The people have spoken (or at least the people who registered and actually voted) with a message as bold and transparent as a fifth of Smirnoff: Hands off my hooch, Olympia. As the Seattle Times' Melissa Allison writes, the sixty-forty landslide of I-1183 marks a sea change in the state's Depression-era approach to liquor control. "Beginning next June, liquor sales will shift from the state to grocery and warehouse stores, including Costco. It means more than 900 state employees will lose their jobs, most of them workers at state-run liquor stores," Allison writes. "The state budgeting office figures the number of outlets selling liquor will jump from 328 to 1,428. It also expects the change to generate an average of $80 million more in annual revenue for the state and local governments over the next six years."
While Costco literally bought and paid for I-1183, consumer demand seemed to eclipse the Occupy movement's anti-corporate meme. (Consumers will now have greater access to booze, although they won't necessarily experience California-level low prices because of Washington's steep liquor taxes.) "Issaquah-based Costco donated $22.5 million to the campaign for I-1183, making it the largest single donor to a voter initiative in state history," Allison writes. "Only $18.5 million was spent, and campaign leaders said the $4 million difference will be returned, presumably to Costco." Only $18.5 million? Tuesday's election stands as something of a test case. Now the question is, which state will be next in the let-'em-tipple juggernaut.
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon is Washington's most savvy and resilient campaigner (with Rob McKenna tracking a close second). On Tuesday, Reardon beat back a vigorous challenge from Republican Rep. Mike Hope to win his third and final term as county exec. Reardon's thirteen-point margin shocked political observers, who anticipated a much tighter race. All the while, the campaign issued a miasma of voter fatigue: Imagine a knuckle-dragging slugfest and then amp the volume to max. The Everett Herald's Noah Haglund offers one emblematic snapshot. "When someone in the crowd asked whether Hope had conceded the race, Reardon responded with a pun. 'He's very conceited, but has he called me yet?' Reardon said." Ouch.
This year's election was a mettle-testing campaign, in which Reardon proved that he's the real deal. Now, perhaps, voters can enjoy a respite from the politcal din. "The Reardon-Hope contest grabbed headlines for mostly negative reasons, with the opponents publicly accusing each other of a lack of ethics," Haglund writes. "Things got a little rougher last week when the Washington State Patrol acknowledged an ongoing investigation into Reardon's spending during out-of-town travel on county business. A day before word of the investigation hit the media, Hope's campaign called reporters urging them to look into rumors of the probe." A little rougher, indeed. Presupposing Reardon weathers the pending investigation, his political future looks promising.
Other resilient campaigners? Think Jane Hague. As the Seattlepi.com Scott Gutierrez reports, "King County Councilmember Jane Hague appeared Tuesday to be surviving a tough re-election fight. Hague, a Republican who represents the Bellevue area, was leading attorney Richard Mitchell by 54 to 46 percent in early returns." Hague is a political veteran, having served on the council for nearly twenty years.
In fact, the Tuesday-night victory anthem could have been "Happy Days are Here Again," while substituting "incumbents" in place of "happy days." Joel Connelly adds his analysis on the defeat of Tim Eyman's anti-tolling initiative: "Citizens in King County will pay the lion's share of tolls for our state's major new transportation projects, but the bell tolled Tuesday night in Washington's largest county for Tim Eyman's destructive Initiative 1125." Connelly also provides insight into the broader Seattle political scene and the misspent time of once-powerful interest groups. "The tunnel referendum lost, despite a big investment from the Sierra Club. Car tabs were defeated, despite five-figure donations from the Cascade Bicycle Club. Seattle City Councilwoman Jean Godden is on the verge of winning reelection despite catty attacks on her age and moderation."
Oregon voters are thankfully just as schizophrenic as their Washington counterparts. As the Oregonian's Dominque Fong writes, Washington County voters nixed a critical school levy while giving the nod to an urban-renewal district. Fong notes that the urban-renewal district "will move a portion of future property taxes away from schools and other local agencies to beautify central Beaverton." What of the five-year Beaverton school levy? Its defeat is a major setback. "The district estimates it will have to cut between $24 million and $37 million next school year. It could be higher if state funding levels are reduced," Fong writes, citing Beaverton School District Superintendent Jeff Rose. "The levy would have been used to preserve teaching jobs, academic programs, and class sizes." The dichotomy is a little galling: Oregon voters want a better quality of life, although that quality of life doesn't apparently extend to K-12 education.
Lastly, could President Obama ever win Alaska in 2012? No, but he must be making a lot of friends. As the Anchorage Daily News reports this morning, "The Obama administration cautiously offered up more areas in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska's coast to oil and gas drilling Tuesday, but didn't go far enough to satisfy Republicans pushing to greatly expand drilling as a way to create jobs and wean the country off foreign oil." Somehow "The Audacity of Oil" doesn't quite sound right.
Seattle Times, "Voter kick out state liquor business"
Everett Herald, "Reardon coasting past Hope in race for county executive"
Seattlepi,com, "Hague, McDermott leading in King Co. Council races"
Anchiorage Daily News, "Obama to expand oil drilling off Alaska, in Gulf of Mexico"