The mixed message - tax cuts, bigger government and more powerfor Democrats - was vintage, quirky Washington.
"I don't have a clue what the message is," said HouseCo-Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee. "The dots don'tconnect."
It was a night of triumph for anti-tax hero Tim Eyman and theinitiative process he has honed to a high political art. Votersoverwhelmingly approved all three citizen initiatives, mixedmessages notwithstanding, and gave Eyman his fourth victory in asmany years.
Eyman's plan, Initiative 747, caps annual property tax growth at1 percent a year unless local governments obtain voter approval forhigher levels. Taxpayers stand to save $115 million in local taxesin the current two-year fiscal period, presuming excess leviesaren't approved, rising to $571 million in 2005-07.
Eyman, addressing supporters at a Bellevue sports bar, held up aplacard that proclaimed "You did it!" The message, he said, wasthat people feel overtaxed and the political establishment is deaf.He also took a whack at the news media and pollsters.
While holding down future property tax bills, voters imposed thehighest tobacco tax in the country, boosting the price of carton ofsmokes by $6 starting on New Year's Day. I-773 also promises tovastly expand the state's subsidized health insurance program.
A third measure increases the state's role in regulating in-homepersonal caregivers and opens the door to unionization and betterwages.
Many Democrats, including Gov. Gary Locke, strongly opposedEyman's initiative, but their disappointment at his landslidevictory was offset by their delight in returns from two House racesin Snohomish County.
Democrats won a 21st District seat that has been held byRepublicans for a number of years and led in the 38th District,where the appointed Democratic incumbent was fending off anunexpectedly strong GOP challenge. If the election night lead ofabout 650 votes holds in the count of thousands of absentee ballotsthrough next week, Democrats will move into a 50-48 majority in theHouse.
The two parties have shared power under a difficult 49-49 tiefor the past three years.
Coupled with their Senate majority and their lease on thegovernor's mansion, the Democrats would run the whole show inOlympia. Co-Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, already was talkingabout launching an aggressive agenda in January if the Democratsprevail.
A quick look at the elections:
- All three citizen initiatives passed by landslide margins.I-747, the property tax limit, was passing 59 percent to 41percent. I-773, the tobacco tax measure that would pay for addingup to 50,000 people to the subsidized health program, passed 65-35.I-775, the in-home care measure, passed 64-36.
- Voters also approved a constitutional amendment, SJR8208, toallow judges from other jurisdictions to sit as temporary SuperiorCourt judges to help ease backlogs. It passed 71-29.
- But a second amendment, HJR4202, to allow more state funds to beinvested on Wall Street, was thumped 58 percent to 42 percent. Asimilar measure failed a few years ago.
- Democratic challenger Brian Sullivan defeated appointed Rep. JoeMarine, R-Mukilteo, in a special election in the 21st District.Appointed Rep. Jean Berkey, D-Everett, was holding onto a slim edgein the adjacent 38th District, although Republicans held out somehope that challenger Erv Hoglund will pull it out in the absentees.
- If Democrats win both seats, they'll break the 49-49 tie,returning to the outright majority for the first time since 1994.
King County Councilman Greg Nickels had a lead over Seattle CityAttorney Mark Sidran for mayor of Washington's largest city.Incumbent Paul Schell was ousted in the primary.
- Democrats took over control of the King County Council whenJulia Patterson won a seat that Republicans had held. Control ofthe Snohomish County Council will hinge on absentees.
- In Tacoma, former City Council member Bill Baarsma was electedmayor, turning back a comeback attempt by former Mayor Harold Moss.Moss was the city's first black mayor.
- Everett has decided incumbent Ed Hansen should serve another term as mayor.
- Cary Bozeman has been elected mayor of Bremerton.
- King County Executive Ron Sims, the state's ranking blackpolitician, easily won a second term. He is a Democrat.
Click the links below to get the latest updates in the various races. Statewide Initiatives -- vote.wa.gov
King County Election Returns -- www.metrokc.gov
Seattle City Returns; Other King Co. City Returns -- www.metrokc.gov
Snohomish County Races -- www.co.snohomish.wa.us
Pierce County Races -- auditor.co.pierce.wa.us
Kitsap County Results - www.kitsapgov.com
All Other County Races -- www.secstate.wa.gov
Statewide Initiatives -- vote.wa.gov