It was a year when government budgets always hurt for money and initiative campaigns never did. When candidates seemed to come out of retirement, out of the woodwork or from outer space. But before 2010 fades into the memory’s equivalent of a fuzzy Polaroid, it seems appropriate to look back on the best and worst of the year in politics. Here are Spin Control’s nominations:
Worst prediction: In April, Gov. Chris Gregoire forecast that the Legislature would go into extra innings and finish up work on the supplemental budget in no more than seven days. They went past midnight into the 30th day.
Best prediction: In December, Gregoire said the Legislature could handle a special session in a day to cut even more from the supplemental budget. They didn’t even use the whole 24 hours and wrapped up at 5 p.m.
Worst political calculation: Legislative Democrats’ decision to add a two-cents-per-can tax on soda as part of a temporary plan to raise state revenue from last May through June 2013. That tax, which never really had a hearing in the regular session or the special add-on session, prompted the American Beverage Association to pour more than $16 million into an initiative that rolled back not just the soda tax but also taxes on bottled water, candy and some processed foods.
Best political calculation: Democrats’ decision to add $1 per pack onto cigarettes, and bump up other tobacco taxes. Tobacco users may be the most taxed, least respected segment of society, and no one even whispered a suggestion that they should be spared.
Most obviously untrue statement: The suggestion by Democrats and Republicans early last January that they could work together in a bipartisan fashion to solve the state’s fiscal problems. In an election year? Really?
Worst political idea of 2010: “Let’s have an income tax on rich people.” Even though this plan would have touched only a small portion of state residents, the income tax has long been the third rail of politics and Initiative 1098 seemed doomed from the start.
Best political idea of 2010: “Let’s make it harder for the Legislature to raise taxes.” Requiring a two-thirds majority may be small-“d” undemocratic, leave the Legislature hostage to a handful of fiscal conservatives and yada, yada, yada. But the voters love it, and until the Legislature makes its case for returning to a simple majority, Tim Eyman and allies can raise money for an initiative just as often as the Lege can repeal one.
Most underrated politician in Washington: Patty Murray, who is regularly derided by Republicans as less than brilliant, ineffective, too tied to D.C., or out of touch, proved – yet again – that she understands state voters better than any of the challengers the GOP throws at her. Add Dino Rossi to a list that includes Rod Chandler, Linda Smith and George Nethercutt, and don’t even think about saying she only wins because of presidential coattails or she lucks out and gets to run in big Democratic years.
Most over-anticipated political event: Rossi’s entry into the Senate race. He waited so long, and generated so much speculation, that by the time he did announce everyone thought he’d been running for months.
Most overused phrase: “The will of the people,” which was tossed out whenever one party in Olympia didn’t like what the other was doing. Changing an initiative they supported was flouting the will of the people; changing an initiative they opposed was merely doing the work the people sent them to Olympia to do.
Phrase most in need of never being uttered again: “Mom in tennis shoes.” Democrats use it fondly and Republicans use it derisively for Murray. Even if applied in her first run for the U.S. Senate, that was 18 years ago; she’s a three-term senator, and who cares about her choice of footwear?
Worst recruiting season: Eastern Washington Democrats, who failed to put up challengers to GOP incumbents in the Spokane Valley, the Palouse, the northeast’s 7th District, and one seat in Spokane’s 6th District held by a freshman House member. Many of the legislative districts east of the Cascades were similarly uncontested, so that the only Democrats winning legislative seats on this side of the mountains were the two in Spokane’s 3rd District.
Phoniest controversy: Fox News and GOP claims that Washington state was somehow “cheating” overseas troops by requesting a waiver to a federal law that requires ballots be mailed 45 days before Election Day. Because Washington continues to count ballots for two weeks after the election, the troops actually had more time to get their ballots back to this state than in most of the rest of the country.