State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, raised eyebrows last week when he spoke up at a meeting of the 43rd District Democrats. He hadn’t been planning to say anything about Initiative 1351, the Washington Education Association’s proposal to force smaller class sizes in every grade. But when a WEA representative got up and asked for an endorsement, and said the teachers’ union basically was doing the Legislature a favor by forcing it to do the right thing – Pedersen couldn’t help himself.
“It probably wasn’t politically smart to speak out against it, but I felt I had to say something,” he explains.
He talked about the programs that would have to be cut to pay for the measure, and the lack of evidence that 1351 would do any good. By the time he got done, he not only had defeated the endorsement, he convinced most of the room the initiative is a multi-billion-dollar menace. Some 57 percent of the Democrats who were there voted to oppose it; two more votes and the 43rd-district Dems would have gone on record against it.
Certainly it was remarkable that Democratic-party activists in one of the state’s most progressive districts failed to stand with the teachers’ union. But more remarkable is that the argument took place at all. By no stretch could Pedersen’s impromptu remarks be called organized opposition, but this election season it is the closest thing to it. No one has launched a campaign to oppose Initiative 1351 – this in a state where even the most innocuous initiative can count on at least a token opposition effort.More