Controversial initiatives and competitive races on the midterm ballot


The midterm elections are this Tuesday, November 6. The Washington ballot covers initiatives from carbon emission taxing to law enforcement training. Candidates compete in a number of races for local, state and national positions.

Inkwell explains some of the most controversial initiatives and competitive races below.

Initiative 1631 – Carbon Tax

by Gabrielle Krieger

Initiative 1631 is a proposition relating to fees on pollution. If passed, this would charge companies $15 per metric ton of carbon. This is a fee, not a tax; it will be put to a “clean-up pollution fund” for specified programs and projects supporting the environment, not for government spending.

These programs promise to support people with lower incomes (helping to pay energy bills, promotion of public transportation, etc.), to help fossil fuel workers who have been affected by this measure, to help reduce pollution (promotion of alternative energies, mass transportation and more), to help aid communities affected by climate change, and to help restore Washington State’s natural bodies of water and forests. The fee will continue to be raised $2 every year until Washington State’s goal for emission of pollution is met.

Endorsements: Clean Air Energy Washington, Fuse Voters, League of Women Voters of Washington, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Bill and Melinda Gates

Opposition: Western States Petroleum Association, Association of Washington Business

Initiative 940 – Law Enforcement

by Jade Cheatham

Initiative 940 would require Washington State law enforcement to go through training for violent de-escalation to decrease the use of deadly force. If passed, I-940 would require that law enforcement receive a mental-health check and first aid training. I-940 would also change the standard of deadly force. This initiative would be put into place because previously it was almost impossible to prosecute a police officer who killed recklessly with the use of a deadly weapon on duty, even if it is clear that the police officer was incorrect in the situation. Supporters of I-940 believe that this initiative will help hold law enforcement accountable.

Washington state particularly stands out for having such a high standard for prosecuting officers who misuse deadly force. In previous years, a shooting by a police officer wouldn’t necessarily lead to an investigation. Between 2005 and 2014 there were 213 deadly police encounters, and only one resulted in criminal charges, which was later acquitted. With initiative 940, all shootings would lead to an investigation, and it would be determined whether the use of deadly force was used in “good faith” or not. Ultimately this is like a moral test. If determined that the use of the weapon was used incorrectly the police officer would be prosecuted.

Supporters of I-940 believe that officers in Washington are not provided with enough training to help de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation. This initiative also includes mental health crisis training. In Washington one third of people killed by law enforcement from last year had mental health issues.

People in opposition to I-940 believe that this initiative is designed to prosecute police officers, which would cause a divide in the community. Opposers are also concerned that this initiative would cause people to negatively view the police officers who are there to protect.  

Endorsements: The Seattle Times, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, United States Senator Patty Murray, Governor Jay Inslee, Mayor of Tacoma Victoria Woodards, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Washington State

Opposition: Washington State Fraternal Order of Police, Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs, Seattle Police Officers Guild, King County Police Officers Guild, Washington State Patrol Troopers Association

Initiative 1634 – Grocery Tax

by Allison Fitz

This initiative would preclude local governments from enacting or raising taxes on groceries. According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, however, Washington law already exempts basic groceries (produce, meat, dairy, etc.) from sales tax. This tax exemption law does not currently apply to prepared food, soft drinks, dietary supplements, and alcohol. Additionally, in January 2018 Seattle enacted a “sweetened beverage” tax on distributors of drinks with sucrose, glucose and high fructose corn syrup.

Yes! To Affordable Groceries, an organization in support of I-1634, claims that a “loophole” in this preexisting tax law still allows local governments to tax groceries, and I-1634 would ensure the prices of “foods and beverages” are protected from future taxing. According to their website, grocery taxes in Washington are “unfair for those struggling to make ends meet.”

The opposition campaign, Washington Healthy Kids Coalition, argues I-1634 is really about banning taxes on soda, not groceries. According to @WAHealthyKids Twitter account, I-1634 isn’t about local control at all: it’s about “corporate profit.” The Stranger reports that large corporations, including Coca Cola, Pepsico, Dr. Pepper, Snapple and Red Bull, have contributed over $20 million to the campaign, which has mostly funded television advertisements.

Endorsements: Washington Farm Bureau, Teamsters Local Union 174, Teamsters Joint Council No. 28, Korean-American Grocers Association of Washington, Washington Beverage Association, Washington Food Industry Association, Washington Retail Association

Opposition: Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, Permanent Defense PAC, The News Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Stranger, The Olympian, The Everett Herald.

Initiative 1639 – Gun Reform

by Julia Henning

Initiative 1639 puts restrictions on firearms. I-1639 would raise the age to buy a semi-automatic assault weapon from 18 to 21, create enhanced background checks, and establish a waiting period before the purchase of a weapon in the state of Washington.

This initiative was brought about after the March for Our Lives in March 2018. The issue of gun violence became very prominent among the youth of America after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February that sparked walkouts and protests at many schools across the country, including Annie Wright. This initiative was put on the ballot by the gun reform groups across Washington over the summer.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) campaigned to ban I-1639 from the ballot. The NRA believed the ballot’s title and summary should be revised, which it later was. A second lawsuit was made to keep I-1639 from getting on the ballot but was overruled. The third lawsuit actually took I-1639 off the ballot for a while but was taken to the Washington Supreme Court, who ruled to put it back on the ballot.

Endorsements: March for Our Lives – Seattle, Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, Never Again, Everytown for Gun Safety

Opposition: Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS), the Washington State Sheriffs Association, The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, The Second Amendment Foundation, Washington Arms Collectors

Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Race – Lindquist vs. Robnett

by Nina Doody

Mary Robnett and Mark Lindquist are running for Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney. Robnett is taking a non-partisan stance while Lindquist prefers the Democratic party.

In Robnett’s statements she emphasizes that politics do not belong in the Prosecutor’s Office. Robnett has 24 years as a professional prosecutor and has handled notable cases in Pierce County.

Lindquist is the current prosecuting attorney for Pierce County, with 22 years of public service. In Lindquist’s statement he emphasizes he is for the community.

Robnett’s endorsements: State Auditor and former County Executive Pat McCarty, former Attorney General Rob McKenna, former Prosecutor Jerry Horne, Pierce County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild, Pierce County Corrections and Sergeants Guild and Tacoma Police Union

Lindquist’s endorsements: Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Mayor of Tacoma Victoria Woodards, City Councilman Ryan Mello, US Representative Norm Dicks, US Representative Derek Kilmer, Senator Hans Zeiger of Puyallup

U.S. Senate Race – Cantwell vs. Hutchison

by Young Seo Jo

Senator Maria Cantwell and Susan Hutchison are running for the U.S. Senate seat.

Cantwell is a member of the Democratic Party and is running for re-election. She has been in office since 2001 and has been consistently re-elected. According to Ballotpedia, Cantwell is considered to be “one of the most reliable democratic votes” by multiple ranking sources. On her campaign website, she emphasizes overcoming division and working together.

Cantwell is endorsed by National Organization for Women, United Auto Workers, Ocean Champions, Outdoor Industry Association Political Action Committee, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, League of Conservation Voters, The News Tribune and The Seattle Times.

Susan Hutchison is a member of the  Republican Party and was the former chair of the Republican Party of Washington. She is a former broadcast journalist, former chair of the Seattle Symphony, and the former executive director of the Simonyi Fund for the Arts & Sciences. On her campaign website, she highlights 18 points for why Washington should vote for her and includes her support for the Supreme Court and their recent nominee. She also states her intention to improve the economy, jobs and taxes.

Hutchison is endorsed by Washington Farm Bureau and The Hunters Heritage Council.

U.S. House of Representatives Race (6th Congressional District) – Kilmer vs. Dightman

by YoungSeo Jo

Derek Kilmer and Douglas Dightman are the two nominees in the general election for U.S. House of Representatives for Washington District 6.

Derek Kilmer is a member of the Democratic Party. He was elected into office in 2013 and has been re-elected once. He is a former business consultant who served in the Washington State Senate and the Washington House of Representatives. On his website, he emphasizes his understanding of middle-class families, the importance of equal access to quality education and fiscal responsibility.

Kilmer is endorsed by United Auto Workers, Giffords, Ocean Champions, National Organization for Women, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Douglas Dightman is a member of the Republican Party and is known for his work as a doctor. On his website, he emphasizes his plans to improve the economy for small businesses and honor promises made by the government to veterans, seniors, Native Americans and Allies.

Dightman is endorsed by Pierce County Republican Party and Grays Harbor Republican Party.