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Morning Wire: New power center on the right, Referendum 88, Sen. Barbara Bailey

We are rounding the home stretch of summer. With Labor Day ahead, school is about to start, general elections are about to kick in, and state agency leaders are about to submit budget requests. 

So, we’ve brought you some stories in this newsletter that you might miss with everything else going on. On behalf of our team at the Wire, thanks for reading our independent journalism focused on the politics, policy, and personalities of Washington State.

With help from Emily Boerger

1. A new power center on the right?

Referendum 88 is on the question of repealing the ban on affirmative action passed by voters in 1998. Whether that passes, or whether it’s even fully understood, is yet to be seen. But, it’s already clear something unique may be happening on the campaign.

In two-and-a-half months, the right-leaning group that got the question on the fall ballot has raised almost a million dollars. Strong majorities of the largest donors appear to be individuals (rather than corporations), ethnic Chinese (rather than a mix reflecting the state demographics), and employed in the tech community (again, rather than a mix of employers). Taken together, I don’t think we’ve ever seen a group of individual donors from a specific ethnic and economic cohort move this quickly on an issue before in Washington State.

2. The uncommon normalcy of CMR’s post-leadership period

Last week, reporter Emily Boerger was in Spokane reporting on a series of events with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. On Tuesday, the Congresswoman was joined by HUD Secretary Ben Carson to tour Spokane’s EnVision Center, and on Wednesday she sat down with the Spokane Tribal Council for a two-hour meeting.

What’s uncommon is the normalcy of it all. McMorris Rodgers is the first member of a Republican leadership team to step down from her position and remain a “rank and file” member since 1981. She’s gone back to the “meat and potatoes” of working her district rather than working national media, whereas almost all other Republican leaders of the last half century leave leadership through retirement.

3. Why a sex offender would run for office: Willie Russell’s story

Two weeks ago, I posted a short note about a Level III sex offender running for the Snohomish County Council. The candidate, Willie Russell, squeaked through the primary and is on the November ballot. So, I wanted to ask him why he would put himself out there as a candidate for public office when his background would draw some attention.

“My story is not a lot different from thousands of other people. Let’s start with the elephant in the room: my conviction.” I had a long talk with Russell. I learned his story is more complicated, and more encouraging, than a quick headline might convey.

4. INW health policy conference coming Sept. 10!

Our sister site devoted to health policy, State of Reform, hosts one of the largest health policy conferences in the state coming up in Spokane on Sept. 10th. You can check out the Topical Agenda to scan the day, or the list of over 70 speakers lined up for the day.

Speakers include a keynote from King County Executive Dow Constantine, a discussion with Medicaid Director Maryanne Lindeblad, as well as nine legislators who will offer their insight on party policy vision and the dynamics of the Washington State Legislature. Washington State Wire readers can register with the discount code Wire20 to save 20% off of standard registration.

5. Sen. Bailey set to retire Sept. 30

In a letter to Governor Jay Inslee dated August 16, Senator Barbara Bailey (R-Oak Harbor) announced her retirement. Senator Bailey represents Washington’s 10th Legislative District and has served in the legislature for 16 years. She will step down effective September 30th.

Sen. Bailey has been a leader in the legislature on higher education, issues impacting veterans, and aging and long-term care. “I not only wish that we could keep Senator Bailey; I wish we could clone her. She is the epitome of class and grace, and I have always appreciated her fight for hardworking taxpayers,” says Senate Republican Caucus Chair Randi Becker.