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Election 2012: Winning another Civil War?

In Washington and nationally, a first look at winners and losers.

Ballots, of course, are still being counted, but we can draw a few conclusions from this election. For one thing, looking at the national map, it's clear to see that the North won the Civil War — again. The Obama coalition of women (God bless them!), youth and minorities showed up, against some predictions, and re-elected the president handily, and that turnout helped turn Washington very Blue once again.

Washington became the first state in the nation to legalize recreational pot use, and with bipartisan support. Same-sex marriage was leading in the returns, and so was Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, with a narrow but significant lead over Republican Rob McKenna. Inslee seemed to be helped by the Obama tide and the loyalty of state Democrats.

Obama was carrying King County with nearly 70 percent of the vote, Inslee with 63 percent. The Democratic turnout was strong enough, and loyal enough, to give Inslee a boost even as independent voters seemed to favor McKenna. There were exceptions. While Inslee did well in King County, the bastion of McKennacrats — voters who went for an Obama-McKenna slate — appear to have been concentrated in Pierce county, the only county in central Puget Sound where McKenna was ahead.

At the Congressional level, the race to watch was between two political foxes: Republican Slade Gorton and Democrat Tim Ceis, the sly partisans responsible for drawing the boundaries of the new 1st District. In a district that is literally 50-50 R & D, who would win in the maiden campaign? Score one for Ceis, who saw Democrat Suzan DelBene beat Republican John Koster by a wide margin. She also was winning the election to fill out the balance of Jay Inslee's term in the old 1st District, which means she'll get a leg-up seniority-wise on her fellow freshman.

It turns out, the precincts in the new 1st tend to go Republican — except in presidential election years, when, probably due to turnout, they skew slightly Democratic. Thus, it was important for the Democrats to take the seat now so they can defend it from the position of incumbent strength in two years. The other redrawn Congressional districts yielded no surprises: incumbents were safe, by design, and Democrats won the two open seats in the 6th and the new 10th, also by design.

In the U.S. Senate, Maria Cantwell coasted to re-election, the Democrats look to maintain control of the state Senate, and in the Tuesday returns, Democrats held leads for all but one statewide offices, from governor on down to insurance commissioner, much as they had during the summer primary. The exception was Secretary of State. If that trend continues, state Republicans could be nearly shut out from state executive positions, and see the defeat of the best GOP candidate for governor since John Spellman, the last Republican to be elected governor of Washington (in 1980). In short, the election results could be devastating and marginalizing for the state GOP. On the other hand, McKenna hasn't conceded.

One thing we can all hope for: a final result that won't lead us into Dino Rossi recount territory.

Showing the state's independent thinking, the charter schools initiative was too close to call, but leading slightly, and no surprise that the latest measure requiring a two-thirds vote for new taxes passed handily, as it has in the past. The concept, though, is still under review by the state Supreme Court which, if there is justice, will toss it as unconstitutional.

In Seattle, the seawall bond issue was a big winner, not unexpected in a city always almost eager to raise its taxes (except on lattes) and perhaps boosted by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, which gave everyone a reminder of the vulnerability of cities on the sea. The city too is ready to get on with the waterfront redevelopment.

The election appears to be a major setback for advocates of Cascadian secession who might have seen a boost from a Romney victory. The Obama win and Washington's big Blue year appear to keep the state in sync with the national mood. While America might be a nation narrowly divided politically, Washington appears to be on the winning side once again.

Knute Berger is Mossback, Crosscut's chief Northwest native. He also writes the monthly Grey Matters column for Seattle magazine and is a weekly Friday guest on Weekday on KUOW-FM (94.9). His newest book is Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes On Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, published by Sasquatch Books. In 2011, he was named Writer-in-Residence at the Space Needle and is author of Space Needle, The Spirit of Seattle (2012), the official 50th anniversary history of the tower. You can e-mail him at mossback@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 10:36 a.m. Inappropriate

If anything, the initiative and referendum results show that there is a swing towards libertarianism in this state. The top-two primary may have killed the once thriving Libertarian Party, and most people who voted on these measures probably don't even know what the term means, but the trend is definitely building. So it wasn't a victory for the left or the right. It was a victory for the third dimension. Political space isn't a line anymore.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 10:41 a.m. Inappropriate

I agree, except was the Libertarian Party ever thriving in this state?

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 3:25 p.m. Inappropriate

There were the occasional legislators and a smattering of local officials, and Libertarian candidates were always on the general election ballot. They were recognized as an "official party" (or whatever the designation was) in the state because they routinely polled more than 15% of the vote. (I may have that number wrong, but it was certainly more than 5%.) Compared to other third parties, the Libertarians were playing the big time.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 12:57 p.m. Inappropriate

The Tacoma/Pierce County reactionaries Mr. Berger honors with the genteel label "McKennacrats" also prove themselves to be viciously homophobic and Ayn Rand malevolent.

At present, with slightly less than half the votes counted, they're rejecting marriage equality by a 52 percent margin. As a Tacoma-born colleague of mine pointed out in the context of a related story a few years ago, what else could you expect from the place that has more churches and church-going zealots than any other municipality in the state?

But the most damning result – the tally that truly reveals the core viciousness of the Tacoma/Pierce County voter – is how by nearly the same margin these voters are using the ballot to savage anyone who can't afford an automobile.

Once again brandishing their Moron Nation shibboleth that "transit is welfare – so let's kill the bums by killing transit," the voters were vetoing a last-ditch, save-our-system measure proposed by Pierce Transit.

The transit agency asked the voters to choose between two alternatives, a tiny, three-tenths-of-one-percent sales-tax increase – that's three pennies on a $10 purchase – or a 53 percent cutback in bus service: no service on weekends, no service after seven p.m. on weekdays, and service on the few surviving routes reduced mostly to one bus per hour.

Is there any chance for a last-minute reversal in the vote count?

Two well-positioned local sources were asked that question, but their responses were naught but silence.

In other words, the anti-transit forces of Tacoma and Pierce County have won again – not really a surprise since they've rejected every other such proposal, whether from Pierce Transit or its Seattle-based regional counterpart Sound Transit, at least as far back as the '90s.

Meanwhile what nobody in authority wants to admit is that a cutback of such magnitude will almost certainly mean the death of Pierce Transit. About a fifth of its operating revenues come from the fare box. A service reduction of 53 percent will slash fare-box revenue, probably enough to bankrupt the agency and shut it down permanently.

Which one authoritative source says will leave Tacoma/Pierce County the largest urban area in the industrial world without public transportation: a monumental nadir of greed, bigotry and unadulterated hatefulness that is already attracting international attention.

No doubt there are wealthy speculators gleefully waiting in the proverbial wings to offer a for-profit bus company to serve the rich suburban commuters whose hatred of the urban poor motivates the sneeringly negative votes.

The rest of us – those of us who are elderly, disabled, chronically impoverished and therefore dependent on public transport for medical appointments, grocery shopping and other life-sustaining errands – are thus handed the Ayn Rand version of a termination notice: "we don't want you here; hurry up and die."

Posted Thu, Nov 8, 8:24 a.m. Inappropriate

Which one authoritative source says will leave Tacoma/Pierce County the largest urban area in the industrial world without public transportation: a monumental nadir of greed, bigotry and unadulterated hatefulness that is already attracting international attention.

Don't you see the problem, Loren? It's got nothing to do with rejection of that ballot measure.

The state legislature created TWO completely unaccountable taxing districts to provide transit services for there: a RCW 36.57A “PTBA” (Pierce Transit) and a RCW 81.112 regional transit authority (Sound Transit). Each imposes heavy regressive taxes on the people there, and here you are whining about how neither is providing transit. Trust me, giving that PTBA more taxing authority wouldn't have been any kind of solution.

If those were constitutional governments I'd suggest you and your neighbors elect smarter, more frugal and industrious representatives to serve your interests on those governing boards, to try and fix the problems they already have created. That's of course impossible for you and your neighbors (the state legislature flouted the 14th Amendment's limit on its powers, and delegated substantial "transit" governmental powers to those boards controlled by political appointees).

Hey Loren -- people didn’t feel it wise to approve an additional regressive taxing power request made by that unaccountable board that has not been managing transit services well. That was a rational move on the part of your community.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 1:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Not sure that I would give Ceis a point for the 1st CD. DelBene still may have pulled it out, but Koster's last minute self destruct with the "rape thing" comment likely drove away independents, especially those in King and Snohomish.

Posted Wed, Nov 7, 1:43 p.m. Inappropriate

Not sure that I would give Ceis a point for the 1st CD. DelBene still may have pulled it out, but Koster's last minute self destruct with the "rape thing" comment likely drove away independents, especially those in King and Snohomish.

Posted Fri, Nov 9, 1:27 p.m. Inappropriate

It's not only the latte tax which failed here. Seattle voters also voted against stadium taxes, and for Initiative 91 limiting subsidies for sports venues. If we get a chance, we'll vote the same way again.

simorgh

Posted Sat, Nov 10, 8:32 p.m. Inappropriate

What was really decided?

The national Democrats weren't leaders for pot legalization.

They only adopted full support of gay marriage two months before the election.

Their union supporters would never let them adopt charter schools.

And a 2/3rds majority to raise taxes is anathema to everything Democrats stand for!

Although women's issues were at the fore, there were no major initiatives related to women on the ballot. And our female Governor was replaced by a male, reducing the number of women at the top positions from 3 to 2!

If anything our bleeding edge initiatives both sides have put us at odds with the national leadership even more than before!

jabailo

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