MAN, WHERE DID this guy come from?

You’d think two signature gatherers—middle-aged men paid a buck or so a John Hancock—could catch a break, there amid a copse of trees on an Eastside commuter campus. But neither the skinny one in the newsy hat nor his rotund sidekick in the black tracksuit jacket seemed aware that they were bit players in a comedy a decade old. Or that they’d landed in the last place on earth foot soldiers in Tim Eyman’s army should step and expect to walk away unscathed.

All morning in front of the Bellevue College student union the men had dutifully engaged the backpacked masses, chatting up the harried undergraduates about the evils of taxes and, when lucky, acquiring signatures to help place Initiative 1125 on the November ballot.

Then a shadow loomed on the sidewalk like Alfred Hitchcock’s silhouette prior to a murder tale. The shadow’s owner, Andrew Villeneuve, six feet tall, stared them down. His black hair was perfectly parted on the side and seemingly shellacked in place—giving him the mien of a high school vice principal, not a 24-year-old Bellevue College business major.

Just as the skinny one was telling another student he didn’t know who was behind the initiative, Villeneuve interrupted. “Tim Eyman’s the sponsor.”

Repulsed by the identity of the sponsor, the student walked away. Villeneuve didn’t budge. He pulled out a camera and began to photograph the men, who meandered away and retired to a bench for a cigarette break.

The nicotine barely had time to commandeer the men’s bloodstreams before Villeneuve trained his camera on them again. The caption he posted on his blog hours later read, “Two petitioners light up…in violation of campus policy.”

You’ve likely never heard of Andrew Villeneuve. But among those steeped in state politics, especially progressive politics, he’s known as a vice chair of the King County Democrats, executive director of a lefty think tank (which he founded in high school), and, most notably, archrival of Tim Eyman, the potentate of antitax initiatives in the Evergreen State.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich spoke at a Seattle activist conference Villeneuve co-organized in July, a conference that also featured current Washington gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, U.S. Representative Jim McDermott, and former U.S. congressional candidate Darcy Burner. “I’m here because Andrew said I had to be,” Burner confessed at the event.

Seattlepi.com political columnist Joel Connelly lauds Villeneuve’s activism and research as “invaluable” in the fight for progressive causes. And state representative Roger Goodman credits Villeneuve with helping him win reelection last year—and calls him “Boy Wonder.”

This fall Villeneuve will do what he’s done every election season for the past nine years: School voters on the machinations of Eyman’s latest campaign to hamstring the legislature. This time it’s I-1125, which, among other things, would restrict the allocation of money from proposed tolls on Interstate 90.

Where he came from is just 11 miles from where the two signature gatherers sat, enjoying their illicit smoke break.