It's the 2017 version of Jabe's voters' guide! If you find this useful, please forward/post it far and wide, especially if you have some undecided friends willing to think about the recommendations. (Even better are undecided friends willing to blindly follow the recommendations.) The fine print:
- The views expressed here are mine and mine alone, etc., etc..
- I focus on ballot measures (though there are few this year), but include a few important/interesting candidate races.
- If you want my half-informed opinions on other races (or just want off this list) send me an email.
- For details and generally good summaries, check out the State and King County Voter Guides.
- For generally good candidate and issue summaries and links, check out Fuse's Progressive Voters Guide.
- The following will make a lot more sense if you have your ballot in front of you.
Only have 60 seconds? The Reader's Digest version:
- Seattle Mayor: Mayor Establishment or Mayor Moon? Vote Moon!
- Advisory Votes 16-18: The idiotic legacy of the idiot Eyman. MAINTAIN!
- King Co. Proposition 1: Renew and expand Veterans & Seniors Levy. Yes!
- 45th District Senate: Kirkland, Woodinville, Sammamish. Manka Dhingra!!
- For a few other candidate recommendations, scroll to the bottom.
Have 20 minutes? Here's some more detail.
Seattle Mayor: Mayor Establishment or Mayor Moon? Vote Moon!
I've never before opened the guide with a candidate race but the King County and State measures aren't that interesting this year. I apologize in advance for the length of this. If you've already made up your mind or don't vote in Seattle, skip to the next one. But if you are even slightly undecided, please read it and consider.
First, note this isn't a stark choice between good and evil to determine the fate of the State Senate and thus the entire State. That would be the 45th district race (Kirkland, Woodinville, Duvall, Sammamish) between progressive candidate Manka Dhingra and oil industry-funded, Trump-admiring (but now trying to deny having said it) Jinyoung Lee Englund. You may not live there but you certainly know people who do. If you care about the state, consider giving time or money to Manka's campaign.
However, because Seattle is such an important city in helping lead not just the resistance to Trump but also the march to a more progressive society (because America was pretty screwed up in terms of social and racial inequity even before Trump was elected), it matters who our leader is. So let me dive into some issues you hear about in this race.
Experience: As The Stranger has drifted slightly left and The Weekly slightly right over the years, they've agreed on less and less. But they are in agreement in their endorsement of Moon. They both cite Moon's experience with and knowledge of the biggest urban issues facing Seattle. Durkan has done great work fighting the good fight but seems to have spent little time thinking about cities. Indeed, a few weeks before the primary I checked her campaign's "issues" page to learn about her positions. It said, in effect, “positions coming soon, watch this space”. Seriously. I asked her campaign and several high profile supporters about this and got no response. Since then I've tried to read some detail or substance into her statements and find them lacking in many specifics beyond the sort of throw away "we need to study…", “"we should think hard about…". (Anyone who saw her at the Washington Bus' Candidate Survival event – where, by the way, she didn't make it to the final, in part because of her either tone-deaf or really poorly thought-out reference to "colored people" – knows what I mean about the "content" thing.) Moon has not just been doing urban work for decades, she's an extremely well-respected, analytical, open-minded thinker on urban issues, the likes of which we've not ever had running our city.
I think the Weekly put it fairly and accurately when they wrote: Moon's early experience as a manager at her father's manufacturing firm and her work with the People's Waterfront Coalition gives us less confidence in her ability to handle the $5.3 billion, 12,000-employee bureaucracy. When considering the issues facing the city, though, the tide turns decidedly in Moon's favor and, because of this, we fully support her candidacy…. This is where Moon excels: identifying what works and what doesn't with current policy and pushing for more.
Money: The hypocrisy. Within two hours this week I saw, first, email from Durkan's campaign decrying $17K raised for an independent expenditure for Moon and the money that Moon herself had put into her campaign, and second an article in the Stranger about the $525K that the Chamber of Commerce PAC was putting into ads for Durkan. As of this writing, my understanding is that $847K has been raised for independent expenditures for Durkan, $611K of it from the Chamber's PAC. Durkan's campaign has raised another $822K. The only independent expenditure I know of for Moon has raised less than $30K, while Moon's campaign has raised $279K total, which includes $142K of her own money. I don't like über wealthy candidates buying races, but this is hardly that situation. Without Moon's own money, there would be a 10 to 1 money advantage for Durkan ($1.67M) versus Moon ($167K)!! With Moon's money, Durkan's $$ advantage is a mere 5+ to 1. So if we're going to worry about money, it's the $611K from the Chamber that should concern us, and the totally unlevel playing field of that 5:1 figure, not Moon putting in her own money.
The Chamber: Which leads to the issue of the whether it matters that one candidate was hand-picked and then massively funded by the Chamber of Commerce. As a friend of mine wrote after he got a survey call from that “selection process”: “The whole business of labor and the Chamber testing names and finding their way together kind of makes me sick. Waiting for the old machine to crank out another hamburger just feels dismal.” True that! If the Chamber was particularly progressive that would be one thing. And they are – relative to Tulsa, Oklahoma. But relative to Portland, San Francisco or Vancouver BC, which is who we should be comparing ourselves to? Not so much. (Just one example: Though part of the Mayor's committee that negotiated Seattle's $15 minimum wage package, the Chamber abstained from voting on the committee and officially were neutral. And on the state-wide minimum wage measure, they did not weigh in, saying they were "focused on policy at the local level". That's not only circular, it's lame. Not for Tulsa maybe, but for Seattle.)
But Durkan isn't the chamber, she's merely the candidate the Chamber is spending over $600K on. So I've been looking to find some light between her positions and theirs and, honestly, I don't see much. We don't want someone to the left of the city's population as Mayor – a few council members like that will suffice – but we also don't want someone more conservative than the city is, and needs to be, at this time in history.
If, as is likely, Durkan is elected, I hope the first thing she says is “Ha, ha Chamber, joke's on you, you may have picked and paid for me, but I'm not the business-as-usual candidate you thought you bought!” Maybe that will happen. But I see little evidence for it in anything she or her campaign has said or done.
So I'm voting for Cary. (But the outcome of this race won't determine whether I decide to move to Sweden on November 8th. That, again, would be the race in the 45th.)
I'll leave you with the thoughts of someone smarter and more eloquent than I am. From KC Golden, the heart and soul behind pretty much every bit of progress on climate and clean energy within Washington state in the past 20 years:
I got to thinking about the word "intimidation" today. We usually say it as if one person could do it to another unilaterally. But they can't. It requires the target to, in some way, accept or ratify the action by becoming "timid."
The bad news is I think progressives in public life and much of the Democratic party have accepted intimidation way too much. I'm not pointing fingers; I have done it way too much.
The good news is that because it requires the affirmation or acquiescence of the target, we don't have to go there! We can't choose not to be scared – we're only human. But we CAN choose not to be timid. We cannot be "intimidated" unilaterally. We can choose otherwise.
The great triumph of the last 30 years of the conservative project is that it has successfully prompted us to accept our intimidation. Good solid Ds like Jenny Durkan look tough but their aspirations, their quest, is timid – hemmed in by the cramped political space still left in a world where neither the left nor the right trusts government or believes in the effective application of collective power through public institutions. Once again, I'm not demonizing them. This realization is hitting me hard because it applies to me too.
Which brings us to our candidate. I think the reason I love Cary so much is that she simply will not be intimidated. I don’t think I need to explain this to you, her supporters. If you've worked with her, you know this. It's just who she is – you can feel it. She lacks timidity genes.
I'm not saying she will never succumb to difficult pressures or make a strategic choice to back off on something I care about or that she will simply transcend politics by being brave. I'm just saying that she will be the last person to consent to intimidation.
That's what I want for Seattle now.
Advisory Votes 16-18: The idiotic legacy of the idiot Eyman. MAINTAIN!
Normally this is just a copy and paste from the previous year. As a result of Eyman's 2007 initiative 960, the legislature can't even perform its constitutionally mandated job, and eliminate an unjustifiable tax exemption or extend an existing fee, without also asking the public for their non-binding, purely-symbolic, time-wasting, money-wasting opinion. It even requires misleading "black is white and night is day" language referring to increases in state revenues as "costs". The only reason I am not doing a complete cut & paste this year is because I want to express misgivings about the state legislature's "fix" to constitutionally inadequate education funding, which was the subject of House Bills 2163 and 2242, and thus of Advisory Votes 17 and 18. Raising regressive property taxes that make our already most-regressive-state-tax-code-in-the-nation even worse was not the right approach, it was just the only approach that could pass the regressive Republican-controlled State Senate. But even this outcome was an increasingly rare example of functional government, with all its messiness and compromises. So even though the Advisory Votes impact nothing, we should express our support for functioning government by voting Maintain on all three. And then if we don’t like the Senate’s non-solution to education funding we should elect Manka Dhingra in the 45th and implement something better. For the record, the legislature passed the measures that are the subjects of these Advisory votes by the following margins:
House Bill 1597 (Advisory Vote 16): Senate: Yeas 46, Nays 3; House: Yeas 92, Nays 2, Excused 4.
House Bill 2163 (Advisory Vote 17): Senate: Yeas 33, Nays 16; House: Yeas 51, Nays 42, Excused 5.
House Bill 1597 (Advisory Vote 16): Senate: Yeas 32, Nays 17; House: Yeas 67, Nays 26, Excused 5.
King Co. Proposition 1: Renew and expand Veterans & Seniors Levy. Vote Yes!
This is a renewal and modest expansion of a levy in existence for the past 12 years. Fuse's Voters Guide describes it well: "The King County Veterans, Seniors, and Human Services Levy expands our commitment to strengthening communities by providing vital services like job training, employment opportunities, and housing stability to veterans, seniors, domestic violence survivors, and more. The levy extends existing efforts that have proven effective in reducing unemployment, homelessness, and emergency medical costs." It is supported by most everyone and has no "Statement in opposition" in the King County Voters' Pamphlet. It will cost the median King County homeowner approximately $45 per year, or $3.75 per month, about the same as a Starbucks latte.
45th District Senate: Kirkland, Woodinville, Sammamish. Manka Dhingra!!!
I don't care so much about the letters D and R. If I could pick someone to be the Supreme Ruler of the Universe it would be Washington's own life-long Republican Bill Ruckelshaus, first director of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Deputy Attorney general under Nixon who resigned rather than follow Nixon’s orders to fire Archibald Cox. I would prefer functional bi-partisan governance to single-party control. But let's get real. Just as at the national level, R's have used their 1-seat control of the State Senate to bring Olympia to a halt, knowing that political dysfunction, and the consequent public disillusionment with government, works better for their agenda than for ours. And they do it in the most insidious way, by using their control of committees to simply keep things from coming to a vote, knowing that if their members actually had to take public votes against reasonable things like gun responsibility bills, for example -- which are overwhelmingly supported by the public -- they'd put their seats at risk. It's an evil strategy but a smart and effective one, abetted by a press that either doesn't have the resources to cover committees or, like the Seattle Times, doesn't give a rip.
So if you like that, you'll love Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund, who worked for ultra-conservative Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers and has expressed her respect and admiration for Trump. I guess she doesn't follow the news much. Breitbart maybe? She also only recently moved to the district from her lobbyist position in Washington, D.C.. She will continue to make sure nothing -- not just nothing progressive, but nothing period -- gets done in Olympia. And lest anyone fall for her "moderate R" shtick, check out this bit from a Sightline article on her massive support from the fossil fuel industry, who are desperately trying to export fossil fuels of all kinds through Washington's ports to the rest of the world. Guess she isn't too concerned about climate change either.
"A trio of right-wing PACs are spending big to support Republican Englund with a combined $820,000. The same Enterprise WA Jobs PAC playing in the Vancouver race is also spending big in the 45th. Beyond the hundreds of thousands from Tesoro and BNSF, the PAC has another $100,000 from Chevron and $25,000 from Koch Industries (the fossil fuel company of Koch Brothers notoriety). Meanwhile, the Citizens for Progress Enterprise WA PAC is registering another $350,000 from Texas oil company Phillips 66. And the Leadership Council PAC shows yet more oil and railroad money: $25,000 more from Tesoro, $20,000 from BNSF, and $10,000 from Union Pacific.
If, instead, you want Olympia to actually be able to address education funding, or health care, or water and air quality, or our transportation and growth issues, or homelessness or... then the choice would be Manka Dhingra, the Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, an anti-domestic violence activist, and a supervisor for both the Mental Health and Veterans courts.
Other races where I have strong recommendations.
Port of Seattle Commissioner #1: Ryan Calkins
Incumbent John Creighton is widely considered a "super nice guy". But, as Fuse put it, "We were extremely disappointed that Creighton voted in 2015 to allow Shell Oil to base its arctic drilling operations in Seattle." It's worse. He was actually the decisive vote in the Port's 3-2 decision. He got the endorsement of the Washington Conservation Voters by telling them that he regretted that vote and wouldn't do it again, something he's never said publicly that I can see in the many times he's been asked about it. I understand he gave the King County Labor Council quite a different answer and, not surprisingly, got their endorsement. Calkins, meanwhile, had the courage to tell the Labor Council that the Shell decision was a bad one and that it's short-sighted and unnecessary to pit the environment against jobs. I'll take integrity over "nice". (And, for the record, Ryan, is also a "super nice guy".) Kudos to the Sierra Club for getting this one right. WCV? Open your eyes and raise your sights next time. Vote Calkins!
Seattle School Board Districts #5 and #7: Omar Vasquez and Chelsea Byers
Here I part ways with Fuse and much of the progressive advocacy community who I think are too beholden to the teachers' union. The Seattle School District is widely considered one of the worst run major urban school districts in the country and changing that starts with the board. Everyone I know and respect in the world of public school education are supporting Vazquez and Byers, both former math teachers with other organizational and educational experience that actually matters when running a 6,000+ employee and 55,000 student operation.
Seattle City Attorney: Pete Holmes
I'll let you read the Stranger and Fuse summaries in favor of Holmes, with which I generally agree. I wouldn't have bothered to include this race at all except that the opponent, Scott Lindsay, was the only eligible general election candidate who chose to opt out of Seattle's new (and very successful!) publicly funded elections program. A lame decision for a City Attorney candidate.