Category Archives: Election 2007

Eyman on His Own Job Security

Sept. 17, Chris Henry writes:

I covered the Port Orchard Chamber lunch Thursday at which Tim Eyman spoke on his latest project, I-960, which will be on the November ballot.

The initiative seeks to close “loopholes” in legislation related to tax increases and to promote accountability in state government, Eyman said. You can read more about Eyman’s presentation here.

Eyman’s reputation precedes him, so I was a bit surprised by how he presented himself. I had expected some podium pounding maniac, but Eyman was calm, personable and self-possessed. If you ran into him at a kids’ soccer game or in the grocery store, you’d probably think , “Hmm, nice enough guy.”

But on reviewing my notes, I can see why he gets under people’s skin. Here are a few quotes that didn’t make it onto the page due to lack of space:

Regarding a provision of the initiative that would require bills that involve a tax increase to be mailed to anyone and everyone who asks for it, Eyman said of the Legislature, “They’re squealing like stick pigs over this.”

Eyman carried on the pork analogy and all its implications, calling state legislators “pigs at the trough.”

He compared legislators to spoiled children and said the public needs to exert parental control over their instinctive inclination toward excess. “The children are running the day care,” Eyman said.

And he called state Sen. Eric Oemig (D, 45th Legislative District a “whack job.”

Eyman spoke frankly about Voters Want More Choices, the political action committee he put together with Jack and Mike Fagan to accomplish his mission. “We’ve been doing these initiatives for 10 years and we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. This one (I-960) is the smartest we’ve done by far,” Eyman said. “We know where every land mine is, and we’ve been careful to tiptoe around it.”

Eyman knows he rubs people the wrong way and, frankly, he doesn’t seem to give a damn. “We’re like the rain in Seattle,” Eyman said. “You complain about it all day, but its not going to go away.”

Which led to the topic of what gives Eyman his staying power: Cash and in-kind donations.

Eyman was dead honest about this, too. “I’m warning you in advance, we never don’t ask for money,” he said

Following the chamber lunch, Eyman stood at the back of the room and collected business cards from people interested in being put on his vast e-mail list.

A look on Washington State’s Public Disclosure Commission shows that Eyman reports donations under two headings. Voters Want More Choices is the entity he and his associates use to collect the substantial funding they need to push through their initiatives, Eyman explained to me after his presentation. So far this year, he’s collected $614,638 under this heading.

Eyman said his organization spends the first six months of the year collecting for Voters Want More Choices. They focus, during the remainder of the year, on the Help Us Help Taxpayers fund, which donors can contribute to to “compensate” Eyman and the Fagans for their time. This year, so far, that fund has $53,546.63 in cash donations and $17,489.07 in in-kind contributions. But the year isn’t over yet.

Amounts collected in both funds over the past year have varied substantially. But they’re certainly not what Eyman would call “chump change.” Last year, Help Us Help Taxpayers, collected $159,210.22 in cash and $17,852.20 in in-kind donations. In 2005 the amounts were $170,887.24 and $25,896.55 respectively. Eyman didn’t elaborate on the arrangement he has with the Fagans about how the Help Us money is split. Whatever it is, for Eyman, it’s a living and apparently not too shabby of a living at that.

Eyman acknowledged that he’s gotten in trouble in the past for not being up front about “compensation” he receives in the line of duty, i.e. taking the state Legislature to task. So now it’s all out there on the PDC.

“It’s essentially like church,” said Eyman. “We earn as much as our supporters decide to donate. We leave it to them to decide how much we’re worth. … Obviously it’s gratifying there are so many people who like what we do.”

November, from the People

This November two measures will appear on the ballot thanks to signature-gathering efforts.

Today both of those items were discussed in two different gatherings.

This morning I went to a discussion of Referendum 67, which is an attempt to undo the Legislature’s bill that allowed consumers to sue and collect attorneys’ fees from insurance companies if the companies unreasonably withhold benefits. It would also grant triple damages of the company’s action is especially egregious and that can be proved.

Opponents of that bill say it will be a boon for trial lawyers because more people will sue. That, in turn, will drive everyone’s insurance rates up.

Initiative guru Tim Eyman was in Port Orchard talking about Initiative 960, which is designed to reinforce (close loopholes) the law that any tax increase done by the Legislature be approved by a two-thirds vote. The Legislature has, according to Eyman, gotten around the law by shifting funds in a way to spend it twice and tacking the “emergency” tag, which prohibits a vote, to too much legislation.

We’ll go into both in more detail in the next few weeks.

The insurance bill, from a horse race perspective, has been the most visible in my life. I left a store one day and had a signature gatherer bark at us encouraging signatures on the measure to “stop frivolous lawsuits.” I’ve also been intrigued by the anti 67 ads with the lawyers scheming to collect until voters wise up, referencing insurance matters in California. I’ve had two people today tell me the California law doesn’t relate to the one here, but I’ve yet to check it out further. And it could be that in some principle the California example is valid. Perhaps some of you can offer your thoughts.

At Least One Person Was Shocked

Larry Stokes was surprised, shocked in fact. I had spoken to him earlier in the day to make sure I had a number where I could reach him. He said I’d be calling to get his reaction to how badly he lost. I had three races to cover Tuesday night, but Larry was my first call. He hadn’t seen the numbers. Not only did he not lose, he got 56 percent.

“I’m shaky. I’m shocked. I can’t believe it. I’m completely shocked.” He’s not much of a politician, he said. He hasn’t posted signs and from what he said earlier in the day he doesn’t plan to.

From the election story:

“I guess the taxpayers believe the same way I do,” Stokes said. . . “My thoughts have always been this: If the voters felt the way I did about the tax situation I’d be in good shape. If they didn’t, I’d shut my mouth and pay my taxes.”

So is there any doubt the majority will hold? Martin DiIenno, who finished a distant third, didn’t seem to think so.

Mary Ann Huntington, by contrast, spoke upbeat as always. She said she’s never had an easy election except for the last one, in which she ran unopposed. She’s got a good campaign crew, she said. They’ll meet next week, create a strategy and carry on.

She thanked her supporters. “I promise I won’t let you down,” she said through me to them.

Stokes was still weighing the surprise. “Young man, I don’t know what to say. That’s the biggest shock.”

I asked him if his margin of victory within Huntington’s district will carry forward in November when voters throughout the entire port district get to weigh in. “I have no idea,” he answered. “I’m not a politician. I’m just a taxpayer who cares about our community.”

In July I was present when Stokes, Huntington and DiIenno met with our editorial board. (I get to attend those meetings, but I don’t have any involvement in the board’s endorsement deliberations.) Stokes left that day saying he had lost. Our board agreed, endorsing the other two candidates.

Stokes was among the first to criticize the port for the Industrial Development District tax it enacted to fund construction of the new Bremerton Marina. He was critical long before there was an election campaign. He doesn’t question the value of the marina, but said it should pay for itself.

Huntington has been with the port 18 years and can point to the port’s emerging presence, its focus on economic development and improvements at the port. And she makes no apologies for the tax.

During the Eggs & Issues breakfast dealing with the port election, there were a lot of “I don’t knows” from the two challengers.

On Tuesday night, Stokes had another one, “I am really lost for words, I don’t know what to say.”

In this race so far, that’s been a winning strategy.

Countdown to Primary: Sun Posts Online Election Guide

The Kitsap Sun’s 2007 online election guide is now up and running. You get to it from our home page and it has links to every local race.

This year for the first time each candidate can directly post his or her own profile and photo to the online guide, as well as post their own answers to questions about issues in their race. Each candidate has been sent (via e-mail) a login and instructions for posting their information.

Also for the first time this year, readers can pose their own questions for candidates to answer. The questions are sent to candidates after we approve the question.

If a candidate on your beat has questions about how to use their login or post their information, just send them to me and I’ll be glad to walk them through it. Or if a reader has questions about the election guide, you can send them to me as well.

So far several candidates have posted their info without any further assistance.

Port Debate: A Verbal Snapshot of the Candidates

Our intern, Tom Giratikanon, here weighs in on the port debate he covered Aug. 9.

Tom writes:

Thursday’s port commissioner debate was a bit of a circus, but one nice
exchange captured the candidates’ personalities.

They had been asked a couple times about the parking situation for the
expanded Bremerton marina — basically, as Huntington explained, it hasn’t
been decided yet.

For the third time though, someone asked again, How many parking spaces
would there be?

DiIenno: “I don’t know what the deal is.”
Huntington: “We’re still negotiating with the city.”
Stokes: “That’s like buying hay before owning the horse.”

That’s a retired carpenter, longtime port commissioner and former auctioneer
right there.

And one point on the Port Orchard marina rate hikes: After Huntington
explained that PO’s rates were being brought up to the average for Puget
Sound, DiIenno and Stokes said they agreed with the rate increase. That’s a
change for DiIenno, who has said before the increases are too much.

At Home with Lary Coppola Part II

The issue of candidates’ residency as a qualification to run for office in a particular jurisdiction got a thorough airing following the 2006 election when Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown’s residency was challenged after he was elected. East Bremerton resident Robert Ross filed a residency lawsuit against Brown, but a superior court judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Brown didn’t live where he claimed to live. Remember?

Perhaps the Josh Brown flap has made citizens extra sensitive to the issue of residency. Perhaps it’s the fact that Lary Coppola was among those who outspokenly questioned Brown’s residency that has made him the target of close scrutiny. Coppola says he’s found little bits of paper and broken off toothpicks in the door of his apartment at the Rockwell in Port Orchard, and he’s not surprised.

“With all the crap with Josh, we knew this was going to be an issue,” Coppola said.

Kitsap County Auditor Karen Flynn says she’s seen it all before in her nearly two decades in office. She cited a quick half-dozen formal challenges to candidates made over the years. And she talked about the difference between a “respectful” challenge and one in which zeal for truth crosses the line. “It’s not a pretty thing,” she said.