Women's reproductive rights and workers' rights have been under attack in the state legislature in recent years.

In the most recent session, Democrats had to fight to restore family planning funding and failed to pass the reproductive parity act, which would have mandated that insurance companies cover abortion.

Meanwhile, labor was exhausted battling off Republican changes to workers' comp that would have lowered pay outs to injured workers while also going to the mat defending Seattle's paid sick leave law.

All of these issues will be back next year, particularly, the GOP has pledged, workers' comp.

The numbers in the state senate, where the GOP already has a slight advantage, may fall firmly in the Republicans' control pending the results of a pivotal off-year election in the 26th Legislative District where state Rep. Jan Angel (R-26, Port Orchard) is challenging the incumbent Democrat, state Sen. Nathan Schlichler (D-26, Gig Harbor).

Liberal and conservative independent expenditure groups have spent nearly $1.7 million on the high profile race.

Republican state Sen. Don Benton, the tipping point the GOP-dominated senate.

Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood has spent $17,173 on the race including a $5,000 mailer. They've also, they report, had hundreds of volunteers phonebanking thousands of voters. "And just last weekend, we had volunteers out knocking on doors in Bremerton," Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest spokeswoman Treasure Mackley says.

This raises a question for Planned Parenthood and UFCW: Why have they spent $18,920 (Planned Parenthood for Murray) and $50,000 (UFCW for McGinn) on a race between two Seattle liberals?

Similarly, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, has spent $10,000 on the Schlicher race. "Retaining Schlicher is a priority for us," says UFCW policy director (ie, Olympia lobbyist), Sarah Cherin.

But this raises a question for Planned Parenthood and UFCW, two progressive groups that lobby full time in Olympia: Why have they spent $18,920 (Planned Parenthood for Murray) and $50,000 (UFCW for McGinn) on a race between two Seattle liberals?

Both candidates are 100 percent pro-choice and both candidates are labor Democrats.

Murray has a 95 percent lifetime voting record in Olympia with the Washington State Labor Council and is pushing a $15 minimum wage, which has earned him the backing of labor powerhouse SEIU 775.

And McGinn has gone as far as objecting to a Whole Foods development in West Seattle because the chain isn't unionized and also backs raising the minimum wage.

Comparing McGinn and Murray is like, I don't know, watching a battle of the bands between Toto vs. REO Speedwagon. 

Asked about the criticism that they may be wasting resources that could go to hot 26th race, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Treasure Mackely, said:

"We were pleased to endorse Ed Murray in the race for Seattle mayor, he has a long and public track record of standing up for women's health, protecting family planning funding ... we gave that endorsement and we are proud to stand behind him."

Pressed to explain why Planned Parenthood would prioritize the mayor's race, though, and to articulate the difference between Murray and McGinn, Mackley said: "When our board made this decision in the Seattle mayor's race, it was not something they did lightly. Given Murray's long and extensive track record on women's health, the fact that he has fought to protect family planning funding, that's why they issued the endorsement, and when you make that decision, it makes sense to then stand up and support that decision."

You've heard of state Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver), no doubt?

It's certainly true that under Murray—he was budget chair and more recently minority leader—family planning has not been cut, and in fact, was saved by Democrats on the senate side in negotiations this year even under a GOP majority. However, I'll let you judge if Mackley answered my question.

And here's how UFCW's Cherin responded:

"We reject the 'criticisim' that you are suggesting. We think there is an important difference between McGinn and Murray which is why we are strongly supporting McGinn's candidacy. We have made it clear why we support McGinn and why we are spending resources to ensure he is re-elected."

Asked to explain the important difference between McGinn and Murray, Cherin didn't respond.

Here's UFCW's McGinn endorsement, where they note McGinn's support for paid sick leave, protecting the human services budget, and his stand against Whole Foods—"McGinn ... recently took action to deny a developer in West Seattle from being able to take over ownership of public property for a development that threatened the public interest." UFCW is in a pitched battle with Whole Foods to unionize.

Murray certainly criticized McGinn's Whole Foods stand (not from a wages POV, though, but over process)—which may explain UFCW's $50,000 expenditure. But he also defended paid sick leave on the senate floor when the GOP passed "the Burger King Exemption" essentially gutting Seattle's paid sick leave law by allowing national chains to get out of complying. UFCW was one of the main groups fighting to protect paid sick leave alongside Murray and denouncing the the Burger King exemption. (The house killed the legislation.)

Another mayor's race independent expenditure group, that also tends to prioritize Olympia because of health care funding, the Service Employees International Union 775 health care worker union that's backing Murray, has spent $25,000 on a Murray mailer. By comparison SEIU 775 has also contributed $10,000 to the state senate Democrats' Kennedy Fund, which has turned around and contributed $120,000 to the anti-Angel PAC in the big 26th race. To be fair: All of SEIU's locals combined have more than doubled their spending in the 26th compared to the spending in the Seattle mayor's race.

A similar tension between local races and state races played out last year—and this time UFCW and SEIU 775 were on the same side—when they raised and spent $100,000 for Democratic Seattle state rep candidate Noel Frame against a fellow Seattle Democrat, now-Rep. Gael Tarleton (D-36, Seattle).

That was the same election when the Republicans won an extremely close state senate race (by 74 votes) in Vancouver that ended up giving the GOP the numbers to take control.

You've heard of state Sen. Don Benton (R-17, Vancouver), no doubt?

 

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