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Stories about Washington

Washington State Supreme Court overrules recall petition against Seattle mayor

On October 8, 2020, the Washington State Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling which allowed a recall effort against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D).

The supreme court’s unanimous order read, “The allegations in this case are deeply troubling and our review requires that we treat the factual allegations as true. Nevertheless, after carefully considering the issues presented, the court concludes that the recall charges presented in this case are factually and legally insufficient.”

Elliott Grace, Harvey, Alan Meekins Jr., Courtney Scott, Leah Solomon, and Charlie Stone organized the recall effort.

The Washington Constitution allows for the recall of elected officials if they violate their oath of office or “in commission of some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office.” To put a recall on the ballot, recall supporters have 180 days to collect valid signatures equal to 25% of the total vote for the office in the last regular election.

Organizers in the recall effort against Durkan began filing paperwork on June 15, 2020.

King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts ruled on July 10, 2020, that petitioners could begin gathering signatures. Roberts dismissed six of the seven charges as insufficient for a recall election. The second charge was found to be sufficient grounds for the recall effort to move forward. Recall organizers had until January 6, 2021, to gather about 54,000 valid signatures in order to put the recall election on the ballot.

The second charge of the recall petition said, “Mayor Durkan endangered the peace and safety of the community and violated her duties under RCW 35.18.200, Seattle Charter Art. V, Sec. 2, SMC 10.02.010A, and her oath to uphold US Const., Amends. 1 and 4, Washington Constitution, Art. 1 Sec. 3-5, when she failed to institute new policies and safety measures for the Seattle Police Department when using crowd control measures during a public health emergency.”

The state of Washington selects its state supreme court justices through nonpartisan elections. Of the nine members on the supreme court, five have been appointed by Democratic governors to fill vacancies on the court.

The terms of justices Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Charles W. Johnson, and Debra Stephens will expire on January 10, 2021. Additionally, Justice G. Helen Whitener was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Justice Charlie Wiggins’ retirement in March of 2020, so she will face retention election this year. The four seats are up for nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020.

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Whitener, Serns compete in Washington State Supreme Court election

Incumbent G. Helen Whitener and Richard Serns are running in the special general election for Washington State Supreme Court Position 6 on November 3, 2020.

Whitener was appointed by Governor Jay Inslee (D) on April 13, 2020, following Justice Charles K. Wiggins’ retirement. Whitener was previously a judge on the Pierce County Superior Court, on the Washington Board of Industrial Appeals, and an attorney in private practice.

Whitener said that the main issue in the election is experience. She said, “I would not get on a plane with a pilot who just got his license and hadn’t gotten some flying under the guidance of a well-seasoned pilot… That might be a bad analogy but it is very similar to what we’ve been discussing.” 

Richard Serns is a former school administrator. Serns responded to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey and said his professional experience includes working as a superintendent of schools, as an adjunct law school professor, as the lead negotiator for collective bargaining agreements, and as a Title IX, non-discrimination, anti-bullying, and anti-harassment compliance officer.

Serns said the constitution does not require prior experience in law to serve on the court, and that “sometimes an outsider can bring a new set of eyes and that can be helpful to deliberations.” He also argued that his experience as an administrator gives him the skillset for a position on the court: “The skillset is listening carefully, asking probing questions, research, research, research, deliberate, confer and write,” he said. “All of those things I’ve had extensive experience at.”

Whitener is one of five justices on the nine-member Washington State Supreme Court appointed by Democratic governors to fill vacancies.

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What statewide ballot measures will Washington voters decide on November 3?

Voters in Washington will decide six statewide ballot measures on November 3: two binding measures and four nonbinding tax advisory questions. This year is the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot will not feature an Initiative to the People (ITP), a citizen-initiated state statute for which groups collect signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Referendum 90:
The only citizen-initiated measure on the 2020 ballot in Washington is Referendum 90.

The Washington State Legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 5395 (SB 5395) in March 2020. SB 5395 was designed to require comprehensive sexual health education in public schools. Opponents of the bill, organized as “Parents for Safe Schools,” collected signatures to place SB 5395 on the ballot and are advocating for a reject vote on the measure, which would repeal Senate Bill 5395. A vote to approve the referendum would allow SB 5395 to go into effect.

The bill is on hold pending the result of the election.
Parents for Safe Schools said, “Reject Referendum 90. Stop the early sexualization of our kids. Materials to meet the new state standards will include graphic sexual subject matter. These are decisions that should be left to parents and local communities. … [The bill is] a costly mandate at a time when school budgets are being cut. State and local budgets are facing massive deficits which threaten funding for basic programs.”

Washington State Senator Claire Wilson (D), a sponsor of the SB 5395, said, “Some people hear the words ‘sex education’ and mistake the focus of the curriculum, which is health and safety and is age-appropriate for each grade level. This is about making sure younger children know what kind of touching is inappropriate, whether by peers or predators. It’s about helping older students recognize and resist abusive or coercive behavior.”

Senate Joint Resolution 8212:
The state legislature referred Senate Joint Resolution 8212, a constitutional amendment, to the 2020 ballot. The amendment would allow the Washington Legislature to invest the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Account and the Long-Term Care Services and Supports Trust Account into stocks or other methods of investment.

Currently, the Washington Constitution prohibits the state from investing funds into stocks or other methods of investment, limiting investment capabilities of the state to government and corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. Some other funds have been made exempt from that constitutional restriction, including the following:

  • public pension and retirements funds;
  • industrial insurance trust funds; and
  • funds that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities.

Advisory Votes 32, 33, 34, and 35:

Advisory Votes 32-35 were automatically referred to the ballot as required under Initiative 960, which was passed in 2007. I-960 requires an advisory vote to be referred to voters concerning any law passed by the legislature that creates or increases taxes or fees. The outcome of the question is nonbinding and does not result in a new, changed, or rejected law. Rather, the vote serves to advise the legislature whether or not to maintain or repeal a bill they passed.

Thirty-one advisory votes have been on the statewide ballot in Washington between 2012 and 2019. Voters voted in favor of advising the legislature to maintain 10 of the bills. In the other 21 cases, voters voted to advise the legislature to repeal the bill in question.

Twelve tax advisory votes were on the ballot in 2019. Voters voted to advise the legislature to maintain three bills and repeal the other nine.

Together, the four advisory vote questions on the 2020 ballot represent bills increasing state revenue by an estimated $2 billion over 10 years.

Summaries of the measures are below:

  • Advisory Vote 32 concerns Senate Bill 5323, which was designed to levy a tax on certain carryout bags provided by retailers.
  • Advisory Vote 33 concerns Senate Bill 5628, which was designed to levy a tax on heavy equipment rentals.
  • Advisory Vote 34 concerns Senate Bill 6492, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate and reduce certain surcharges.
  • Advisory Vote 35 concerns Senate Bill 6690, which was designed to increase the business and occupation tax rate on commercial airplane manufacturers.

A total of 60 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during even years from the 18-year period between 2000 and 2018. 58% (35) were approved and 42% (25) were defeated.

Additional Reading:
https://ballotpedia.org/Washington_2020_ballot_measures



Washington sheriff files appeal against recall effort with state supreme court

A petition seeking to recall John Snaza from his position as sheriff of Thurston County, Washington was approved for circulation by Superior Court Judge Jeanette Dalton on July 29, 2020. Snaza filed an appeal against that decision with the Washington Supreme Court. The court will review the appeal in December 2020, according to The Olympian.

The recall effort started after the sheriff’s office released a statement on June 24, 2020, saying “it would be inappropriate for deputies to criminally enforce” the state’s mandate to wear a mask in public places. Recall supporters said the sheriff’s statement was impeding the efforts of state and city governments to protect the public. Snaza said it was his intent to educate people about the law rather than arrest them.

If Snaza’s appeal is rejected, recall supporters will have 180 days to collect 23,027 signatures in order to get the recall on the ballot.

Two other sheriff recall efforts have been appealed with the Washington Supreme Court in 2020. The court ruled that a recall effort against Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney could begin circulating petitions on September 10, and it is scheduled to hear the appeal of Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher on November 5.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Washington Supreme Court to review county sheriff recall petition on November 5

The Washington Supreme Court agreed to review a petition seeking to recall Jerry Hatcher from his position as Benton County Sheriff. Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram initially approved the recall petition on August 20, but Hatcher filed an appeal against that decision with the state supreme court. Hatcher’s appeal will be considered by the court on November 5, 2020.
 
The Benton County Sheriff’s Guild is leading the recall effort. They said Hatcher had performed his duties in an improper manner, committed illegal acts, and violated his oath of office. Hatcher said the guild was refusing to hold deputies accountable for their actions. He said the guild would not let him take disciplinary action against employees who committed wrongdoing.
 
If the appeal is rejected, recall supporters will be able to circulate petitions. Recall supporters must collect 14,000 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.
 
In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading:
Recall campaigns in Washington
Political recall efforts, 2020
County official recalls



Washington Supreme Court allows sheriff recall to move forward

The Washington Supreme Court ruled on September 10, 2020, that a recall effort against Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney could begin circulating petitions. It is the second recall effort against Fortney to be approved for circulation this year.

The efforts began after Fortney announced in April 2020 that his office would not enforce restrictions Gov. Jay Inslee (D) set in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The first recall petition said that Fortney “used his position as an elected official to encourage citizens to defy the law and violate the Governor’s Emergency Proclamations.” The second recall petition said that Fortney had “endangered the peace and safety of the community and violated his statutory duties.”

The first recall petition was approved for circulation on May 15 and has until November to collect signatures. The second petition was initially approved for circulation on June 2, but Fortney filed an appeal with the Washington Supreme Court on June 22. That effort has until March 10, 2021, to collect signatures. Both efforts must collect 44,494 signatures to get on the ballot. As of September 11, 2020, the two recall efforts were acting independently of each other.

In response to the recall efforts, Fortney said he stood by his statement that the sheriff’s department “will not be enforcing an order preventing religious freedoms or constitutional rights.” Fortney was elected sheriff on November 5, 2019, with 55% of the vote.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading


Washington sheriff files appeal against recall petition with state supreme court

An effort to recall Jerry Hatcher from his position as Benton County Sheriff in Washington began in July 2020. The Benton County Sheriff’s Guild is leading the recall effort. They allege that Hatcher performed his duties in an improper manner, committed illegal acts, and violated his oath of office. Hatcher said the guild was refusing to hold deputies accountable. He said the guild would not let him take disciplinary action against employees who committed wrongdoing.

Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram approved the recall petition on August 20, 2020. Hatcher filed an appeal against that decision with the Washington Supreme Court. If his appeal is rejected, recall supporters will be able to circulate petitions. Recall supporters must collect 14,000 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Additional reading


Democrats Strickland, Doglio advance from WA-10 top-two primary

Marilyn Strickland (D) and Beth Doglio (D) advanced from the top-two primary for Washington’s 10th Congressional District on August 4. With 87% of precincts reporting, Strickland had received 21% of the vote, and Doglio received 14.5%. Kristine Reeves (D) was third with 12.9% and Rian Ingrim (R) fourth with 11.1%.

Strickland is CEO of the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce. She served as mayor of Tacoma from 2010 to 2017. Her endorsers include former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former Washington Govs. Gary Locke (D) and Christine Gregoire (D).

Doglio is a member of the state House of Representatives. She was first elected in 2016. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and LEAP Forward are among Doglio’s endorsers.

Nineteen candidates ran in the top-two primary: eight Democrats, eight Republicans, one independent, one Essential Workers Party candidate, and one Congress Sucks Party candidate. Incumbent Rep. Denny Heck (D), in office since 2013, sought election as lieutenant governor, leaving the seat open.

Between 2014 and 2018, there were three U.S. House general elections in Washington featuring candidates from the same party. In both 2014 and 2016, Republicans Dan Newhouse and Clint Didier advanced from Washington’s 4th Congressional District primaries. In 2018, D. Adam Smith (D) and Sarah Smith (D) advanced from Washington’s 9th District primary. Washington has 10 congressional districts.

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Inslee and Culp advance from Washington’s top-two gubernatorial primary

Incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Loren Culp (R) defeated 34 other candidates to advance in Washington’s top-two primary for governor on August 4, 2020. In a top-two primary, all candidates regardless of party affiliation run in the same primary. The top-two vote-getters advance to the general election.

Eleven Republicans, five Democrats, five unaffiliated candidates, three independents, and 12 candidates affiliated with third parties were on the ballot. As of 10:15 p.m. Western Time, Inslee had received 52% of the vote followed by Culp with 17% with an estimated 50% of precincts reporting. No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote.

Inslee, first elected in 2012, is seeking a third term. One Washington governor has ever served a third consecutive term: Daniel Evans (R), who left office in 1977. Inslee was a 2020 Democratic primary candidate for president and suspended his campaign in August 2019.

Culp is the Chief of Police in Republic. He served as a combat engineer and owned Stamped Concrete, a construction business. Culp was also a police officer and narcotics detective before being appointed police chief.

Inslee last won re-election in 2016 with 54% of the vote to Bill Bryant’s (R) 45%.


Recall petition filed against Washington sheriff

An effort to recall Jerry Hatcher from his position as Benton County Sheriff in Washington began in July 2020. The Benton County Sheriff’s Guild is leading the recall effort. They said Hatcher had performed his duties in an improper manner, committed illegal acts, and violated his oath of office. Over 90% of the guild members participated in a vote on the matter in June 2020, and 100% of those who voted were in favor of starting the recall effort.

Hatcher said the guild was refusing to hold deputies accountable. He said the guild would not let him take disciplinary action against employees who committed wrongdoing. “It’s been hard watching what goes on in the nation,” Hatcher said. “And for the first time, I’m seeing it within my own organization.”

Benton County Sergeant Jason Erickson filed the recall petition with the Benton County Auditor on July 20, 2020. The next step is for a judge to rule whether or not there is sufficient evidence to support the claims in the recall petition. If the judge rules in favor of the petition, Hatcher will be able to file an appeal. If he does not, or if his appeal is rejected, recall supporters will be able to circulate petitions.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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