certificate and newspaper
clipping showing our current president was born in a hospital in
Hawaii it seemed pretty clear to me that Barack Obama was qualified
at birth to run for president once he turned 35.
But others who continue to fight this battle want clarity on
what it means to be a “natural born citizen.” Tracy A. Fair is one
of those, and in a press release which follows this post she makes
the case that the Supreme Court needs to define it. She’s using
that question to challenge the presidential candidacies of Florida
Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Louisiana Gov. Bobby
Some years ago there was talk of revisiting the whole
requirement about being born here to qualify as president. This was
when some people were seriously talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger
as a presidential candidate.
What do you think? Is this requirement outdated? Should there be
other requirements in place instead?
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, issued this statement
following the president’s State of the Union address:
“Tonight, the President detailed why America wins when a growing
economy expands opportunities for everyone. Overall, we are
creating new jobs and our unemployment rate is falling. Now we can
do more to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to enter the
middle-class, and that families still feeling squeezed find ways to
get ahead. That means giving students the key to unlock the doors
of a quality education, helping workers get the skills they need to
compete for 21st century jobs, and ensuring our businesses on Main
Street have the tools they need to grow and expand. The President
also called for Congress to come together so we can keep the good
economic news coming. I look forward to working with my colleagues
to improve our infrastructure so businesses can more easily get
their products to customers and to simplify a complex, convoluted
tax code so we can encourage businesses to innovate and grow jobs
here in the United States, not overseas.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, issued this
“Tonight President Obama offered bold ideas that confront some
of the most important issues facing our nation, foremost among them
the need to provide working families with a more meaningful share
in our economic recovery. It is my hope that Congress will pursue
common ground with the President to tackle these issues, for the
benefit of our state and the entire country.
“The first requirement for progress in a divided government is a
willingness to work together. In order to move forward it is
incumbent on all elected leaders to offer solutions to the
challenges we face.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said this:
“I am very glad that President Obama laid out an agenda that
puts well-paying middle class jobs first and would offer
opportunities to all families in Washington state and across the
country who want to work hard and succeed, not just the wealthiest
few. Republicans control Congress and can decide to push us toward
more gridlock and dysfunction if they want, but if they are willing
to come to the table to get results for the families and
communities we represent, I am ready to get to work.
“I was especially glad that President Obama reiterated his
strong support for helping workers across the country increase
their wages and economic security. Washington state is leading the
way in showing that increasing the minimum wage raises wages far up
the income ladder, increases demand for the goods and services
local businesses provide, and helps the economy grow from the
middle out, not the top down. And it’s time for the federal
government to step up.
“I was glad to hear President Obama throw his support behind my
Healthy Families Act, which would help workers earn paid sick days
so they can care for a loved one without falling behind or losing a
job they put so much work into. And I strongly agree with the
President that we need to do more to make sure that big
corporations can’t game the system and underpay their workers who
put in overtime hours.
“A strong education for every student in America is a critical
piece of a middle class economic agenda, and I am very glad that
President Obama laid out some important policies and goals tonight.
I am going to be working with his Administration and my colleagues
in Congress over the coming months to fix the broken No Child Left
Behind and make sure it works for every student no matter where
they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.
And I am going to continue fighting to increase access to higher
education for students who want to work hard, graduate, and help
local businesses succeed.
“I also strongly agree with President Obama that we should close
wasteful loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and
biggest corporations, and direct those tax cuts and investments to
the middle class and families who need a hand up—the ones who will
actually drive economic growth. Many Republicans have spent years
fighting to shift the tax burden from the well-off and
well-connected to the middle class, but I am hopeful that public
pressure will push those Republicans into working with us to put
money into the pockets of the middle class, not those who need it
the least. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for more workers
is one tax policy with bipartisan support that I will be fighting
for and that we should be able to move on quickly.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., had this to say:
“Tonight, President Obama laid out a clear plan for
strengthening the middle class. We see signs that our economic
recovery is gaining ground, but too few Americans are
participating. We must work across party lines to strengthen the
middle class through investments in workforce training, more
affordable higher education, and a focus on manufacturing jobs.
“I am especially pleased that the President has announced plans
to open the doors of opportunity for millions more Americans by
lowering the cost of community colleges. We’ve seen positive
results with similar programs in Washington state. More than 1,000
students have gained access to higher education under a South
Seattle College initiative that provided a free year of tuition to
eligible students. Expanding community college access will help
millions of Americans get new skills to pursue their dreams and
grow our economy.”
From Republicans I pulled from other news organizations. Since
we don’t have any representing us in federal office, they don’t
send us their statements.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was quoted in The Columbian.
“The president outlined a number of initiatives tonight for
which he will need help from Congress,” U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera
Beutler, R-Camas, said in a statement. “While he and I don’t always
agree on the government’s role in helping individuals and small
businesses, Americans are expecting us to work together to find
common ground. I remain ready and willing to do just that.”
Joel Connelly at the Seattle P-I quoted to Washington
But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., a member of the House
Republican leadership, was out with a statement that was hard,
unrelenting and partisan.
She hoped President Obama would stand up for the “hardworking
families” of her Eastern Washington district, McMorris Rodgers
claimed. “Instead he stood up for Washington, D.C. He stood up for
the old, outdated top-down approaches of the past — while I believe
in an open, organic, bottom-up vision of the future.”
Newly elected Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., hewed to the
Republican position that Obama is offering “the same
government-centered, tax-and-spend approach of the past.”
Still, Newhouse said he is willing to “work with anyone” to help
the beleaguered middle class, “expand energy and free trade
policies that grow our economy.” Newhouse has a right flank to
guard in Eastern Washington, but has served as both a GOP state
legislator and state agriculture director under a Democratic
As of this writing we’re about 90 minutes away from President
Barack Obama’s seventh State of the Union address. If you’re
scoring at home that means he has one more before he is out of
office and his popularity surges.
I have a friend, a Facebook friend really (which is not the same
as a friend friend), who has been posting her disdain today for
this event, not because of the speech, but because Obama’s giving
It got me thinking about the usefulness of the State of the
Union. It is good in one sense because it telegraphs the
president’s moves beyond, “I’m going to veto everything you
knuckleheads send me.” It gives the president a chance to lay out
an agenda for the year, and all kidding aside I believe that is a
useful function of the speech. And I’m also a fan of trotting out
examples of a few people who make us feel good about being
Still, I can’t say I’m ever excited about a State of the Union
address. I’m even less enthused about opposition responses. I think
this is a function of sitting still for live television for
anything other than sports becoming a dying practice. I sat Sunday
for the Seahawks game and I’d bet money that the president, no
matter how eloquent he is, will not deliver anything with near the
impact Jermaine Kearse’s game-ending had. The speech is more
important than that game, probably.
The White House just sent out some excerpts. Let me give you a
few, then ask you a question.
“We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that
dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new
generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious
recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and
still is, a hard time for many. But tonight, we turn the page.”
“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do
spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that
generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the
“In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military
power – is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into
another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad
coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately
destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate
opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting
people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent
extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But
we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the
world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to
authorize the use of force against ISIL.”
“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our
networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of
American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our
government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as
we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress
to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving
threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our
children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and
our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the
technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people
around the globe.”
The question is a simple one: Do you take time out of your
schedule to watch the State of the Union? Why?
There is a cynical way to look at your representative in Congress
climbing the ladder of power. There is another way, too.
Norm Dicks, who had a reputation for bringing money home to his
district, held a seat on the House Appropriations Committee his
entire congressional career. If the 2012 election had been as good
for Democrats as the 1976 election was, Derek Kilmer might have
Dicks, who held the seat for 36 years, was elected in a year
that saw Democrat Jimmy Carter elected president. His party had 292
seats in Congress, more than twice the 143 held by Republicans.
Democrats had only picked up one seat that election, but there was
enough movement that it created room for a freshman congressman
from Belfair to claim a spot on a coveted committee.
Kilmer, by contrast, joined Congress when Democrats were in the
minority, holding 201 seats. Committee numbers are devised based on
party ratios. Western Democrats backed Kilmer for the committee to
party leaders when he was first elected, Dicks said. The argument
then was the same as it was this time around, that with Dicks’
departure from Congress the Pacific Northwest would not be
It wasn’t the worst environment for the party to take a risk on
a rookie. It had picked up a seat on the committee and five
Democrats had left, but the vacancies were filled by six veteran
After the 2014 election Democrats lost seats, but not in
Appropriations. Kilmer’s regional backing, along with his track
record in his relatively short congressional career, made a bigger
difference this time around. Despite Democratic losses in the
November election he got the nod when Rep. Adam Schiff of
California left the committee to become ranking member of the House
Select Committee on Intelligence.
Subcommittee assignments, which are expected to be made in the
next week, are a matter of what’s available. Dicks said the basic
process is that members with three assignments pick one to put into
a pool to add to the ones left behind by Schiff. Kilmer will get to
pick two from the pool. Dicks was on Defense and Interior. Schiff
was on neither of those, so if they are in the pool it won”t be
coming from him. It may take a few years for Kilmer to grab
Defense, Dicks said.
The former congressman said the Appropriations assignment is
huge for this district and for Kilmer. “It’s still the best
committee in terms of bipartisanship,” he said. Besides working
across the aisle, he will have the benefit of working across the
capitol building in the Senate, where Washington Sen. Patty Murray
sits on that chamber’s Appropriations Committee.
You don’t have to link all the benefits to the region as pork.
You can if you like, but someone has to sit on Appropriations and
oversee government spending. It doesn’t hurt us that it’s someone
local. Should Kilmer eventually make it onto Defense there are
obvious benefits to having someone who can argue for the shipyard
and the bases. There are obvious benefits to having someone on
Appropriations who has been through the district enough that dollar
figures are actually connected to pictures. How strident a member
of Congress is on hometown issues is another question, but having
someone with a distinct awareness of what’s happening here has to
be a benefit.
There is another, potentially unsavory, advantage of having a
local ascend to the powerful committee, one that some thought would
go away when earmarks were banned. But politicians want to bring
home the bacon for their constituents, so they will figure out ways
to extract more money for the district. One way they do it now is
by writing letters to agencies asking for specific funding. The
more powerful your member of Congress is, the more likely a letter
penned by your rep will have more weight. A letter from someone on
Appropriations ranks pretty high. And the longer Kilmer stays in
Congress, the higher the clout. The bad news for those interested
in transparency is it’s not as easy to track as earmarks once were,
at least not yet.
In this story from Roll Call comes the
news that Thomas Steyer, who spent $1.25 million in the 2014
election in Washington and $525,000 in 2013 in the 26th Legislative
District Senate race, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.
On Tuesday he wrote on Huffington Post, “I will
decide soon based on what I think is the best way to continue the
hard work we’ve already started together to prevent climate
disaster and preserve American prosperity.”
For us the question is whether this means he would stop donating
money to out-of-state races while he’s running and should he win.
I reached out to Steyer’s NextGen Climate organization and
received no response.
Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the DC-based campaign
finance watchdog organization Center for Responsive Politics,
answered by email that she didn’t know of any precedent that
could predict how Steyer would respond.
“But there is nothing to prevent him from
continuing to make contributions down to state and local level
according to whatever limits those states allow,” Krumholz
The California race promises to be expensive, though, and even a
billionaire can eventually run out of money.
Steyer’s money played a big role in the drama, though not so
much the result, in the 2013 26th Legislative District election
battled between appointed incumbent state Sen. Nathan Schlicher, a
Democrat, and the eventual winner, Republican Jan Angel.
Elected officials do contribute to each other. Krumholz
provided a link to a list of candidates who
contributed lots to other candidates. They’re limited to $5,000 per
candidate. The link leads with, “Members of Congress in safe seats
are often asked to contribute some of their campaign funds to
candidates in need.” The top donor was Eric Cantor at nearly $1.9
million. His seat turned out to be not so safe.
Steyer, should he win, would replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a
Democrat who went from the House to the Senate following the 1992
election. The Roll Call story makes the case that it would be
tough for a current member of Congress to make the same leap Boxer
did, because California congressional districts have a smaller
proportional footprint than in any other state. California has 53
seats in the House.
For a representative whose name is known primarily in only 1/53
of the state, it’s tough to imagine getting play in the other
A couple of other things that are worth noting from the
Experts are predicting this race will cost more than $100
California uses a top-two primary system and leans far enough
left that it’s not unreasonable to think that the two final
candidates could both be Democrats.
Talking Points Memo has a story that focuses exclusively on
Steyer and his strengths (money) and his weaknesses (money) should
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.
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
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
card. “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
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
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
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
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?
If you paid attention to stories about the budget Congress just
passed, a budget that gave us the term “CRomnibus,” (It’s a mash up
of Continuing Resolution and omnibus. Part of the budget is one and
most of it is the latter. Because I think we all can agree if
Congress isn’t inventing new words it’s not doing its job.) you
learned that in addition to giving Wall Street a break, (“About
time!” I say.) it gave national political parties access to huge
swaths of money.
That second part is one U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor,
objected to the most. When the budget passed the house he sent a
news release with the statement:
“Part of the reason Congress is held in such low esteem is
that it does things like this. While I’m all for funding
government, adding a provision at the last minute to a must pass
bill that benefits the wealthiest donors and floods our elections
with even more money undermines our democracy.”
Kilmer didn’t stop there. He offered a bill that would undo that
portion of the CRomnibus. (The more you say it the less debased you
feel.) “Close the Floodgates Act” got no sponsors and the Senate
went home, but Kilmer said this week he will bring the bill back
during the next session, which begins in January.
On Wednesday I asked him if he thought any of the 219 members of
the House who voted for the CRomnibus (You see? You’re becoming
assimilated.) objected to the campaign finance provision. Uh, yeah.
“I have not spoken to anyone on either side of the aisle who
thought this provision made sense,” he said.
That provision would increase caps on annual donations by
individuals to the national political parties from $97,200 to
That so many people would think the provision makes no sense is
because no one is sitting around saying, “You what we need? More
money in politics.” Well, someone might be saying it. On the right
the Koch Brothers and on the left George Soros are the demons of
MSNBC and Fox for saying that with their money, for example.
The rationale, simply, is this: With so much money going to
third-party political organizations that don’t have to limit what
they can receive from donors, parties are having a tough time
collecting money they use to advertise, host conventions and wage
legal battles. Part of what the CRomnibus rider did was create not
only new limits, but new organizations donors can fund to handle
different aspects of a campaign. The parties want this, because
they don’t want to cede a campaign’s message to third-party groups
that they can’t coordinate with or control.
So who orchestrated this? Sounds like it was Nevada Senator and
now former Majority Leader Harry Reid, employing a Seattle lawyer
to make it happen.
So while most people favor reducing the money in politics by,
um, changing the law to reduce money in politics, Reid and Congress
just passed legislation to open up the tap for the parties, in
hopes of strengthening the parties’ influence in the bigger pool of
Kilmer favors the first approach. He co-sponsored the Disclose
Act, which would have required more financial disclosure in
campaign ads. He also co-sponsored a bill proposing a
constitutional amendment specifying that corporations are not
people and allowing Congress to set campaign limits. Another bill
he co-sponsored would allow candidates to accept public funds as
long as they forego big donations.
Before any of that though, Kilmer wants to kill any
encouragement to attract more money to political races. “First, do
no harm,” he said Wednesday. “The American people want us to take
actions to restore their faith in our democracy.”
Increasing the amount of money wealthy people can contribute to
political parties, Kilmer said, is not one of those actions.
Couture, who ran for state Senate against two Democrats and felt
so little support from official party sources that he wrote one
letter setting afire the bridge between him and the state
Republican party and another metaphorically filing for party
divorce, was elected Mason County Republicans chairman on
Republican precinct committee officers voted for Couture over
Jerry Cummings, the previous county party chairman. Cummings loses
despite the fact he was in the chairman seat in the year Dan
Griffey beat Democrat Kathy Haigh to claim a place in the state
House of Representatives. It was Griffey’s third attempt. In less
encouraging news for Republicans, though, only one Republican,
County Prosecutor Michael Dorcy, ran for county office. Dorcy ran
Couture’s ascent to county party leader was unimaginable in
August. On July 31 he wrote a letter to Washington State Republican
Party Chairwoman Susan Hutchison and unleashed his anger at the
party’s implicit support of incumbent state Sen. Tim Sheldon, a
Potlatch Democrat. While Sheldon files for office saying he prefers
the Democratic party, he caucuses with Republicans. Couture
bristled at the state GOP party’s failure to support him. He called
Hutchison “the biggest disgrace to this party” he had seen in some
time and blamed her and people like her for the party’s weakness in
Couture nearly qualified for the general election anyway,
finishing 2 percentage points behind Sheldon and 4 points behind
Democrat Irene Bowling.
Five days after the primary Couture unleashed his exit message
in a “To whom it may concern” message on Facebook. Among his
messages were that he had consistently been undermined by other
Republicans in two elections he ran in and another he managed. He
said the two-party system was “destroying America” because there
was little difference between the two main parties. He then painted
a bleak picture.
“It is like we grassroots conservatives and
libertarians are like the battered wife, and the party is the
abusive husband. Every night it comes through the front door to
abuse us. We stay with it because we really believe it can change
someday, but the beating continues. The rational person would tell
us to run away from this abusive relationship, and here we are with
a hard decision to make.
“How much longer are we willing to sacrifice our time, treasure,
and energy to a party that kicks us around?”
He said in the letter that he and others were in the early
stages of forming a “Libertarian Coalition.”
That’s all gone now.
On Wednesday Couture didn’t want to talk a lot about those days.
“Sometimes elections can be rough and things are said.”
“We’re looking to move forward and build on the momentum,”
Couture said. “We’re not looking at the past here. We’re looking at
the future. We have a bright future ahead in the Republican Party
in Mason County.”
State Rep. Drew MacEwen, R-Union, voiced some of the same
sentiment. “What’s in the past is in the past and we’re moving
forward. That was the vote of the elected PCOs. We’re all on the
same page and we’re going to work for a united party.”
Couture said the new county party board has a fair mix of
members from different parts of the county. Among the goals are
defending two House seats the party holds in the 35th Legislative
District and challenging for two county commissioner seats. “One
thing we’ve resolved is we’re intent on electing Republicans,” he
said. The two county commissioner seats up for election in 2016 are
occupied by Sheldon, and Randy Neatherlin, who stated no party
preference even though he ran for state Legislature twice as a
Republican. Whatever benefits Sheldon and Neatherlin offer
Republicans, neither wears the party label now.
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.
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
State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, retains his role as Senate
president pro tem, even though Republicans have and outright
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.”
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.”
Republicans kept telling me before the election that low turnout
was going to favor them in the 2014 election. I didn’t doubt that,
though I wasn’t as willing to predict four incumbents getting
Once the election happened and I started asking why things
turned out the way they did, all heckfire (We’re a family
newspaper.) broke loose when I wrote a story that included
turnout as a factor. Some Republicans seemed downright
offended. I got a nice letter saying I should have mentioned
discontent with President Barack Obama, and that is probably
correct to some degree. But midterm elections almost always go
against the sitting president. The last time one didn’t was 2002 in
the post 9/11 flag-waving era that favored President George W.
Bush. Before that it was 1998 after Republicans impeached President
Those two elections were freakish, because the last mid-term
election that didn’t go against the president before 1998 was in
1934. The last second-term mid-term election that favored the
president was in 1822, when James Monroe’s Democratic-Republican
Party picked up 34 seats in the House while the Federalists lost
eight. (The census upped the number of seats in Congress by 26.)
Mid-term discontent with the incumbent president is a given, so
much so that I likely just neglected to bring it up.
Another letter writer was not so kind, saying I was trying “to
rationalize the landslide victory of the Republicans as merely a
result of poor turnout.” He also wrote, “Any reasonable person
would assume that changes in voter turn out would affect both
I would agree with the last sentence. It would affect both
parties. And, in fact, my story pointed out other possible factors
besides turnout, one of which I will reference later. But there is
a reason the common perception is that low turnout, the perception
that was repeated to me by Republicans before the election, is bad
for Democrats. True, it’s not the only one. The mid-term elections
are a case in point, because Republican presidents are hurt by them
even in low-turnout years. In 2006 Bush lost 30 seats in the House
and six in the Senate.
On Facebook I announced I would be diving deeper into the
numbers to see if there was evidence to back up the theory that
Democrats were more harmed by low turnout than Republicans. Mick
Sheldon responded, “I am a numbers person also. I think it’s from
liking baseball so much.”
I’m a baseball fan, too. So it gives me great joy to offer you
this quote to prepare you for what I have found.
“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is?
It’s 25 hits. Twenty-five hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay?
There’s six months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means
if you get just one extra flare a week, just one, a gorp … you get
a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes, you get a dying
quail, just one more dying quail a week and you’re in Yankee
Stadium.” — Crash Davis, Kevin Costner’s character in ‘Bull
When I dug into Kitsap County precinct data it showed me there
was some evidence that turnout hurt Democrats, but not enough to be
the sole factor. A word of warning: I am an amateur statistician. I
invited people to tell me a better way to study this and that
invitation is still open. First I’ll give you some stats, but after
that we’ll refer to an expert on this stuff.
The first thing I tried to do was to characterize precincts by
whether they leaned Democrat or Republican in 2012. Where more
voters picked Obama and Jay Inslee for governor over Republican
Mitt Romney for president and Rob McKenna for governor, those were
Democratic precincts. I then compared the turnout numbers in those
precincts from 2012 to 2014.
In red precincts, the ones that voted Republican two years ago,
the turnout in 2014 was 66.85 percent what it was in 2012. In
Democratic precincts the turnout was 65.76 percent.
That’s a difference of 1.09 percentage points, which I’ll agree
doesn’t seem that significant. To arrive at just how much a
difference it makes requires taking those percentage points and
creating a multiplier that will get applied in a couple of ways. I
see weaknesses with both ways. But hey, we’re kind of spitballing
One way is to apply the Democratic multiplier to both Democratic
and Republican numbers in a race in Democratic precincts, then the
Republican number to both party numbers in the GOP precincts. There
is an easier way, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Republican Ed Wolfe won his county commissioner election by
1,265 votes, but in the precincts I counted he won by 974. If you
multiply using the formula I described earlier, he actually beats
Democrat Linda Streissguth in those precincts by 1,316 votes.
The other and equally as imperfect way to do it is to just
multiply Democratic totals by the Democratic multiplier and
Republican numbers by the Republican multiplier. It doesn’t take a
five-tool brainiac to figure out that will benefit Democrats. The
question is by how much.
The answer is Wolfe wins by 892 votes instead of 974. The new
numbers wouldn’t have made enough of a difference in the
legislative or prosecutor races either. Again, turnout is a likely
factor, but it’s not the only one.
Mark Smith, professor of political science at the University of
Washington, said turnout is one of three factors and at least on a
national level it’s clear who was turning out to vote made a
difference. But the quality of candidates is huge. He said
Republicans fielded good candidates nationally and Kitsap County
Republican Party Chairman Chris Tibbs made that case locally.
Secondly, on the national scene the map favored Republicans,
Smith said. Democrats won U.S. Senate seats in 2008 in
traditionally Republican states. Those seats were likely to swing
back to the red six years later. That tide will swing back, he
predicted, in 2016 in states where Republicans won in traditionally
blue states in 2010.
Where turnout is a factor traditionally is when you start
dividing the electorate into different groups. In 2012 voters aged 18-29 made up
somewhere around 19 percent of the electorate, according to exit
poll data presented by the Washington Post. In 2014 they
represented about 12 percent. Those voters favored Democrats over
Republicans in congressional races 55 percent to 45 percent,
according to New York Times data compiled
by Edison Research. Black and Hispanic voters favored Democrats in
large numbers in both elections, but their turnout was markedly
reduced this year as well.
The Republican-Democrat percentages were reversed for voters
aged 45-59, but those voters made up about 42 percent of the
overall votes in 2014, compared to about 38 percent in 2012. Smith
said the fact that older voters are more likely to vote in
mid-terms should not necessarily be seen as a knock on younger
voters. “The longer you’ve been participating in politics the more
you understand the system,” he said. “When you don’t have as much
experience with the political system you’re not as attached.”
Given time those younger voters will eventually buy homes,
become less mobile and more stable. Whether they continue to vote
Democratic is another question.
Finally, if you look at the New York Times data it is clear that
there was a red tide that swept nearly every demographic. Even
though the youngest voters favored Democrats by 10 points this
year, that margin was 22 points in 2012. Assuming that trend played
out locally as well, that would explain to a large degree the
departure of four Democratic incumbents. Next election could be a
whole new ballgame.
In the end of all this data mining and expert commentary we’re
left with the same conclusion. It’s nearly indisputable that
turnout was a factor. But it’s equally as unquestionable that the
nationwide red tide and the quality of local candidates also played
The Washington Secretary of State’s office sent out notice it is
tracking four elections for possible automatic recount. Two of them
are local races, the House contest between Democrat Larry Seaquist
and Republican Michelle Caldier in the 26th District. Seaquist is
the incumbent, but late Tuesday Caldier led by 78 votes.
Democratic incumbent Kathy Haigh led Republican Dan Griffey in a
35th District House race by 223 votes.
To generate an automatic recount the margin must be less than
2,000 votes and less than a half-percentage point. The
Seaquist-Caldier race fits well within than range. Caldier leads
Seaquist with a 0.26 percentage point margin. The contest in the
35th does not, with Haigh holding a 0.68 percentage point edge.
The other races the state is watching is Initiative 1351 and a
state House race in the 28th District. They are also keeping tabs
on a race in the 17th and 44th District.
In county races the prosecutor contest is worth watching as
well. Democrat Russ Hauge leads Republican Tina Robinson by 0.4
A manual recount could be ordered if the margin is any less than
a 0.25 percentage point.
What to watch, then, will be how the late votes swing the
contests. In the early years of all-mail-in voting late ballots
favored Republicans decidedly. Those results have come close to
evening out in the most recent years, however, and Kitsap Democrats
expressed confidence Tuesday night that late votes will go their
way. We’ll know a lot more around 5 p.m. when the county and state
release the first day’s results of late-ballot counting.
This afternoon I got to participate in an election-day tradition
here in Kitsap County, a lunch organized by Gordon Walgren and
Adele Ferguson. The Kitsap Sun has been excluded in the past
because Ferguson wanted to write about it and wasn’t ever keen on
getting beaten. She is not writing about the lunch for anyone now
and when she was she was sending her columns by fax, so we would
have had an edge after she stopped writing for the Sun.
There were 25 people in attendance, by my count, 11 I would
identify as Democrats, including state Sen.Tim Sheldon. My guess
was nine could be identified as Repbublican and there five I
wouldn’t know how to ID. It was a pretty even mix.
Before they received their lunches they were asked to predict
what would happen on election night. They were also asked to answer
some other, perhaps more interesting, questions. Here are the
questions and their answers.
What/who do you think will win in the following races.
They also predicted the U.S. Senate and House races, with
numbers too varied to report. Generally they predicted a Republican
takeover in the U.S. Senate.
You might find the following questions the most interesting.
Biggest local upset: Michelle Caldier (4),
Irene Bowling (4), Tina Robinson (1), Tim Sheldon (1), Linda
Streissguth (1), Ed Wolfe (1) Dan Griffey (1) Biggest national upset: Mitch McConnell loses (2),
Michelle Nunn wins (1), Democrats hold the U.S. Senate (1), Mary
Landrieu (1), New Hampshire (1) Local candidate with the most effective signs:
Wolfe (3), Cook (3), Sheldon (3), Andrews (2), Emerson (1), Olsen
(1), Kilmer (1) Bowling (1), Caldier (1), Appleton (1), Peterson
(1) Local candidate with the least effective signs:
Streissguth (10), Olsen (5), Henden (2), Hauge (1) Local candidate with the sleaziest campaign:
Caldier (6), Seaquist (5), Henden (1), Bowling (3), Wolfe (1),
Olsen (1) Local candidate with the weirdest campaign: Chaney
(5), Olsen (4), Caldier (2), Emerson (1), Henden (1) Local candidate with the best campaign: Wolfe (4),
Streissguth (3), Kilmer (2), Angel (1), Robinson (1), Sandstrom
(1), Peterson (1), Hauge (1), Sheldon (1) Local candidate with the worst campaign: Chaney
(5), Olsen (5), Hauge (1), Wolfe (1), Streissguth (1)
Who will be the 2016 Democratic Presidential
Nominee?: Clinton (20)
Who will be the 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee?: Jeb Bush
(5),Romney (4), Chris Christie (2), Ted Cruz (2), Jon Huntsman (1),
Rand Paul (1)
In 2016 who would you like to see run for what local
office?: Rob Gelder-commissioner (1), Steve Gardner-county
commissioner (1), Tony Stewart-coroner (1), Tony Otto-county
commissioner (1), Dave Peterson-Bremerton Mayor (1), Chris
Tibbs-County commissioner (1), Pat Ryan, County commissioner
(1) In 2016 who would you like to see run for what state
office?: Walt Washington-state rep. (1), Chris
Ryland-state legislator (1), Tim Sheldon-Lt. Gov. (1), Derek
Kilmer-national senator after the ladies are retired (1), James
Olsen-state rep (1), Rob McKenna-governor (1), Doña Keating-23rd
House (1), Jay Inslee-governor (1), Howard Schulz-governor (1),
Andy Hill-governor (1).
Au contraire! I obviously don’t give the American political
machinery enough credit for ingenuity and creativity. We may do a
larger story for Tuesday, but I wanted to get this much out there
Voters in the 35th Legislative District are getting mailers
praising state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, for his work in making
it easier for “undocumented immigrants,” expanding federal health
care reform and protecting reproductive freedom. Sheldon is running
against another Democrat, Irene Bowling of Bremerton.
The ads’ claims about Sheldon are true, technically, because
Sheldon said in a debate he is pro-choice, though he favors
legislation that would require parents be notified if their minor
daughters plan to have an abortion. He also voted for the
Washington version of the Dream Act, what the Majority Coalition
Caucus called the “Real Hope Act.” It allowed children of parents
who came here illegally to receive in-state tuition in Washington
colleges. And he voted for a budget that expanded Medicaid
coverage, though he earlier voted against a bill implementing the
Affordable Care Act.
The ads are paid for by American Values First, a Washington,
DC-based organization described mostly on its own site as an outfit
fighting voter suppression. It shares an address with the
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
If you haven’t been paying attention, there are not many
Democratic loyalists backing Sheldon. So why would this
organization? If you believe the Senate Republican Campaign
Committee, the ads are not trying to get Bowling backers to support
Sheldon. They’re aimed at getting the 35th District’s conservative
voters to sit out the election. You don’t get any nuance in the
ads. What you do get is the flyover country’s Axis of Evil:
Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and “a pathway to citizenship.”
“This is a dishonest and deceptive attempt to suppress Senator
Sheldon’s support with Republican voters,” said Sen. Bruce
Dammeier, Chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, in a
statement. “What’s even worse is the complete disregard for
Washington State law by this dark money, unregistered political
I’ve called the Public Disclosure Commission to get clarity on
the rules. The Republican group accuses American Values of several
state infractions, but the organization claims to be in the right,
legally. What’s more, it claims to be sincere in its support of
“American Values First is not a political committee, but rather
a social welfare organization with a proven record of advocacy.
American Values First agrees with Sen. Sheldon’s past votes seeking
justice for immigrants, expansion of Obamacare, and women’s
reproductive freedom. American Values First followed all applicable
laws and filed all reports with the Public Disclosure Commission
that are required of organizations of this type that sponsor such
communications,” said Bill Burke in an emailed statement.
The organization linked to PDC reports showing it has spent just
over $20,000 for direct mail ads in Washington.