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Political Predictions for 2010

By Morning Fizz December 31, 2009


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We're dedicating the final Morning Fizz of 2009 to our local political predictions for 2010. These are, of course, legally binding and we will be personally liable if any of them fail to come true as promised.

1. Tim Burgess v. Mike McGinn.

This one could take longer than a year to fully materialize, but rest assured: City council member Tim Burgess—who, despite his freshman status, has emerged as the political strong man of the council—is bound to clash with Mayor-elect Mike McGinn, whom Burgess would be forgiven for seeing as an inexperienced upstart who lacks the discipline that has made Burgess such an effective legislator in his two years in office.

Politically, law-and-order guy Burgess, a former cop, is both more conservative and more pragmatic than McGinn; after he defeated incumbent David Della in 2007, he was a constant presence at city council and council committee meetings, absorbing all the information he could before taking office in 2008. Bottom line: When he wants to be, the man is dedicated. And given that he only decided not to run against Mayor Greg Nickels because advisors convinced him Nickels was unbeatable, it's hard to believe his mayoral ambitions are extinguished. 2010 may well be a prelude to 2013.

Watch for Burgess to emerge as the key council voice and check on McGinn during the search for a new SPD chief.

2. Sayonara, Suzie.

Optimistic GOP predictions to the contrary, Susan Hutchison—the former news anchor and Republican-in-all-but-name who ran against Dow Constantine for King County Executive this year and lost, 41 to 59—is done politically, and everyone but the local Republican Party knows it.

If Hutchison is cajoled into a misguided run against US Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), her defeat will be both decisive and embarrassing—factors the GOP ought to consider before rolling the failed local candidate out onto the national political stage. (The GOP stands a much better chance in the 3rd Congressional district where GOP state Rep. Jaime Herrera and Democratic state Sen. Craig Pridemore will make it through the primary.)

Re: The Democrats' Suzan, Suzan DelBene—the latest challenger taking on U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA, 8) on the eastside—Reichert's votes for the Stupak amendment and against the health care reform bill will loom large. But so will Reichert's liberal votes on the enviornment.

3. Constantine the head-cracker.

Dow Constantine may have been elected King County Executive largely on his record as a Democratic King County Council member, but the subtext of his success was that he was willing to crack down on the most egregious abuses of county governmental privilege—starting with the county's unions, which enjoy an exalted status among local government employees. Constantine campaigned on a pledge to make county workers pay a portion of their health-care costs, but expect him to go much farther—challenging union members, for example, to abandon the ridiculous system that effectively pays them for "unpaid" furloughs and grants automatic cost-of-living increases even when services to the county's poorest residents are being slashed to the bone.

4. $1 Billion in Corporate Tax Loopholes will Stay in Place

Despite the $2.6 billion state budget shortfall and Gov. Chris Gregoire's pledge to close tax preferences, the $833.9 million in sales tax exemptions for white collar business services and the $322.3 million in sales tax exemptions for financial services firms will remain in place.

5. Shakeups in the McGinn Inner Circle

So far, Mayor-Elect Mike McGinn has played it safe—reappointing Greg Nickels staffers left and right and anointing political insiders, including folks from Vulcan and other local real-estate firms, to head up his initial inner circle. Don't expect the Nickels-Lite facade to last. By year's end, most of the Nickels insiders—who, we're not prepared to guess, but we're anticipating a substantial number—will be out the door, replaced by McGinn loyalists who more closely hew to the new mayor's green urbanist vision. As a first-time officeholder, McGinn just needs some time to get on his feet.

6. The "Strong" City Council? Pffffft.

Much as has been made of the new, "strong" city council (although the mayor and the council are technically equal legally, the council has generally bent to the mayor's will under Nickels), the council, with a few individual exceptions (Tim Burgess, Richard Conlin), will continue to conform to the mayor's will, tweaking legislation they don't agree with but generally failing to craft a legislative agenda for the city on their own. McGinn may be new, but he's a strong personality, and the council isn't accustomed to speaking up loudly (and with a single voice) for itself.

7. We lead the way on social issues—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court

Two local cases—the lawsuit against the city's gun ban in parks and the lawsuit by Storman's pharmacy to nullify state pharmacy board rules requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception—will both go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before they do, though, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn (another prediction here) a lower Tacoma court decision voiding the emergency contraception rules. (The 9th Circuit has already had to rule against the lower court twice in this case, overturning the Tacoma court's earlier injunctions against the rules as the case proceeds).

Re: The gun ban (another prediction)—the local courts will, surprisingly, uphold it.

8. No end in sight for the tunnel stalemate.

What—you thought that after nearly a decade, the city and state should be able to agree on a solution for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct? Think again. With McGinn as mayor and Frank Chopp as speaker of the House, the tunnel question could remain in limbo for years; and the longer the project stays up in the air, the more expensive (and less practical) it becomes. Bottom line: Even if the tunnel eventually gets built, the short-term prognosis is for still more discussion, stagnation, and delay.

9. No Sea Change for Labor

The Washington State Labor Council's DIME PAC (Don't Invest in More Excuses)—a new labor PAC that pledges to make contributions more strategically, rather than giving blindly to Democrats—will chicken out of supporting Republicans and will not be a factor in 2010.

Similarly, while the Washington Education Association will remain at odds with Democrats over education reform (and in sync with the GOP opposing reform), the WEA will not put its money where its mouth is to pony up for GOP candidates in 2010.

10. Joe Mallahan Will not Vote.
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