Seattle Post Intelliigenser
The battle to control the State Senate: All politics is NOT local
BY JOEL CONNELLY, SEATTLEPI.COM
Published 10:38 am, Wednesday, October 26, 2016
OAK HARBOR -- The candidates' forum at Oak Harbor Elks lodge, featuring contenders for Congress, the Legislature and Island County Commissioner, appeared on the surface to demonstrate House Speaker Tip O'Neill's old axiom: "All politics is local."
Until, that is, you run down the list of $900-and-above contributions to incumbent Republican State Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. Only three names appear from within the district. The GOP is calling up big outside donors because it needs to hold Bailey's seat to maintain its majority in the Legislature's upper chamber.
The Democrats have recruited, as their 10th District Senate candidate, ex-Island County Commissioner Angie Homola, a Navy aviator's wife who became a citizen whistle blower. She upset Island County's de facto political boss Commissioner Mac McDowell in 2008.
Bailey has raised just short of $400,000, and has been aided by six-figure "independent" spending by the pro-GOP Good Government Leadership Council. Homola has taken in $252,000.
The Bailey war chest bespeaks corporate power and the carbon economy with dollars from Allstate Insurance, the American Chemistry Council, Anheuser Busch, Avista (the Spokane-based utility), the BNSF Railroad, and BP North America, Chevron and the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund.
The debate showed what their dollars are defending. Homola is for repealing tax loopholes and argues: "We need to have tax equity in Washington." She is also an environmentalist, although a staunch defender of Navy aviation at Whidbey.
Bailey re-christened and defended tax loopholes, saying: "Most tax incentives are exactly that, incentives to bring jobs to our area." She refused to rule out privatizing at least a few state parks: One 10th District park has been suggested for such a fate. "You cannot treat every park the same," said Bailey. "Therefore, I believe we should do some creative things."
A League of Women Voters moderator took note of Bailey's pledge to maintain "core services" of state government while opposing new revenue measures. "Which do you consider non-core that can be dispensed with?" Bailey was asked.
"I don't understand why I am being asked another question," Bailey replied. She then threw up a generalized answer: "There are a lot of things we fund right now that we are not required to do by law."
The Republicans' 25-member majority in the 49-member Senate is a fairly big tent. Take, for instance, State Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, who represents Mercer Island, parts of Bellevue and the East Side.
Litzow is different, in temperament and ideology, from the prickly, ultra-conservative Bailey. He voted for same-sex marriage. Bailey voted no as a House member. Litzow was on hand at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral when then-State Sen. Ed Murray married his longtime partner Michael Shiosaki.
Litzow and other Eastside Republicans blocked the so-called "bathroom bill", which would have blocked transgender persons from using the rest room of their sexual identity. Bailey was a House cosponsor. Litzow is pro-choice and one Republican not to be endorsed in Christian conservative Rev. Joe Fuiten's "Pastors Picks."
Litzow is getting absolutely no thanks for his progressive stands, and finds such groups as League of Conservation Voters sending volunteers to canvass for his opponent Progressives are gunning for the 41st District lawmaker.
They argue that Litzow's vote sustains Republican control of the Legislature's upper chamber. It keeps Donald Trump's state co-chairman, State Sen. Doug Erickson, R-Ferndale, as chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. Trump's They point to such legislation as the Washington Voting Rights Act, and Gov. Inslee's polluters-pay plan, that GOP Senate leaders have blocked from even a floor vote.
Snarky remarks are part of politics. The Stranger is unabashedly condescending toward its readers when it rolls out endorsements every election. The bluntly stated message: We do the thinking for you.
Elections have consequences for ordinary people. Votes in Coupeville, and Mercer Island, Vancouver and Issaquah will have a big say in setting the state's direction.
In the 41st District, Litzow was architect of legislation that created a new money source for charter schools, after the Washington State Supreme Court threw out a 2012 initiative that used general fund money.
Litzow chairs the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, which has helped find almost $5 billion for all-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes. The Legislature is still under a Supreme Court order to fully fund K-12 education.
The Washington Education Association passionately opposes charter schools. Charter schools have powerful, moneyed supporters. The two sides are slugging it out in the race between Litzow and his Democratic challenger, businessman Lisa Wellman.
Wellman is sympathetic to capital gains taxes on high income earners, as a way of getting the money to fully fund K-12. Litzow has dismissed capital gains taxes as a "gateway drug" that would lead to a state income tax.
Litzow has the state's biggest legislative campaign war chest, $752,000 at last count, backed up by independent spending by the Washington Realtors Assn. and $154,000 from a GOP outfit called Citizens for Progress Enterprise.
The Democrats are learning to be a big tent as well. They will regain State Senate control if State Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, holds his 5th District seat in eastern King County. He is challenged by popular State Rep. Chad Magendanz, a leading Republican voice on education.
Mullet and Magendanz have raised more than $900,000 between them, with independent expenditures pushing the cost of the race to $1.5 million.
Mullet is a vote for charter schools. So is Guy Palumbo in the 1st District, which straddles the King-Snohomish County line. He is a Democrat who upset very liberal State Rep. Luis Moscoso in the August primary. He is running for the seat of retiring State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, a WEA ally.
The 17th District, in Clark County, is another prime battleground. Ex-State Rep. Tim Probst came within 77 votes of beating blustery GOP State Sen. Don Benton in 2012. Benton is not running again, and has become state chairman of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
Probst is faced off against Republican Rep. Lynda Wilson, who has been aided by $300,000 in spending by the Good Government Leadership Council. The two candidates finished the primary in a virtual tie.
Democrats have repeatedly targeted State Sen. Steve O'Ban in the 28th District of Pierce County. O'Ban easily won in 2014 the Senate seat to which he was appointed, and ran well ahead of Democrat Marisa Peloquin in the primary.
All these races will be overshadowed on election night, but their outcomes will cast long shadows in Olympia come January