Death Race 2000

Our unflinching guide to the awesome horror of the electoral process.

In an amazing moment of clarity, supporters of the Green Party have now realized that political races can be a choice between the lesser of two evils. Welcome to consciousness, folks. If Nader's New Raiders would pull their faces out of the bong, say, every year or so, they'd realize that normal people are faced with these types of ominous choices annually. Should we ditch the poorly written initiative or "send Olympia a message" by voting for it? Do we really need a monorail? Gary Locke or John Carlson for governor? Face it, representative democracy involves picking a single person out of thousands to work hard, vote on legislation, and snag the odd overseas junket. Certain people who you'd like to see in office never run (Mother Teresa, Tom Cruise, your grandma). Other people who you would just as soon not have in office insist on coming back for more (Slade Gorton, Slobodan Milosevic, Brad Owen). It's democracy, stupid.

PRESIDENT

Hmmm. Now who should we support for president: the Senator's son or the President's son?

Isn't it great to live in America, where any heir to a political dynasty can get voted into the top job? Still, we think Al Gore is the definite prize of this political season's two favorite sons.

We'll acknowledge that Gore is no Bernie Sanders. His moderate liberalism (or liberal moderatism) tends to be of the New Democrat, Reinventing Government variety. Plus, he's boring, and his wife tried to censor rock 'n' roll records a decade or so back.

But Gore has battled to balance the budget and preserve environmental legislation against the Republican legislative ax. He's worked to keep the federal money flowing for programs in the areas of education, housing, and medical care for seniors.

It's a little petty to whine about Gore's early votes as a US representative, when he was struggling between the urge to push his liberal ideas and his sense of duty to represent the residents of his Tennessee district. What's more, his opponent, George Bush, is a rich kid who never got a job without his father's intervention until he was elected governor of Texas (and even then, we suspect the old man was somehow involved). Vote Gore.

US SENATOR

It's hard to imagine a more dramatic political turnaround than the one achieved by former US Representative Maria Cantwell. Bounced from her 1st District seat during the Republican "Contract on America" revolution of 1994, Cantwell fled to the private sector, took a job with Seattle's RealNetworks, and became a multimillionaire in time to self-fund a run against US Senator Slade Gorton. The incumbent should be worried. Cantwell is smart, determined, attractive, well-spoken, and . . . did we mention the part about her being a multimillionaire? She's also got mucho legislative experience from her days in the Washington State Legislature and brings real private sector (and high-tech industry) credentials into her race against career politician Gorton.

Seattle voters are crowing. Slippery Slade has long ensured his political survival by exploiting tensions between Washington's largest city and the rest of the state. He's now trying to mislead voters about Cantwell's stand on a controversial proposal to remove four dams on the Snake River (like Gorton, Cantwell opposes it). It's poetic justice that Gorton, who slipped into office by spotlighting the age of 75-year-old opponent Senator Warren Magnuson in 1980, must now desperately downplay his own age (72)—not to mention his increasingly right-wing voting record. Let's put the youngster in office. Vote Cantwell.

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

1st District

Watch out for the flying fur and the molten mud as Jay "Pit Bull" Inslee fights with Dan "Rabid Possum" McDonald. This is the kind of vicious contest usually reserved for New Yorkers' pleasure. Oddly, when you get past all the electoral blood sport, it comes down to a choice between a moderate, wonky, slave-to-the-high-tech-industry Democrat Jay Inslee and a moderate, wonky, slave-to-all-industry Republican Dan McDonald. Inslee wins the nod because he's better on the environment, tax fairness, guns, abortion . . . all those issues that still make the differences between the D's and the R's meaningful—barely.

7th District

Another two years, another Jim McDermott reelection campaign. Seattle's US representative-for-life recycles his campaign signs yet, for some inexplicable reason, just started a special club for $1,000 donors, complete with newsletter and events. It's disappointing: Sunny Jim could be the first US representative to win reelection without collecting a single penny in donations. He could also win reelection while riding a little scooter, standing on his head, or wearing a blindfold. We say vote for Joe Szwaja, the Green Party nominee. Unlike the guy at the top of the Green Party ticket, Szwaja is actually qualified for the job he's seeking. Formerly a four-term city council member in Madison WI, Joe's also a fair trader, a longtime activist, and could beat McDermott in a game of "horse." Plus, if Szwaja gets more than 18 percent of the vote, he'll be the best-finishing Green Party congressional candidate in US history. A vote for McDermott is a wasted vote; let's put Joe in the history books.

8th District

The Republicans will eventually lose their grip on the Eastside's 8th District, honest. We can only hope Heidi Behrens-Benedict's grandchildren will be alive to see it happen. After a predictable loss in 1998 against Republican incumbent Jennifer Dunn, Behrens-Benedict did everything right this time around: announced her candidacy immediately, courted early endorsements, and amassed a respectable campaign kitty—yet finished at 37 percent in the primary, a percentage point or two ahead of her previous run. Voters could do a lot worse than hardworking Democrat Behrens-Benedict. For example, they could vote for the jet-hopping Dunn, whose sole focus has long been her status as a national figure in the Republican Party. She's been heartbroken two presidential elections running: Will she ever get that coveted job in a Republican administration and leave her suburban district behind?

9th District

Adam Smith is such an able fence-straddler that Bill Clinton must be green with envy. Faced with a treacherous swing district (the 9th) with a notable antipathy toward incumbents, Democrat Smith has managed to make everyone forget which party he belongs to (except those people who remember to get out the microscope when reading his campaign circulars). Smith pummeled Republican Chris Vance in the primary and should load up some more bipartisan whup-ass on his opponent in the final. Vance's argument that Smith is a phony moderate seems persuasive until you remember Vance is a real conservative.

WASHINGTON STATE OFFICES

In the state races, almost every candidate we endorsed in the primary advanced to the final. You voters like us—you really like us! Well, there could have been other factors, but we think we drew up a pretty solid slate.

Governor Gary Locke draws criticism for his low-key (i.e., barely breathing) leadership style. The self-proclaimed education governor doesn't have the numbers to push his reform plan through the Legislature—to the point where he's backing three education initiatives on this year's ballot. But Democratic first-termer Locke's weaknesses pale in comparison to those of Republican rival John Carlson, a hot-talk radio jock and initiative-pushing showboat armed with a big bag of bad ideas.

Libertarian Ruth Bennett was apparently tipped off to our litmus test for lieutenant governor candidates—we'll support anybody who pledges to get rid of this useless office. Bennett wants to put herself out of this job, so we say let's give it to her.

OK, so we don't endorse Republican candidates all that often, but that was before we met Sam Reed. This noted moderate has been county auditor in otherwise Democrat-dominated Thurston County for 22 years. He served earlier as assistant secretary of state. Reed's enthusiasm, knowledge, and proven record of creating and implementing innovative programs to inform the electorate makes him the obvious choice over the trade-ber-alles, ex-Congressman Don Bonker.

Incumbent state auditor Brian Sonntag and attorney general Christine Gregoire lack credible opponents, so give them another term.

Give one to state treasurer Mike Murphy, as well—we liked his successful effort last year to allow the state to guarantee local school districts' construction bonds and his office's policy change to put bond issuances up for competitive bid.

Former governor Mike Lowry wants to return to Olympia, this time as commissioner of public lands. He understands that our forests and tidelands are a public trust and that preserving them is the highest mandate of this office. He pledges to reduce tree cutting on public lands while finding innovative ways to fuel economic development in rural communities. While we like Republican Doug Sutherland's distrust of the often high-handed bureaucracy inside the Department of Natural Resources (and hope Lowry listens carefully to his opponent's concerns), Sutherland is way too concerned about accommodating businesses in their dealings with the state.

Is giving the "free" market (a.k.a. the corporate insurance cartel) complete free rein the answer to our state insurance crisis? We don't think so, and neither does our pick for state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler (but his opponent Don Davidson does). Kreidler is a former legislator, Congressman, and optometrist, who has worked the political process well over the years. He promises to bring the warring parties to the table—industry, consumers, and politicians—and not let them out of the room until they resolve the state's growing insurance crisis. If any mediator can do it, the silver-haired, silver-tongued Kreidler can.

WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE

We'd bother to spell out our specific endorsements for the state Legislature if any of our readers really had a choice. But they don't. If you live in Seattle, Shoreline, or just north of Lake Washington, your district will elect a Democrat. If you live east of Lake Washington, you get a Republican. The single exception is the Eastside's 45th Legislative District, where Laura Ruderman, a fine first-termer, deserves to keep her seat (she's running against a Republican named Nixon—never a good sign). Oh, there are technically a couple of open seats in West Seattle's 34th District, but the Democrats spanked the Republicans by better than a 2-to-1 margin in the primary, so these races are lacking in election night suspense. In our entire coverage area, only one state legislator actually faced a serious primary challenge from a member of her own party.

Voters in most of King County are thus technically disenfranchised. It doesn't matter how much "throw the bums out" spirit people have—these folks are legislators for life (or until they run for a higher office). This situation has led to frustration, heartbreak, and cynicism—and, even worse, to initiatives.

Washington State Supreme Court

Judges, newspaper editorialists, and the Rich Lawyer's Club went ballistic when voters advanced a country lawyer and a small-town jurist to the final election for state Supreme Court Positions 2 and 9. Well, we want you to elect them.

Susan Owens has 19 years on the bench in Clallam County District Court, plus another 11 years as a jurist in tribal courts. The small jurisdictions notwithstanding, Owens has been a top performer. She's president-elect of the District and Municipal Court Judges Association and a member of the statewide Board of Judicial Administration. She's a much better fit for the job than her opponent, a career prosecutor.

"Country lawyer" Jim Foley confounded the legal establishment in 1998 when he also advanced to the final election in a state Supreme Court race. The most popular theory: Voters just liked his familiar-sounding name. Well, he's in the final election again, and people may just have to accept that folks like the Pacific County attorney's eclectic resume (he's been both prosecutor and public defender, plus spent time in private practice), appreciate his obvious intelligence and knowledge of the law, and thirst for a jurist who will stand up to the current high court's continuing erosion of constitutional protections.

King County Superior Court, Position 11

Each of Robert Bryan's 30 years in the legal profession will come in handy on the King County Superior Court. Bryan's breadth of experience in the areas—criminal, civil, juvenile, family law, and appellate practice—that trial judges have to master is invaluable to a court that is losing too many veteran members. In addition, Bryan has demonstrated an independent mind and a tough gut, neither of which will change if he dons the robe.

BALLOT MEASURES

Seattle Proposition One (Parks Levy)

Stand back to avoid sticker shock: This eight-year levy adds up to a whopping $198.2 million. What's more, this proposal is both smart and stupid at the same time. The smart part is that the package includes more funds for fixing up parks than for buying new land we can't afford to maintain. The stupid part is that there's some $60 million for Woodland Park Zoo maintenance, extra parks grooming, and programs for kids. City leaders say they'll try to absorb this noncapital spending into the regular budget in coming years (rather than go to the ballot again), but if you believe that, we've got a floating bridge we'd like to sell you. A mixed bag, but you gotta love those parks. Vote yes.

Seattle Proposition Two (Initiative 53; Monorail study)

Our city fathers and mothers were annoyed that citizens approved 1997's Monorail Initiative when they specifically told them not to. So they doled out a few bucks to the public development authority set up by the initiative, waited two years, and deep-sixed the sucker. Not so fast, cried the monorail-fixated masses. We want a mighty $6 million study, and we want a chance to vote on the resulting plan—and 20,000-some signatures later, it's on the ballot. Look you City Hall ninnies, the only way to kill the monorail is to study it seriously. Put a real price tag on this sucker and we'll see if voters are so enthusiastic about the prospect of another Sound Transit-sized construction project and tax bill two years down the road. Vote yes.

King County Proposition One

Well, we might as well get used to it. Local tax measures like this one (a 0.2 cent raise in the local sales tax) will get more common as the initiative-mongers slowly trash state government's ability to fund programs. Because of the cuts required by last year's tax-slashing I-695, a "no" vote on this measure would result in service cuts to Metro transit; a "yes" vote would expand the total hours of bus service. We hate the sales tax as a revenue source, but this is a necessary investment in our county's future. Vote yes.

State Initiative 713 (Ban trapping)

We boned up on a bunch of complicated arcane subjects for this one: the types of traps currently used in our state, the responsiveness of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to serious problems caused by wild animals, the effects of similar initiatives in other states, the fur trade, the effectiveness of nonlethal methods in dealing with beavers, and the suffering of sentient beings. Then, we realized we didn't know what the heck we were talking about. That's why wildlife management isn't suited to the ballot box. Vote no.

State Initiative 722 (Property tax relief)

Mukilteo wonderboy Tim Eyman's first effort in this year's initiative sweepstakes is divided into three sections. The first would rescind any and all tax and fee increases that were passed in the last six months of last year. That's goofy. The second section would limit increases of your property's assessed value to 2 percent per year. That's unconstitutional. The last section cuts the authority of local governments to pass 6 percent annual tax increases down to 2 percent. That's not unreasonable. Overall as with most Eyman initiatives, it's poorly written, likely to spend much time in the courts, and not worth voting for. How about an initiative to buy Tim a nice home in Sun Valley? Vote no.

State Initiative 728 (Schools funding)

This loser could create more havoc in state government than anything Tim Eyman ever thought up. Basically, despite its sunny ballot title about reducing class sizes and expanding teacher training, this is a cynical grab by the education lobby for an extra hunk of the state budget. Although couched as merely snatching part of the state's budget surplus, this measure also gets the educrats' grabby hands into the state's property tax coffers and siphons off lottery proceeds. No problem, really, as long as we keep having record-breaking economic years. When the bad times come, though, we'll have real money trouble. A good example of how liberals like raiding the cash box and screwing over the Legislature just as much as the conservatives do. Bad policy, bad law, bad liberals! Vote no.

State Initiative 729 (Charter Schools)

Finally, here's a straightforward policy measure. I-729 seeks to make setting up alternative public schools easier. It's a harmless, small-scale bill, even though opponents unconvincingly argue that it would lead to the death of public education as we know it and proponents laughably suggest it would reinvigorate the schools through competition. Yeah, right. Vote yes and watch the issue fade from view.

State Initiative 732 (Teacher pay raises)

It's impressive I-732's backers claim this is the only measure placed on the 2000 ballot through all-volunteer signature-gathering. Actually, considering teachers have all summer off and this initiative seeks to raise their pay, maybe it's not that impressive. But we digress: I-732 grants cost-of-living increases to all employees of public school districts (and community college districts), with salaries rising annually at a generous rate of inflation. It's a $420 million budget buster especially when combined with all the other initiatives, past and present that constrain and control our state budget. If teachers need a raise, we need to find a fiscally responsible way to do it. Clearly, it's time to blow the ridiculous lid (imposed by an initiative naturally) off state spending to do it, not add to Olympia's monetary chaos by passing another initiative. Vote no.

State Initiative 745 (More roads, less transit)

The big gun in Tim Eyman's 2000 arsenal is aimed at our buses. I-745 would require that 90 percent of all transportation funding be used for road construction and maintenance. Bought and paid for by the asphalt pavers, the effect of this initiative would be to slash funding for public transit—a dismal prospect for Seattle, the state's most transit-dependent city. It's a truly frightening formula for more roads, more sprawl, more pollution, and worse traffic. Vote no.

Short Sheet

President: Al Gore (D)

US Senate: Maria Cantwell (D)

Congress

1st District: Jay Inslee (D)

7th District: Joe Szwaja (Grn)

8th District: Heidi Behrens-Benedict (D)

9th District: Adam Smith (D)

Governor: Gary Locke (D)

Lieutenant Governor: Ruth Bennett (Lib)

Secretary of State: Sam Reed (R)

State Treasurer: Mike Murphy (D)

State Auditor: Brian Sonntag (D)

Attorney General: Christine Gregoire (D)

Commissioner of Public Lands: Mike Lowry (D)

Insurance Commissioner: Mike Kreidler (D)

State Supreme Court, Position 2: Susan Owens (NP)

State Supreme Court, Position 9: jim Foley (NP)

State Senator 11th District: Margarita Prentice (D)

State Rep. 11th District, Position 1: Eileen Cody (D)

State Rep. 11th District, Position 2: Velma Veloria (D)

State Senator 34th District: Dow Constantine (D)

State Rep. 34th District, Position 1: Erik Poulsen (D)

State Rep. 34th District, Position 2: Joe McDermott (D)

State Senator 36th District: Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D)

State Rep. 36th District, Position 1: Helen Sommers (D)

State Rep. 36th District, Position 2: Mary Lou Dickerson (D)

State Rep. 37th District, Position 1: Sharon Tomiko Santos (D)

State Rep. 37th District, Position 2: Kip Tokuda (D)

State Rep. 46th District, Position 1: Jim McIntire (D)

State Rep. 46th District, Position 2: phyllis kenney (D)

State Initiative 713 (Ban trapping): Vote No

State Initiative 722 (Property tax cut): Vote No

State Initiative 728 (Class size reduction): Vote No

State Initiative 729 (Charter Schools): Vote Yes

State Initiative 732 (Teachers' COLA): Vote No

State Initiative 745 (More roads, less transit): Vote No

SJ Res. 8214 (developmental disabilities fund): Vote Yes

King County Court, Position 11: Robert Bryan (NP)

King County Prop. 1 (Money for Metro transit): Vote Yes

Seattle Prop. 1 (Parks for all): Vote Yes

Seattle Prop. 2 (Initiative 53, Monorail): Vote Yes

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