Listen, this thing’s not over ‘til it’s over.
That’s the sentiment the Yes on 1631 campaign is clinging to. The coalition behind the carbon fee on the ballot this year faced a rollercoaster of emotions last night. The first ballot counts had them leading the pack with 56 percent of the vote. People hugged, people cried. It was jubilant—momentarily.
I called Nick Abraham, communications director for Yes on 1631 this morning. How are you? I asked.
"Tough night," Abraham responded, his usually upbeat tone was flat. "We’re not ready to make a final call on this yet."
It turned out that the original 56 percent win was just from King County. Then, the votes from the rest of the state started to come in. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was pretty fucking dismal. People hugged and cried again. For different reasons.
As of right now, after the initial count (there are still more counts to come), the Yes campaign is trailing with 43.68 percent of the vote.
Nicole Vallestero Keenan, the executive director of Puget Sound Sage, said that the campaign had hoped to have at least 46 percent at the end of the night last night. Then there would've been a solid chance. At this point, any shred of hope has faded to a dull glimmer.
Still, Abraham and the rest of the coalition are waiting for the next ballot drop at around 4:00 p.m. today before they make any calls.
"I think what is still clear from this is that $31 million has a lot of influence," Abraham said, talking about the mountain of financial opposition Yes on 1631 faced. The No on 1631 campaign raised $31.5 million, making it the most expensive counter-campaign in Washington state history. Around 99.6 percent of that money was from out-of-state oil companies.
At a different election night party last night, The Stranger's Lester Black received this gleeful little note from hell-goblin Tim Eyman:
He writes that he's absolutely thrilled that the carbon tax (it's a fee, Tim) got shot down and that the ban on statewide grocery taxes passed (Yes on 1634—a measure created and stumped by soda companies). At the end, he writes that there is a "clear anti-tax message tonight."
That really got my blood boiling, and not just because Eyman is a repugnant tax-hating troll. This election didn't show that voters are anti-tax. It showed that money wins.
Which is incredibly disheartening. These two controversial ballot measures alone had over $52 million of financial support. Most of that money came from giant corporations, not people. No on 1631's hired mouthpiece, Dana Bieber, earned over $67,000 in three months to spew bullshit (and that figure is just counting up until Oct. 29). Bieber said that she and her oil overlords agree that climate change is the most urgent issue in our lifetime, yet they are single-handedly working against it and working only in their own interests.
I feel today the way Abraham sounded on the phone. Not because I poured my heart and soul into creating meaningful climate policy for five years—I can't imagine how that feels—but because of the dreary picture this paints for the future of politics. As of last night, King County, Jefferson County, and San Juan County were the only counties to vote in favor of I-1631. Was the rest of the voting public swayed by the barrage of misleading ads?
The Yes on 1631 coalition kept saying that they have people power behind this issue. From what I saw before the election, that was true. But so many other people trust the ads they see on TV, they don't bother to get educated on these issues, and they vote against their own interests.
“This is a clear victory for working families, consumers, small businesses and family farmers across our state—as well as for our environment,” said Bieber, according to a No on 1631 press release. “Washington voters have soundly defeated this costly, unfair and ineffective energy tax.”
Many of those voters—like those counties in Eastern Washington who are getting used to choking on wildfire smoke through the summer months—will be the hardest hit by climate change. Those family farmers Bieber mentioned? Good luck to them when those extreme droughts hit. But hey, at least they'll save 14 cents at the pump, right?
Despite that grim outlook, the people who worked the hardest on this issue are still optimistic. They're going to keep fighting no matter what.
"People want to do something about this issue," Abraham said. "We’re not going anywhere. This problem is going to get worse and we’re not going anywhere."
Abraham didn't want to say just yet whether or not Yes on 1631 would be looking to push carbon policy through the Legislature. But, he hinted that it could be a possibility.
"We’re not ready to say what’s next for folks," Abraham said. "But what was encouraging was that we saw some anti-environmental candidates get beat last night. The make-up looks much better if we go that route."