All eyes were on the national election last week, understandably, but our state tallied some important results too. What will they mean for smarter government in 2017?
Legislature: When legislators return to the capitol in January to tackle the remaining work on McCleary (realistically this will occupy almost the entirety of the Legislature’s attention), the composition of the House and Senate will be largely the same. Conservatives will control the Senate, while Democrats will probably lead the House (maybe).
In the Senate, Republicans may be down one seat after Sen. Steve Litzow’s (R-Mercer Island) loss. Litzow is a talented legislator, but the combination of President Obama campaigning for his opponent and a Republican presidential candidate who just wasn’t going to fly with that district’s voters did him in (Trump actually polled better in the neighboring 11th District, which is more Democratic). It’s a shame to see; along with the death of Andy Hill, the Senate will be down two education leaders.
With the help of dissident Democrat Sen. Tim Sheldon, Republicans will continue to run the chamber with a 25-24 majority, and may climb back to their current 26-23 margin if late ballots continue to trend Rep. Chad Magendanz’s way in the 5th (current totals here).
In southwest Washington’s 19th District, which hasn’t elected a Republican in decades, Grays Harbor businessman Jim Walsh squeaked out a victory. Walsh’s win a symbolic victory, in addition to its impact in the state capitol. Now, at minimum, the House will maintain its 50-48 Democratic majority. If Rep. Teri Hickel comes from behind in the 30th, the House will be tied 49-49.
State executive: With five of the nine executive branch officeholders not seeking re-election, there will be plenty of new faces and fresh blood next year. Gov. Inslee won a comfortable re-election, so between him and the stable legislative make-up, the same players as before will be trying to solve the McCleary problem.
Republicans will now hold two of the statewide offices, up from one. Republican Duane Davidson won the Treasurer’s race (against another Republican, unusually), which was last won by the GOP back in 1948.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman comfortably won re-election, thankfully. Her opponent, Tina Podlodowski, ran a shameful campaign full of wild claims and disingenuous ads. It’s fortifying to see that her cynical tactics were not rewarded. May it be a long time before we see another campaign as dishonest as Podlodowski’s.
Supreme Court: All three incumbents – Barbara Madsen, Charlie Wiggins, and Mary Yu – won re-election. Wiggins was targeted with negative ads, but they didn’t make much of a dent. Just days before the election, the court held its internal election for chief justice and chose Justice Mary Fairhurst instead of another term for Madsen. The chief justice selection did not have to take place prior to Election Day, and some saw it as the court acknowledging that the public and other state officeholders have disapproved of the way justices have handled the McCleary case.
Initiatives: The trend of special interest groups putting up initiatives that could never hope to make it through the Legislature as bills continued this year. Among the most notable, I-732, which would have imposed a carbon tax while cutting sales and other taxes, failed. I-1464 racked up a deserving loss; it would have allowed political spending from public tax dollars.
I-1501 passed, unfortunately, thanks to its incredibly deceptive ballot title. The SEIU-backed initiative claimed to be about protecting seniors. In reality, it had nothing to do with that. This initiative has pointed the way, I’m afraid, for other special interests who want to pass bait-and-switch initiatives. Just argue for a nice-sounding ballot title and if you get it, you’ll be golden. Expect more of this in the future.
Local: Thurston County is known as the home of state government and The Evergreen State College, but it featured three results last week that should buoy conservatives. First, Olympia’s city initiative for an income tax failed. Proponents were trying to set up a test case in preparation of a hoped-for statewide progressive income tax. In two Thurston County Commissioner races, independent candidates won. That ends local Democrats’ majority on a commission that was going too far left for even Thurston’s tastes. Now all three Thurston commissioners are independents. Congratulations to my friend, former Sheriff Gary Edwards, on his impressive victory.