Democratic Gov.-elect Jay Inslee has named his transition team, legislative leaders in Olympia are pondering sobering fiscal realities, and Democrats and Republicans are alternately contentious and compromising in Washington, D.C. But before we get to thinking too much about 2013, here’s one last look at selected campaign results from 2012:
• The statewide political climate in Washington in recent years has been cool to Republicans, and candidates faced headwinds from a national party platform and pronouncements that don’t connect well with the voters who decide state elections. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna was the most prominent casualty, as the results found him just over 2 percentage points — about 70,000 votes — shy of Inslee.
The state’s Democratic tilt worked against McKenna to begin with, and his role in challenging President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in court may have swung enough votes against him in a race that polls showed was tight throughout the year. In the end, Inslee’s narrow victory closely tracked the results from the August primary.
• Other strong GOP hopefuls who fell short were Reagan Dunn for attorney general and Bill Finkbeiner for lieutenant governor.
State voters got a taste of outside money in the $40 million governor’s race and in the attorney general’s race; in the latter, attack ads funded by Republican strategist Karl Rove’s political action committee pounded Democrat Bob Ferguson. Voters must have tuned them out after a while, as Ferguson will succeed McKenna as attorney general, having won 53 percent of the vote.
Finkbeiner fell to incumbent Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, who got just shy of 54 percent. Secretary of State-elect Kim Wyman is now the sole statewide elected Republican, and she prevailed by just over a percentage point, or less than 40,000 votes, over Democrat Kathleen Drew.
• Advocates of same-sex marriage found plenty to cheer when Washington joined Maine and Maryland as the first three states in which voters approved the practice. The percentage in favor of this year’s Referendum 74, just over 53 percent, tracked much along the lines of 2009’s Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” domestic-partners law. Yakima County went 64-36 percent against R-74, very similar to the R-71 vote, but the issue seems to have lost its toxicity for politicians even in conservative parts of the state.
Republican state Rep. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla, who voted for same-sex marriage in the Legislature and appeared frequently in campaign ads for R-74, comfortably won re-election. Walsh, whose public stance on same-sex marriage put her at odds with many in her party, garnered 58 percent of the vote against Prosser’s Mary Ruth Edwards, a tea party conservative who opposes same-sex marriage. Walsh’s 16th District now extends into Prosser after last year’s redistricting.
• Washington and Colorado sent a message about drug enforcement priorities by approving initiatives legalizing marijuna — with taxes and restrictions. The yes vote in Washington was 55.5 percent, a couple of percentage points higher than Colorado’s. Possession still remains a federal offense, but state officials are talking with federal officials about how to proceed through the legal thicket. It will probably be a year before mechanisms are in place to enable legal sale of the drug.
• State voters finally approved charter schools, however narrowly by just over 40,000 votes with a 50.8 percent yes vote. The tightly drawn law should help avoid abuses that cropped up in other states and provide a tool for educational innovation in the state.
• Amid a strong Democratic showing, Tim Eyman was the top vote-getter, even if he wasn’t on the ballot. His Initiative 1185, requiring either a two-thirds legislative vote or a public vote to raise taxes, passed for the fifth time in 20 years, this time with a 64 percent yes vote. Democrats complain, correctly, that Eyman has become the self-perpetuating career politican that he purports to despise, but then the Dems keep handing him issues that he happily takes to a public vote.
And once again, the voters have spoken. Now we’ll see how elected officials interpret the message.
• Members of the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board are Sharon J. Prill, Bob Crider, Frank Purdy and Karen Troianello.