Speaker of the House Frank Chopp in his office last Thursday, the day after House Democrats voted to suspend I-960. His caucus had an off-campus meeting later that night where they ate prime rib—paid for out of their own pockets—and discussed raising taxes. (Photo by Josh Feit)
"We've heard this from the Republicans many many times before," Speaker of the House Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43) boomed in a sit down with PubliCola responding to our tea-leaf prognosis that Chopp—famous for building and protecting his deep Democratic majority—may be facing a triple-whammy backlash from voters this year: 1) The Tea Party anti-Obama populism that's likely to be unkind to Democrats in general; 2) Specific anger at Olympia Democrats for suspending voter-approved 960, which his caucus did, 51 to 47; and 3) Really specific anger over raising taxes.
Indeed, as the Democrats in the state legislature get ready to unveil new taxes tomorrow—likely hundreds of millions more than the Governor proposed on Wednesday (she proposed $493 million to be exact)—I asked House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43) how he was going to deal with the potential voter backlash (his troops, like Lakewood, Ft. Lewis-area Rep. Tami Green, are facing some strong GOP challengers in Recession 2010.)
"2000, that was a Republican year, but we picked up seats. 2004, we picked up seats. In 2005 we raised taxes, but [the Democrats went unscathed in 2006]," Chopp said. He added that there's always a risk "when you're raising taxes or reforming government, but look at recent history, 1033 [Tim Eyman's 2009 initiative to put a belt on government growth] was massively rejected by voters. This year, the school levies all passed. Voters want to get government working for the people of the state."
But how would his members respsond on the campaign trail this year when their GOP opponents hit them with the charge that they'd ignored the will of the people? Chopp didn't hesitate: "We care about jobs, schools, health care, education opportunities—all they do is say, 'No.' We have an optimistic vision of the future."