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Morning Wire: “Big Tent,” Elections RFP, Janus’s threat to labor

We’ve got our eyes on a number of moving parts today, including our fall conference, November elections, and the US Supreme Court.  If you’re working on policy, politics, or the economy in Washington State, and you have a story you think should be shared with our readers, I’d welcome your suggestion.

On to some of the items we’re watching this week in Washington State.

1. Durkan leads Moon by 25 points in latest Wire Poll

Last week, we released our latest Wire Poll results, which tracked the Seattle mayor’s race. Jenny Durkan shows a commanding lead among likely voters, leading 51-26. Admittedly, it “feels” tighter than that. Ed Murray’s resignation cast a pall on the status quo, which Moon has tried to attach to Durkan. However, we tested that question and there was no meaningful impact resulting from Murray’s decision.

The question is what will “unlikely” voters do in the general?  There is no evidence of a wave turnout this year. 2015 had the lowest voter turnout on record despite predictions to the contrary. There is also no evidence of movement of unlikely voters en masse towards either candidate. We tested that too.

So, will Moon’s campaign be able to drive turnout among her voters, or persuade committed voters to go her way? Moon’s consultant, Moxie Media, is one of the best campaign consultancies country, so we’ll see. Ballots drop in two weeks.

2. The 2017 Re-Wire Policy Conference on December 12th

Next week, we release our Topical Agenda for our 2017 Re-Wire Policy Conference coming up December 12th.  This is a product of input, discussion and collaboration with one of the most esteemed, bi-partisan groups of policy leaders, advocates and executives I’ve ever been a part of: our Convening Panel.

Like the Morning Wire, the 2017 Re-Wire Policy Conference will be entirely non-partisan, and policy agnostic. The purpose is to create a gathering, a physical space where the most important policy makers, opinion leaders, and corporate actors can gather to network, discuss solutions, and foster trust.

Our politics aren’t getting better.  Our solutions aren’t getting easier.  So, we – as a community – need to try harder to find opportunities for progress in an ecosystem that often drives polarization.

This is why we’re so excited about this year’s event!  Registration is now open at Early Bird rates. We’re working with associations on rates that are discounted even further for early registration.  Drop me a note if you have any questions.  We’d be honored to have you with us.

3. Threat to labor in Janus case at US Supreme Court

Perhaps one of the most important issues set to impact state politics is now before the US Supreme Court.  The Court is taking up the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case after previously being hung 4-4 on a related case (Friedrichs case) resulting from Justice Scalia’s untimely passing. The question is whether public employee unions can collect “agency fees” from employees that don’t want to pay them. This ability is based on a 1977 decision that allows unions to collect such payments but exempted collections for political action.

The Washington State Labor Council says “The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people.” The Freedom Foundation, which filed an amicus brief on the matter, argues “all public-sector collective bargaining activities are inherently political, affecting the size, cost and services of government. Thus, any requirement to pay dues or fees to a union amounts to government-compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment.”

If Judge Gorsuch agrees with Janus, becoming the 5th vote, it would damage the ability of public sector unions to fund their operations on behalf of their members.  It would mean a major blow to labor in an era when they are already facing significant demographic, economic and cultural headwinds. That said, their political activity is already funded through an active, opt-in collection model. So, that campaign-related funding is unlikely to suffer directly.

4. Russia and Washington State’s elections

You may have seen the news released late on a Friday that Washington was one of 21 states targeted by Russia in their efforts to hack and corrupt the 2016 elections. What you might have missed is that the Secretary of State’s office released an RFP for a complete overhaul of Washington’s election system. It came out the same week. We interviewed Lori Augino, Washington State’s Director of Elections, about both the RFP and the Russia attempted hack.

All 39 county elections officers have agreed to turnover significant authority to operate elections to the Secretary of State. That’s an uncommon level of agreement, and one that seems to reflect both Secretary Wyman’s leadership on this and perhaps the concern county leaders have about protecting (having protected?) their elections systems against future hacks.

It’s also unclear what, if anything, the knowledge of Russia’s attack will have on the modernization effort.  It’s a tough question to answer publicly, admittedly, and Augino was both patient and gracious as I pressed her on it. But, it’s not clear the RFP is informed in any direct way by the revelation that Washington State was a target of election hacking.

5.  Senate Committee investigates Sound Transit

The Senate Law and Justice Committee met last week to investigate Sound Transit amid questions about its authority to collect taxes and bond for capital under a statute adopted by the legislature in 2015. Republicans are concerned that Sound Transit may have misled legislators during the legislative process.

Democrats were dismissive of the claims last week, but in previous comments, House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) suggested even she was caught off guard. From the story by reporter Kylie Walsh:  “I think if you had said, ‘We’re going to bond this and we’re going to ask for $54 billion,’ it would not have gone anywhere,” Clibborn said. “Nobody was going to do that.”

Another hearing will be held at 1:00 pm today.  Senate staffer David Boze says “The hearing will probe the financial relationship between Sound Transit and numerous advocacy organizations active in promoting the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure.  It will also examine Sound Transit’s transfer of more than 170,000 email addresses of ORCA cardholders to political operatives engaged in pro-Sound Transit 3 election efforts.”

6. Deepening divide between urban and rural

Eight of the thirty-nine counties in Washington State “still have fewer jobs today than they did five years ago.”  All of those counties are rural. Statewide, unemployment from 2012 to 2016 was 8.2% in rural counties, 2.2% higher than in urban. Hourly wages are $6.63 lower in rural areas than in urban. This comes in a recent ESD report titled “Urban versus Rural.”

The inability to find compromise on the Hirst decision won’t help that widening divide. A recent BIAW study determined that failure to resolve the issue means “$452.3 million in lost employee wages due to the impacts of Hirst, annuallly.” They sent a letter to Gov. Inslee and legislators asking for a special session on the issue, though that is unlikely to happen unless there is agreement on a fix first.

7. Sen. Carlyle’s call for “Big tent” Democratic Party

Sen. Rueven Carlyle is one of Olympia’s most thoughtful legislators about the political, social and economic trends impacting Washington State. In a new blog post, he offers a call to Democrats to embrace a willingness and openness to new ideas that might come from centrists that no longer find a home in the Republican Party.

“It is time for Democrats in Washington to embrace the unprecedented national opportunity of this dialogue–and our political affiliations–as well. It is time for the Democratic Party to rediscover our dignified history as a big tent party.”

“In Washington, I believe it is time to welcome the moderate wing of the Republican Party to join us in the Democratic Party. This unprecedented (in modern times) structural political shift would be just as difficult and important for Democrats as for Republicans.”

“It is time for Republicans to choose whether they ascribe to the politics and policies of their leadership or whether they will make a meaningful change of affiliation. History will not judge this Administration kindly nor those who stand silent. The door to the Democratic Party should be open wide.”

8. England attacked by pitbull while doorbelling

Doorbelling in a political campaign is no easy task.  And, some parts of town – regardless of the town – are better than others. Last week, Jinyoung England, campaigning in the 45th, was attacked by a pitbull while out doorbelling.  She went to the hospital and powered through accordingly.  We send our best hopes for a speedy recovery to her.

It’s also the kind of evidence that she continues to work hard in the face of difficult primary results. Two days ago, she released an ad featuring Molly Hill, the late-Senator Andy Hill’s widow, calling her “an independent leader that will work with both parties to get things done.” That’s clearly language tacking to the middle in a district that’s moving leftward, demographically.

We’ll be doing a tracking poll in the 45th next week to see where things stand ahead of the final push.