OLYMPIA — Tim Eyman, renowned for his crusades against taxes with statewide initiatives and accused of illegally benefiting from some of them, wants to be the next governor.
Eyman declared Thursday he will challenge two-term Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in 2020. It would be his first foray in electoral politics.
Not surprisingly his differences with the incumbent on tax policy will be a focal point.
“As your Governor, I will listen to and abide by the will of the people and only allow tax increases to become law with a 2/3 legislative vote or majority popular vote,” Eyman wrote in a campaign email Friday. “And there will NEVER be a carbon tax, income tax, or pay-per-mile tax as long as I’m in office.”
Eyman, 53, said Friday he has not decided if he will run as a Republican, the political party with which he’s long been associated. In 2004, he was chosen to be an alternate presidential delegate to the Republican National Convention.
We should find out Monday. That’s when he intends to register his campaign with the state Public Disclosure Commission. Because it is a partisan office, filers are expected to choose a political party. This will allow him to raise money. Candidates do not formally file until May.
He enters the race embroiled in a serious legal fight with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
In a suit filed in early 2017, the state accuses Eyman of secretly moving campaign funds between two initiatives in 2012 and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from one of the signature-gathering vendors. Eyman has denied doing anything wrong.
Ferguson is seeking more than $2 million in penalties and a prohibition on Eyman managing, controlling, negotiating or directing financial transactions of any kind for any political committee in the future. The trial is now set for July 2020.
Eyman, who lives in Bellevue, is a former Mukilteo resident. Last year, he filed for personal bankruptcy. He also revealed that he and his wife would be divorcing, citing the stress wrought by the legal fight that had taken its toll on their 25-year marriage. However, he is still registered to vote at the Mukilteo home where she and his children reside.
Also, earlier this year Eyman was investigated for theft of a chair from an Office Depot store in Lacey after a surveillance video captured him pushing it out the door. He reached a settlement to have the charges dismissed if he didn’t commit any crimes and stayed away from that store.
On Thursday, Eyman announced his political intentions while addressing the Sound Transit Board of Directors in Seattle. He was testifying ahead of the board’s conversation on how Sound Transit would respond to passage of Initiative 976, an Eyman-authored tax-cutting measure that is passing statewide.
However, it is losing within the boundaries of Sound Transit which covers parts of Snohomish, Pierce and King counties. It calls for eliminating the motor vehicle excise tax collected by Sound Transit and spent on expansion of light rail and bus rapid transit service. Leaders of Sound Transit on Thursday made clear they don’t think the initiative can force the excise tax to be reduced, inflaming Eyman.
“Voters outside Seattle overwhelmingly passed $30 tabs but our votes didn’t count,” he wrote on Facebook. “Voters in Pierce county repudiated these taxes, Snohomish county voters repudiated these taxes. But Seattle didn’t. I’m so sick of Seattle making all decisions. I want to be the Governor for everyone who’s sick and tired of this crap.”
An Inslee campaign spokeswoman said the governor had no comment on Eyman’s announcement.
Requests for comment from officials of the state Democratic and Republican parties went unanswered.
Andrew Villeneuve, founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, is a sharp critic of the anti-tax measures Eyman pushes. He’s also a vigilant monitor of Eyman’s repeated transgressions of state election laws.
“It could be a joke. It may not be a joke. We don’t know,” he said. “There are some fishy things going on already with his fundraising. It’s like he doesn’t even bother reading the rule book.”
As of Friday, several people have said they are running for governor. Among them are four Republicans — state Sen. Phil Fortunato of Auburn; police chief Loren Culp of Republic; businessman Anton Sakharov, and Joshua Freed, a former mayor of Bothell.