Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz

1. A new poll shows Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee leading his Republican rival, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, for the first time in months. McKenna led by as much as nine points according to an Elway poll in mid-February.

A couple of asterisks, though: A) the poll was commissioned by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which endorsed Inslee last week. And B) Inslee's lead—38-34 (with 28 percent undecided)—is within the margin of error.[pullquote]There's a footnote about King County which is certainly bad news  for McKenna.[/pullquote]

Though here's a footnote that is certainly bad news  for McKenna: Inslee has improved his lead over McKenna in King County by three points, from a 12 point margin (43-31) in the previous SEIU-sponsored poll to a 15-point spread (48-33). (That poll, conducted in late February, showed Inslee tied with McKenna, 38-38.)

McKenna's big advantage to date has been his relative strength for a Republican in King County. (Democrats rely on a commanding advantage in King County to win close races, such as US Sen. Patty Murray's victory in 2010). McKenna, who won King County in his 2008 (2008!) run for AG over Democrat John Ladenberg, has been keeping it too-close-for-comfort for Inslee in King County, nudging into the low 40s (any higher would be fatal for Inslee).

Inslee's bounce in King County shows that McKenna's loud position on Obamacare—he's one of the AGs who joined the nationwide lawsuit against the Affordable Health Care Act that ended up in the US Supreme Court last week—could be bad news for McKenna.  While Obama's signature piece of legislation may not be popular in Washington State overall (47-37 against in the only poll Fizz has seen), it is popular in King County.

The SEIU poll was conducted last week, Monday, March 26 through Wednesday, March 28, just as the case was being argued in DC and getting major play in the media. The poll of 500 statewide likely November general election voters has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent and was conducted by Grove Insight in Portland.

2. George Scarola, the longtime lobbyist for the League of Education Voters, the moderate education reform group that often finds itself trying to strike a balance between the adamant Stand for Children and the equally adamant teachers' union, announced last week that he's leaving LEV. (Scarola's testimony against a reform bill late last year—he felt the bill linking evaluations to layoffs moved too fast—was a turning point in the movement that Fizz believes cooled down both sides and led to this year's more thoughtful compromise.)[pullquote]Scarola's testimony against a reform bill late last year was a turning point[/pullquote].

Scarola's Friday afternoon email to colleagues says he's taking a 3-4 month "sabbatical" in China to study Mandarin. "I got hooked listening to CDs driving home from Olympia," he explains in his note.

"When I return," he concludes, "I look forward to working with many of you again, doing my bit in our corner of the world to improve education opportunities for Washington's young people."

Scarola was well-liked by both sides in the fractious debate over education and was very close to powerful speaker of the house Rep. Frank Chopp, and his absence from the mix could present a new hurdle for reaching deals.

LEV recently lost its senior policy director, Lisa Macfarlane, who left at the beginning of the year to start another education reform group called Democrats for Education Reform.

3. Legislation we've been following all session that cracks down on publications that run ads for underage prostitutes got some national attention in the New York Times today. Citing both Republican AG Rob McKenna and liberal Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who teamed up to take on the Seattle Weekly (Village Voice Media's Backpage.com is the main focus of the law), the article previews the legal fight that's likely to come over the first-in-the nation legislation.

Gregoire signed the bill, sponsored by Seattle-area Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36, Ballard) on Thursday.
“There’s going to have to be a challenge to it,” said Liz McDougall, general counsel for Village Voice Media Holdings. “Otherwise it would effectively shut down an enormous portion of the Internet that currently permits third-party content.”

Ms. McDougall said the law could potentially affect Web site forums and chat rooms that are unrelated to escort sites, but where illicit content might be reposted. She also made arguments that even some law enforcement investigators make, that some sites that promote child sex trafficking can lead investigators and advocates to victims and their abusers.

That argument falls flat for many advocates.

“That just doesn’t work because, of course, they’re causing far more harm than they’re helping prevent,” said Washington State’s attorney general, Rob McKenna, a Republican who is running for governor. “There’s no excuse for being part of the problem.”

The NYT also quotes Kohl-Welles, who says she worked for more than a year with the ACLU and newspaper groups to come up with a proposal on which they could be neutral.

4. In the run-up to first quarter fundraising reports (due in mid-April), some cherry-picked numbers and some rumors re: the Democratic intramural bout in the 1st Congressional District are coming Fizz's way.[pullquote]Both Ruderman and Burner, who have reputations as fundraising dynamos, need to show they're still fundraising stars.[/pullquote]

Darcy Burner, the progressive netroots star who lost to US Rep. Dave Reichert in 2008, reports that she raised nearly $30,000 in one day on Saturday from more than 1,200 contributors. (Burner, who entered the fray in October, several months after most of the other candidates, is behind the pack in total cash raised ($127,000) at last count (with $90,000 cash on hand).

We also hear that former Microsoft-suburbs state rep Laura Ruderman, who currently leads the cash race at $258,000 raised (and $128,000 cash on hand), got an infusion of contributions from the Jewish community recently.

Both Ruderman and Burner, who have reputations as fundraising dynamos (Burner raised a record-setting $4.3 million in 2008 ... Reichert raised $2.8 million), need to show they're still fundraising stars. Another former Reichert rival, Eastside tech entrepreneur Suzan DelBene, who entered the race in January, already says she's raised more than $300,000. DelBene is rich. She put $2.3 million of her own money into her 2010 campaign.