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Spin Control: Awards time for the highlights and lowlifes of the 2018 election

A blue first-place ribbon, this one awarded during a spelling bee in 2015. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
A blue first-place ribbon, this one awarded during a spelling bee in 2015. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

With most counting finished for the 2018 election and very few races still in doubt, it seems appropriate to pass out the awards for the highlights and lowlifes of the late, great midterms.

A Jubilation T Cornpone Medal, named for the Li’l Abner cartoon character famous for bad strategy, to the authors of Initiative 1631, the carbon fee initiative. They proposed a complex arrangement to spend money the fee would have generated, involving three investment panels and a 15-member oversight board with the state lands commissioner, various department heads, some co-chairs and four at-large positions. While it may have kept the various factions supporting the measure happy by creating a big tent, it allowed opponents to rail against a group of unelected folks spending the public’s money.

Next year’s Cornpone Medal is being reserved for any Democrat who proposes a carbon tax, carbon fee or carbon pricing system in next year’s Legislature, falling for the oil industry’s insistence that they aren’t against some sort of carbon reduction system, they just don’t think it should be proposed as an initiative. (Translation: They prefer the Legislature where a plan they hate can be stopped for way less than $30 million.)

A blue ribbon in the Goebbels Competition, for the most often repeated big lie of the campaign season, to the soda companies and their Initiative 1634 campaign. They warned of local taxes on “groceries” when what they really wanted to prevent were taxes on soda. Asked for examples of any local government that had placed – or even discussed – a tax on any grocery item other than soda, they couldn’t name one. But all of their commercials talked of local governments reaching into the pockets of working folks by taxing groceries, creating images of city councils hitting you with taxes on milk, eggs, hamburger or baby food. Would the initiative have passed if they’d been up front about it? Or would it have just cost them more than $20 million to get it over the top?

A Big Daddy Pollitt Citation, named for the character in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” who spoke of the powerful odor of mendacity, to opponents of the I-1631. They never missed a chance to claim, incorrectly, that the measure was a carbon “tax” when in reality it’s a fee. While that may not make much difference to the people who would have paid it, in Washington there’s a significant legal distinction because a tax can be used for almost any purpose the Legislature decides, but a fee must be used for something connected to the item or activity being charged. Opponents doubled down on this with ads later in the campaign that featured people complaining about gasoline taxes going up, and none of it being spent on roads. An assist goes to the folks at the Washington Policy Center, who write about fiscal issues enough to know better, for also calling it a carbon tax.

The Silver Slug Award, for the slimiest tactic of the campaign season, to Republican activist Glen Morgan. He put together a campaign to convince Democratic voters in Spokane’s 6th Legislative District to write in Joe Pakootas instead of Jessa Lewis in the state Senate race. It was one of four similar schemes in districts with close races. The 6th District campaign cost Morgan and a rich backer $4,200 for mailers sent around the district. Republican Jeff Holy beat Lewis by about 5,000 votes, so the 122 write-ins cast in that race had no effect and cost about $34 each. Or considering the fact the Senate race had only about 55 more than write-ins cast than the district’s other legislative races, maybe they cost about $76 each. And more if the facetiously named Conscience of the Conservatives committee gets fined by the Public Disclosure Commission.

A Coupon for Copy Editors R-Us, to sponsors of the Initiative 1639, for someone to read over the next gun control proposal they come up with. The full text on the back of the petitions didn’t conform to the standard format for amending state statutes, causing a series of challenges that temporarily bounced the measure off the ballot, and might still be the basis to challenge the measure in court now that it has passed.

The Say What? Award, for the most disconnected statement at a campaign event, to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers for her response to an audience question during a debate in Colville with Democratic opponent Lisa Brown. Asked if she’d be willing to do more debates, McMorris Rodgers said if Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell would do more debates she would do more.

A Rope-a-Dope Trophy, complete with Muhammad Ali bobble-head figure, to Cantwell for her debate strategy against Republican challenger Susan Hutchison. Well ahead in fundraising, polling and name recognition, Cantwell tended to keep her answers short, ignore jabs and let Hutchison fill up time until moderators cut her off.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Happy Warrior Medal, named for the candidate most able to stay positive despite long odds, to Hutchison. She jumped into the Senate race at the last minute when the GOP was in danger of having a controversial gun-rights activist as its nominee. As previously stated, she had far less money to wage an uphill fight against the prohibitive favorite in a Democratic-leaning state and always kept her upbeat television anchor demeanor and smile.


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