Five unions, including the Washington Education Association, have joined forces to create the Working Families Coalition, which today launched a one-page Web site attacking Ross Hunter for his votes opposite the unions on three bills in Olympia this year--including the state budget bill and its cuts--as well his opposition to a sales tax exemption for low-income families in 2008.
One thing not listed is Hunter's role as a sponsor a controversial education bill that would tie teacher pay to a series of performance measures like how their students score on tests. One WEA board member says that's also a big part of his union's opposition to Hunter.
Hunter calls the site and its attacks 'ridiculous'.
Using the image of Joker cards, the Coalition goes after Hunter for his vote for the state budget bill and its many cuts, his vote against a bill that both cut unemployment payments made by businesses and increased benefits to people who lost jobs, his vote for a bill ending a state program to fund smaller classroom sizes, and in 2008, his vote against a sales tax exemption for low-income families.
But those votes aren't the only thing at work here, says Stephen Miller, a Bellevue middle school teacher, past President of the Bellevue Education Association, and a member of the WEA board. For Miller, the anger toward Hunter isn't just political, it's personal. Miller says he worked on Hunter's previous legislative campaigns because he made education his top priority. So when Hunter signed on as a sponsor to 2261, a bill that was so opposed by the teachers' union, it was a personal betrayal. "There's a lot of history here," Miller says.
Interestingly, of the four votes cast by Hunter being assailed by the coalition, his fellow King County Executive candidate Fred Jarrett matched him on three of them. Their only disagreement was the unemployment insurance bill. But with Jarrett, Miller explains, the teachers weren't expecting him to do much for them anyway since he'd been a Republican for so long. On top of that, he says, Jarrett didn't have much power in the legislature to push education bills, whereas Hunter sits on the Education Appropriations Committee.
Hunter's campaign sent out a press release this afternoon shooting back at the unions:
It is ridiculous to attack me for being part of a Democratic legislature that made tough choices with an $9 billion budget deficit. We kept core government services and balanced the budget without raising taxes. I am not 100% with any group on every issue. The job of a legislator or an executive is to lead, not blindly follow.