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State’s November 2013 election

Washington state will hold a general election on Nov. 5, 2013.

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SEATTLE — Socialist candidate Kshama Sawant took a lead over City Councilman Richard Conlin for the first time – albeit, by a razor-thin 41 votes –  in the race for City Council Position No. 2, the latest election returns showed Tuesday.

sawantAs of the latest vote count at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Savant had 79,751 votes to Conlin’s 79,710.

Conlin’s lead continues to decrease with late counting.

It is unknown how many ballots are left to be counted, but late ballots often trend left, analysts say.

Sawant would be the first socialist candidate elected to the  City Council in its history.

Another vote count will be released at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

SEATTLE — By 54-46%, Washington state’s voters were soundly rejecting Initiative 522, which would require labels on products containing genetically modified organisms, the latest election results showed Wednesday afternoon.
i-522The hotly contentious issue might have spurred the most expensive political campaign in the state’s history – it’s been reported that more than $30 million has been spent and most of it came from out-of-state donors.
On Wednesday afternoon, with more than 1 million votes counted, the measure was being rejected 54-46% statewide, with only King, Whatcom, San Juan and Jefferson counties supporting the proposal. I-522 saw its largest defeat in the state’s smallest county. Garfield County voted 82 percent against the measure, a clear message from a community where two-thirds of the land is occupied by farms.

Pro-Initiative 522 campaign manager Delana Jones refused to concede after initial results were released, pointing out there are thousands of ballots still to be counted.

See the county-by-county breakdown of votes on Initiative 522 here.

SEATAC — Workers are optmistic that the SeaTac “Good Jobs Initiative” will pass after jumping out to an early lead in the election. And with the latest ballot count on Wednesday night, with 3,942 votes counted, that optimism reigns with a tally of 53% to 47% supporting the initiative.

The initiative seeks to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for workers in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and at airport-related businesses.

“It was a warm feeling. Man, I don’t know how else (to say it). It’s a feeling  I didn’t think was going to happen,” Dontreale Cain said.

Cain is still celebrating what he believes will be a victory in the vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. He said he’s watched hospitality and transportation workers around SeaTac struggle for years to make ends meet.

“If you have kids at home and you’re sick, or if you have to work multiple jobs, you have no time for your family — you have no time for anybody,” he said.

“It’s sending an incredible message, which is we are tired of waiting for Congress tired of waiting for corporations to deal with massive income inequality in our country,” Heather Weiner, a spokesperson for the Yes! For SeaTac campaign, said.

Organizers expect their message to spread beyond SeaTac workers. This summer in Seattle, fast food workers also rallied to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and both Mayor Mike McGinn and Ed Murray supported the idea, and we’re told the city council may take up the issue as soon as this week.

“I think Seattle is going to look at it seriously,” Weiner said. “And they`ll probably try to phase it in.”

“My biggest fear is for the employees in all the related industries,” Scott Ostrander, who opposes the proposition, said.

Ostrander runs the Cedarbrook Lodge near SeaTac and said that if the proposition passes, it could ultimately hurt workers as companies search for ways to make up for the added costs.

“There’s been talks of complete restructuring, raising of rates or fees for services… possibly elimination of services, a reduction in employee hours and downsizing staff which would include lay-offs,” he said.

“We’ve also heard that in other cities where they raised the wages,” Weiner said. “We’ve heard the sky is falling. In fact, we’ve seen the opposite happen — businesses end up saving money because they have lower turnover rates, businesses end up having greater productivity, morale is higher and they’re getting better employees because of the higher wages.”

Opponents of the proposition are optimistic they can win, since not all of the ballots have been counted. Of 12,108 mailed to voters, 3,942 were counted by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Ballots will continued to be counted and then verified on Nov. 26.

Opponents said if they do lose, they won’t rule out a challenge and the issue could end up in a courtroom.

You can track the ballot count on the proposition and other King County elections here. State election results are available here and county results can be found here.

seatac worker

pcvoteTACOMA — Tacoma’s Proposition 1 to raise utilities taxes 2% in order to pay for street improvements appears headed for defeat, results showed Tuesday night.

With 22,856 votes counted, the no vote was 59% and the yes vote was 41%.

Opponents of the measure feared the higher taxes on the utilities would simply be passed on to customers in the form of higher rates.

The measure would have raised up to $11 million to fill potholes and make other improvements.

i-522SEATTLE — Washington Initiative 522, which would require labels on products containing genetically modified organisms, appeared headed to defeat in election returns Tuesday night. But supporters weren’t conceding.

In what could be the most expensive political campaign in the state’s history — it’s been reported that more than $30 million has been spent and most of it came from out-of-state donors — this hotly contentious issue was shot down in California’s general election last year. Television ads in support of the proposal and against ran night and day in Washington state in leading up to the vote.

With 986,530 votes counted, 55% had voted no on I-522 and 45% had voted yes.

“Thank you to everyone who voted, volunteered, donated, and supported this effort,” said Delana Jones, campaign manager for Yes on 522. “Due to Washington state’s vote-by-mail system, we don’t have a final tally of the votes tonight. Please stay tuned for more information in the following days. We’ll have regular evening updates as counties report voting results.”

Votes will continue to be counted, as mail-in ballots postmarked through Tuesday come into the ballot processing and county facilities.



By Alana Semuels and Maria L. La Ganga

Los Angeles Times

Voters in tiny SeaTac, Wash., might be drawing the most attention when they go to polls Tuesday to vote on raising the minimum wage for airport and hotel workers to $15 an hour. But SeaTac isn’t the only localized battle where advocates are trying to gather support for raising the minimum wage. Frustrated by a federal minimum wage bill that has gone nowhere, people in half a dozen other states are trying to get folks a raise.


Courtesy: The Stand

New Jersey is the closest to seeing some sort of change. Voters there will decide Tuesday whether to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour  from the current rate of $7.25. If voters approve the ballot initiative, which asks voters to approve a Constitutional amendment, the minimum wage will continue to keep pace with inflation in the future. Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed a bill last month that would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50.

A September poll indicated that 65% of voters in New Jersey supported raising the minimum wage.

In Alaska, South Dakota and Idaho, activists are currently gathering signatures to put a minimum wage initiative on a future ballot, according to Paul Sonn, general counsel with the National Employment Law Project. Alaska’s minimum wage is $7.75. In South Dakota and Idaho, the minimum wage is $7.25.

By contrast, Washington state, which borders Idaho, has a minimum wage of $9.19, meaning someone who lived in Idaho and crossed a state border to get a job in Washington could make more than $75 a week more simply by working in a different town.

The legislatures in a few states may consider raising the minimum wage through laws. A legislative campaign in Maryland would raise the minimum wage to $10, while activists are also trying to push legislation in Illinois, Minnesota and Hawaii.

Massachusetts legislators are considering a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10; some in the state are also pushing for a ballot initiative in case the bill falls through.

“This shows that when government is gridlocked, voters will take matters into their own hands,” Sonn said.

Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate have put forward bills to raise the federal minimum wage to $10, up from $7.25.

Certain municipalities also have acted independently of their states. The minimum wages in San Jose, Calif., and San Francisco are higher than the state of California’s, and Albuquerque and Santa Fe in New Mexico have independently raised the minimum wage in their cities.

A closer look at the Sea-Tac issue

In SeaTac, at first the Rev. Jan Bolerjack couldn’t figure out why the line at her church’s food pantry was studded with men and women in what she described as “airline gear,” uniforms they wore as baggage handlers and ramp workers at nearby Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“It confused me,” she recounted recently. “Why were these people working full time at the airport and standing in line for food?”

Bolerjack became pastor at Riverton Park United Methodist Church in 2007, two years after Alaska Airlines contracted out an estimated 500 jobs for baggage handlers, whose wages were slashed from an average of $13.41 an hour to a starting wage of $8.75.

That shift by the major airline at the busiest airport in the Pacific Northwest set the stage for Proposition 1.

The measure, on the Tuesday ballot in this working-class enclave south of Seattle, would raise the minimum wage for certain airport and hotel workers to $15 an hour and guarantee them sick leave. About 6,300 employees at an estimated 70 businesses would be affected.

SeaTac has become the latest battleground over “living wages” and income inequality, a fight being played out in fast-food restaurants and airport terminals nationwide and pitting organized labor against the airline and hospitality industries.

Although only about 12,000 residents are registered to vote here, campaign donations have poured in on both sides of the hard-fought measure. By Friday more than $1.9 million in cash and in-kind services had been raised, or about $160 per registered voter. Supporters have outraised opponents by nearly 2 to 1.

If passed, Proposition 1 would bring the airport in line with California’s major aviation hubs, which have set pay rates above state and federal minimums. The living wage ordinance at Los Angeles International Airport, for example, guarantees $15.67 an hour for covered workers who do not get health benefits and $10.91 for those who do.

“West Coast airports have been leaders in addressing the issues of low pay and high turnover in our airports,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. He argues that low pay “has impacts on the airports themselves in terms of turnover and quality of performance that affect safety and security.”

In a detailed study of airport worker wages nationwide released Monday, the Berkeley center found that the outsourcing of baggage worker jobs, for example, more than tripled in the last 10 years, and pay for all porters during the same period dropped by nearly half, from more than $19 an hour in 2012 dollars to $10.60.

Fully 37% of cleaning and baggage workers at airports live in or near poverty, said the report, financed by the Service Employees International Union.

“Because of low wages and benefits, a similar share of these workers and their families must rely on public benefit programs to make ends meet,” the report said.

But Mike West, co-chairman of Common Sense SeaTac, which opposes Proposition 1, warned that raising the minimum wage would hurt entry-level workers in his hometown, where many new immigrants do not speak English and one neighborhood along gritty International Boulevard is nicknamed “Little Mogadishu.”

West, who recently retired, owned an auto body shop called Southtowne Auto Rebuild for four decades. Through the years West hired numerous entry-level workers at minimum wage, employees he could not have afforded, he said, if he had had to pay them the equivalent of $15 an hour.

On Friday, West was driving his red pickup past dueling Proposition 1 billboards and signs, when the driver in the next lane honked and waved. At the wheel was a smiling James Heidelberg. West hired him in the 1990s.

“There’s a kid I took on who couldn’t get to work at 8 a.m.,” West recounted fondly. “He took the bus. He’d show up at 10. I ‘put up’ with him for 15 years. He was a detailer. We trained him.… I was taking a tax receiver and changing him into a taxpayer.”

Common Sense SeaTac points to a recent study by the business-friendly Washington Research Council, which estimated that the ballot measure would kill 5% of the city’s low-wage jobs and that an additional 5% to 10% of affected workers “would be replaced by more experienced and educated employees.”

But Heather Weiner, spokeswoman for Yes! For SeaTac, discounted the report as “scare tactics” and said Proposition 1′s aim was “to help people who work for a living make a living.”

Airport concession workers like Roxan Seibel are among those who would benefit. Seibel is a single mother who has worked at the airport for 30 years, raising two adopted daughters, one of them a child with serious medical needs.

When the girl, born with fetal alcohol effects, would get sick or break her feeding tube, Seibel said, she had to take unpaid time off to care for her.

Seibel said she had not taken a single sick day for herself. She feared the consequences and loss of pay.

“I have come to work sick,” she said. “I have thrown up in garbage cans. I am not the only one.… I feel that everybody that works should have paid sick time.”

ballot boxWASHINGTON (CNN) — Voters were going to head to the polls in six states Tuesday will consider 31 ballot measures, including questions about marijuana taxes and requiring labels for genetically modified food. The question of secession also made it on the ballot in several Colorado counties. Here are a few highlights:

Colorado: marijuana taxes

Last year, voters in sharply divided Colorado decided to legalize recreational marijuana. This year, they’re being asked to impose a special 15% excise tax on the drug to help fund school construction, along with a 10% sales tax to bolster marijuana-related law enforcement efforts. While opponents argue it’s unfair to single out marijuana for higher taxation than products such as beer, the measure is expected to pass.

The non-partisan Colorado Legislative Council projects that the measure, if approved, will generate nearly $70 million in additional state tax revenue next year.

Colorado: secession

Voters in 11 counties in northern Colorado are being asked if they want to secede from the state. Ten counties in conservative, rural northeastern Colorado would theoretically form a 51st state known as North Colorado. Moffat County, located in the northwest corner of the state, would become a panhandle for neighboring Wyoming.

The plan has no chance of becoming reality. Among other things, it would also require statewide and congressional approval. But approval or even a close vote at the county level would send a loud message of growing grassroots conservative anger toward a more liberal Denver-based Democratic establishment that has taken up controversial measures related to gun control, gay rights, and green energy.

Similar secession measures have been floated in a number of other states in recent years — a reflection of the country’s growing ideological and partisan divide.

Washington: labeling genetically modified food

Voters in Washington state are considering a hotly contested initiative that would require labeling all foods containing genetically-modified ingredients. The measure pits local consumer advocates, who argue that the measure is needed for consumers to make better informed choices, against large agribusinesses such as Monsanto, which argue that such a law would spook potential customers and unfairly imply that such products are unsafe.

Washington is the second state to consider such a ballot measure. A similar proposal was narrowly rejected by California voters last year.

According to the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 95 bills relating to the issue have been introduced in state legislatures so far this year — a reflection of growing public interest in the controversy surrounding genetically modified foods.

Other noteworthy measures

Voters in New Jersey are considering whether to amend their constitution to raise the state minimum wage from the federal level of $7.25 to $8.25 per hour. Future annual increases would be tied to changes in the cost of living. Eighteen states currently have a minimum wage that exceeds the federal requirement, according to the NCSL.

New York voters are being asked to revise their constitution to allow the legislature in Albany to authorize seven casinos, with the goal of generating new revenue for public schools and potentially cutting local property taxes.

SEATTLE — Seattle voters are being asked to approve a new tax to finance the political campaigns of candidates running for the City Council.

Anyone running could qualify for up to $210,000 in public funds.  Will this help get rid of the influence of money in politics and bring more people into politics?

“It costs nearly a quarter-million dollars to run a viable campaign for City Council,” said public financing supporter Sharon Maeda. “That’s ridiculous.”

citycouncilBecause you can’t raise more than $700 from any one person, a candidate needs to have a lot of friends who are able to write a lot of pretty sizable checks to be taken seriously.

Public financing proponents admit that Seattle has a pretty clean history when it comes to money and politics. But they argue it’s time to help out candidates to keep in that way, and to help encourage others to run.

“It really means that serious people from diverse backgrounds actually have a chance, a fighting chance, to run respectable campaigns,” said Maeda.

Opponents of public financing point to research they say demonstrates little, if any, changes in the cities that have adopted such systems.

“This campaign finance idea has been around for almost 40 years, and it has not turned out to have a success record,” said Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center, an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. “That’s why I think you don’t see it regularly across the country.”

Here at the main elements of Seattle’s campaign financing plan:

  • Raise 600 contributions of at least $10 to qualify
  • Contributions up to $50 would be matched 6-to-1
  • Candidates could get as much as $210,000
  • $245,000 spending limit

This whole program is expected to cost about $2 million to $3 million per election cycle.  As citywide tax measures go, this one would be quite modest.

“It’s $4 a year for someone who has a $400,000 home,” said Maeda.  “That’s not a lot of money, that’s not even one latte, you know.  I mean, to make democracy work a little better, $4 dollars a year.”

Guppy objects more to the principle than the money.

“Everyone in Seattle would be forced to give money to candidates that they might oppose,” Guppy said.  “You have this moral contradiction.”

The measure would apply only to City Council candidates, not for candidates for mayor.

District Elections

Also on the ballot in Seattle is another measure that purports to shake things up at City Hall.  Charter Amendment 19 would create districts for City Council members to run in, instead of the at-large, citywide elections Seattle now has.

Supporters have drawn up a map with seven separate districts, while retaining two at-large positions.  Supporters say it would force council members to be more attentive to neighborhood concerns.  Opponents say you’d lose the citywide perspective and you would pit neighborhood against neighborhood.