First, Referendum 71. There's been a lot of attention focused on Maine Question 1, and for good reason. It was hoped that we could avoid the fate of California Proposition 8 there, but alas, we came up short yet again. I know it's a heartbreaking loss, but as an earlier diarist pointed out, Maine wasn't the whole story. Kalamazoo, Michigan passed an ordinance outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And here in Washington, voters are Approving Referendum 71. Not by huge margins, but our lead is sizable enough and it will hold.
Currently Referendum 71 stands at 51.10% to 48.90%. Unlike in Maine, an Approve vote is to KEEP the law, and a REJECT vote is to get rid of the law. It's kind of confusing, but that's how referenda work in our state.
One other caveat about our elections: Washington State is now all vote by mail, except for one county, Pierce. But unlike Oregon, we allow ballots to be postmarked up until the day of the election. What this means is that people can wait up until the last mail collection on Election Day to put their ballot in the mail (besides finding a drop box, which also works). So results tend to come in more slowly because some ballots are still going into the mail at the same time early ballots are being tabulated.
That said, Ref. 71 is safe. It is going to pass. King County only reported once last night, and King County is Ref. 71's stronghold. Nearly sixty six percent of King County voters are in support of Ref. 71. That's like a 2 to 1 ratio. But King isn't the only county where Ref. 71 is passing. It's also winning just to the north in Snohomish County. Without Snohomish County on their side, the religious right cannot defeat us. It isn't possible. King County can't be outvoted unless many other populous western counties go against it. And that is not happening.
By Approving Referendum 71 Washington becomes the first state in America to sanction civil rights for LGBT individuals in a statewide vote. This is a major breakthrough, friends. And it's all the sweeter because in Washington, successful referenda cannot be tampered with for two years without a supermajority vote.
So the religious right has ironically just helped us cement our expanded domestic partnerships law into place. This effectively means they can't run another ballot measure on domestic partnerships next year to try to undo the law a second time. Hurrah for equality!
Nor can they mess with our Constitution. We are not like California, where the Constitution can be changed on a whim by ballot measure. Here, amendments must get super-majorities from the Legislature and then a simple majority vote of the people to pass. (Californians, something else you might wish to copy from us is our fairly strict recall process, which basically prevents frivolous recalls from ever going anywhere).
So, great news on Referendum 71. But that's not the only wonderful thing that happened here in Washington last night!
Voters also said NO to Tim Eyman's latest ballot measure to wreck Washington State, Initiative 1033. For those not familiar with Eyman, he is like the Douglas Bruce/Bill Sizemore/Howard Jarvis of Washington State. He is what we at NPI like to call a Grover Norquist clone.
You know, the guy who wants to get government to the size where he can drown it in a bathtub. Yeah, that guy. Well, Eyman's our Norquist, and he's as arrogant and persistent as they come. We have been fighting him for seven long years. His scheme this year was to import Colorado's revenue cap (with a sinister twist) and market it as the "Lower Property Taxes initiative."
It seemed like he was headed for victory and the campaign against was slow to organize. But the powers that be in this state got going at the last possible moment, finally (with prodding from the grassroots... We had a hand in that :) and we revved up and waged a strong campaign. And we're winning, bigtime. We beat Eyman for the second year in a row, which has never happened before. We also beat Eyman for the first time in an odd numbered year.
A lot of people are pinching themselves this morning. Tim Eyman has seemed unbeatable in the past. This was a pretty destructive measure with a great sales pitch and a terrific ballot title. The marketing by Eyman could not have been slicker or more deceptive. But we thwarted him. We educated the electorate and woke people up.
Andrew delves into how the campaign was won and why Eyman's heyday is past in a post entitled: Collapse of Tim Eyman's Initiative 1033 proves that teabaggers are just a fringe.
Check it out if you want to know more.
Finally.... voters in M.L. King County also had the task of picking a new County Executive this year. Keep in mind, King County is so populous that it's actually bigger in size than many states. (Fourteen, to be exact). It's home to thirty nine cities. And it's also geographically large in size. It's twice the size of Rhode Island (2,134 square miles). It takes a good while to get from one end of the county to another; the borders go from the shores of Puget Sound well up into the Cascade Mountains. It's really not a stretch to say King County Executive race is like a governor's race.
Our previous Executive, Ron Sims, is now working in the Obama administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development as Deputy Secretary. So that led to an open race. We had four, yes four, elected Democrats vying for the office; three were eliminated in the primary.
ABOVE: Dow Constantine, our next King County Executive
The guy who made it to the finals is named Dow Constantine. He's a young, energetic, fiercely authentic progressive county councilmember who has successfully taken on a mining conglomerate to protect the ecosystem of Puget Sound, which includes an endangered species (orcas). Dow has also fought to expand light rail throughout our region, which we badly need because we don't have much rapid transit.
That mining conglomerate was one of the supporters of his opponent, Susan Hutchison, a former television news anchor who considered running for U.S. Senate in 2006 against Maria Cantwell as a Republican.
Hutchison ended up running this year for Executive after Republicans succeeded last year in convincing county voters to change our charter to make county elected offices "nonpartisan". (They snuck in this change while we were busy trying to win all the important stuff).
However, there's really no such thing as a "nonpartisan" race. In politics, people take sides over everything... issues, matters of process.... so everyone who participates in a partisan even if they don't identify with a party.
Susan tried to hide her affiliations with Republicans and support of Republican candidates like Mike Huckabee, but she failed. Dow did not miss opportunities to talk about what she really believed at debates and his ads zeroed in on Hutchison's stealth opposition to light rail, opposition to environmental protection laws, and her anti-choice stance. Last night, in the first returns, he was up over Hutchison 57% to 43%. The traditional media have called the race for him.
Like Dino Rossi - who attended her election night party - Hutchison is refusing to concede. She would like to drag this out even though it clear she won't win. But whatever. It'll just sour voters even further on her, dimming her prospects of successfully running for some other office that she's unqualified for. (Have I mentioned she has NO experience as an elected official? Not even school board? And yet she's supported by many of the same people who sniveled that Darcy Burner shouldn't be running for Congress.)
So, in summary, last night was a really terrific night for progressives in Washington State. We won both our statewide ballot measures and elected a strong progressive to take charge of one of the largest local governments in the United States.
There's something we can be cheery about on this Wednesday morning.