Seattle-area election news covered through the eyes of UW students and faculty.
December 31, 2012 at 7:00 AM
We have filed more than 400 posts on U.S. presidential, state, and local politics over the past 12 months. It’s been an incredible experience as journalists, educators, and citizens. We’re now going to take a break, but we’ll be back in four years for the next presidential rodeo.
Nearly one year ago, on Jan. 14, I boarded an airplane with three University of Washington students and headed across the country. Our mission was epic: to spend a week on the ground reporting on the South Carolina 2012 Republican Party presidential primary. It was our first gig for UW Election Eye, a new blog partnership of the UW’s Department of Communication and The Seattle Times.
One week later I had a pretty good idea who was going to win the 2012 presidential election. Arizona congressional representative Trent Franks told me so.
Franks, one of the nation’s most conservative congressional members and a favorite of the tea party movement, was standing by Newt Gingrich’s bus as Gingrich spoke to supporters in his last stop of the state’s primary. A few hours later Gingrich would win his first statewide race in his life — a double-digit victory over Mitt Romney that upended the Republican primary for a time.
Franks was one of the few members of Congress to endorse Gingrich. A former speaker of the House of Representatives, Gingrich does not have many friends in high political places these days. But Franks is one of them, and he was traveling with Gingrich on the campaign trail.
I spoke with Franks for 10 minutes while Gingrich held court inside a restaurant. Franks told me why he supported Gingrich and why Barack Obama had to be defeated. I thanked him for talking with me and turned to walk away.
That’s when Franks surprised me.
He took hold of my arm and said, “Hold on, I’ve got one more thing to say.” I was listening. He stretched out his index finger and said “The 1 percent. We hear a lot about the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Mitt Romney is a caricature of the 1 percent — rich, out of touch, doesn’t understand most of America. If Republicans nominate Romney in the midst of this terrible economic time, we’re going to lose. That’s why I’m here. We will lose if we pick Romney.”
That’s when I knew: If a diehard conservative, a red-blooded Republican who would do anything to get rid of Obama, thought Romney couldn’t win, then Romney almost certainly wouldn’t win.
That moment is one I’ll not forget. It was one of the hundreds of up-close-and-personal experiences, all over America, that defined UW Election Eye.
November 7, 2012 at 11:19 AM
BELLEVUE — Would-be partiers in Bellevue turned in early last night as news of President Obama’s win filtered through the crowd at the Washington state Republican gathering.
Though the crowd anticipated a win by Rob McKenna, the Republican candidate for governor, those votes won’t be finally counted until later this week, so there was little left to party for Tuesday night after presidential hopeful Mitt Romney lost the national election. Most of the several hundred supporters gathered to party had dispersed by 11:30 p.m.
In the meantime, though, Republican supporters cheered on McKenna as he delivered a speech anticipating victory and spoke of the challenges he would face as the first Republican governor of Washington in nearly 30 years. Though McKenna was down by about 2.5 percent Tuesday night, Washington Republican Party chairman Kirby Wilbur said his team was prepared for a lag Tuesday and expect McKenna to pull ahead again when all the votes are counted later this week.
One such supporter was Seattle resident Shiao-Yen Wu, who said she and her Pomeranian, Zoro, are huge McKenna supporters. They’ve been to many McKenna rallies, so Wu decided to also bring Zoro along to the Washington State Republican Party’s final celebration of the election cycle.
November 6, 2012 at 9:22 PM
SEATTLE–With so many viewing parties happening in Seattle tonight, it can be hard to pick the perfect spot. But the newly renovated Husky Union Building on the UW’s Seattle campus appears to be the destination of choice for many students so far – and even for some who don’t attend the UW.
Alem Hamzie and Nebojsa Pavlouie, both 17 and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said they have been looking forward to this night for quite some time.
“When we were selected to go on this program they said ‘oh, you guys will be there during the elections,’ so this is something that we have been waiting for,” Pavlouie said.
Both Hamzie and Pavouie are part of an 18-member youth leadership group that is working with Foundation for International Understanding Through Students at UW. FIUTS is a program that fosters an international community through the connection of international and American students. The group from Bosnia and Herzegovina are staying in Seattle for three weeks and then will travel to Washington, D.C., for their last week in the U.S.
“America plays a big role in the world so [elections] are big event and it’s really important, even for us in our tiny little country,” said Pavlouie.
Maxine Sugarman, a member of Office of Governmental Relations of ASUW, said that she was attracted to this event because it was inclusive of all students.
“Just looking around I don’t know everyone here, I think that’s a good sign that someone who is a part of the association is seeing new faces.”
Brandon Himes, ASUW Director of Communications who works in the HUB, joked that he attended the event because it was a “close commute.”
Himes said he did not have an expectation of what the turnout would be like for the night. His impression so far is that it’s been nice to have people who support all different kinds of issues gathered in one spot.
The event at the HUB was jointly sponsored by the Office of Governmental Relations of ASUW, the Arts and Entertainment of ASUW and the ASUW Joint Commissions Committee.
Daniel Pham, a senior sociology major at the UW, stumbled upon the event by accident.
“I was walking up to see what it was all about, then there was a lot of students so I figured I’d just join,” said Pham.
Pham said he plans to stay if his friends show up. “I texted them and was like ‘hey, come to the HUB.’”
If they don’t make it, he said he will likely go to a friend’s apartment and continue to follow the elections.
Sugarman and Himes say they plan to stay at least until they announce the Montana results because they are both citizens of that state.
“It’s kind of super cool, because you watch this on TV at home and now you are in the U.S. and watching it for real,” said Pavouie.
November 3, 2012 at 7:00 AM
SEATTLE — For Kyle Curtis, president of the University of Washington College Republicans, it is nearly impossible to show support for his chosen presidential candidate.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to get a Mitt Romney sign in this state,” Curtis said.
Curtis did find a sign, but he also found confrontation. While holding the blue-and-red Mitt Romney poster on campus he got a disproving reaction from a passerby.
“He glared at us, then he took a few steps back,” Curtis said. “He was like, ‘You’re kidding me. You’re actually going to vote for Mitt Romney?’ and then I was like ‘Yes.’”
November 2, 2012 at 7:00 PM
Nationwide, young voters are less likely to vote this year than in 2008. But in Seattle, they’re more engaged than ever before.
SEATTLE — What do a skeleton, Rosie the Riveter and a walking cupcake all have in common?
They were among 400 creatively-costumed young activists trick-or-treating for votes and marriage equality in Seattle over Halloween weekend.
Trick or Vote, an annual “Get Out the Vote” canvassing event put on by Seattle-based non-profit Washington Bus, saw an unprecedented number of dedicated young people taking to the streets this year in their spookiest (or quirkiest) attire — reminding people to turn in their ballots before election day next week and to support Referendum 74.
It was the biggest turnout at an event in Washington Bus history. This is in keeping with an increasing number of young Seattleites taking politics into their own hands this year — especially when it comes to local and state issues — but this runs counter to national trends of youth-voter disengagement.
Washington Bus, unique in its youth-focused approach to political engagement, doubled its number of regular participants in just the past year. Most of these volunteers are under 25 years old.
According to Toby Crittenden, Washington Bus’ executive director, there are now more than 5,000 young people who canvas and phone bank with the Bus on a regular basis, which is ten times more than when it started up in 2007 (and yes, this includes 2008’s “Obamamania“).
October 31, 2012 at 4:10 PM
Majority-minority districts are usually created with an eye to boosting the number of minorities in Congress. But in the Washington’s new majority-minority 9th District, that’s definitely not going to happen this election.
They split the city of Seattle between two districts in order to create the state’s first ever “majority-minority” district.
The 9th Congressional District was shifted northward, leaving behind the Fort Lewis area and rural Pierce County to take in both South Seattle and a growing population of immigrant and minority voters in South King County.
Now 51 percent of residents in the new 9th district identify as ethnic minorities.
But when those minority voters cast their ballots this week, they’ll be choosing between eight-term incumbent Adam Smith, a Democrat, and GOP challenger Jim Postma.
Both are white. Both are Christian. Both were born in the US.
October 27, 2012 at 9:00 AM
A Washington State hip-hop artist bucks stereotypes by making music in support of marriage equality and Referendum 74.
SEATTLE — Hip-hop is not generally considered a bastion of progressive virtue. Despite the boundaries and expansion spurred by the hip-hop movement over the past 30+ years, the general content is still enough to make the most foul-mouthed bigot blush.
The socially conscious rap groups who have achieved some level of national prominence can be counted on one hand: A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, The Black Eyed Peas (pre-Fergie), Lupe Fiasco — each person has their own personal list. Arguments can be made for other more mainstream rap acts—Jay-Z comes to mind—but the general trend towards sexism and homophobia persists, giving critics ample ammunition to disparage the entire art form.
Out of this background come Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
While the Referendum 74 battle over marriage equality rages in Washington State, this MC-Producer duo created an unlikely anthem for the pro-74 crowd. “Same Love” meditates on hip-hop’s attitude toward homosexuality, while also making some strong statements about the issue. Macklemore’s lyrics speak from his own experiences with a gay uncle and his own early considerations of his own sexuality, while Mary Lambert’s soaring chorus grants significant pathos to the message.
Macklemore, aka Seattle’s Ben Haggerty, has been outspoken in his support of the R-74 bill.
“My hope is that my personal testimony can help in some way to not only advance the dialogue and approve Referendum 74, but also to help shape a culture of belonging in which all people are equal,” Macklemore wrote on his website when the song was released.
The song has already made the rounds nationally. The Huffington Post toasted the feature-quality music video on its site, as has MTV’s Buzzworthy blog. Apple’s iTunes audience has shown love to the entire album making it the most downloaded album in its first week of release, helping the Seattle duo to debut #2 on the Billboard 200—no small feat for an independent act of any genre.
Watch the music video here:
October 26, 2012 at 3:40 PM
Washington Initiative 502 has supporters and opponents. University of Washington Election Eye researched each and brings you both sides of the debate.
SEATTLE — If you want to know where your chicken fillet comes from, you definitely want to know where your marijuana comes from. Chances are, your dinner wasn’t smuggled under the US-Canada border by a violent narcotics gang.
That’s one of the arguments for the passage of Initiative 502. Supporters of I-502 want to allow consumers the choice of knowing where their weed comes from—giving the public peace of mind that their dollars aren’t indirectly supporting society’s seedier elements.
“It’s just common sense,” travel guru and I-502 backer Rick Steves said in a telephone interview. “Whatever you’re consuming, you want to know where it’s coming from.”
Steves has been canvassing the state in support of the passage of I-502, which would legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana in the state of Washington. According to Steves, a key benefit of the proposed measure would be to limit the power of the narcotics gangs that have historically dominated the black market for marijuana. By allowing the taxed sale of marijuana, Washington State would achieve the dual benefit of filling state coffers while also limiting the influence of drug gangs.
Additionally, the legislation would allow state authorities to oversee the cultivation, harvest, transport, and sale of marijuana. Given the choice, Steves said, consumers will overwhelmingly purchase their drugs from reputable sources. Drawing a connection to Prohibition, where “we had people dying from poisoned gin,” Steves believes the passage of I-502 will help protect consumers.
“In the Netherlands, they haven’t arrested anyone for marijuana in 25 years,” Steves said. “You’d be crazy to buy something on the street. People go to a reputable coffee shop that’s been licensed by the government.”
“Now, we’re not going to have a coffee shop model [like the Netherlands]; we’re going to have a liquor store model,” Steves added. “Everything you’ll get will be licensed from Washington state growers. It’s smart from a consumer protection point of view. When there’s a black market criminal element, it makes sense to avoid that.”
Not everyone is so sure about I-502. On the other side of the debate is Derek Franklin, president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention. Franklin, who boasts 20 years of experience in the substance abuse and mental health fields in various roles, believes it makes more sense to modify the existing frameworks for enforcement and prosecution.
Franklin concedes that the current system isn’t perfect, but such a drastic change isn’t in anyone’s best interests. Rather, Franklin believes that working inside the current system offers the best chances to limit access to marijuana.
“The current system is flawed,” Franklin wrote in a recent online chat with the Seattle Times. “However, legalizing an addictive substance is overkill. [We should] work to fix the enforcement system rather than legalizing across the board.”
Support of the bill varies widely, depending on location. A University of Washington poll cited by the Times has Eastern Washington voters against the measure by a 51 percent to 41 percent margin. Even in Yakima County, which struggles to contain outdoor grow operations, Sheriff Ken Irwin doesn’t see I-502 being beneficial. Irwin told Times reporter Jonathan Martin that the pro-502 crowd’s argument that legalization would hamstring the area’s narcotics gangs wasn’t a likely outcome.
“To think that by legalizing marijuana, the cartels would be out of business is just naive and absurd,” Irwin was quoted as saying. “Criminals are criminals. They would find a way to undercut the price.”
Steves disagrees with that point. He believes that consumers will eschew street transactions to buy their weed from state-sanctioned dispensaries.
“I just don’t agree with that,” Steves said. “It’s dangerous to sell drug so there has to be a pretty significant margin built in. I think that if people are given a choice, they’re going to buy from reputable source rather than a criminal source. Of course it’s going to be taxed, but I think when you take the criminal risk out, criminals can never compete on price.”
“It’s going to be a careful dance to figure out how much to tax it,” Steves concedes. “If it’s too cheap, then there’s a risk that it will be too easy for young people to get it. If it’s too expensive, then you’re opening up for the black market. There’s a sweet spot in the middle that we have to find.”
Whatever happens on election night, the legalization issue won’t end there. Many believe that I-502 would directly controvert elements of the federal Controlled Substances Act. Putting Washington State at odds with the Federal Government might lead to legal challenges – former US Attorney John McKay said in the same Seattle Times chat that the courts will eventually decide the issue.
October 22, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Monday Eye Openers: Obama Blitzing Swing States, Third Party Debate, George McGovern Dies, and Washington Governor’s Race Intensifies
Each Monday we feature several important stories in US politics — ones that just occurred, are defining moments, or are key markers on the horizon. We call these Monday Eye Openers.
Obama Hit Swing States Hard
With most polls showing the candidates running neck and neck, President Obama has a two-day campaign blitz planned next week.
Starting with Iowa on Wednesday, the President will spend two days visiting six swing states, ending with fiercely-contested Ohio. Rather than spending nights in hotels, Mr. Obama will camp on Airforce One and make use of travel time to call undecided voters.
Most news stories regale us with breathless updates on the cliffhanger race between Mitt Romney and President Obama, but perhaps we should be keeping an eye on those “other” candidates.
Two-time New Mexico Governor and former Republican Gary Johnson, now the Libertarian candidate for president, may attract fiscally conservative but socially progressive voters and is thought to have the most potential for disruption in Colorado, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Although grudging Romney voters may find him an attractive option, historically third party candidates do not live up to polling expectations.
He’s not the only alternative for voters not seeing their dream candidate in the Obama/Romney contest.
The Green Party is sponsoring Dr. Jill Stein, a physician and former Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate. The Justice Party is represented by Rocky Anderson, a two-term former mayor of Salt Lake City, and the Constitution Party is standing Virgil Goode, former member of the House of Representatives and a politician who has pursued office as an independent, a Democrat, and a Republican.
Intrigued – or perhaps just ready for a change from the intense back and forth of the Obama/Romney race? The third-party debate sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation and moderated by Larry King this Tuesday may prove diversionary.
Debate viewers can relay questions to King via Twitter by using the #AskEmThisLarry hashtag.
Loss of another Political Icon: George McGovern
Former Senator George McGovern passed away in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Sunday morning. Known for his dedication to social justice and anti-poverty legislation, Mr. McGovern famously lost his bid in the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon. The rest, as they say, is history.
McGovern remained a staunch defender of the anti-war, anti-discrimination platform and a defender of the environment and the middle class.
“We are the party that believes we can’t let the strong kick aside the weak,” Mr. McGovern once wrote. “Our party believes that poor children should be as well educated as those from wealthy families. We believe that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes and that everyone should have access to health care.”
Here in Washington State We Have Our Own Cliffhanger
The Washington State gubernatorial race between Democrat and former congressman Jay Inslee and Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna has been touted on of “four governor races to watch.” Inslee’s slender 2-point lead puts him in a statistical dead heat with McKenna. At $12 million in campaign funds raised to date, McKenna has a financial advantage over Inslee, whose campaign fund tops off at $10.5 million.
While far apart on some issues, our state gubernatorial candidates have both painted themselves as pro-education and in favor of business tax cuts. On the issue of same-sex marriage, the candidates fall along party lines, with Inslee supporting Referendum 74 and McKenna opposing. Likewise, Inslee voted for the Affordable Care Act as a congressman, while McKenna participated in a multi-state attorneys general lawsuit to overturn it.
It promises to be an interesting week.
October 18, 2012 at 7:10 AM
With the cost of higher education rising along with the level of student debt upon graduation, politicians at the national and state level need to address the issue frankly and provide real solutions.
SEATTLE — As a master’s student at the University of Washington with a small mountain of student loans, I find myself paying even closer attention to the 2012 election. And I don’t just mean listening to Mittens and BO (an unfortunate combination of nicknames if I’ve ever seen one). I think the Washington State governor’s race is just as important.
I have been educated entirely through Washington State public schools, from kindergarten through my last quarter of graduate school (not counting one year in pre-kindergarten lest some fact checker start digging). First of all, let me say thanks to anyone who has made a purchase in state for the financial support. Secondly, I need to come out of the closet, as a current Husky who did her undergrad at Washington State University.
We all know that tuition rates have shot up at colleges around the state (and country) in the past few years. But let me just put it in perspective. My final year of undergraduate study at WSU, the tuition cost $5,812, a 7% increase from the previous year. This past May, five years later, WSU approved a tuition rate of $10,874 for 2012-2013, a 16% increase from the previous year.
That’s 87% more than my final year of undergraduate. In five years.
Similar raises were made at other state universities and the proposal has been made to de-fund the University of Washington. Higher education in Washington State has been dramatically impacted by the recession over the past four years. Yesterday WSU President Floyd proposed tying the school’s tuition increases to the Consumer Price Index, so that the cost would rise with inflation.
Add to that the issue of student debt. As of 2010, the average graduate in Washington has a student debt load of over $22,000. This year total student loan debt passed credit card debt in the U.S. and has topped $1 trillion (an amount Austin Powers didn’t even use in 1999).
American Student Assistance reports that “as of the first Quarter of 2012, the under 30 age group has the most borrowers at 14 million, followed by 10.6 million for the 30-39 group, 5.7 million in the 40-49 category, 4.6 million in the 50-59 age group and the over 60 category with the least number of borrowers at 2.2 million for an overall total of 37.1 million.”
Of the 37 million student loan borrowers, around 5.9 million have fallen at least 12 months behind on payments. Combine that with high interest rates for those who default and no federal statute of limitations on collections, and it seems to me a recipe for disaster.
Maybe you think I’m overreacting. But I think the number 1,000,000,000,000 says otherwise.
Budget shortfalls and cuts today are something the younger generations are going to pay for for decades to come. Add to that higher than average unemployment rates for recent graduates, higher numbers than ever moving back in with parents, and issues with programs like Social Security and Medicare, and I think we have a recipe for disaster.
I know I sound alarmist – I swear that’s not my default setting – but this issue should be leading discussions during this election season. (Along with the environment, health care, jobs, etc., etc. Okay,we have a few issues.)
I’ve been thankful to see it as a such a focus in the Washington governor’s race, but I’d like to see it more in the national conversation. Mitt Romney promising one student a job after graduation, which he did in Tuesday’s presidential debate, isn’t enough.