There were only a few surprises in last week’s elections. The outcome turned out to be pretty much what I expected: the Republicans took control of the Senate, the state Republicans became the majority in the Senate legislature, Dave Reichert got re-elected to the House of Representatives, and the state voter turnout hovered near 40 percent, about average for midterm elections.
There were a few surprises: Pam Roach’s re-election, the passage of gun background Initiative 594 and the uncertain fate of reducing class size Initiative 1351.
It was a given that the election between Pam Roach and Cathy Dahlquist was going to be bloody. But most of the blood was shed by Sen. Roach just before the primaries when her opponents alleged she had taken advantage of her expense vouchers and had to pay back several thousand dollars to the state for mileage to her Auburn post office box which she used for both private and political mail.
That event may have helped Cathy Dahlquist in the primary vote, but the kickback card was not played again for the general election. That was a surprise. Either it indicates many voters have very short memories or they didn’t care, or many of the voters may never have been aware of the allegations in the first place. None of these options is very pleasant to think about, nor does it say much in favor of our democratic electoral system.
Cathy Dahlquist knew this would be a campaign battle but softened her approach after the primary. The chief campaign strategy she used was her bipartisan alliance with Independent Democrat Rep. Chris Hurst.
Pam Roach ran a better campaign. She very effectively used negative ads and, at the same time, pointed out all her accomplishments during the past 20 years. She got endorsements from fellow Republican Dave Reichert, several local mayors and, surprisingly, the unions. Pam Roach is seen as more liberal than Cathy Dahlquist.
Pam Roach’s comments of the link between state testing and teacher evaluations in The Courier-Herald newspaper debate were a lot closer to the Washington Education Association’s than were Cathy Dahlquist’s.
The passage of Initiative 594 that closed the loophole on gun sales by requiring background checks of all purchases including those at gun shows, was a great victory for reality and reason. With the help of wealthy donors like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Michael Hanauer and Michael Bloomberg, the NRA was thwarted in its attempts to push its agenda over the will of most Americans. The NRA’s death grip on the U.S. Congress has at least been loosened in a state initiative election.
I’ve always been amazed at the reaction of people when a school shooting occurs, rushing out to buy a gun because they’re afraid the “President will take their guns from us” because of the shooting. What these people do not realize is that neither the president nor Congress has any constitutional power to do this because the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Additionally, the NRA lobby is so strong in Congress that even Democrats do not dare to challenge them lest money from the NRA be used to defeat them in the next primary.
Initiative 1351 looks like it may fail, though at this writing the outcome is still in doubt. Its backers desire to ensure better education through smaller class sizes in K-12 is well-meant, but research shows that smaller class sizes are only effective in the lower grades and not so much in the higher levels.
If it passes, this initiative will require the hiring of 7,000 additional teachers, More classrooms will have to be constructed to house the smaller class sizes. It is projected that it will cost the State an additional $2 billion/year.
The State Legislature is already struggling to fund the McCleary court decision. Passage of this Initiative will only make it more difficult to find the money, especially with a large percentage of the public demanding, “No new taxes.”
Elections always bring surprises, but this one had few. The few surprises we did see came either as a result of good political strategy and voter apathy or ignorance, the support of a wealthy few acting for the good of the majority, or hopefully, enough understanding on the part of the majority of voters to turn down an expensive and unproductive attempt to improve education. As Charles Dickens noted 155 years ago, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”