by Goldy, 09/30/2004, 11:46 PM

Here’s my quick spin on the first Kerry-Bush debate: Kerry won.

In fact, I think Bush came across as surprisingly petulant. (Not that I’m surprised by his petulance, just that he’d allow himself to come across that way.)

I’ll leave more detailed analysis to others, but I did have one curious little observation. Note the following line from Bush’s closing statement:

In the next four years, we will continue to strengthen our homeland defenses, we will strengthen our intelligence gathering services, we will reform our military – military will be an all-volunteer army.

Notice the little stumble there as he tried to emphasize “all-volunteer”?

This tells me two things. 1) The Bush team knows that if the the public believes we’re headed for a military draft, he will lose this election, and 2) … we’re headed for a military draft.

Recruitment is down. More importantly, quality recruitment is down. And yet there seems no end in sight for our military commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If I were 18, I’d be awfully anxious.

(Okay… I was awfully anxious as an 18-year-old, but you get the point.)

by Goldy, 09/30/2004, 9:37 AM

A quick and emphatic link to Joni Balter’s column in today’s Seattle Times: “I-892: a game of chance we should walk away from.” Joni describes an extraordinary documentary film made by students at Shorewood High School, that shows underage teenagers — some as young as 12 — gambling at local card rooms.

According to a 1999 WA Lottery Commission study, more than 1 in 12 teenagers in Washington state is a problem gambler… a higher percentage than the adult population. As access to gambling increases, so does addiction. Indeed, a national study shows that people living within 50 miles of a casino have twice the incidence of problem gambling.

Initiative 892 would put 18,255 slot machines into over 2000 locations, scattered through nearly every community in the state, putting all our families at risk.

by Goldy, 09/29/2004, 6:18 PM

Kudos to the Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly for unearthing a transcript of a 1992 speech delivered by then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney before the Discovery Institute in Seattle. [Bush-Cheney flip-flops cost America in blood]

A companion piece ran on the front page of the P-I, providing even more details. [Cheney changed his view on Iraq]

In the speech Cheney defends the decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power at the end of the first Gulf War:

“I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We’d be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

“And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don’t think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties. And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war.

“And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.”

At last count, 1,046 Americans have been killed, and 7000 injured… the majority since President Bush famously declared “mission accomplished.” And as Joel points out, you can’t get much bigger of a “flip-flop” than this.

Thanks Joel, for doing the kind of hard-nosed, old fashioned reporting, we don’t always see from local columnists. (Yeah… I’m looking at you Collin.)

by Goldy, 09/29/2004, 1:10 AM

An article in Wednesday’s Seattle P-I reports that Dino Rossi’s campaign has been referring to him as a commercial real estate “broker” when he is in fact an “agent.” [Rossi clarifies professional status]

The state requires brokers to meet more stringent licensing requirements, including additional testing and training, and forbids real estate salespeople from referring to themselves as brokers.

That’s right… Rossi’s just a salesman. Why should we care?

Rossi, a former state senator from Sammamish, said yesterday that he has never referred to himself as a broker. He said other people wrote his legislative biography and campaign finance reports to the state that mistakenly described him that way.

Asked why he didn’t correct the record earlier, Rossi said, “If I saw it, it didn’t register.”

Yeah Dino, that’s the kind of hands on leadership we want from a governor… just blame your staff.

Maybe, as Rossi claims, the distinction between agents and brokers really is no big deal. But that would be all the more reason to just accept responsibility, and move on to more important issues.

Or maybe the campaign didn’t feel “real estate agent” was a weighty enough profession for somebody running for governor? Though it could have been worse — he could have been a car salesman. (Excuse me… commercial vehicle broker.)

I’m guessing the campaign stretched the truth, and it really “didn’t register” with Rossi. Just like it doesn’t seem to register with him that it’s kind of disingenuous to run as an Olympia outsider while simultaneously claiming to have singlehandedly balanced the state budget.

Whatever.

The point is his campaign was caught in a lie, however small, and Rossi passed the buck… behavior unbecoming of a licensed real estate broker.

by Goldy, 09/28/2004, 12:46 PM

On Sunday we made our annual trek to Wapato to pick tomatoes and peppers to bring home for canning. Timing (and my seven-year-old daughter) didn’t permit stopping at any wineries, or my favorite brewery, Grant’s, which alas, is closed on Sundays. But the highlight of the day is always the picnic that follows the picking.

Every year we meet friends at Yakima Sportsman State Park, for an extravagant spread of Italian meats and cheeses and breads, topped off with freshly picked produce. The tomatoes should require no description, but just imagine the prosciutto and melon, when the melon is still warm from the fields.

Yakima Sportsman is an oasis along the Yakima river, in an otherwise desert area. It is lush and green, with generous shade provided by a variety of deciduous trees. And its facilities are top-notch, allowing us effete city-folk to wash up after a morning in the fields.

In past years, the park would be teeming with families enjoying the Sunday afternoon, many of them the farm workers that fuel the local agricultural economy. (Our U-Pick tomatoes were $0.10/lb, so you get an idea of the value of labor.)

But last Sunday, like in recent years, we’ve had the park to ourselves.

It was 85 degrees and sunny, and yet the park was deserted. No boisterous BBQs, no music blaring from boom boxes… and apart from my daughter, no hoards of screaming children chasing the ducks and geese away from the picnic tables.

The park’s abandonment can be traced back to the imposition of parking fees, currently $5 per vehicle (discounted from the usual $7.) The campgrounds, which always required a fee, still appear to be used, but apart from our own cars, the day-parking lot was empty.

Now I can afford the fee, although $5 for a two-hour visit is a bit insulting after paying 12 bucks for a year’s worth of tomatoes. But clearly, many of the families who used to share the park with us, cannot.

I blame Tim Eyman, and the myopic voters who have supported his tax cutting initiatives.

Yakima Sportsman has become the definition of “penny-wise and pound-foolish” — a wonderful park maintained by taxpayers, for the use of the privileged few. By saving tax dollars, it has become a waste of tax dollars, for what is the use of a public park that nobody uses?

Tim and I (especially Tim) can afford an extra “user fee” here and there, but the quality of life in Washington state is slowly dying a death by a thousands cuts. Reduced library hours, deferred road maintenance, increased class sizes, fire and EMS that fails to keep up with population growth, a growing backlog in the courts… the impact of our perpetual budget crisis is spread so thin across so many services that it almost seems imperceptible.

Almost.

There is a reason why Eyman has failed to qualify a tax-cutting initiative for the ballot two years running (and no, I-892 doesn’t count.) Voters understand that you don’t get something for nothing, and they see that many state and local agencies have already cut to the bone.

The vast majority of voters reject Tim’s radical libertarian vision. We don’t want to privatize public infrastructure. We don’t want access to essential services determined solely by market forces.

And we don’t want to exclude the public from our public parks.

by Goldy, 09/27/2004, 10:26 AM

Initiative 892 — the gaming-industry-in-Eyman’s-cloak gambit to plant slot machines on every Main Street in the state — is so clearly flawed and dangerous, that I don’t expect a single editorial board to come out in its favor. The Seattle Times, arguably Washington’s most influential paper, is leading the chorus with a strongly worded editorial: “Reject I-892′s state gambling expansion.”

Initiative 892 is a crass attempt to expand gambling in Washington by exploiting uncertain promises of property-tax relief and animosity toward the recent economic success of Indian tribes.

This comes on the heals of an article in the Sunday Times that exposes the lies Eyman has been using to promote the initiative. [I-892's tax savings in dispute] As we have frequently pointed out, I-892 is not revenue neutral, and will not provide the tax savings Tim promises.

In fact, between loss of revenues from other taxable activities, and rising costs from problem gambling, I-892 will likely cost taxpayers more money than it saves them. Indeed a Maryland study (whose citation eludes me at the moment) suggested that slots would cost the state $3 for every $1 raised in taxes.

I-892 is a sucker’s bet. And the more voters know about it, the less they’ll support it.

by Goldy, 09/27/2004, 10:03 AM

Several readers have pointed out that my bold prediction that The Seattle Times would endorse Kerry, is not all that bold considering they already did endorse Kerry back on August 27.

Oops.

So I’ll just feebly attempt to reclaim some dignity by making another bold prediction: The Times will endorse Kerry a second time.

Remember, you heard it here first.

by Goldy, 09/25/2004, 11:38 AM

According to an article in today’s NY Times, new voter registration in Democratic areas of Ohio and Florida are far exceeding similar efforts by Republicans. [Both Parties See a Big Increase in New Voters]

In Ohio, new registrations in Democratic areas have increased 250 percent over the same period in 2000, compared to a 25 percent increase for Republicans. In Florida, the Democratic advantage is 60 percent to 12 percent. Registration drives have added tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls of these important swing states.

The precise impact of the swell in registration is difficult to predict, as there is no reliable gauge of how many of these new voters will actually vote. Some experts, though, say that the spike has not been accurately captured by political polls and could confound prognostications in closely contested states.

As I wrote the other day, you’ve got to take the national polls with a grain of salt, and keep on fighting. Don’t get discouraged when the polls show Bush with a lead… these polls are underestimating Democratic likely voters.

I smell victory.

by Goldy, 09/24/2004, 9:49 AM

Tim Eyman got to speak yesterday on behalf of Initiative 892 — unopposed — before the Association of Washington Businesses. His comments were picked up in the Bellingham Herald and the Olympian… and they were lies all! At least the headline was accurate: “Eyman touts his initiative for gambling.”

Timmy continues to call I-892 “revenue neutral.” It is not. According to Office of Financial Management estimates the initiative will cost state and local governments at least $69 million a year in lost revenues from other forms of gambling. And that doesn’t even begin to calculate the lost revenues from other taxable activities that will surely result from this $1.2 billion shift in consumer spending.

Tim continues sell I-892 as “leveling the playing field” by allowing other businesses to compete with the tribes. But the “fairness” issue is a racially-loaded load of crap.

Fairness for whom? The handful of out-of-state and foreign gambling conglomerates who own most of the card rooms… who got into this business knowing the rules, and now want to change them?

Or fairness for the two thousand bars, restaurants and bowling alleys who will be allowed to put slot machines in every community in our state? As I’ve said before, a bowling alley claiming they need slots to compete with the tribal casinos is like Chuck E. Cheese’s saying they need a liquor license and strippers to compete with the Deja Vu.

And of course, Tim continues to say that I-892 is “good for taxpayers.” My ass!

An owner of a $200,000 home will save less than $23 a year! Meanwhile, direct costs to taxpayers from problem gambling — which already approaches $100 million a year — will surely skyrocket as this $23 billion in new wagering increases state gambling over five-fold!

The only winners from I-892 are the big gambling companies that have written and financed it. For example, the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, will suck $20 million a year in new profits north of border… not a bad return on their $200,000 investment.

Tim Eyman is an admitted liar, and the media needs to do a better job of evaluating his factual claims before repeating them.

by Goldy, 09/23/2004, 5:14 PM

The Times has a reputation for endorsing early and often, so reading between the lines of their latest editorial, it looks to me like Kerry is going to eventually get the official nod from the Times’ editorial board.
[Kerry's right to slam the president on Iraq]

Never shy about chiming in with the right-wing media echo chamber when it suits their agenda (ie, Collin Levey), the dissonant tone of this editorial was striking. On the issue of Iraq, it strongly defends Kerry against the charge of flip-flopping, an always easy laugh line for lazy comedians and lazier columnists (ie, Collin Levey.) And it is unequivocal in its criticism of President Bush’s performance.

I often disagree with the Times’ rather conservative stance on many issues, but it is encouraging to see them reject Bush’s neo-conservative warmongering.

by Goldy, 09/22/2004, 10:12 AM

Six influential Washington business groups, including five chambers of commerce and the Association of Washington Businesses, sent a letter to the US Chamber of Commerce criticizing their secret $1.5 million smear campaign against Democratic attorney general nominee Deborah Senn. [Chamber ads rile state groups]

Of course, from the tone and content of the letter, I think the real message was: “The next time you want to drop $1.5 million on a WA election, let us do it.” Apparently their major concern was that the attack ads were counterproductive, possibly helping Senn more than it hurt her.

I’m still not sure.

Senn had a huge advantage in state-wide name recognition, and the only polling data I saw showed her with a substantial lead weeks before the attack ads aired. When the primary results are certified, she’ll have squeaked by with less than a percentage point advantage. Furthermore, Mark Sidran did best in those markets where the ads aired heaviest.

The fact is, we see so many attack ads because they work, and these ads certainly cost Senn some primary votes, while weakening her for the general election. Whether they disrupted Sidran’s momentum in the final 10 days of the campaign, ultimately costing him the election, we’ll never know.

Personally, I think the local chambers’ weak disavowal of the US Chamber’s actions is rather disingenuous, for they clearly agree on strategy if not tactics. And if Senn loses in November, the ads will ultimately be deemed a success.

by Goldy, 09/21/2004, 8:28 PM

Thanks to reader “Damnaged” for pointing out Michael Moore’s missive on misleading polls: “Put Away your Hankies…

Like I said, keep working, stop worrying, and ignore the polls.

by Goldy, 09/21/2004, 10:36 AM

A lot of Democrats are getting awfully nervous over national polls that show President Bush with as much as a 13 point lead over John Kerry. Well, that’s why the media focuses on the horse race… they want to make you nervous, so that you’ll stay tuned for every second of the homestretch.

For some reason people keep asking me for my prognostication, as if I have any special insight or inside knowledge. And they are usually surprised by my calm confidence that Kerry has the upper hand.

Admittedly, my opinion is based mostly on instinct, but I just don’t trust the polls. I believe that there are large numbers of closeted Kerry voters, struggling to admit their preference to themselves, let alone pollsters. Besides… does anybody really believe that the GOP convention was convincing enough to produce such a large and permanent swing?

Of course, I’m just an arrogant blowhard, so perhaps my optimism is based on wishful thinking. But I feel a lot better thinking wishfully after reading the latest “Kumbaya, Dammit” column by political consultant Dan Carol: “Forget the Polls“.

Well, the dirty little secret is that polling is less scientific than we’re led on.

So I am here to tell you, as a supposed expert on politics, that the race will stay ugly and close to the end — no matter what the latest polls say.

That plus this: we’re gonna win, for sure. No matter what the polls say.

Dan’s a thoughtful guy who has been running campaigns for a living for years, so he’s drawing from a wealth of personal experience. He’s also pretty well connected, so I’m sure he has access to the kind of inside information I can only dream of.

His thesis is that the polls are wrong because they rely on a faulty voter turnout model. He’s counting on Democratic efforts that have registered 3 million new voters nationwide (a 3 to 1 D-to-R ratio in Oregon), and a higher than usual youth vote. (Can anybody say “draft”?)

Personally, I think Democrats are just plain more enthusiastic about this election than Republicans. In Washington state, most of the media was quick to dismiss the Dem’s 20 point turnout advantage in last week’s primary, but I think part of that reflected an eagerness to go to the polls that will be repeated on November 2… nationwide.

Like Dan, I’m not suggesting you can sit back and relax. There’s still a lot of hard work that needs to be done. But jump into the homestretch with the confidence that we can and will pull this out at the end.

by Goldy, 09/20/2004, 7:31 PM

Today columnist Kate Riley continues the Seattle Times’ year-long temper tantrum against partisan primaries, by pointing to comparable political fits being thrown in California, Oregon and Alaska as evidence of a potentially brighter, nonpartisan future. ["Don't pinch me; I have a dream we can improve our political process"]

First let me restate my position on this issue. I have nothing against partisan primaries; it only makes sense that parties should choose their own candidates. Since moving here in 1991, I’ve always found WA’s “open primary” rather silly and open to abuse. I myself have cynically crossed over to vote in the GOP primary, not simply to help select a weaker opponent (think Ellen Craswell and John Carlson), but also as a protest gesture.

On the other hand, I am absolutely flabbergasted that we would reach down into the political muck of the Louisiana bayous to dredge up Initiative 872′s “top-two” primary, a system that will surely introduce an odd political calculous to our already muddled elections.

This is a system that will only enhance the antidemocratic tendencies of party leaders like Chris Vance and his GOPolitiburo — for strict party discipline is the only way for one party to assure a spot in the general election. For example, GOP attorney-general candidate Rob McKenna was nearly outpolled by Democratic runnerup, Mark Sidran. Had this been a top-two primary, and had the GOP allowed McKenna to face a serious challenge, we’d have a Sidran-Senn rematch on November 2.

(Okay… I wouldn’t mind that… but you get the point.)

In fact with all the gnashing of teeth, I’ve seen very little real debate over the merits of the competing primary systems. As far as I can tell, the main argument in favor of an open primary is that voters like it, and the main argument against a partisan primary is that they don’t.

Unlike most of the media whiners, Riley at least tries to put forth a rationale, that partisan primaries lead to more partisan, divided government. Well, A) I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing, and B) it’s anecdotal conjecture. Most other states have partisan primaries, and I’m wondering, how many have legislatures more divided and partisan than ours?

Personally, I’ve always felt that much of the anger over this issue stems from a wistful nostalgia for doing things our own way, and Riley seems to echo this sentiment:

The commonality is not lost on my fellow yearners for something better. Imagine moderates in the West, which was built on independent-minded sensibilities, seizing their state political systems and igniting a new movement to the political center that spreads across the nation.

Yeah, fine. Of course it’s hard to spark a political movement towards the center, since by definition, that’s where we already are.

But more important, I fail to see how adoption of a top-two primary, or stubborn defense of our unconstitutional open system, has anything to do with populism or progressivism or the “independent-minded sensibilities” that Riley so clearly cherishes.

The Times and The Grange and all the other passionate proponents of I-872 have started from the assumption that a 70-year-old progressive reform still has some sort of reformist relevance today. When in fact, all they’re really doing is defending the status quo.

Furthermore, their indignation is largely misplaced, for while you can certainly blame the Legislature and Governor Locke for their ham-fisted last minute efforts to deal with the crisis, this appalling failure of political leadership is only surpassed by I-872 proponents’ total lack of imagination.

You want real election reform? How about Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), a system used worldwide that could preserve the rights of parties while eliminating publicly financed primaries altogether?

An IRV can be a primary and a general election rolled into one. Rather than choosing a single candidate, voters rank their choices in order of preference. If your first choice is eliminated, your vote goes to your second choice, and so on, until a single candidate wins by a clear majority, not just a plurality.

For example, if we had IRV you could safely rank Nader as your first choice, without throwing the election to Bush.

Vote your conscience? Man, what a concept! But not one the Seattle Times apparently wants you to know about, for even though there’s an active signature drive to put IRV before the legislature, the Times and their media cohorts refuse to report on I-318!

For all their populist posturing about the parties denying us the right to vote for the candidate of our choice, the Times doesn’t seem genuinely interested in offering us our choice of primaries. Instead they’ve been inexplicably driving “top-two,” hell bent for election since day one.

I-872 might give voters the chance to deliver a satisfying “fuck you” to Olympia, but as a method of selecting party candidates it clearly sucks.

Given the choice, I’d rather have no primary at all.

by Goldy, 09/19/2004, 11:01 PM

Wake up! Primary’s over! We’re into the stretch run!

So kudos to The Columbian for being first out of the gate coming out strong against slot machine Initiative 892: “In Our View: Defeat I-892.”

Great editorial, and I encourage you all to read it. As The Columbian points out, I-892 would permit slot machines at 87 locations in Clark County alone! 87!

They also point out an ironic quote from our friend Timmy:

Eyman told The Associated Press last month that “a monkey could be the sponsor of I-892 and the voters would still approve it.”

Yeah… well. There’s so many places to go with that line.

But I’m going to leave it to your imagination, show uncharacteristic restraint, and instead suggest that we all just pretend that a monkey did indeed sponsor I-892. In the end, this initiative is not about Tim Eyman or tax cuts… it’s about gambling. It’s about putting 18,255 slot machines into over 2000 bars, restaurants and bowling alleys in nearly every community in our state.

It’s about the future of Washington, and a decision that if wrongly made, we will never be able to go back on. For once we enhance the gambling industry’s power in Olympia with an additional $1.2 billion a year in profits, they will surely use it to bring us more gambling, not less.

by Goldy, 09/18/2004, 3:40 PM

Okay… so the Times didn’t actually officially endorse Dave Reichert… yet. But you can read between the lines of today’s editorial: “Stop that car! Turn that dial!

Hell, the headline is transparent enough, but the real giveaway is the fact that they ran this editorial at all.

The King County Sheriff’s office issues a mildly politicized press release, and the state Democratic Party complains. This is routine electioneering — a total non-story.

And yet the Times sees fit to turn it into an editorial attack on Dave Ross? Give me a break.

There’s plenty of important news — not that you’d necessarily know it from reading the front page of the Times — more deserving of self-righteous moralizing than Ross’s failure to dictate the actions of a state party he barely belongs to, or radio duopolist Entercom.

The Times has never been shy about taking sides in political campaigns. Just remember that as you watch their coverage of the 8th District congressional race.

by Goldy, 09/17/2004, 1:40 PM

Oops… he did it again. Washington State’s unOfficial Horse’s Ass, Tim Eyman, is polishing up his bad boy image with revelations that he has once again been caught diverting initiative campaign funds for personal use.

A couple weeks ago, through our sister site TaxSanity.org, I joined in a complaint to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) alleging (amongst other things) that over $26,000 reported in June as a printing and mailing expenditure for Initiative 864, actually paid for a fundraising letter on behalf of Tim’s “separate”, personal compensation PAC. We went on to suggest that Tim failed to properly report that the compensation committee’s operations are entirely subsidized by the initiative campaign committee.

The PDC has decided to launch a full investigation.

Tim didn’t help himself much in trying to explain away the discrepancies… in fact, despite initially claiming our complaint was “filled with lies,” he has subsequently admitted to all our charges. In a letter to the PDC, Tim confirmed that the June expenditure was indeed for the compensation fundraising letter, and went on to say that “our campaign committee pays for these mailings and the accounting and other costs associated with our compensation fund.”

Tim justifies these expenses, stating that “the letters sent on behalf of our compensation fund also benefit the campaign committee,” and twice describes his committees activities as part of “an ongoing, year-after-year effort.”

I couldn’t agree more. But… the logic works both ways.

Indeed, a stronger argument can be made that I-864 campaign activities benefit the compensation committee, as Tim explicitly solicits compensation funds by trumpeting his political mischief-making: “If you appreciate our past efforts and you want us to continue fighting for taxpayers, please send us a generous contribution.”

On the other hand, I can find no documented evidence that Tim has ever solicited contributions to his campaign committee on the merits of his outstanding achievements in personal remuneration.

Tim has now filed amended reports restating the purpose of the June expenditure, but making the ridiculous assertion that only 20% of the benefit from the compensation fundraising letter actually accrued to the compensation committee.

Whatever.

Tim can quibble over how much each expense benefits one committee or another, but it is now abundantly clear that these two committees are separate in name only… a rhetorical convenience Eyman uses to falsely claim that he is not compensated from initiative campaign monies. But every penny the campaign committee spends on compensation committee activities is a penny freed up to compensate Tim… that $26,000 expenditure was as good as writing Tim a check.

It is time for the PDC to dispel the fiction, force full disclosure, and then pass on the evidence to the appropriate prosecutorial authorities, so that our more serious allegations of conspiracy to commit wire-fraud and mail-fraud can be fully investigated.

Tim’s always yelling about the need for politicians to be held accountable. Well it’s time for him to be held up to his own standards. And to be hoist by his own petard.

by Goldy, 09/17/2004, 12:09 PM

In the leed sentance of an emale to suporters today, Tim Eyeman wrote:

Sims’ defeat sends an unamiguous, undeniable message

You cant get much mor amiguous then that.

by Goldy, 09/16/2004, 1:08 PM

One of the more interesting races on Tuesday was the 36th Legislative District Democratic primary between Rep. Helen Sommers and challenger Alice Woldt. From my perspective, they were both good candidates, but what made this race curious was the enormous — possibly record — amount of money spent in a state house primary.

Legislative primaries are usually low-key affairs, especially since incumbents rarely draw strong challengers. Many incumbents spend less than $20,000. But total spending on this primary could exceed a whopping $400,000, much of it coming from a disgruntled Services Employees International Union, who unsuccessfully targeted Rep. Sommers after her Budget Committee failed to give home health care workers the raise the wanted (and to be fair, deserved.)

Writing in the Seattle Times about Rep. Sommers’ narrow victory, Joni Balter says the union sent a strong message to the Legislature:

The Service Employees International Union sent a message to every legislator in the state. When the tough guys at SEIU come and ask you to jump, the correct response is not “I will think about it” or “I have a budget to balance.” If you would rather not be ground to a pulp next election, the right answer is “How high, sir?”

Joni is one of Seattle’s more thoughtful and evenhanded political commentators, but I think she got this one wrong. That was the message the SEIU intended to send to legislators. The message they really sent was: “Oh my God are we pathetically ineffectual, or what?”

Union “tough guys”? I’ve lived in Philadelphia and New York, cities with unions that make the local SEIU look about as tough as the Seattle Men’s Choir. You want to influence a legislator? You make them an offer they can’t refuse. You want to threaten them? You better back it up, and make sure that, come election day, their political career is sleeping with the fishes.

My regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I generally sympathize with labor on a broad range of issues, and I’m forever grateful for the money they spend fighting the good fight. But it is so disheartening to watch narrow special interest groups, like the evil-genius Building Industry Association of Washington, dominate public policy, while labor — who should be the most powerful and influential political force in the state — can’t even defeat one little old lady!

Personally, I wouldn’t have targeted Sommers, who to be fair, tends to vote overwhelmingly pro-labor. And pro-environment. And pro-other-things-I-believe-in. The SEIU’s interests might have been better served spending the money on behalf of a handful of close general election races, thus possibly swinging control of the Legislature. Win or lose, they would have earned some gratitude.

But if you’re going to put a hit on a politician you damn well better finish them off.

The SEIU seems to be following the Roman dictate, it’s better to be feared than loved. But a couple more fiascos like this, and they’ll be neither.

by Goldy, 09/15/2004, 6:47 PM

Olympia, WA, September 15 — Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed released the results of an “unscientific survey” of 704 voters, finding that 79% oppose the state’s new partisan primary. The state’s popular “blanket primary”, which allowed voters to choose candidates in either party, was recently ruled unconstitutional.

Secretary Reed, an outspoken critic of change, said he was unsurprised by the results after his office received thousands of angry phone calls and emails, apparently demanding the state violate the constitution.

Other results from the survey reveal that 68% of voters oppose paying taxes, while 72% want dramatically higher spending on roads, health care and education. 62% of voters prefer no taxes and higher government spending.

74% of voters support a free lunch, and 82% want to have their cake and eat it too.

Surprisingly, only 34% of those surveyed favor a controversial initiative that would ban death, although support climbs dramatically when the proposed language includes a Monkey’s Paw provision.

When asked for comment, professional initiative panderer Tim Eyman blamed the human condition on King County Executive Ron Sims and his “Cadillac Council”, claiming that the survey represents the “final nail in the coffin of, uh… coffins.”

Representatives of the undertakers lobby were not available for comment.