One of the many reasons attributed to last November's strong showing by Republicans at the polls was the number of ballot initiatives asking voters the question of whether to ban gay marriage.
Not all states have ballot initiatives. But for those that do, an initiative campaign can be just as important, if perhaps not more so, than a statewide race for office.
Since initiatives do not exist on a federal level, initiative campaigns are restricted to the state or local levels. With all this "citizen lawmaking", it's no wonder that local politics matters.
The initiative process was originally created by progressive, populist reformers at the turn of the century who wanted to make government more accountable and responsible to the people.
But in the 1970s, starting with Proposition 13, conservatives figured out how to use the process as well. "Anti-tax movements" (organized by conservatives) have popped up in across the country.
Here in Washington, Democrats finally took control of both houses of the Legislature and recaptured the governor's mansion - something that hasn't happened in over a decade.
The Legislature decided to be bold and increase the gas tax to pay for needed transportation projects across the state - even though they knew it would be unpopular.
The vote to increase the gas tax was bipartisan, with the Governor pushing hard for lawmakers' support. Eventually, the package came through.
Now, Washington is known for being a "blue" state, but we have our fair share of conservatives, without a doubt.
And we also have our fair share - perhaps more - of conservative talk radio. Not just Rush Limbuagh and Sean Hannity. Seattle has 2 conservative talk stations with local hosts.
On one such station - KVI - morning and drive time hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur decided to do something about the just passed gas tax increase. They wanted to get rid of it - badly - and they found it easy to prey on peoples' dislike of taxes.
The two jumpstarted a campaign, using KVI as an advocacy tool, to rail against the gas tax and direct their listeners to get involved with the initiative campaign they were forming.
Wilbur and Carlson, of course, didn't serve as officers on the campaign committee. But they hand a huge hand in shaping the campaign and forcefully pushing it along.
Most initiative campaigns are organized months in advance - this one was just beginning to organize at the end of April, and early May.
There was widespread speculation and doubt that they could do it. But a few weeks ago - on deadline day - they turned in 400,000 signatures, well above the 244,880 valid signatures required to get on the ballot.
What does this mean?
It means that one of the biggest accomplishments of the 2005 Washington State Legislature is under assault. Millions of dollars in transportation funding faces the possibility of being repealed.
The package is supposed to fund the replacement of two of our most critical structures here in WA - the 520 floating bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
It's an easy kind of campaign to wage - prey on peoples' natural feelings of not wanting to have to pay for anything. It's resonant especially for people who are in tough times economically.
We're in for a big fight here in Washington State this fall. Defeating Initiative 912 is imperative.
And yet, for the past six months, we have been laying the machinery to do just that:
Pacific Northwest Portal, which has grown incredibly over the last few months, continues to get better. Today, we released a new update that brings pages like the Toolkit page up to speed with improved weather tools.
Ten new blogs have been added to the directory, we're introducing new graphics, and a couple of new features.
Reporters come every day, so do local elected officials, and activists from all over the Pacific Northwest.
It's very difficult to have an infrastructure in place to fight these initiative campaigns.
We're up against a lot. The sentiment is on their side, not ours, and we have a lot of work to do. But websites like Pacific Northwest Portal are making that task somewhat easier.
The Portal isn't just for news and information - it can also be used to help wage campaigns. It's never been through an election before, so this is our test drive to see how things work.
The threat from the conservatives is huge. The conservative blog nexus of the region, Sound Politics, still draws a large number of people every day - and they have been pushing hard for this gas tax repeal initiative.
So we're responding by continuing to build a more powerful community for progressives in the Pacific Northwest.
The big interests - the business community and others - that have fought this in the past seem to be sitting on their hands, despairing, because recent campaigns against such initiatives have ended in dismal failure.
We're taking matters into our own hands. Bloggers here are working together and collaborating like never before on issues like this. We write letters to the editor, assess editorials and commentary from the newspapers on our blogs, and respond to the media when nobody else will. And this is just the beginning.
The netroots were a key part of Paul Hackett's campaign. This isn't a race for U.S. House, but we hope to get the netroots involved in a very similar way. And the Portal is key - it's a unifying force.
Whether you have or haven't seen Pacific Northwest Portal yet, I strongly encourage you to take a good look at the changes in our update today.
Additionally, if you're a progressive blogger in the NW and you aren't in our directory - we want to hear from you immediately.
Let us know you're out there so we can add you - we can usually get your site up on the directory within a couple weeks. Bloggers who contacted us the last time around will now see their sites on our directory page.
Thanks to all who visit and promote Pacific NW Portal. Your support has made this site into what it is today. And as always, we are attentive to your feedback. You can send us a message through our Feedback page.