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Glenn Beck says you're not going to vote this year. Bill O'Reilly says you don't have the guts. Sarah Palin says you're going to toss that ballot straight into your socialist recycling bin. And Christine O'Donnell says masturbation is a sin and she's not a witch and she's you and you're not going to vote.
Here's why they say you're not going to vote: because the Republicans are unstoppable. They're going to take the House and the Senate and the pennant and the Oscar and the Emmy and the cake. And they know this because they heard it—and said it—in the echo chamber that is Fox News.
And they're wrong. You're going to vote because races this year are close and winnable (see Patty Murray holding her lead over real-estate tool Dino Rossi), and you can help block the GOP from taking a majority in the Senate or the House. And there's local shit you're going to want to vote on, too, like liquor sales and school levies and those always-thrilling King County Charter amendments. And if you want eye candy, behold the dashing prince running to represent the 34th District—Joe Fitzgibbon.
Vote. Prove Beck, Palin, O'Donnell, and the rest of the health-care-killing, Wall-Street-loving, anti-gay, pro-kitten-rape dickwads wrong.
The SECB is Paul Constant, Christopher Frizzelle, Dominic Holden, Tim Keck, Cienna Madrid, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, and Gloria Gaynor. The Stranger does not endorse in uncontested races.
Initiative Measure 1053
Initiative zombie Tim Eyman is behind this thing—reason enough to vote no. But if you want policy reasons, here they are: Initiative 1053 would require a two-thirds majority to pass any tax increase in the state legislature. Sound familiar? That's because Eyman got voters to pass essentially this same stupid initiative in 2007. (Realistically, there's no way the legislature can get a two-thirds vote on a tax measure when it takes a mere 17 Teabagging Republicans in the state senate to block any tax—even a tax that makes sense.) Thankfully, after the requisite two-year waiting period, Democrats suspended the two-thirds majority requirement this year and then raised a handful of taxes to maintain the most basic state services (like health care for the poorest kids in the state) during the worst recession in state history. Has that worst recession in state history ended? No, but Eyman thinks that putting the legislature in a straitjacket by conning voters into passing I-1053 is a great way to cure what ails us. Want proof that he's full of shit? See California, which is a bankrupt, cracked-out, never-ending clusterfuck thanks to its two-thirds majority requirement. Vote no.
Initiative Measure 1082
The conservative Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) has compared environmentalists to Nazis, called Governor Chris Gregoire a "power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young," spent tons of cash backing two-time Republican loser Dino Rossi, and takes advantage of the state workers' compensation system. The complicated part is understanding how, exactly, the BIAW has managed to turn workers' comp into a cash cow for itself (put most simply, it's a complex kickback program that the BIAW has been working for years), but what you really need to know is that this cash cow has been producing a lot less cash for the BIAW lately and so... this year the group bankrolled Initiative 1082, which would privatize workers' comp.
The BIAW wouldn't have put over $1 million behind this thing if it didn't think it had big money to gain if it passes. "We've been pretty clear about that," BIAW spokesperson Amy Brackenbury told The Stranger in June. And while no one thinks the state workers' comp program is doing just fine—it needs reform—this initiative would privatize workers' comp in a way that hurts workers (by doing away with necessary oversight), screws small businesses (by hiking premiums as much as 18 percent), and helps greedy insurance giants like AIG (which, here's the genius part, would then be in a position to kick the conservative fucks at the BIAW more money in commissions than the state ever did). Vote no.
Initiative Measure 1098
Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation. The poor pay 17.3 percent of their income in taxes, while the rich pay only 2.6 percent of their income in taxes. Say it with us: That is NOT. FUCKING. FAIR.
Especially at a time when our state is broke and services that help the poor are being slashed so that rich people can keep not paying their fair share. Initiative 1098 seeks to even out the playing field by laying an income tax on individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and couples who make more than $400,000 a year. And it only taxes them on the income above those amounts. Doing so would raise more than $2 billion a year for public education and health care. (And, to sweeten the deal, I-1098 would lower everyone's property taxes and cut almost everyone's B&O taxes.)
Class warfare? SHUT. FUCKING. UP. The system we've got now is class warfare—with the rich waging war on the poor. And Bill Gates Sr.—not really known for throwing bombs—is leading the charge on this. Local titans of industry should pay a little more, Bill Sr. says, given how much they benefit from this state's expensive-to-maintain infrastructure, an educated workforce, and a population that's not dying in the streets from preventable illnesses. Rich and poor will benefit if voters approve I-1098.
VOTE. FUCKING. YES.
Initiative Measures 1100 and 1105
Yes on 1100, No on 1105
Every year for the past 13 years, lawmakers in Olympia made a choice. They could pass a bill before them to allow grocery stores to sell hard liquor alongside beer and wine, or they could keep the system we have. The current system looks like this: Liquor is sold at a small handful of state-run stores—stores that look like an homage to East Germany—that aren't open at the time of day when an adult might run out of vodka.
Lawmakers kept that idiotic system.
Why? The short story is that unions representing the employees in those 316 liquor stores intimidated lawmakers into maintaining an inefficient status quo. So since the end of Prohibition, our liquor outlets have been difficult to get to and frequently run out of products, inconveniencing bar and restaurant owners and underscoring how mindfuckingly stupid it is for the state to hold a monopoly over one industry.
Initiatives 1100 and 1105—which would both end the state's stranglehold on all retail and wholesale of liquor in slightly different ways—are the natural consequence of the legislature's fecklessness. But passing both initiatives would result in a tangled mess of laws that could be untied only in courts and, god forbid, with meddling from the legislature. So don't do that.
Instead vote only for I-1100.
I-1100 would allow private businesses to buy licenses at $1,000 a pop to sell liquor starting in June of next year. It would cut out the state's markup on booze (which accounts for half the cost of liquor) while keeping existing state taxes in place. Retailers could buy directly from liquor manufacturers instead of having to buy through a distributor, which is why Costco and Safeway are throwing money behind this initiative (they become wholesalers, essentially). Restaurants and nightlife folk have also endorsed I-1100, because it creates the most flexibility for their businesses.
But I-1105 is a shitty proposal. It gets rid of both the state's liquor markup and taxes, meaning that if Eyman's I-1053 passes—that's the one that effectively prevents the legislature from raising taxes—the state would lose all liquor-tax revenues for at least two years at a time when money is tight. That would devastate some good programs. It would also require a distributor middleman for all booze sales forever—essentially shifting the monopoly from the state to the hands of private distributors. So vote no on I-1105.
You're going to hear a lot of arguments about why you should vote no on both. Those arguments all come from the state Democratic machine that was too lazy to fix the broken liquor system for the past 13 years and the beer industry bankrolling its opposition campaign. Argument 1: This will cost the state money because we forgo the markup on liquor. That's true, but the cost to the state budget is only about $15–$17 million a year (a token sum compared to the billion-dollar deficits we're facing). And two years after we pass this, the legislature can reinstate some of that markup in the form of a tax increase—meaning the state can get that money back and more—so the revenue loss is minimal and temporary. Argument 2: Minors will be able to buy hard liquor. There may be more noncompliance at the convenience stores, true. But let's compare Washington to another state that has privatized liquor. California has an underage-drinking rate of 26.3 percent of teenagers, far below Washington's 31.3 percent rate, according to the federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. California's binge-drinking rates are also much lower. And with our state out of the liquor-selling business, the liquor control board can focus on what it's good at: enforcement.
If you want to see what the anti-liquor initiative campaign is really all about, follow the money.
The opposition campaign, Protect Our Communities, has raised over $8.2 million to fight the initiatives. Most of that dough comes from the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute, a trade association of major brewers (the chairman of the Beer Institute board is also the president of Anheuser-Busch), which are in this because they don't want beer to compete with liquor on grocery-store shelves. Their official arguments are bullshit. They oppose these initiatives because they want to protect the profits of beer megacorporations.
Anyone who tells you that the legislature will pass a better law on its own or that a party who doesn't have a financial stake in privatizing liquor will run a better initiative next year is lying to you. The legislature will never act, and someone's bound to turn a profit when the state gets out of a business it sucks at running and never should have been in to begin with. This is our best chance to shed a crappy system. There's plenty of opportunity to fine-tune the improved system in the next few years. Vote yes on I-1100 and no on I-1105.
Initiative Measure 1107
This measure would repeal temporary taxes on soda, candy, and bottled water.
The reason this tax exists at all is because the state has a budget shortfall, despite cutting billions from departments for the last two years. Lawmakers had to either pass this tax or cut health care for kids, essential funding for public schools, or other programs that help the poorest people in the state. So while it's an arguably regressive tax—sales taxes consume a larger percentage of poor people's income than rich people's—it produces roughly $130 million per year to help the poor. And it's their only hope for funding those programs.
The people behind I-1107 make lying sacks of shit look honest and odorless. The American Beverage Association—they're lobbyists for the world's biggest soda companies—has poured $16.7 million into the campaign in an effort to convince Washington State voters that it would repeal a tax on groceries. This is not a tax on food. Only about $4 million a year would come from a slight uptick in taxes on some processed foods. It's a tax on soda pop. And the American Beverage Association is not in it for the little guy. They're in it to protect the enormous profits of some of the country's biggest companies. Vote no.
Referendum Bill 52
Vote to Approve
Classrooms in schools and colleges are cold in winter, sweltering in summer, and energy inefficient all year long. By passing Referendum 52, voters would allow the state to expand its bonding capacity to issue $505 million in bonds to pay for energy-efficiency improvements in schools. Extending a sales tax on bottled water pays for the bonds; if that tax gets repealed (see I-1107), other money from the state's general fund pays off the bill. Not only would these improvements save energy (which saves the planet and saves the state money), they'd create jobs. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Council estimates that every dollar the state spends will be leveraged to bring in another three dollars from other sources. All told, that will create 30,000 new jobs, according to the state's Office of Financial Management. Vote to approve R-52.
Amendment to the State Constitution
Senate Joint Resolution 8225
Vote to Approve
This constitutional amendment would change the way the state calculates its total debt interest (moving to "net" interest rather than "full" interest as the basis for the calculation). This does not change the total debt limit, but allows us to borrow more federal money for important infrastructure projects. Vote to approve.
Amendment to the State Constitution
Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220
Vote to Approve
This constitutional amendment is a direct response to the murder of four Lakewood police officers last winter by Maurice Clemmons, who'd been released on bail just before the murders, despite a record that should have kept him locked up until trial on other violent-offense charges he was facing. Voting to approve allows judges to hold people who are charged with crimes potentially punishable by life in prison (and who are truly dangerous) without bail until trial. If this had been the case in 2009, those four police officers would probably be alive today. Vote to approve.
King County Charter Amendments 1, 2, and 3
Vote Yes on All of 'Em
King County has a charter that reads like stereo instructions translated from hieroglyphs and, thanks to the county council discovering a new typo every 40 seconds, needs to be amended by voters each fall. Three amendments are on your ballot. Just vote yes for all of them and skip to the next endorsement. (Just in case you're one of those uptight douches who has to know what you're voting on: The first amendment changes the charter's preamble to clarify the word "environment"; the second eliminates a reporting redundancy for political campaigns; the third transfers some public-safety employees' bargaining responsibility from the King County executive to the King County sheriff. That would deliver a more independent and accountable sheriff's office, we say. Fascinating stuff, huh? Next time just take our word for it, and vote the way we tell you to, just like everybody else. Christ.)
Vote to Approve
King County is in a crisis. After cutting $140 million from its general fund over the past two years, the county faces another $60 million shortfall in 2011. County Executive Dow Constantine says that, unless we find a way to bridge that gap, we need to eliminate 71 positions from the sheriff's department, 22 deputy prosecutors, and 42 people from the superior court, and slash human services (like helping victims of sexual assault). That would suck, particularly if you were a victim in need of speedy prosecution of your case, an accused person who needs a public defender, or anyone who expects sheriff's deputies to respond to a 911 call before your next birthday. To save those services, Prop 1 would raise the county sales tax by 0.2 percent. This not only lessens the blow described above, it generates millions for cities (Seattle would get $13 million to help with its own budget problems). Critics of Prop 1 say the budget woes are the county's fault for failing to prioritize public safety. But after two years of slashing, "there's simply nothing left to cut," says Maurice Classen, a King County deputy prosecutor and Prop 1 supporter. Prop 1 would pencil out to less than $3 a month for the average household, supporters calculate. As Bruce Hilyer, presiding judge for King County Superior Court, says, "The bottom line is, do you need those services so much that you are going to fund them with the only tax source you have?" Vote yes.
Patty Murray was right on the Iraq war (voting no when everyone else—hello there, Senator Cantwell—was voting yes), she was right on health-care reform (firmly supporting a public option when lots of other people—hello there, Senator Cantwell—were wavering), and she's just an all-around legislative badass, rising from little-known "mom in tennis shoes" to Senate majority conference secretary. Republican Dino Rossi would have you believe that Murray single-handedly engineered the Great Recession and was the chief architect of the Obamacare Death Panels. But you're not that stupid. You're not going to be taken in by a sleazeball real-estate salesman who's lost two statewide races in a row, wants to repeal Wall Street reform and health-care reform, and proudly said in 2008: "It's amazing what you can get away with if you do it with a smile on your face." What's amazing is that this race is so close.
Congressional District 2
Rick Larsen is a Democrat who represents Everett, Coupeville, Ferndale, and a bunch of other way-north-of-Seattle places that you drove through that one time you got lost on your way to Stevens Pass. But he's part of the current Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and he's in trouble. John Koster, a conservative "third generation dairyman" and Snohomish County councilman, tied with Larsen in the August 17 primary (they each got 42 percent of the vote) and could unseat him on November 2. Need motivation to care about this race? Larsen is pro-choice and voted against the Iraq war, while Koster brags about his "100 percent pro-life voting record" and says that gay marriage would "undermine" traditional families. Vote Larsen.
Congressional District 3
This seat currently belongs to Democrat Brian Baird, who's retiring to "pursue other options," and there are now two possibilities for the seat's future. One: It falls into the hands of Republican lightweight Jaime Herrera—who can't keep her positions on privatizing Social Security straight (she was for privatizing before she was against it) and who recently launched a commercial criticizing "that Washington" while she was sitting in "that Washington" raking in money with Republican creeps. Two: It goes to Democrat heavyweight Denny Heck, elected to the state legislature at age 24, chief of staff to former governor Booth Gardner and all around earnest do-gooder who has the business chops to actually help a district with the highest unemployment rate in the state. Give 'em Heck.
Congressional District 7
If you typed one word for every year that Jim McDermott has been Seattle's congressman, it would be this many. Three more words and then we'll say no more: Send Jim back.
Congressional District 8
There's some chatter lately about this race being closer than expected. We assume it's not because of Republican congressman Dave Reichert's recent brain trauma (a tree branch fell on his head, a blood clot formed on his brain, it lingered for two months unnoticed, parts of his body went numb, eventually he had emergency surgery, and now a doctor who works for the U.S. Congress says he's doing just fine, no worries, nothing to see here, everybody move along). Instead, we assume it's because—even if he is doing just fine—Reichert still sounds like an idiot who's flip-flopped on earmarks (against then for), environmental issues (against or for, depending on who's listening), "don't ask, don't tell" (against then for), and health-care reform (against repeal, now for it). Let's face facts: Reichert was an idiot before a tree branch fell on his head. His challenger, Suzan DelBene, is a right-on-the-issues former Microsoft executive who reminds a lot of people of a certain former Microsoftie who twice came close to unseating Reichert (Darcy Burner). But it's looking like this one may actually have a shot. Here's hoping. Vote DelBene.
Legislative District 34
State Representative, Positions 1 and 2
Eileen L. Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon
Yeah, yeah, Eileen Cody. We want her to beat Ray "Reluctantly Republican" Carter in the race for state representative. Now, please, enough about Cody. Shut up. We want to direct every last bit of our attention to Joe Fitzgibbon, whose plump lips have never uttered a word that didn't make us go, "Squeeee!" Fitzgibbon's opponent is Mike Heavey, whose only qualification is having been shot out of a state senator's balls some nine months before he was born. So Heavey's daddy was a state senator. Big fucking deal. Fitzgibbon—squeeee!—has, at the tender age of 24, racked up more real-world political experience than Heavey could ever hope to have absorbed by osmosis at family gatherings. Fitzgibbon worked in Olympia as legislative aide to Sharon Nelson (D-34), who is endorsing him, and has served on the Burien Planning Commission. He is a defender of bikers (he wants the legislature to reconsider a bill that would up the punishment for drivers who hit them), a fan of staggered bar-closing times, and an opponent of efforts to put Seattle on the hook for downtown tunnel cost overruns. HOT. Vote Fitzgibbon.
Legislative District 36
State Representative, Position 2
Mary Lou Dickerson
Their opponents are a couple of right-wing loons. Vote for Democrats Kohl-Welles and Dickerson.
Legislative District 37
State Representative, Position 2
Both Dem incumbents with challengers in this district—state representative Eric Pettigrew and state senator Adam Kline—have been savvy go-getters on behalf of low-income residents of their Southeast Seattle district. They deserve another term.
Legislative District 43
State Representative, Position 2
We'll admit, we're intrigued by "World Champion Ski Racer" Kim Verde, the elderly widow who's running against Democratic house majority leader Frank Chopp. But she's a nutty Republican. On the other hand, we think Chopp is probably, deep down, the righteous lefty that he claims to be, but you wouldn't know it from his aggressive centrism down in Olympia. Yeah, we know, being house majority leader means you have to look out for the Democrats from the sticks. Well, you know what, Chopp, you also have to look out for your base. If we don't see you swinging for Seattle's interests this session (especially on the downtown tunnel cost overrun bullshit) then we're going to show up at your house in the middle of the night and pee on your lawn.
Legislative District 46
State Representative, Position 2
Phyllis G. Kenney
Incumbent state representative and reliable Dem Phyllis Kenney gets shit done. Next session, she wants to introduce a corporate tax. Her challenger, Beau Gunderson, is a pro–Tim Eyman mess. Vote Kenney.
County Council District 8
Joe McDermott would be the first out homo ever on the King County Council. Even better, he's qualified. McDermott has served in the state legislature since 2001 representing the 34th District (in the house and then the senate), which shares most of its footprint with King County's 8th District. He's sponsored stacks of progressive legislation and helped push through domestic-partnership bills. The Municipal League of King County rated him "outstanding," while his opponent, Diana Toledo, got a paltry "good" rating. More scary, Toledo is a "nonpartisan" with endorsements from right-wing kooks like KVI's John Carlson and Women of Washington. Vote for pole-smokin' Joe.
State Supreme Court
Justice Position 6
No one pays attention to state supreme court races, which is how you end up with guys like 65-year-old supreme court justice Richard B. Sanders—anti-choice, "not a fan" of Martin Luther King Jr., and a two-time veteran of hearings before the state Commission on Judicial Conduct—sitting down at the Temple of Justice in Olympia for 15 years straight. Sanders claims he's a libertarian, and for three terms he's been conning liberals into supporting him by plying them with marijuana-law-reform rhetoric and siding with accused criminals so often that lefties think he's secretly a progressive. But here's the truth: Sanders is a Tea-Party-rally-attending conservative Catholic whose supposedly live-and-let-live libertarianism applies only to himself. How else to explain the following: Sanders signed an opinion in 2006 denying marriage rights to gay couples because, according to the opinion, gays are all nonmonogamous sluts whose relationships don't last long and whose households are unsuitable environments for children. Meanwhile, Sanders has been divorced twice (his second marriage ended when his only daughter was 14), and this election season it became clear that he's in open relationships with two women. Uh. (Who's the nonmonogamous slut now, Richard?) Charlie Wiggins, the former court of appeals judge who's running against Sanders, said he would have voted the same way in the same-sex marriage case, but he's been claiming something of a campaign-trail conversion on marriage rights in light of the recent federal court ruling against Prop 8 in California. Given a choice between six more years of a proven hypocrite like Sanders and a roll of the dice on a vote-hustler like Wiggins, we'll take the hustler this time. Vote Wiggins.
Judge Position 1
What's normally the dullest race in Seattle—after the Ambien-sponsored campaigns for the Port of Seattle, that is—this year morphed into a spitting match with allegations of backroom deals, illegal spending, and incompetence. Get the popcorn.
This vote comes down to a referendum on the Seattle Municipal Court's current presiding judge, Edsonya Charles. While Charles has the demographic qualifications that warm liberal hearts (she's an African-American woman who has climbed to the top of the city's court), she gives us pause. Actually, she brings us to a full stop.
The results of a recent survey by the King County Bar Association (KCBA) shows Charles, who has sat on the bench since 2004, with the lowest rating of anyone on Seattle's court, and even the lowest rating of any municipal or district judge in the county. And as presiding judge in Seattle, her politics are terrible. She protested the city council's effort to eliminate one of the court's eight positions (which would save the city approximately $1 million)—while every other department was making cuts—by threatening to sue the city. That despite a report that showed Seattle's court has a lighter caseload per judge than other nearby municipal courts. Charles also pushed back against city attorney Pete Holmes's compassionate proposal in June to avoid deporting legal residents who weren't citizens (fortunately, Holmes's policy prevailed). In her day-to-day tasks, Charles is infamously caustic on the bench and boorish on panels and boards.
So we're endorsing Charles's opponent, Ed McKenna—despite his supporters. McKenna has the enthusiastic backing of a PAC of DUI attorneys. Apparent conflicts aside (defense attorneys in one specific practice campaigning to oust judges they dislike seems weird), McKenna has a tenure as an even-keeled assistant city attorney, the endorsement of six city council members, and the backing of lots of progressives. The KCBA also rated McKenna in a separate report as "exceptionally well qualified," while Charles got a "qualified." Sorry, Charles, being merely "qualified" is unacceptable for a presiding judge after nearly seven years on the bench. Vote for McKenna.
Judge Position 6
While Judge Michael Hurtado has done some great things on the bench—he's helped shape Seattle's excellent mental-health court, for one—we think it's time that he take a break. At our endorsement meeting, Hurtado dismissed several accounts of angry courtroom outbursts that led to two admonitions from the judicial-conduct commission, retracted his previously stated intent to leave the bench, and now says he has regained his "fire in the belly" for his job. It helps that his challenger, Karen Donohue, isn't some know-nothing greenhorn; she's served as pro tem judge since 1994, and she has a four-point plan to modernize Seattle's archaic court system (ideas include electronic record keeping so that judges can actually have all the facts on hand, unlike the current paper-centric system). Bring the courts into the future. Vote Donohue.
Seattle School District 1, Proposition 1
Another damn school levy? Seriously? Even though we've passed a slew of levies for Seattle Public Schools in the last few years (two this year alone), we need another one. Revenues from the state and school district have fallen short, meaning that Seattle schools are facing an estimated $28 million in cuts for 2011–2012. This three-year property-tax levy would give Seattle Public Schools $48.2 million to help keep vital school programs running, buy new textbooks and materials for students, and pay for an improved teacher contract that provides incentives for better performance. A property worth $200,000 would pay around $22 next year. Critics argue that since the funds aren't dedicated, they won't go into classrooms or to support students. We don't buy that argument. Over 80 percent of the district's operating budget is spent on wages and salaries for teachers and staff. More cuts would mean less staff, worse schools, and a life of perpetual guilt. Vote yes.