General Election 2016 Recommendations: The Good, the Bad, and the Horrifying

The ballots are all mailed, and November 8 is finally upon us. You wouldn’t know it from the media obsession with our dreadful and interminable presidential campaign, but locally and statewide, there’s actually a chance to elect and pass a whole bunch of really good people and ballot measures this year. Among many other things, Seattle will get a massive upgrade in congressional representation (no matter who wins!), and there’s a half-dozen ballot measures that range from good to phenomenal. Don’t let the presidential circus get you down; at almost every other point, this year’s ballot is bursting with opportunity.

And, so, I’m here – again – to help. And as has been true for each of the 21 (!) years I’ve been passing on my recommendations, the usual caveats apply: this is one opinion. Take it for what it’s worth, which is, well, one opinion. Do your own research.

And be sure to vote by Tuesday, November 8, but don’t think for a second the job of changing the world, or even our city, will be over when you do. Social change comes from below. Voting becomes most useful when people have already organized, not when the people and policies we empower are then ratified. Get out and make yourself heard all the time, not just by mailing in a piece of paper.

As for which lines to fill in the bubbles for…

FEDERAL OFFICES

US President and Vice-President: Hoo Boy. I’ve written an entire long-ass article exploring just why our choices this year, all seven of them on the Washington State ballot, are historically bad. Go read it. My short recommendation: Vote for Clinton or Stein if you feel you must. Especially vote for Clinton if you live in a state where Trump has a chance of winning. Since that doesn’t apply in our state, I’m not voting for any of them. Why? Because they all suck.

US Senator: Patty Murray is a reliable Democratic incumbent who rarely makes waves. Chris Vance is her opponent, and it’s a measure of how badly Republicans are out of step with our state’s voters that he lists a lot of past jobs in his voters’ guide statement, but somehow leaves out that bit about being head of the clown car that is the Washington State Republican Party. Patty Murray.

US House of Representatives, District 1: Suzan DelBene won this seat six years ago as a moderate Democrat by dumping a boatload of her personal fortune into last-minute TV ads. It was a good investment for her personally, but hasn’t done much for her district; she’s been another reliable Democrat, in the best and worst senses of that phrase. Word is she wants to run for governor next. That can stop now. Skip it.

US House of Representatives, District 7: The last time Seattle’s congressional seat was seriously contested, Ronald Reagan was president. Think about that. After almost three decades on the other Capitol Hill, Jim McDermott is finally retiring from one of the safest seats in Congress.”Sunny Jim” is a friendly guy with frequently progressive rhetoric, but almost nothing to show in actual accomplishments for his long career. Seattle deserves better.

That history is important in evaluating the two Democrats seeking to replace McDermott. They’re both a massive upgrade, and the differences are primarily in style.

Brady Walkinshaw, in his short time in Olympia, has been dynamic and effective. He also deserves big credit for entering the race before McDermott’s retirement, and quite possibly triggering it – a civic accomplishment that in itself merits our gratitude. The last-minute bogus TV ads and racist-y dog whistles haven’t done him any favors, but I still suspect he’d make a fine Congressman.

But I’m going with the riskier choice here. Pramila Jayapal, dating to her time as founder and executive for Hate Free Zone, now One America, has a strong reputation as insanely ambitious, and as not treating the people around and below her particularly well. Frankly, I don’t entirely trust her. I wouldn’t be shocked if, once elected, she decided establishment comfort was more important than principle, or if she served a few terms and then cashed in for a more lucrative lobbying gig, as so many Congresscreatures do.

However, I had those same concerns when she was elected to Olympia, and was pleasantly impressed – she’s used her prodigious ability to network and fundraise to make things happen in Olympia and to get progressive goals accomplished in a way that McDermott, long a pariah in his own caucus, never did. With such a safe seat, Seattle needs a Congressional rep willing to take risks and fight unpopular battles until they become popular. We really can’t go wrong; a lot of people I know who personally know Walkinshaw rave about him. But Jayapal is the one who’s shown a willingness to take policy risks, and it makes her the best choice here. And Lord knows Congress needs a strong voice who will go to bat for immigrants, too. Pramila Jayapal

US House of Representatives, District 8: Dave Reichert is taking even longer to retire than he took to “catch” the Green River Killer. His Congressional career has been marked by a reputation (pushed hard by the Seattle Times) as moderate and independent – but he votes with his batshit crazy caucus most of the time. The Eastside also deserves better. Unfortunately, what it’s getting this time is former sportscaster and political centrist Tony Ventrella, who dropped out of the primary but finished ahead of two other challengers anyway because he’s a media celebrity and he interviewed Seahawk players once!!!11!!.

Ventrella then decided, eventually, that Congress was good enough for him after all. But that doesn’t mean he’d be good for Congress. Next time, maybe the Democrats can put up a real candidate in what ought to be a swing district. This year they’re a bad joke. Skip it.

US House of Representatives, District 9: Adam Smith, like Suzan DelBene, is a moderate Democrat. He’s been in Congress longer and has done more, rising to become ranking member of the House Armed Services committee. That was a good fit when his district included the sprawling military facilities south of Tacoma. But in 2012, District 9 was redrawn to shift north, and with the inclusion of the Kent Valley is now the state’s only majority minority district. Smith is no longer such a good fit. But then, neither is his Republican challenger. Skip it.

STATE OFFICES

Governor: You’ll mostly remember former Port of Seattle commissioner Bill Bryant as the Republican dude who brought Shell’s enormous arctic drilling rig to Elliott Bay and then bashed the protesters who drew national attention demonstrating against it. That pretty much sums up what he was about during his entire tenure overseeing one of the most corrupt and corporate-friendly agencies in the state. Now he wants to run the state. No. Fucking. Way. And he has the gall to run – I am not making this up – as an environmentalist, proving once again that in politics, words have no meaning.

Incumbent Jay Inslee has had some flaws as governor. Some but not all have been a function of a disastrous, Republican-controlled state senate refusing to work with him. (Hint: We can fix that RIGHT NOW.) But he’s been solid on a lot of fronts and far better than his two immediate Democratic predecessors, Christine Gregoire and Gary Locke. Jay Inslee.

Lieutenant Governor: This is a useless position that really should be abolished. It’s only functions are to chair the state senate and to succeed the governor if he or she doesn’t complete the term. Brad Owen is finally retiring after two decades of using his copious state-funded free time to indulge his hobby of promoting the Wat on Drugs. Good riddance.

In August, I endorsed Cyrus Habib over the equally well-qualified Karen Fraser. I did not endorse Republican Marty McClendon, who has dabbled in Birtherist musings about whether Habib – who emigrated as a child from Iran in 1979 – is really a US citizen. I guess we know what McClendon’s hobby would be. Yuck. Cyrus Habib

Secretary of State: This seat promotes state trade and oversees the state’s elections. It’s been held by Republicans pretty much since statehood in 1889, and is currently held by moderate Republican Kim Wyman. Like her two longtime predecessors, she’s been unassuming and competent. She faces a challenge from Tina Podlodowski, who basically used her time on Seattle City Council over a decade ago to make corporate shilling a thing for ambitious gay politicians; you can thank her for helping pave the way for our current mayor. Ideologically, she’s more conservative than Ed Murray is, but they have a lot in common. I don’t mean that as a compliment.

That said, Wyman has overseen the state’s disastrous shift to a less-inclusive August primary, and has opposed the state’s Voting Rights Act, a package of reforms (such as same-day registration) that would increase turnout. When Podlodowski – who supports the Voting Rights Act -nearly beat Wyman in the primary, Wyman’s response was to pander to her base by pledging to submit to the legislature a new package of Voter ID laws – and claimed they were needed because the confessed Burlington mall shooter wasn’t a US citizen and had voted illegally. (He is, and he hadn’t.) Expanding the electorate should be this position’s highest priority, and Wyman should be fired for, like so many of her Republican colleagues, preferring to depress turnout. And for having incredibly bad taste. Tina Podlodowski.

State Treasurer: The top two primary finishers here were both Republicans. One wants to run government like a business; the other wants to run it like, you know, government. Vote for the guy that understands the difference. Duane Davidson.

State Auditor: This has been the noisiest race for an obscure technical statewide office in memory. You may remember Republican Mark Miloscia a few weeks ago for traveling to Belltown to pledge state legislation that would supersede Seattle’s ability to decide how we want to address our homelessness crisis, because Seattle needs “adult supervision.” This publicity stunt had everything to do with running for statewide office and nothing to do with being an auditor. The homeless? They’re stage props for his ambition. Fuck you, Mark. Meanwhile, his opponent, Democrat Pat McCarthy, was called the “Anti-Christ” in a recent Tim Eyman e-mail. That’s good enough for me. Vote several times for Pat McCarthy.

Attorney General: Bob Ferguson is the best AG our state has had in a long, long time. If nothing else, he deserves a medal for being the person who’s finally prosecuting Tim Eyman’s long-running initiative scam operation. He’s unopposed except for some Libertarian Party dude. Why would you elect as the state’s head person in charge of defending and enforcing our laws, someone who’s opposed to all laws? Duh. Bob Ferguson.

Commissioner of Public Lands: This position oversees the state’s huge land holdings; in the past it’s mostly been a sinecure for the state’s forestry and ranching interests. This year, finally, a candidate with strong climate change credentials, Hilary Franz, is bidding for the seat. Her opponent, Republican Steve McLaughlin, seems unsure about the whole climate change thing.anyway. No contest. Hilary Franz.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Somebody has got to advocate for our state’s criminally underfunded (just ask the state supreme court) public schools. In August, I narrowly went with Chris Reykdal over Erin Jones. Jones would be a strong advocate for the state’s many non-white students, and that would be hugely valuable, but her campaign has also hit major problems over some unfortunately ignorant LGBTQ comments she made. Jones has also attracted the bulk of the corporate privatization lobby’s donations. I’m sticking with Chris Reykdal, who’s the choice of the Washington Education Association and the state’s beleaguered public school teachers. Having an advocate for teachers in that role would change a lot of things for the better. Chris Reykdal.

Insurance Commissioner: Incumbent Mike Kreidler is a rock star. His Republican opponent, as usual, is a tool of a health insurance industry that is basically a vast criminal enterprise. That’s why they don’t like Kreidler. You should. Mike Kreidler.

Washington State Senate: There are a number of reasons why Olympia is a hot, dysfunctional mess, but the most obvious is that the state senate is controlled by a party that is batshit crazy. Republicans have 26 seats – officially 25, but somehow “Democrat” Tim Sheldon always votes their way, too – and the Dems have 23. Mind you, a fair number of those Democrats are useless tools, but at least they generally acknowledge that things like climate change, taxes, and gay people actually exist. And this year is the best chance voters have had in several years to return reality-based governance to Olympia.

But that means flipping at least two seats currently controlled by Republicans. There are a few such seats in suburban Seattle, but most of them are Elsewhere. However, if you, family, or friends live in any of these locales, do whatever you can to support the following candidates. And you can donate money from anywhere. Just sayin’: Tim Probst (Legislative District 17, Vancouver); Karl Mecklenburg (LD 25, Puyallup); Marisa Peloquin (LD 28, University Place); and last but not at all least, hopefully replacing the execrable Steve Litzow, Lisa Wellman (LD 41, Mercer Island).

Washington House of Representatives: Most Seattle legislative races are recurring coronations of useless Democrats, but there are exceptions (Bob Hasegawa, Gerry Pollet, and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, to name three). There are also a couple of interesting local House races this year:

Legislative District 5, Positions 1 & 2 (Issaquah):: This is far suburban Eastside, but both races in this traditionally Republican district merit attention, and both have strong Democrats running. In Position 1, Jason Ritchie would caucus with the Dems but is hoping to win the seat as a member of the Working Families Party, the latest attempt to establish a progressive third party in Washington. That’s worth supporting all on its own, but he’s also running against openly racist and Islamophobic Republican Jay Rodne, who badly needs to be retired. And in Position 2, Darcy Burner, a personal friend and former colleague who’s simply sensational, has come out of electoral retirement to try to unseat Republican Paul Graves.Vote for both Burner and Ritchie early and often – and if you don’t live in the district, consider throwing some money or volunteer time their way.

Legislative District 43, Position 1 (Capitol Hill/University District/Wallingford): It has long been an oddity of Seattle politics that arguably the state’s most liberal district has consistently sent some of the state’s more conservative Democrats to Olympia (Frank Chopp is unopposed in the other seat again this year, for example.) Finally, with this race for an open seat, that could change. By far the best choice for doing that is Nicole Macri, a dynamic activist and executive for the Downtown Emergency Services Center, the largest (and gnarliest) homeless shelter in the state. She’s worked first-hand to help some of the worst victims of our state’s economic, housing, and tax priorities. Her opponent, Dan Shih, is a more mainstream (read: Chopp-allied) Democrat getting lots of money from all the wrong people. This district needs Macri’s voice. Nicole Macri.

JUDGES

Washington State Supreme Court, Position 1: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and Tim Eyman didn’t get an initiative qualified this year, so instead he’s trying to replace incumbent state supreme court justices with reactionary replacements who won’t keeping finding that his initiatives are unconstitutional. Republicans who resent the state court’s continuing insistence on adequate public education funding are also involved, and charter school outfits, including those of Paul Allen and Bill Gates, have also poured a lot of last-minute money into supporting the Eyman slate. How much longer do we need to keep repeating the phrase “Don’t let Eyman get away with it!” – “it” invariably being something that, like this, would badly harm the state? In Position 1, Eyman’s choice is David DeWolf; the rock star incumbent is Mary Yu.

Washington State Supreme Court, Position 5: The Eyman proxy here is Kittitas County (Ellensburg) prosecutor Greg Zempel, challenging one of the best of the justices, incumbent Barbara Madsen. Barbara Madsen.

Washington State Supreme Court, Position 6: The vote-for-him-on-general-principle incumbent here is Charlie Wiggins, who, as author of the ruling that found charter schools unconstitutional, is a particular target of the Allen/Gates money. Charlie Wiggins.

Superior Court, Position 14: Nicole Gaines Phelps has a ton of good endorsements and far more experience than her opponent, David Greenspan. Nicole Gaines Phelps.

Superior Court, Position 26: David Keenan is the choice her, a social justice veteran who would bring a badly-needed real life sensibility to the courtroom. David Keenan

Superior Court, Position 31: Long-time incumbent Helen Halpert is running against some dude who apparently holds a grudge against her because of some case she heard once. Seriously. Helen Halpert.

Superior Court, Position 44: Cathy Moore is the incumbent, a competent judge who deserves to keep her job. Cathy Moore.

Superior Court, Position 52: Both candidates are well-qualified, but the better set of endorsements, and more explicit voters’ guide statement (does someone just do a standard judicial…zzz…templ…zzz…ate for these?) goes to Anthony Gipe.

Superior Court, Position 53: Mariane Spearman is the incumbent here. If it ain’t broke, et cetera. Mariane Spearman.

District Court Southwest Electoral District Judge, Position 3: Her opponent doesn’t seem to actually be running a campaign, so you’d better vote for incumbent Laurel Gibson.

BALLOT MEASURES

Seattle I-124 “Seattle Protects Women”: Okay, first off. a complaint: I hate cutesy, marketing-driven, and often misleading names for bills or initiatives. The PATRIOT Act…anything Tim Eyman does…this. This initiative’s title is designed to make you think it’s about domestic violence or somesuch, or at least, that gender is central to its purpose. It’s not. But who could be against “protecting women”? See how that works? It’s bullshit.

Bu*t it’s still a good initiative: a union-backed measure designed to force local hotels (especially certain notoriously anti-union big chains *coughHyattcough*) to offer safety and health insurance options to their housekeeping workers equal to what standard union contracts require – things like panic buttons in rooms, protection against reprisals for reporting attacks from guests, and – a big one – health care. This is good. Most – not all – of those affected would be immigrant women. But the title is still bullshit. Yes.

King County Charter Amendment 1: Would make the King County Prosecuting Attorney a nonpartisan office, in line with most other elected county offices (e.g., County Council, Sheriff, County Executive) that have already made that transition. This can be misleading – c.f. Susan Hutchison insisting, in her run for County Executive in 2009, that she was “independent.” Now she’s chair of the Washington State Republican Party. Republicans in general have a toxic rep hereabouts, and the last two prosecuting attorneys, dating back decades, Ken Satterburg and Norm Maleng, have both been Republicans of the sober (i.e., exxtinct) variety. But on principle, this initiative is still the right thing to do. Party politics don’t belong in the justice system. Yes.

King County Charter Amendment 2: Changes language in the King County Charter so that it’s gender-neutral. You mean this didn’t happen a generation ago? Yes.

You know it’s a bumper crop of statewide initiatives when there’s no steaming pile of Eyman in the batch, and Eyman himself is raising the alarm to his followers about how awful they all are. Translation: it’s a historically good set.

I-1433 raises state min wage to $13.50 over the next five years. This will help a huge number of people – and Seattle’s higher wages, so far, haven’t exactly ruined local businesses in the way the usual reactionary suspects predicted. Remenber this initiative the next time you hear Ed Murray patting himself on the back for getting Seattle’s minimum wage hike stretched out to ten years. Yes

I-1464: This is the statewide version of the clean elections initiative Seattle voters passed last year, with vouchers that voters can use to direct campaign contributions and limited public financing. Unlike the minimum wage initiative, this one isn’t even particularly watered down from the Seattle law. The entire approach is groundbreaking and somewhat unproven – but unquestionably a big step in the right direction. Yes.

I-1491: Washington voters get another, er, shot at enacting a sensible gun law with this initiative, which allows for “extreme risk protection orders” in which a judge can require that individuals judged to pose a threat to themselves or others – in cases of domestic violence, potential suicide, etc. – may not own weapons. This will save lives. Period, end of story. Yes.

I-1501: This odd little SEIU-backed initiative protects the privacy of seniors their caregivers – from identity theft but also from right-to-work organizers. Given how vulnerable disabled seniors are, the fact that this totally benefits the union in an industry that badly needs unionizing is just a nice side bonus. Yes.

I-732: This is a big one. It would enact a carbon tax on greenhouse gas-emitting products and industries, and it’s a complicated mess. Tellingly, most major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Washington Conservation Voters, and 350.org, are urging a “no” vote, essentially because it doesn’t go far enough in combatting climate change. There’s also the issue that its sponsors claim I-732 is revenue-neutral, but others (including the state itself) estimate it will cost the state between $80 million and $200 million in lost revenue – money that would have to either be raised elsewhere or saved by cutting inevitably essential services (because that’s ll there’s left to cut.)

There’s no question that this initiative is a half-measure at best, market-based and not always clearly drafted. Fortunately, efforts to improve the langugae are also underway, and as much as I respect the opinion of the groups, this is a statewide vote when a sizable chunk of state voters don’t even think climate change is a thing, let alone that government should address it. These groups are making the perfect the enemy of the good on an issue where good may be our best hope of getting anything passed. And that these groups are working against I-732, rather than working to improve its implementation, reminds me a lot of the behind-the-scenes work done by alleged allies to kill the first two statewide attempts at cannibis legalization, essentially because the “right” groups wouldn’t get credit for the win. Climate change is too important for that sort of internecine nonsense. With reservations, Yes.

I-735: This is a totally non-binding, symbolic resolution in which Washington state would call on the US Congress to pass a constitutional amendment repealing the infamous Citizens United decision allowing, essentially, unlimited corporate financing of political campaigns. Now, Congress is not going to scramble to do this just because a deep blue state like Washington suggests it. But this is part of building a national movement that just might, some day, make repeal possible. Yes

Advisory votes 14 & 15: These are, again, the meaningless Eyman-mandated “advisory” votes that waste tax dollars every time the legislature passes a tax-related bill. It’s telling that there’s only two here. For what it’s worth, #14 sets health insurance taxes for dental plans, and #15 sales tax for electric cars, but on general principle, vote Yes.

Sen. Joint Res. 8210: Advocates for this measure point to the problem of gerrymandering in the every-ten-year congressional redistricting process – but the truth is, every state does the process differently, and Washington’s is one of the most nonpartisan and fairest processes in the country. However, that doesn’t mean we’re perfect; because both major parties effectively have to agree to the plan, the result is that the districts are drawn here in a way that tends to protect incumbents of both parties, not just whichever one controls the legislature. This is why Dave Reichert is still in Congress despite his original suburban district trending more Democratic, for example; the 2010 plan simply added Republican Kittitas County to Reichert’s district in exchange for a Democratic-leaning new district. This measure wouldn’t fix that problem, but it would start the process earlier and allow for more public input (and, hopefully, less insider precinct-trading). Yes.

Regional Prop. 1: This is ST3, the massively expensive expansion of light rail through 2040 with some additional money for other transit modes as well. This year’s highly popular extension of light rail to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington – much more heavily used transit routes than the airport run that was built first – should lay to rest any doubts that light rail can get a lot of cars off the roads. With this area’s rapidly growing population, and a climate crisis that, globally speaking, still isn’t being addressed with any urgency, this is a no-brainer. Yes.

Leave a Reply