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Washington election decisions 2012

In the Nov. 6 general election, Washington residents voted for governor, other offices and various measures.

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King County — Charter schools are planning to open their doors in 2014… but not if The Washington Education Association can help it.   The powerful teacher’s union has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the initiative that established charter schools.

The lawsuit claims that the initiative violates the constitution in more than half a dozen ways, including that it “diverts funds to schools that are not under local voter control, impedes the State’s constitutional obligation to amply provide for and fully fund K-12 public education. and improperly delegates educational responsibilities to private organizations.”

WEA lawyers were joined in the suit by leaders from anti-charter groups, including Washington Association of School Administrators, the League of Women Voters, and El Centro de la Raza.

They all lobbied unsuccessfully to derail the charter school initiative last fall, but voters approved it by more than a 50% margin.

TACOMA — Pierce County’s Proposition 1, a Pierce Transit measure that would raise sales taxes in order to stave off transit cuts, failed by only 704 votes, the Pierce County Auditor’s Office reported Tuesday in its Nov. 6 certified election results.

There were 201,182 votes cast on the measure.

The proposal would have raised the sales tax in Tacoma to 9.8 percent, the highest in the state.

With the measure being defeated, transportation for disabled riders will decrease and bus routes are expected to come to a stop after 7 p.m. on weekdays. There will no longer be buses on the weekends, officials said as votes were being cast.

Meanwhile, as the News Tribune of Tacoma first reported, a tax-raising measure for Fire Protection District No. 23, which serves the Mount Rainier gateway communities, was approved in the general election by 1 vote. The final count was 306 yes votes to 305 no votes.

State Rep. Tim Probst and state Sen. Don Benton

Is Washington’s 17th Lgislative District in Clark County the most politically divided in the state?

The only legislative races still uncalled from the Nov. 6 election are both in the 17th, with each only about 100 votes apart, and a hand recount is likely, the Washington Secretary of State’s Office announced Tuesday.

In the state Senate race there, Republican Sen. Don Benton was only 104 votes ahead of Democratic  state Rep. Tim Probst, with more than 54,000 votes cast (27,484 votes to 27,380).

Meanwhile,  in the state representative position 1 race in the district, Democrat Monica Stonier held only a 100-vote lead over Republican Julie Olson – 27,362 votes to 27, 262 votes.

SEATTLE — Gov.-elect Jay Inslee said Thursday that job creation is his No. 1 priority when he takes office in January.

In an interview with Q13 FOX News on Thursday, Inslee also talked about state education spending, taxes, charter schools and the legalization of marijuana.

Watch the videos:


SEATTLE — A day after the charter schools initiative was declared a winner by a small margin, Washington’s superintendent of public instruction went on the offensive.

Randy Dorn is on fire about the initiative, arguing that the new commission it creates to authorize and monitor charter schools circumvents the current school system.

“Creating a new agency under the Governor’s Office to oversee 10 to 40 public schools, to me, is a clear violation of the (state) Constitution,” Dorn said.  He argues that it is the superintendent of public instruction who should oversee public schools.

The state’s schools chief is poised to press his point.

“I believe the answer is yes,” Dorn said after being asked if he plans a lawsuit.

However, he said he will wait until the measure is certified and he has a chance to talk to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Supporters on Tuesday dismissed the superintendent’s argument, saying the legality of the measure was fully vetted even before it made the election ballot.

“The attorney general looked and considered his arguments and said, uh-uh, this initiative is constitutional,” said Lisa Macfarlane, who helped write the measure. “He’s trying to get another bite at the apple, and that’s his right, but we think he’s wrong.”

Dorn argued that voters didn’t fully appreciate the details of the initiative.  “Did people really understand that, that there was going to be a new agency, and it was going to be $3 million given to 10-40 schools, where I only have $8 million to do 295 districts?” he asked.

Macfarlane scoffs at the notion that voters didn’t understand what they were voting on.

“We ran a very factual campaign to get voters information about what charters schools are,” she said. “We went into, you know, forums and living rooms and debates, and every editorial board in the state considered this measure, and there was plenty of information.”


One more Washington state political race was checked off the list when Kathleen Drew, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state, called Republican opponent Kim Wyman to concede Saturday.

According to the secretary of state’s website, Wyman led Drew 51 to 49 percent as of 6:54 p.m. Saturday, with about 35,000 votes separating the two.

Drew will replace Republican Sam Reed, who is retiring after 12 years at the post. She was the only Republican elected for a statewide position this fall.

Drew congratulated Wyman on a “hard fought” campaign in a statement on her website.

“I know that she will carry forward Washington’s tradition of fair and impartial elections, and I am optimistic that she will work on measures to remove barriers and increase voter participation,” Drew said. “I talked to her about the importance of fully funding the primary voters’ pamphlet at the state level, which had been a cornerstone of my campaign.”

It’s been nearly 50 years since Washington voters elected a Democrat to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Wyman works as the Thurston County Auditor, and has worked in the auditor’s office for more than 20 years. Throughout the campaign, she emphasized her leadership and experience.

Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna conceded Friday night to former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee in the Washington governor’s race.

“Today we come to the end of a long journey,” McKenna said in a video concession address to his supporters, adding that “it appears we will fall short of victory when the last ballots are counted.”

McKenna said he called Inslee earlier to offer his congratulations to Washington’s next governor.

At a news conference, Inslee called it “a great delight and honor” to be in line to become the state’s next chief executive and vowed to work for all of the people of a politically divided Washington state.

Inslee, 61, who resigned from Congress in March to run for governor, had maintained a small but steady margin of 40,000 to 50,000 votes over McKenna since Tuesday’s election.

With 2.7 million votes counted at  7:32 p.m. Friday, Inslee had 1,357,008 votes (51%) to McKenna’s 1,300,842 (49%) — a difference of more than 56,000 votes.

Vote results showed McKenna was carrying every county in Eastern Washington, but as is usually the case in the state, the more populous, heavily Democratic counties in Western Washington were too much for the Republican candidate to overcome.

A spokesman for McKenna said the gubernatorial candidate no longer believed he would be able to make up the difference in the vote totals. “It just became apparent there wasn’t enough of a buildup … enough of an offset” in the remaining votes to be counted, the spokesman said.

On Friday night, Inslee told his supporters that McKenna had “graciously called” him earlier in the night to concede the race. “I congratulated him on a very vigorous campaign,” Inslee said.

“I’m very excited about this,” he added, saying it is “a great delight and honor” to be Washington’s next governor.

Inslee said he would work hard for all of the people in Washington. “I represent 100 percent of the people of Washington as of tonight.”

Inslee will succeed Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, who had announced in March that she would not seek a third term.

In a statement late Friday night, Gregoire said, “I have congratulated governor-elect Inslee on his victory and offered my assistance. He will be a champion for the people of Washington, and I know he will serve our state well.

“I thank Attorney General McKenna for his service to the people of Washington. His willingness to continue that service by running for governor reflects his dedication to our state,” Gregoire said.

Inslee served in the state House for four years before winning election to the U.S. House in 1992 from Washington’s 4th Congressional District. He lost his bid for re-election in 1994 to Republican Doc Hastings.

Inslee first ran for governor in 1996 but lost in the Democratic primary to Gary Locke, who later became governor.

Inslee ran again for Congress in 1998, this time in the 1st Congressional District, and won. He served in that seat until he resigned March 20, 2012, to run for governor.

On Wednesday, the day after the general election, Inslee said, “I am very confident that we will be in a position to lead the state of Washington for the next four years.”

Inslee’s campaign has crunched numbers and done county-by-county modeling, and aides said the uncounted ballots will continue to favor the former congressman.

Indeed, at a news conference Wednesday morning, the Democrat was already sounding very gubernatorial, even announcing plans for his administration.

“We are starting today the process of organizing a transition organization for the governor’s office of the state of Washington,” he said.

Inslee even made clear the kind of people who will serve on his transition team. He said he wants those from outside of Olympia who have a background in business and job creation, a priority of his campaign.

McKenna didn’t make a public comment Wednesday. But at his Election Night rally, he made it clear why he thinks the remaining ballots will move in his direction.

“I had a big lead among later voters, including a substantial number of late-deciding Democratic voters,” he said. “When those ballots are tabulated, we believe we will be in the lead and we’ll be in the lead for good.”

“Wait a little longer,” McKenna told his supporters late Tuesday night. “This year it will be worth the wait.”

In a YouTube video posted online Wednesday, McKenna said he believed he’d still win. Click here to watch the video.

Under Washington’s mail-in voting law, ballots dropped off before 8 p.m. Tuesday or with a Tuesday postmark will be counted.

Washington has not elected a Republican governor since John Spellman won the seat in 1980. Current Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire announced she would not seek a third term, opening the way for Inslee and other Democrats to vie for the office.

In 2004, the race between Gregoire and Dino Rossi was so close that there were two recounts and Gregoire was eventually declared the winner by 133 votes out of 2.8 million cast.

In other state races, Democratic King County Councilman Bob Ferguson won the state attorney general’s race. Democrat Jim McIntire defeated Sharon Hanek 58-42% for state treasurer.

Republican Kim Wyman was leading Democrat Kathleen Drew by about 41,000 votes for secretary of state, and Democrat Troy Kelley was leading Republican James Watkins 52-48% for state auditor.

In addition, Democrat Peter Goldmark defeated Republican Clint Didier 58-42% for commissioner of public lands, and Democrat Mark Kriedler defeated Republican John Adams 58-42% for insurance commissioner.

Republican Bill Finkbeiner on Wednesday conceded the race for lieutenant governor to incumbent Brad Owen, who held a 54-46% advantage among counted votes.

“The voters have chosen to keep Brad Owen in as the lieutenant governor. I have a lot of respect for Brad,” Finkbeiner said in a statement. “He cares about the Legislature, presides fairly over the Senate and is a dedicated public servant.”

McKenna, a two-term Washington state attorney general, may be best known for having joined the lawsuit by several states against President Obama‘s Affordable Health Care Act. He stood in contrast to Inslee on issues of health care, economic development and education funding.

Inslee supported the high-profile ballot measure Referendum 74, which legalizes same-sex marriage while McKenna did not support it. Inslee also said that he would not vote in support of I-502, an initiative that allows for legal use of marijuana for adults over 21, but would not seek to overturn it. “I will be protective of the will of the voters here.” McKenna said he opposed it.

The campaign between McKenna and Inslee saw each candidate raising $10 million, in addition to another $10 million in independent expenditures.

On Friday night, after conceding the race, McKenna said his future “is up in the air,” but added that “public service is in my DNA.”

Same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana (R-74 and I-502) stole the spotlight from other initiatives on the ballot. But here’s how the voters weighed in as of 8:29 p.m. Thursday.

Initiative 1240: After three previous times on the ballot and attracting millions of dollars from donors such as Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the initiative allows for up to eight charter schools a year for five years, for a total of 40. Washington voters on Tuesday kept it a tight race on whether or not to approve charter schools in the state.

The vote on I-1240 was 51 percent Yes and 49 percent No.  At 10:26 p.m. Thursday, the vote was 1,201,011 yes and 1,155,429votes no.

Initiative 1185: Tim Eyman’s initiative that would restate the two-thirds vote required for tax legislation was approved by voters.

The vote on I-1185 was 64 percent in support of the measure and 36 voted against it.

Senate Joint Resolution No. 8223 — Investments by the University of Washington and Washington State University: The proposed constitutional amendment would allow UW and WSU to invest public funds in private companies or stock.

The vote was rejected 56 percent to 44 percent.

Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution No. 8221 — Implementing Commission on State Debt recommendations: The proposed constitutional amendment would phase down the debt limit percent beginning July 1, 2014. The measure would limit the amount of money Washington state can borrow for construction projects.

The vote was passed 63 percent to 37 percent.

Advisory Vote No. 1: The legislature eliminated a business and occupation tax loophole that cost the state $170 million in 10 years. A vote to maintain the legislature’s decision is a vote to keep the loophole closed.

Residents voted to repeal the taxes 58 to 42 percent.

Advisory Vote No. 2: The legislature passed a bill to maintain fuel tank safety standards. A vote to maintain the legislature’s decision is a vote to continue enforcing the safety standards.

Residents voted to repeal the measure 56 percent to 44 percent.

With a number of Tuesday’s election races still too close to call, including the governor’s contest, many are wondering why it takes so long to count ballots. Why can’t we know the clear results on Election Night?

One reason a lot people cite is the fact that Washington ballots can be postmarked by Election Day and don’t have to be turned in by Election Day.

In fact, outgoing Secretary of State Sam Reed has fought to get that change through the Legislature for several years now, but hasn’t succeeded. But for those who think this will dramatically change things, think again.

“It is not going to make elections results faster,” said Julie Anderson, the Pierce County auditor. “We get our biggest dump on Tuesday, and our pipes are only so wide. We’re only going to be able to do that pre-processing at the same speed.”

Having even more ballots on Election Day won’t prevent things from dragging out, she predicts.

Another change that is talked about is to automate the signature-verification process. Right now, it’s a person who checks that the signature on the ballot matches the signature on file. There is a picture of a voter’s file signature on a computer screen that is compared to the signature on the ballot envelope, but it’s a person who makes the call.

How about a computer to speed up that process?

“It’s never that easy,” said Anderson. “Is it going to be less expensive for me to add more people who are trained, or less expensive for me to find quality software that would speed the process up?”

Even though it may not feel like it, ballot processing and counting is getting faster since the state moved to a mail-in system a few years ago.

“We definitely are processing more ballots and getting them counted now in 2012 than we were, for example, in previous years,” said Katie Blinn, co-director of elections for Washington state. Whereas before the state would process about 50% of ballots in the first count, “we’re now in the 60-65% range on getting more ballots counted on Election Night and also getting more ballots counted on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday right after Election Day.”

Blinn says one way to guarantee more definitive results is for voters to change their behavior.

“The more voters who vote early and get their ballots back to us in those first two weeks, the more ballots we have ready to go and that are included in those Election Night results.”