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Opponents of three initiatives on fall ballot come out swinging

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(The Center Square) – Efforts to convince Washington state voters to reject three initiatives on the ballot this fall are in full swing.

Initiative 2117 would repeal the state’s Climate Commitment Act, Initiative 2109 would repeal the state’s capital gains tax and Initiative 2124 would allow Washingtonians to opt out of the state’s mandatory long-term care benefit program.

There are individual campaigns against each measure – No on 2117, No on 2109, and No on 2124 – and a fourth campaign called Defend Washington that attacks all three.

Defend Washington spokesperson Sandeep Kaushik says the organization’s recent polling shows voters are likely to reject all three initiatives.

“Whether it’s funding to protect our air and water, or funding for schools and early learning, or long-term care for workers and seniors, that’s the sort of thing people don’t want to see happen in Washington state,” he told The Center Square.

A poll conducted April 11-14 involved phone and web interviews. Defend Washington reports that the sample for the poll “came from a voter file” of 600 likely Washington voters, with 30% of their sample identified as conservative, 27% as liberal and 38% as moderate.

Poll results show below 50% support for all three measures, with more voters opposed than in favor.

Less than a quarter of voters indicated that they were “definitely” going to vote in favor of each initiative.

“Even if people may have an initial inclination to think they are favorable to these, they see the major cuts that they would enact are a huge impediment,” Kaushik said.

Asked about the hundreds of thousands of voters who signed petitions to qualify the initiatives for the ballot, Kaushik noted, “Just because hundreds of thousands of voters signed petitions, it does not mean they are actually popular.”

He went on to say, “I mean if you spend money on paid signature gatherers, you can get signatures. Brian Heywood has spent millions of dollars of his own money to get these initiatives on the ballot. I would not take that as indicative of where the electorate is in Washington more broadly.”

Heywood is a hedge fund executive who bankrolled the ballot initiatives via voter advocacy group Let’s Go Washington.

Earlier this week, Heywood told The Center Square that internal polling shows all three measures are likely to pass.

Heywood pointed out that the number of people who opted out of WA Cares, the state’s mandatory long-term care plan, by purchasing their own plan before the deadline to do so is an indication of the plan’s unpopularity.

“Five hundred thousand people in Washington got out, and then the state said, ‘Everybody else, you’re stuck in it forever, and you can’t get out,’” he said. “Part of our messaging is to say that’s patently unfair.”

That figure doesn’t include the people who signed the petition in favor of I-2124.

“You have 420,000 people who signed our initiative saying I want out, too,” Heywood observed.

“They can try and defend the thing, and say this replaces long-term care, but it absolutely does not,” he said. “It’s got two or maybe three months of support and then you’re done. So someone who thinks they may need long-term care and now they think I’ve got this state plan that covers it, they’re going to be in for this rude awakening.”

Kaushik says despite the promising Defend Washington poll results, nothing is being taken for granted.

“We think these measures are really destructive and will have negative impacts on Washington state, and we’re building a broad and growing coalition of opposition against these initiatives,” he said.

Hallie Balch, spokesperson for Let’s Go Washington, disagreed.

“The opposition can deny the truth all they want, but the reality is that over 800,000 people signed onto these initiatives, and 57% of them were Democrats and independents,” she said.” The reason there’s such broad support is that people are tired of paying for programs that aren’t working. We’re pro-environment, we’re pro-education, and we’re pro-long-term care for seniors – but these programs haven’t done any of those things, yet we’re still paying for them. That’s insane.”