Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gridlock in Olympia?

Divided government again seems to be the outcome of yesterday's election in Washington State.

There were no surprises in Washington State Senate races. The Democrats picked up one seat and the Republicans another. Still at a Republican majority of 26-23.

The shocker was the State House of Representatives. The House's Democrats well-oiled machine was expected to lose few if any seats. But based on last night's count, Republicans may have picked up 4 seats taking the Democratic advantage down to a few votes.

However, only half the votes are in and a total of 6 seats are within striking distance for either party.   Two are very close. Rep. Larry Seaquist (Bremerton) trails Republican Michelle Caldier by only 78 votes.  In the 28th district, Democratic newcomer Christine Kilduff (University Place) trails Republican Paul Wagemann by a mere 69 votes.  Three Democratic districts are also in play. Kathy Haigh (Shelton) leads by 423 votes, Monica Stonier (Vancouver) trails by 526 votes. and Dawn Morrell (Puyallup) trails by 1,300 votes. The only Republican seat in play could be the open seat in the 41st districts where Democrat Mike Wilson trails Mark Harnsworth by 728 votes.

So what is the bottom line?  House Democrats will hold somewhere between 56 seats and a tie. Most likely outcome?  51-47.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Washington State Elections - the Battle for the State Senate

The 2014 election in Washington State is simply about control of the Washington State Senate. The Governor is not up for reelection and House Democrats appear firmly in control.  The State Senate is close. The are currently 23 Democrats and 26 members in the Republican Majority Coalition.

The Belleveue/Redmond 48th District of retiring Republican Majority Coalition leader Rodney Tom is almost certain to turn Democratic with Democratic Rep. Cyrus Habib winning 2/3 of the vote in the primary with no serious opposition in the general from the Republican candidate. That takes the count to 24D - 25R. 

To determine which of the remaining races are in play, simply follow the money. The money is being spent in 5 one million dollar plus races: 

  • In the 35th district, incumbent and Majority Coalition member Tim Sheldon nearly lost in the primary to a Republican Travis Coture.  However, Sheldon is likely to pick up most of the Republican votes in the general. In this near $1,000,000 race, Sheldon has raised nearly a half a million million compared to Democrat Irene Bowling's $300,000. 

  • With the retirement of Democratic leader Tracey Eide, former seven term Democratic legislator Mark Miloscia has switched parties and is running as a Republican against Democrat Shari Song in the Federal Way 30th district. Miloscia is said to have door-belled every residence in the district at least five times  This is yet another million dollar race with Song and Miloscia nearly tied in fundraising.  Miloscia got nearly 60% o the vote in the primary. 

  • In the Lakewood/University place 28th district, Republican Senator Steve O'Ban is being challenged by Rep. Tammi Green. O'Ban was appointed to the position in 2013 after serving in the house for one year. Rep. Green has served 5 terms in the House.  O'Ban has outraised Green two to one with $730,000 in contributions at this point. While, O'Ban got 56% of the vote in the primary, Tammi Green has mounted a credible but late campaign. 

  • Up in Whatcom County, Incumbent Republican Doug Ericksen has pulled in over a half a million dollars against Democratic challenger Seth Fleetwood.  Erickson got 57% in the primary. 

  • Finally, in the Kirland/Eastside 45th district candidates have raised well over $1,500,000. Incumbent Andy Hill has raised the most of any candidate spending well over a million dollars compared to Matt Isenhower's $500,000 - which is also the top dollar amount raised by a Democrat.  Hill got nearly 54% in the primary. 

Republicans have out spent democrats by over a million dollars in these 5 races and it looks like they will win all five races. With the Rodney Tom seat switching to the Democrats, odds are that the Senate will remain 26 R and 23D.  What does this mean for Washington State?  It has something to do with climate change and K12 education funding.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Region Without Social Capital

This morning's paper was filled with depressing news.  Our Metro Transit services is facing dramatic cuts due to the voters rejection of Proposition 1 on Tuesday. Washington schools are sending out notices to parents that their schools are failing due to the failure of the legislature to come to agreement on teacher performance standards.The key word here is failure. We have bickered and failed to come to agreement on everything from mass transit to school, arena and state roads and highway funding.

The Seattle Metro region ranks is one of the most economically vibrant and resilient metro areas in the country ranking 5th in the nation according to the Institute of Government Studies at the U.C. Berkeley. We also rank 8th in the nation in business environment.  But when it comes to community connectivity (you might call this term social capital) we rank 205th in the nation. When it comes to income equality we rank 105th in the nation.

The bottom line is that the Seattle Region lacks the glue that brings people together. We lack the social capital to get things done.  Our business community lacks the interest in solving big regional problems. Pollsters tell us that we are the most anti-tax blue state in the country. Perhaps much of this has to do with the fact that we are a in-migration state. People come here from elsewhere bringing their education with them and maybe just don't feel invested in our education and governmental institutions. Maybe we are just a bunch of know-it-alls who think we are the only ones with the real answers.

Whatever the cause, I think the real problem is trust.  Our citizens lack both trust in government and in each other. This is a serious and expensive problem. Failure to make long term investments will hurt all of us.