Caffeinated News & Gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. James Watkins, the Republican candidate for state auditor, has been identifying himself as a "professional, not a politician" and an "independent"—which is an appealing pitch for a nonpartisan, non-ideological gig like state auditor.

But when he ran against then-congressman Jay Inslee in 2010, he enthusiastically embraced the Tea Party, writing in a March 2010 blog post (that cheers the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity political action committee, by the way): "Faced with big government plans to remake America in its image – expansion of big government through redistribution of our money and the massive nationalization of health care and private industry - Tea Partiers stood up and said NO."

And he concluded:

"A year ago, at early Tea Parties, people thought we were fringy kooks. We got a lot of middle finger salutes and hostility from motorists and passers-by. This year—and remember that this is in deep blue Seattle –we got way more thumbs up, 'way-to-go's, and cheers than middle fingers." And then (all caps his): "Our ideas are winning—and WE'RE THE MAJORITY."

Watkins also opposes federal spending on education; at a forum in Shoreline in 2010, he told attendees that the federal government has no role in education, and that, dollar for dollar, it would make more sense to send kids to private school than to waste money on public education.

Watkins is running against Democrat Troy Kelley (D-28, Tacoma), an actual moderate. Kelley, who beat out liberal Democrat State Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-49, Vancouver) in the primary, gets a limp 58 percent rating from the Washington State Labor Council; Kelley has defied labor and liberals, for example, by voting for workers' comp reform and against repealing the big banks tax loophole.

2. A recent Seattle Times editorial gave Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna's economic plan higher marks than his Democratic rival Jay Inslee's plan. Unfortunately, the only specific example the Times gave for favoring McKenna's approach wasn't specific at all.

Calling it a "Republican approach," the Times wrote that McKenna would "have the state reform unemployment and workers' compensation insurance and thin out some regulations ... this may imply thinning some benefits or tightening up who gets them."

Thanks for the tip on what McKenna may be implying (and for letting us know he's a Republican), but it would also help to know what his plan would actually do. (McKenna has talked about letting private insurance companies compete with the state—something voters rejected 59 to 41 in 2010.)[pullquote]The Times needs to explain what specifics—beyond the landmark reforms already passed and applauded by business—McKenna's talking about that they like so much.[/pullquote]

First of all, the state, under the leadership of Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire and a crew of moderate state legislators known as the Roadkill Caucus, already passed major unemployment insurance and workers' comp reforms in 2011—ratcheting back guaranteed long-term assistance for injured workers by replacing steady payouts with negotiated settlements (saving $1.1 billion over four years) and lowering the unemployment insurance tax on companies (saving $360 million over six years). The Times fails to mention these previous reforms.

The Times needs to explain what specifics—beyond the landmark reforms already passed and applauded by business—McKenna's talking about that they like so much. Additionally, they need to explain why they're calling for a "Republican" approach to replace the successful bipartisan one. (The UI bill passed the state senate 46-1.)

Fizz talked to Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens) yesterday—a leader in the Roadkill Caucus, which not only teamed up with Republicans to pass the aforementioned unemployment insurance and workers' comp reform, but also famously put the Republican budget in play last session—and he says McKenna (and Inslee for that matter) will have to go through the middle of the road group (thus their name) for any new reforms, which he says shouldn't involve more than small tweaks about legal representation for workers in comp claims and finding a sweet spot between workers and employers to keep the fund stable.

3. When we wrote about Oregon's gambling expansion measure last week, we were a little confused about the colloquial name of the proposal: The Grange. (That's the name of the proposed casino in question.) But isn't that also the name of the goodie-goodie 4-H Club-style civic group (former name: the National Grange of The Order of Patrons of Husbandry) that does things like promote election reform?

In fact, it is. And this morning, they're announcing that they're suing.

4. First Lady Michelle Obama isn't just the Democratic Party's convention headliner; she's also a popular surrogate for the President, if mailings to Seattle Democratic voters are any indication: One voter, a frequent party donor (and a guy), reports receiving no fewer than four campaign mailings from Michelle---and none so far from the President himself.

And speaking of the convention: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is speaking today at 6 PM EST.
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