This year’s general election ballots have been mailed out, and they’re…long. And complicated.
Not to worry – I’m here to help. Because buried among the judicial races and “advisory vote” nonsense are some genuinely important, meaningful choices. Unlike this August’s primary ballot, this time quite a few of the choices really do matter.
The usual caveats apply: do your own homework (it won’t take long), and don’t rely on voting to change things. Activism creates the support that makes good candidates possible, puts the good measures on the ballot, and then helps them all win. Voting matters, but it’s never enough.
US Representative: Four congressional seats – the 1st, 7th, 8th, and 9th districts – are partly or wholly in the Seattle area. None of the incumbents face serious challenges this year. Seattle’s Jim McDermott (WA-07), who at age 77 is still keeping Seattle’s safe Democrat seat warm, occasionally gets a helpful challenge from the left. This year, though, he faces a Tea Party Republican, Craig Keller, obsessed by “illegal” brown people taking away his jobs and his precious bodily fluids. Some day, Sunny Jim will retire, but not this year. Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Adam Smith (WA–09) are vastly outspending their Republican opponents. And the Eastside’s Dave Reichert, the lone Republican west of Washington’s Cascades, faces a Democratic challenger, Jason Ritchie, who isn’t likely to win. Which is a shame, because there’s no good reason why Eastside voters are being representing by a man who, mythology aside, doesn’t identify as a Tea Party lunatic but votes like one almost all of the time.
State Legislature: The big deal this year is the effort by Democrats to retake control of the state Senate, where a Republican minority has spent the last two sessions obstructing just about everything (including a state transportation budget, which is why we have a Metro funding measure below). Flipping Senate control will hinge on a handful of mostly suburban swing districts. Most of Seattle’s districts, alas, are controlled by Democrats who’ll be in office, and on autopilot, for as long as they like.
District 30, Senate: Last year, Korean-American businesswoman Shari Song waged a strong campaign for King County Council against the execrable Reagan Dunn. Now, she’s back running for state senate in this South King County district against another execrable opponent. Incumbent Mark Miloscia used to be a Democrat, but his day job (lobbyist for the Catholic Church) suggests why he jumped parties – because he needed a caucus that wasn’t revolted by his views on gay rights and women’s reproductive health. If the Democrats are to regain control of the state senate, this is exactly the sort of race they’ll need to win. Shari Song.
District 32, Senate: Democrats in this North Seattle/Shoreline district hate each other – at least, the party activists do. Continuing a feud that has dragged on for a decade, Sen. Maralyn Chase is facing a challenge from fellow Democrat Chris Eggen. The acerbic Chase rubs a lot of people the wrong way. She’s also one of the most progressive voices in a state senate currently controlled by Neaderthals. Maralyn Chase.
District 33, Representative #2: This Des Moines seat is worth mentioning only because incumbent Democrat (and rising party star) Rep. Mia Su-Ling Gregerson is being challenged by the horrifying Jeanette Burrage. Those with long local political memories may recall Burrage, a notorious figure in the 1990s who was Full Metal Wingnut long before the Tea Party was a thing. Back then, she was booted off booted off a municipal judgeship and a state legislative seat for her loony and decidedly pre-Enlightenment views, but has made a comeback since the national wingnut discourse has proven her merely ahead of her time. She’s now on the Des Moines city council and is looking to inflict herself on Olympia again, a fate any sentient being should view with dread. Vote for Gregerson, many times if necessary.
District 37, Senate: Hate Free Zone and OneAmreica founder/former leader Pramila Jayapal has been doing her best to buy herself a sinecure to replace the retiring Sen. Adam Kline in this Southeast Seattle district, showing up for several years at every fundraiser held by Someone That Matters and now calling in the chips. Jayapal has done some truly great things in her activist career, but she’s also been sucking up to big money and The Usual Suspects for years in preparation for this run, and her efforts have paid off – she blew five opponents out of the water in the primary, winning over 50 percent of the vote. Jayapal,also has a reputation for treating staff poorly and not playing well for others. Short version – it’s not entirely clear whether a Sen. Jayapal will be a righteous advocate for the voiceless, or an ambitious, shameless Part Of The Problem. Her opponent, labor activist Louis Watanabe, has all of her upside and none of that ambiguity.
District 43, Representative #2: House Majority Leader Frank Chopp loves to regale people with stories of his days as a cutting-edge housing activst with the old Fremont Public Association in the early 1970s. However, that was over 40 years ago. Far more relevant is his long time leadership of House Democrats, for which he’s positioned himself as one of the more conservative Democrats in Olympia even though he represents the state’s most liberal district. Does that sound right to you?
It didn’t in 2012 for an unknown socialist named Kshama Sawant, who pulled a then-unprecedented 29 percent challenging Chopp. Now, much to his irritation – Frank Chopp is a man who gets easily irritated by people who question, well, anything about him – one of Sawant’s Socialist Alternative allies, Jessica Spear, is challenging him again. Spear is not Sawant – she’s a decade younger, and her training is as a climate scientist (a perspective Olympia could badly use). Her campaign, unfortunately, has not caught fire the way Sawant’s did, but Spear is just as smart and articulate, and her focus on economic advocacy for people usually ignored in the corridors of power (especially by Chopp) is the same. Plus, she’s a climate scientist. How cool is that? Jess Spear.
Olympia Delegation Members Who Aren’t Being Seriously Challenged But Whose Sinecures are Worth Supporting: Rep. Luis Moscoso (LD 1), Rep. Zack Hudgins (11), Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (36), Rep. Reuven Carlyle (36), Rep. Roger Goodman (45), Rep. Gerry Pollet (46).
King County Prosecutor: Republican Dan Satterburg is unopposed. Again. Skip it.
State Supreme Court, Pos. 4: In past years, state supreme court races attracted serious candidates and a lot of money. Not this year. Two incumbent justices are unopposed (skip those races!), and the other two face candidates that give the term “joke candidate” a bad name.
Incumbent Charles W. Johnson is one of the most progressive members of a state supreme court that, among other things, would like to throw every member of the state legislature in jail. This alone is a reason to vote for him. It helps that his opponent, Eddie Yoon, a Tacoma prosecutor in the 1970s, now lives and works in South Korea and has neither a web site nor any money raised for his “campaign.” His voters guide statement lists his community service experience as “Pro bono work for Korean and others.” [sic] Call me old-fashioned, but I like it when one of the seven most powerful judges in our state actually lives in North America. Charles W. Johnson.
State Supreme Court, Pos. 7:: Justice Debra L. Stephens finds herself in a race that make’s Johnson’s challenger look serious. Stephens – who wrote the original McCleary decision – is opposed by a guy who looks like the Unabomber’s long-lost twin, and is seems about as unmoored. John (Zamboni) Scannell – yes, that’s how his name appears on the ballot – used to drive the Zamboni machine and pretend to bite the heads off raw fishes at Seattle Thunderbirds minor league hockey games. He did the hockey gig presumably for the money because he can’t practice law – he’s been disbarred, and Stephens was the one who in 2010 wrote the opinion upholding Scannell’s disbarment (for failing to inform clients of a potential conflict of interest, and then obstructing the Washington State Bar Association’s ensuing investigation). Since he can’t practice law in the state, he’s not actually eligible to be elected to the state supreme court or any other judicial position, which raises the question of why Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office even allowed his candidacy. Debra L. Stephens
Northeast District Court Electoral District, Position 1: Judge Janet Garrow is seeking her fifth term. She’s opposed by Dawn Bettinger, whose only major endorsement is the King County Republican Party. Yikes. Janet Garrow.
Northeast District Court Electoral District, Position 2: Ketu Shah is well-qualified for this position. His opponent, Sarah Hayne, is not – she’s active in, and married to the co-founder of, the Committee for Judicial Excellence (CJE), a PAC funded mostly by DUI attorneys. This matters because she has very little experience otherwise, and Shah has lots. Hopefully his funny-sounding name won’t prevent voters from recognizing who the qualified candidate in this race is: Ketu Shah.
Northeast District Court Electoral District, Position 3: Lisa O’Toole and Marcus Naylor say all the right things that judicial candidates are required to say. The differene is that most of O’Toole’s endorsements come from prosecutors and cops, perhaps because Naylor is a former longtime public defender, we’ll go Marcus Naylor.
West District Court Electoral District, Position 2: Incumbent Judge Mark Chow is best-known for helping launch the county’s pioneering mental health court – he’s well-rated and widely endorsed. His opponent, Phillip Tavel, doesn’t like it that Chow once told a verbally abusive defendent to suck his dick. As a judge, that didn’t display the best judicial temperament; as a human being, that’s fucking awesome. I’ll go with the experienced, qualified human being. Mark L. Chow.
Seattle Municipal Court, Position 2: Incumbent C. Kimi Kondo has not only served on that mental health court, but was elected by her fellow judges to preside over it. Her opponent, Jon Zimmerman, hasn’t made a convincing case why she should be replaced. C. Kimi Kondo.
Seattle Municipal Court, Position 7: Incumbent Judge Fred Bonner has been in office 25 years, and apparently he’s gotten a little too comfortable in his job – he’s been caught up in a scandal involving his misuse of a city carpool spot (it sounds trivial, but it’s saved Judge Bonner $12,000 over the last decade), and doesn’t attend municipal court meetings because he doesn’t like his fellow judges. Happily, his challenger, Damon Shadid, is both well-qualified and ambitious – and not likely to take his position for granted. Damon Shadid
Initiative 1351: A few years ago, state voters approved an initiative to reduce state class sizes, and the state legislature never bothered to fund it – one of a number of K-12 funding omissions that led to the McCleary decision and the state legislature now being in contempt of court. I-1351 would do pretty much the same thing as that previous measure. A number of well-respected education and children’s advocates, including (locally) the Children’s Alliance, have urged a “no” vote on this because it’s expensive and the state’s education funding is so pathetic that other reforms are now even more badly needed. But the whole point of McCleary is that the legislature shouldn’t be picking and choosing which vital education facets to fund – and a “no” vote here, on a measure state voters once overwhelmingly approved, would give our kid-hating cowards in Olympia cover to claim that the spending the state supreme court (and our state’s constitution) is demanding isn’t even wanted by voters. It’s flawed, but a yes vore sends a better message than a no vote. Yes.
Initiative 591: This is the effort by the National Rifle Association and local gun fetishists to forestall I-594 by requiring that background checks in Washington state be no more rigorous than the national standard. And there is no national standard, and won’t be one any time soon, which is their whole point – but they know that coming right out and saying “put lots more guns in the hands of violent criminals and crazy people!” wouldn’t go over as well with voters. A thousand times No.
Initiative 594: This would do what the public (according to every poll ever) wants, but national and state legislatures don’t have the courage to require: closing loopholes (especially with gun shows and private and online sales) so that every firearm purchaser is screened for felony or mental health records that would make his or her purchase illegal. How many mass school shootings do we need before we can take even minimal, common-sense gun measures like this one? A thousand times Yes.
Advisory Votes 8 and 9: Tim Eyman’s meaningless ballot lines, which require (thanks to a past initiative) a non-binding vote, likely to be completely ignored, on any tax or fee increase or abolition of a loophole passed by the state legislature. Since half of the state legislature is controlled these days by anti-tax zealots, you know that anything that actually gets passed into law right now is a no-brainer. And so it is with Vote 8, which abolishes pot grower agricultural tax exemptions, and Vote 9, which adds a tax on tribal governments equivalent to other states on in-state government entities. Not that it matters, but vote Maintained on both.
Propositions 1A and 1B: What. A. Fucking Mess. Blame the Seattle City Council, which decided in a bizarre ballot construction to pit two unrelated ballot measures against each other due to a spat over I-107, the union measure which became Proposition 1A. 1A would impose a $15 an hour minimum wage for child care workers, a three year phase in for employers with fewer than 250 workers, and a certification process. Council member Tim Burgess wanted to fold that measure into his pet universal pre-school measure (now Proposition 1B), but his staff balked over the union demand that the union administer the training and certification process. So now Burgess, and council, want us to pick between child care workers’ minimum pay and preschool for kids, on the assumption that most people will vote for kids.
But here, the devil is in the details. Proposition 1B would take four years to provide preschool for only an initial 2,000 of the city’s three- and four-year-old kids. Even more problematically, council wants the program to be administered by Seattle Public Schools, which is already in a severe bind with lack of physical capacity to house its exploding enrollment of elementary age students – meaning there’s no place for the school district to put another 2,000 kids. And most disturbingly, the forces pushing hardest for 1B are corporate education and “reform” advocates like Paul Allen and the Gates Foundation, which could then use the capacity issue to make a strong, precedent-setting case for privatizing part of Seattle’s public schools. Which might explain why Burgess, council’s most conservative member, was the one who authored this measure. 1A has none of these problems, and would give an immediate wage boost to workers who deserve it. The city needs universal preschool – and council needs to give us a proposal or it that’s worth supporting. Vote Yes (that one of these measures should be enacted) and then Proposition 1A.
Seattle Citizen Proposition 1: This is the bizarre effort by local civic gadfly Elizabeth Campbell to make herself relevant by reviving the monorail idea. (Her first idea, for an initiative to rescind the $15/hour minimum wage, went nowhere.) Alas, her proposed route is physically impossible, and the giveaway that this is not a serious proposal is that Campbell’s newly created advisory board to study (again) the monorail option specifically adds one Elizabeth Campbell to the board – a provision that, legally speaking, is probably illegal. A monorail might not be a bad idea, but this particular proposal is one person’s unhinged fantasy. No.
Seattle Transportation Benefit District Proposition 1: Now that the improving economy has helped relieve Metro’s funding crisis, the temptation is to dismiss this desperate attempt to save in-city bus service after the state and county have refused to fund it. Thing is, the economy can decline just as easily, and Metro doesn’t just need status quo funding – in a time of record ridership and population growth, Metro really needs dramatically larger budgets. It’s insane that we’re even discussing cutting a vital part of local transportation infrastructure at a time when it needs to be expanded. A lot. Yes.