The thumbs up win in Washington State

SEQUIM, Wash. – The highest profile election victory here Nov. 2 was the reelection of Sen. Patty Murray. She defeated Republican Dino Rossi by more than 100,000 votes.

I was asked to coordinate street-corner “waves” for Murray here in my hometown. We could tell Murray was doing well by the number of motorists, especially women, who honked and gave us the thumbs-up salute, far outnumbering the Republicans who gave us a sour look and the thumbs-down.

My wife Joyce and I spent one afternoon canvassing for Murray up on Bell Hill, where my family once owned a dairy farm. It is now crowded with luxury homes with panoramic views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Mount Baker.

One wealthy resident told me she had already mailed in her ballot, marked for Patty Murray, and was “praying for our country,” that voters reject the lies of the rightwing demagogues. I told her that in my youth, I herded cows on what is now her front lawn.

The Charlie Wiggins vs. Richard Sanders race for a seat on the State Supreme Court is still too close to call. Sanders, the incumbent Supreme Court Justice, was ahead as votes poured in from east of the Cascades. During the campaign, Sanders proclaimed that African Americans are overrepresented in the prison population “because they commit more crime.” He rejected all the evidence that a racist judicial system has anything to do with it.

His opponent, Wiggins, a Bainbridge Island lawyer with broad support of labor, women, African American and Latino organizations, slammed Sanders for this crude racism. When returns were tabulated from Martin Luther King County, which includes Seattle, Wiggins surged ahead of Sanders. Yet the race is still too close to call.

Mail balloting here may have been a factor in blunting the ultra-right juggernaut. Vote suppression targeted at the working class is the key to the Karl Rove Republican election strategy. But here in Washington State, more than 60 percent of registered voters sent in their mail ballots.

The law requires delivery of ballots twenty days before the election, giving voters nearly three weeks to fill out and get their ballots in the mail. And on Nov. 2, right at the 8 p.m. deadline, TV news showed footage of thousands of Seattle voters waiting in line at the handful of polling places to obtain a replacement ballot for the one they lost or mutilated.

It took until Nov. 8 for incumbent Democrat, Rick Larsen, to win a razor thin victory over his Tea Party-backed challenger, John Koster, in the 2nd Congressional District which stretches from north of Seattle to the Canadian border west of the Cascades.

I-1098, the Bill Gates Sr. “Tax the Rich” ballot measure, went down by a two-to-one margin, a measure strongly supported by the Service Employees International Union. My sister, Marion Burns, an SEIU member, was the union’s highest signature gatherer for I-1098, gathering nearly 800 signatures to put it on the ballot. Several other tax and spending initiatives aimed at increasing revenues and preserving legislative budget power went down to defeat. Already Gov. Chris Gregoire is warning of deep, painful cuts in many urgently needed human service programs.

Yet voters rejected by a 70 percent margin a corporate, insurance company scam that would have privatized state Workmen’s Compensation. Not a single county registered a majority vote for this measure. It reflected the determined grass roots campaigning by the building trades unions across the state.

Likewise, voters shot down two ballot measures that would have privatized state liquor stores. Workers in these stores are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) which waged an equally determined campaign warning that privatization would destroy good jobs, undermine efforts to curb alcoholism and also deny the state tens of millions in tax revenues.

Many voters “split their ticket,” casting their ballots for Rossi but rejecting privatization. Those seeking to fight back against the resurgent ultra-right need to study the contradictory message voters were sending. Voters were not voting for political gridlock, and certainly not for repeal of every gain won in the last two years. Polls show 70 percent support for extending unemployment compensation and against attacks on Social Security and Medicare.

Washington State voters helped put up a firewall against the ultra-right in reelecting Murray, blocking a GOP majority takeover of the Senate. Victory was won when the coalition of unions and other progressive organizations succeeded in getting out the vote.

The challenge is to broaden and deepen that coalition. That coalition needs to pay attention to rural voters who cast their ballots for Rossi by big margins even though rural Washington State is just as hard hit by the economic crisis as anywhere else.

Photo: Street-corner “waves” for Patty Murray in Sequim, Wa. Tim Wheeler/PW




Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler is a national political correspondent for the People's World and member of its editorial collective.

He has been a reporter and editor for the working-class press for 43 years. He lives with his wife Joyce in Baltimore, Md., and in Sequim, Wash.


  • I’m always appalled at state liquor stores. Is there any industry more privatized than the production of alcohol; which then is instituted as part of the government service.

    Where then this constitutes a convenience for the classes of society given to automobiles as their typical means of mobility. While any comfortable neighborhood outlet is banished; other than saloons, where only those with significant means as well as attracted to society while imbibing are catered to.

    When symptomatic solutions are what parades as effective, the banal is typically the outcome.

    An interesting variety is excluded for the sake of “mile high” “coffee, tea or me” proprietresses whose qualifications are their connectedness to corrupt administration. Likely as not that second income to constitute a comfortably exclusive household in the midst of so much blatant poverty and social unrest.

    For the record; I’d enjoyed “the Berkeley Liquor Store Review” of the HEAVEN AND HELL team of programmers on Free Radio Berkeley, during the mid ’90s when as a homeless person in the east bay; I’d attended the twice monthly programmer meetings regularly for a year, during the time when Jerry Brown’s “I’M THE PEOPLE” futile run for president dumped a whole slew of KPFA-FM show hosts onto our station, he’d been able to exclude then which included some of the longest standing, most popular people there we’d absorbed. I’d gone on air once with Yukon Hannibal, not long before getting stranded nearly a dozen years in Eureka, CA April of ’96, by terminal engine failure in the $600 ’75 Chevy panel van from Spokane I’d been trying to fix up to live out of.

  • I did not vote for Justice Sanders for a number of reasons – many based on his Libertarians views.

    In fairness his remarks about race and prisons were based on economic class – something all Marxists should find to be at the base of all unfairness in a capitalist culture.

    He basically said more poor people are in prison because they are poor…frankly to ignore that fact and attach it totally to race because the Liberals have used racism to continue their support of capitalism is inexcusable.

    I am glad Sanders is gone (he is anti-worker – all workers) and a Classical Liberal right out of 1890. And I am sure he would not agree with my anti-capitalist views but his statement on race and prison was misrepresented.

  • All things considered, we held the line pretty well here in Washington. However, some tax-limiting initiatives that did pass will put state government into a wringer in the future. Here in Pierce County, the gov has already eliminated 470 county jobs.

  • Please note that I am the “Susan” that wrote the below note about the ballot measures. Please do not confuse me with the other “Susan” that I just noticed who did the snarky comment. Thanks!

  • A good article Tim. I was pleased with our people and of course with the outcome for Patty, but felt the Rove/Chamber machines really got their lying toxic messages out there when it came to the ballot initiatives.

    Losing the tax on the rich is going to cost us nearly a billion in funding for fire, police and other necessities, and repealing the candy tax is a half billion in school funding right down the tubes. Then the initiative that forces a 66% vote for tax increases puts in a law similar to the one that broke the California economy, a law they repealed this year at the ballot box, BTW.

    These three issues combine, I think, to set WA up for some very serious funding losses at a time when people are suffering and need help from the state. I am deeply concerned about this and I blame the horrible fascist corporations and their sociopathic supporters like Karl Rove and all the millions they poured into our state causing this to happen.

  • But sir, why doesn’t the rich lady on the hill owe you something? Why does she have a “luxury home” and you probably don’t? After all, it was your family’s land at one time, and she is now rich and I’m guessing you aren’t. Don’t you feel that under the progressive redistribution of wealth system you espouse that you have been cheated? Shame on you. You should go after that woman for reparations.


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