Supporters took photos with their banners and signs as polls showed an early lead for the anti-affirmative action group Reject Referendum 88 at their election-watching event at 13 Coins in Bellevue on Nov. 5. (Andy Bao/The Seattle Times via AP)

Supporters took photos with their banners and signs as polls showed an early lead for the anti-affirmative action group Reject Referendum 88 at their election-watching event at 13 Coins in Bellevue on Nov. 5. (Andy Bao/The Seattle Times via AP)

Affirmative action measure fails but could resurface in 2020

Supporters started too late and had too little money to explain the problems R-88 would solve.

OLYMPIA — When talking about Seattleites, it turns out it’s actually okay to call them socialists.

They are. Not every one of them. Based on results of the recent election, enough to run the city.

And while a number of residents of cities in Seattle’s shadow also share such leftward leanings, it turns out much of Washington, on both sides of the Cascades, continues to travel farther to their right.

A solid majority backed initiative salesman Tim Eyman’s latest creation to hack car tab bills.

And a sliver of a majority maintained affirmative action as a public policy state agencies cannot use when hiring workers, awarding contracts and admitting students to public colleges and universities.

Passage of Eyman’s Initiative 976 is not surprising. It is the third time in a generation that voters said yes to less costly tabs. Now, like before, a legal challenge will eventually put the fate of the measure in the hands of justices on the state Supreme Court.

On the other hand, rejection of Referendum 88 stings. It was close. The measure is losing by the minuscule margin of 50.5% to 49.5%, or 20,840 votes out of 1.91 million cast.

How could this effort to allow affirmative action fail? This is a state renowned for its progressive politics. It’s where Democrats control majorities in the House and Senate, and one, a former Democratic presidential candidate, inhabits the governor’s mansion.

One reason is supporters’ campaign. They didn’t so much as have a bad campaign as they had literally no campaign.

On Sept. 12, community, labor, business and advocacy groups announced formation of the Washington Fairness coalition to Approve I-1000/R-88. That was a mere five weeks before the mailing of ballots. Another three weeks passed before a large enough contribution arrived to cover the tab of a couple mailers and television commercials.

Not much time or money to educate the state’s electorate on the problems that affirmative action intended to solve. So they didn’t really try. They focused their energies on voters in King County.

This paid dividends, just not quite enough. R-88 is passing with 63% of the vote in King County. That equates to roughly four of every 10 votes cast for the measure statewide. Put another way, without King County, Referendum 88 is getting walloped 57% to 43% statewide.

And in fact, the coalition might have succeeded had fewer voters not skipped this item on the ballot. As of Wednesday morning, there were 66,483 more votes cast on Initiative 976 than the referendum with King County accounting for roughly 18,449 of those.

Another reason for the outcome was voter confusion. The two-sentence description references the Legislature, an initiative, a referendum petition, affirmative action and remedying discrimination. You needed an app to figure out the correct course of action for your personal politics.

A factor underlying all of this is a quiet tension in the community of political progressives. They very much want affirmative action but they didn’t really want an electoral fight this year.

Many were peeved when Jesse Wineberry, a former Democratic state lawmaker, proceeded with Initiative 1000 mostly on his own.

When Wineberry hired Citizen Solutions, the signature-gathering firm used exclusively by Eyman, it effectively cut off any chance of him raising money for a future campaign.

The firm got the signatures but Wineberry stiffed them, according to a lawsuit. The legal fight clouded the conversation this fall.

The preferred timeline was to put an affirmative action measure on the ballot in 2020 when they confidently believe there will be larger turnout of a more favorable electorate.

Including socialists in Seattle.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Watch Gov. Jay Inslee’s Monday news conference here

He is to talk about statewide demonstrations over the weekend.

Inslee embraces peaceful demonstrators, condemns looters

The governor activated the National Guard as protests continued Monday after the killing of George Floyd.

Snohomish County submits application for Phase Two clearance

Officials expect the state will decide “fairly quickly” whether the county is able to proceed.

Edmonds mayor removes finance director with no cause given

Scott James joined the city in 2014. He’s the third department director to leave in the past year.

County staff urges ‘no’ on Point Wells development proposal

County Hearing Examiner Peter Camp could decide the fate of the high-rise project this summer.

Suspected impaired driver crashed with Edmonds police officer

Both the driver and officer were injured Friday night and taken to Harborview Medical Center.

Why does a left-turn signal go green when no cars are there?

A commuter noticed the anomaly at an intersection on Everett Mall Way.

Judge approves 2nd recall effort against Sheriff Fortney

Both recall efforts are gearing up to collect 45,000 signatures to get on the ballot in Snohomish County.

An anonymous flier, an armed response and a plea for justice

At opposite ends of the spectrum: Group with guns in Snohomish, and those who’d skip calling the police.

Most Read