Friday, October 30, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

As Washington state goes, so goes the nation?

The Evergreen State is known for many things – among them coffee drinking, a nearly-constant threat of showers and a decidedly-independent streak in its politics.

Now add one more item to that list: bellwether.

No matter how the final vote count on Initiative 1033 and Referendum 71 goes down, Washington voters will have already shaped the national debate on crucial issues for individuals, families and businesses.

First, regarding a matter at the heart of Tim Eyman’s bid for a ninth-straight ballot victory, Washingtonians have the chance to send an unambiguous rejection of the notion that vilifying and defunding our government before an economic recovery has the chance to take hold, is the right path for our state.

There’s no doubting the deep well of anger and mistrust held by many toward government on the local, state and federal level, evidenced by the high turnout at Rep. Brian Baird’s town hall-style meeting at Clark County Amphitheater in Ridgefield last August.

But for many others, another belief is emerging – one that sees government as neither the problem, nor the solution to everything wrong with our country. With the federal stimulus program credited today with saving as many as 650,000 jobs nationally, including thousands of Washington state teachers and construction workers, clearly there’s much that government on all levels can do – and must do – on behalf of its citizens.

Which brings us to Ref. 71, a measure asking voters to approve legislation passed earlier this year giving same-sex partners equal protection and rights as heterosexual couples. Though the state’s business community, with the major exception of Microsoft Corp., mostly stayed on the sidelines on this issue, this measure’s extension of basic civil rights to all residents has found considerable support in many different quarters.

One thing is clear: the morning after Election Day, we will know where the Evergreen State stands. Then it’s on to next year’s midterm elections to find out whether the nation followed our lead.