First, before I give you my endorsements, I want to talk about why people often don’t vote in the mid-term elections, and why it’s important to take the time to do it.
If you live in a district where the incumbent is running unopposed, or a single political party has a lock on the candidates running for office, it’s very easy to shrug and say, “Why bother? So-and-so is going to get re-elected anyway.”
But if you live in a state with a citizens’ initiative process—like Washington State—then it’s important not to let the narrow selection of political candidates stop you from voting on the ballot measures. This year, Washington State voters will weigh in on the political sovereignty of cities and counties (I-1634), whether teenagers should have access to semi-automatic rifles (I-1639), and whether our state will do something—anything—to address catastrophic climate change (I-1631). Regardless of what you think about the specifics of these initiatives, reading about them and voting on them is arguably more important than voting for the next President of the United States every four years.
That said, don’t despair if you’ve already tossed your ballot in the recycle bin. You can request a replacement ballot from the King County Department of Elections here: https://info.kingcounty.gov/kcelections/vote/myvoterinfo.aspx. Enter your first and last name, birth date, and the house number of your street address (for example, if the address on your voter registration card is 501 Pine Street, you should enter 501) and click “Submit.” Then click the link to “request a replacement ballot.”
If you don’t live in King County, here’s a handy website from the Washington Secretary of State’s office that gives you the websites, addresses, and phone numbers for the various elections department in each county: https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/auditors/#. Just scroll down and click on your county, and you’ll see a pop-up with the info that you need.
And now, here’s the list of my endorsements:
Initiative 1631 – to impose a carbon tax on fossil fuels and energy produced from fossil fuels in Washington State. The opponents, funded mostly by a handful of big oil companies, have raised double what the proponents have, about $30 million versus $15 million, with the biggest contributors being BP, Phillips 66, Andeavor (Marathon Petroleum Corporation), American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Valero, Koch Industries, Chevron…you get the picture.
The opponents are mostly wrong in their critiques of I-1631. It’s not an onerous tax, it won’t hugely impact farmers or food prices, and it doesn’t exempt the biggest polluters in the state. It does exempt fuels purchased by utility companies for use in producing energy for one reason: to avoid double taxation. Those fuels are later taxed as they’re burned and delivered in the form of energy to utility customers. Fair taxation and the avoidance of double taxation is a fundamental foundation of the US tax system.
Yes, I-1631 does contain some loopholes that exempt a handful of polluters from paying the tax, especially aircraft fuel—you could call that the Boeing Loophole, or the Tourism Tax Cut—and it exempts “certain facilities designated by the Department of Commerce as within energy-intensive and trade-exposed industries”—you could call that the Alcoa Exemption or the Pulp Mill Payoff.
But, if we’re going to hold out for a perfect tax with no exemptions, then we’ll never get any new taxes in Washington State. Every single one of our current taxes has an exemption of some form or another. Taxation in Washington State has always been a process of passing the new tax into law, then fighting to close the loopholes; this tax won’t be any different. In the meantime, we shouldn’t let oil companies determine the fate of our planet and our energy future. Vote Yes on I-1631.
Initiative 1634 – ostensibly promoted as a “no food and beverage tax,” this initiative would profoundly affect the sovereignty of counties and cities in Washington State. Written and promoted solely by the big beverage industry—The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsico Inc., Keurig Dr. Pepper, and Red Bull North America, who’ve raised $20 million to promote it—I-1634 seeks to stop other municipalities from levying taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages similar to the one Seattle passed last year. Don’t let a bunch of soda corporations determine our public health policies and limit what cities and counties can do in Washington State. Vote No on I-1634.
Initiative 1639 – to impose increased background checks and age limits for the purchase of semi-automatic rifles (similar to current limits on handguns) in Washington State. It would also require mandatory waiting periods for the sale or delivery of semi-automatic rifles (a “cooling-off period”), and impose requirements for the secure storage of those weapons. It won’t stop all active shooters in Washington, but it may save many lives by imposing reasonable limits on the purchase and storage of every mass murderer’s weapon of choice. Vote Yes on I-1639.
Initiative 940 – this initiative would change the standards for prosecuting police for acts of deadly force in Washington State to make it easier to prosecute officers for not following reasonable standards. It also specifies the independent investigation of acts of deadly force by the police, and mandates training in de-escalation, first aid, and how to engage with people undergoing mental health crises. This is long overdue. Vote Yes on I-940.
Advisory Votes – these are the Tim Eyman passed, waste-of-time votes on revenue bills that were already passed by the state legislature. The outcome of these advisory votes is meaningless, because the bills will become law regardless of how the public votes on them. It’s perfectly reasonable to skip them entirely. Don’t waste state resources to even count the votes.
However, if you don’t like to leave things blank (and I understand that impulse), there’s only one advisory vote this year: Advisory Vote 19, which closes a tax loophole in the oil spill response and administration tax, levying it on all petroleum products that come into our state via pipeline. It will collect an additional $13.4 million in tax revenue over the next 10 years for the state’s coffers. Because closing tax loopholes is something we want to encourage the state legislature to do more of, you should vote Maintained.
City of Seattle Proposition 1 – this is the Families and Education levy that seeks to renew two expiring education levies and provide funding to expand the city’s preschool program. It triples the amount of money of prior education levies, and it might lead voters who are experiencing tax fatigue to vote against two critical Seattle Public School levies that will be on the ballot in February 2019. In addition, it contains troubling wording on the privacy of student data, and the potential use of public funding for private education companies. While I think it’s important to fund education, there are just too many flaws in this enormous levy to pass it this time around. Vote No and send a message to the mayor and her allies that a smaller, focused levy on preschool funding would be better.
King County Fire Protection District Proposition 1 – to issue bonds for the construction and renovation of fire stations in and around Duvall. The bonds would be paid off by levying property taxes of 17 cents per $1,000 assessed value, or about $85.28 for a $500,000 home. There’s been a lot of housing growth east of Duvall, where wild fires are a risk, so building a second fire station will cut down on response times and provide more personnel to fight fires in that area. And fighting fires is a necessary service of municipal government. Vote Yes.
With the important stuff out of the way, we can consider the candidates. In Seattle, the Democrats have a lock on elected offices at the local, state, and national level, although there are a few races where two Democrats are battling it out, and I’m going to give my advice on who you should choose.
US Senator – Maria Cantwell is running for re-election for a fourth term. Susan Hutchison’s Voter’s Pamphlet statement appeals shamelessly to the Nazis and religious fanatics in the Republican Party. Hutchison is the Chair of the state Republican Party, so that should tell you something about how extreme the state Republicans have become. Vote for Cantwell.
In 3 of the state’s 10 US House races, those districts could flip from Republican control to Democratic control, and one involves two Democrats who are very different from each other:
District 3 – covers SW Washington, including cities of Kelso and Vancouver. Republican Jaime Beutler Herrera is running in a tight race for re-election, with Democrat Carolyn Long running a strong campaign. Vote for Long.
District 5 – covers the Eastern edge of Washington State, including Spokane and Whitman Counties. It’s time to vote the horrible Cathy McMorris Rogers out of office. Democrat Lisa Brown is trying to oust her. Vote for Brown.
District 8 – covers the SE parts of King and Pierce Counties, and all of Chelan and Kittitas Counties (including the cities of Issaquah, Auburn, Ellensburg, and Wenatchee). Former Sheriff Dave Reichert is retiring this year, and his seat is the hottest contest in the state, with Democratic Candidate Kim Schrier running against perennial candidate Dino Rossi. Rossi is part of the cruel streak in the Republican Party that is getting ready to gut Medicare and Social Security to pay for the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy. Hypocritically, Rossi refuses to call himself “Republican,” listing himself as “prefers GOP party” in the voter’s pamphlet and all of his mailings. He deserves to lose, just for that lie alone. Vote for Schrier.
District 9 – covers SE Seattle, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Renton, and Kent. Democrat Sarah Smith is taking on incumbent Democrat Adam Smith, and she’s for all the things that Adam Smith is too cowardly to support, like single-payer healthcare, ending foreign wars, spending on infrastructure, and dealing with climate change. Vote for Sarah Smith to support a progressive Democrat instead of conservative one.
And in Seattle’s District 7, Democratic incumbent Pramila Jayapal is running against Republican Craig Keller. Jayapal is a shoe-in, but you should vote for her anyway.
Washington State Senate
Again, most of the King County districts are dominated by Democrats running unopposed or with little opposition. But there are 3 interesting, hotly contested races:
District 30 – Democrat Claire Wilson is trying to unseat Republican Mark Miloscia, who’s become notorious for treating homeless people like garbage and opposing supervised injection sites for treating opiate abusers. Vote for Wilson.
District 32 – Incumbent Democrat Maralyn Chase is running a hard-fought race against Deputy Mayor of Shoreline Jesse Salomon. Salomon, who is also running as a Democrat, has taken money from real estate developers and supporters of charter schools. Chase, on the other hand, has the support of State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, US Congressperson Pramila Jayapal, several tribal councils, the Washington Education Association, and a bunch of different labor groups. I’m supporting Chase for her willingness to take an independent, progressive stand on issues, even when she alienates the more conservative, pro-business members of her own party.
District 34 – In this other race between 2 Democrats, Shannon Braddock, who’s been serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff to Dow Constantine, has raised more than double her opponent. She’s taken PAC money from supporters of charter schools, from big insurance companies, and from Comcast and Charter Communications, who are trying to head off state net neutrality laws. Her opponent, Joe Nguyen, has a working-class background and wants to work on tax reform and education funding for students in public schools. He has the support of Pramila Jayapal, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, former City Councilmember Nick Licata, former Congressman Jim McDermott, The Washington Education Association, The Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, the King County Democrats, and the King County Young Democrats. Vote for Nguyen.
Washington State House
In the state house races in the greater Seattle area, it’s Democrats running either unopposed or with very minor Republican opposition. But you should vote for the Democrats, because voting for Republicans means supporting the politics of hatred, discrimination, and cruelty. That hasn’t always been true of the Washington State Republican Party, but it’s true right now.
State Supreme Court – Susan Owens and Sheryl Gordon McCloud are running unopposed for re-election to the State Supreme Court. Justice Steve Gonzalez is up for re-election, running against an inexperienced Nathan Choi. Vote for Gonzalez.
King County Prosecuting Attorney – Long-time conservative incumbent Dan Satterberg was being challenged by a much more progressive former public defender, Daron Morris. But Morris had to drop out of the race for health reasons. Skip this vote.
NE King County District Court, Position. 1 – of the 2 candidates in this race, the more progressive is public defender Marcus Naylor. Joshua Schaer has a lot of support on the east side, including from eastside Republicans. But Naylor has the better ratings from the King County Bar and other legal organizations. And he’s more progressive. Vote Naylor.