Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Raúl Labrador: "My vote for Mr. Boehner is not an endorsement of his past leadership."

Posted By on Tue, Jan 6, 2015 at 5:26 PM

From the very start, U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho),  has had a tense relationship with John Boehner. He came to Washington saying, essentially, that he wasn't there to make friends. He accused Boehner of "abandoning conservatives with debt-ceiling" plans. And two years ago, when Boehner was up for reelection as Speaker of the House, Labrador stood there, silent as his name was called, refusing to vote for Boehner or anyone else.
Still not totally sold on Boehner
  • Still not totally sold on Boehner

“I decided to speak with my silence,” Labrador told the Inlander then. “There was nobody at that moment I thought would be a good speaker.” (Libertarian Republican Justin Amash voted for Labrador as speaker.)

He had tried, futilely, to organize opposition to Boehner's leadership. 

He's said he believes Boehner is a good man, but sometimes too naive, too unwilling to take a strong stand. He's bristled at Boehner's negotiating tactics. Yet during the government shutdown at the end of 2013, Labrador praised Boehner's initial resolve and unwillingness to back down. "I think he's done a very good job with this," Labrador told the Inlander.

Labrador's remained ambitious and willing to challenge party leadership. He had a brief, relatively futile campaign for House Majority Leader last year.  

But this year, there were even more even opposing Boehner's re-election. Twenty-five representatives chose to vote instead for representatives like Rand Paul, Jeff Sessions, Louie Gohmert and Daniel Webster (not the one you're thinking of).

But Labrador wasn't among them. He voted for Boehner. 

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Labrador explains how he was convinced: 
Before I cast my vote for Mr. Boehner, I spoke with him multiple times. He assured me that he wants to change the way the House is run. He cited my successful efforts last August in bringing conservatives together to pass two bills that would have secured the border and prevented Obama’s illegal executive actions. He asked for my help moving the House in a more conservative direction and promised that this would be a model for how he’ll conduct himself as Speaker in the 114th Congress.
But lest Boehner think Labrador is sending mixed signals, his statement makes his feelings clear,  explaining that his "vote for Mr. Boehner is not an endorsement of his past leadership" and that "every time over the past four years that the Speaker ignored the views of the Republican majority and the voice of the American people, I opposed him."

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Immigration initiative draws jeers and cheers to City Council

Posted By on Tue, Jan 6, 2015 at 11:46 AM

Supporters pack council chambers in support of a ballot initiative. - JAKE THOMAS
  • Jake Thomas
  • Supporters pack council chambers in support of a ballot initiative.
The first City Council meeting of the year was uncharacteristically unruly and dramatic, with an exasperated Council President Ben Stuckart gaveling the meeting to a close early and storming out during the public comment period for a controversial initiative related to how Spokane police handle undocumented immigrants.

At issue was a proposed ballot initiative from Spokane resident Jackie Murray that would reverse a city policy that prohibits city employees, including police, from inquiring about someone’s immigration status.

The measure drew over 30 people to City Council chambers to testify. Many of them were older. Most of them were white. A few didn’t even live in Spokane.

Some spoke about how this was an issue of equality before the law. Some speakers invoked concerns that the policy would make Spokane a magnet for “terrorists,” “criminals” and “illegals” who would be a drain on resources. Some cited things they had heard on Patriot Radio and other conservative media.

A handful of people defended the city’s policy and pushed back against those who supported the effort to strike it down.

“I am disgusted so far with the testimony from the public,” said Alfredo Llamedo, a social work student at Eastern Washington University, who told his story of immigrating from Cuba as a child.

“This is the land of opportunity, not of hate, and all I've heard tonight is hate,” Llamedo told the council.

Stuckart, whose father passed away last week, warned the audience that he was “short-fused” that evening and that he would gavel the meeting to a close if people broke council decorum by applauding and cheering during the public comment period. After the crowd continued to ignore Stuckart’s warnings he testily said “that’s it” and gaveled the meeting, sparking an uproar from people in attendance. 
George McGrath shortly before being evicted. - JAKE THOMAS
  • Jake Thomas
  • George McGrath shortly before being evicted.

George McGrath, who regularly speak at city council meetings, stepped up to the microphone and began berating the decision, calling it “iron-fisted.” After he refused to step down, he was escorted out by a police officer.

Councilman Jon Snyder, who serves as president pro tem, told the crowd that the council meeting would continue if people agreed to respect the rules.

“This has never happened ever in the five years I've been on council because people respect the rules that we have here,” he said.

After public comment resumed, Murray, the sponsor of the initiative, addressed the council. Earlier in the night, she had a terse exchange with Stuckart when the council passed an ordinance that required political committees active in Spokane to have at least one officer who is a registered voter in the city. The ordinance was crafted to prevent political groups from outside Spokane from trying to influence local elections. Murray, whose initiative is sponsored by the group Respect Washington, expressed concerns that it was targeting her, which Stuckart denied.

Murray told the council that her initiative was about fairness.

“My father is a legal immigrant from Jamaica. I'm black,” said Murray.

“All I'm asking is for everyone to do the same thing my dad did,” she continued. “There's nothing wrong with that; it's not racist.”

Under city law, when a citizen initiative is sponsored, the council has the option of voting it into law or sending it to voters, neither of which city lawmakers have done in living memory. If they do neither, the initiative is vetted by the city and supporters can begin collecting signatures.

Councilman Mike Fagan introduced a motion to make the initiative law, which failed. He introduced another to send it directly to voters, which also failed.

The initiative now goes to city hearing examiner to look into its legal validity. After passing that hurdle and going through the City Clerk’s Office, supporters can begin gathering signatures. It could be on the November ballot. 
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Friday, January 2, 2015

John Waite launches campaign for City Council

Posted By on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 1:57 PM

Downtown business owner John Waite has announced that he will be making another bid for Spokane City Council, challenging incumbent Michael Allen who currently holds the District 2 seat.

Waite, the owner of geek haven Merlyn’s comic books and games store, has made three unsuccessful runs for the city’s legislative body. His most recent attempt was in District 1, and he’s also run in District 3. Following redistricting in 2013, his residence now falls in District 2.

Waite has served on the Downtown Business Improvement District board, the Spokane Regional Cable Advisory Board and is the current Democratic precinct committee officer for the party’s downtown precinct.

If successful in ousting the conservative-leaning Allen, Waite would bolster the council’s liberal majority to 6-1 (although Waite has stressed non-partisanship in previous campaigns.)

According to a statement, Waite will prioritize enhancing job opportunities in Spokane, strengthening public safety and improving mental health services. In the past he has sought to reform the city’s finances. Coverage of an event during his last campaign went viral when Waite dawned a 100-pound costume of a character from the StarCraft video game.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A marathon city council meeting takes on unskilled labor

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Spokane City Council’s last meeting of the year was a marathon session that lasted over four hours and brought out the largest group of people the city’s legislative body had seen all year.

The council's agenda touched on a beautification project, a pilot program meant to deter speeders in school zones and an ordinance intended to use the city’s economic clout to boost the number of skilled workers in the area.

It was this ordinance, accompanied by two others meant to steer city procurements and contracts to local businesses, that filled council chambers with people who largely urged its passage.

The ordinance mandated that 15 percent of all labor hours on city public work projects be done by apprentice labor. Spearheaded by City Council President Ben Stuckart, the ordinance is meant to address the shortage of skilled labor contractors are facing in the Spokane area and across the state. Speaking before the crowded council chambers, Stuckart said that the shortage will worsen as construction projects pick up significantly in coming years. 
The council passed an ordinance requiring apprentice labor in public works projects, despite concerns from Mayor David Condon.
  • The council passed an ordinance requiring apprentice labor in public works projects, despite concerns from Mayor David Condon.

“We, as a participant in the market, have to do something,” said Stuckart, who pointed to about a dozen other schools or government entities in Washington that have similar requirements. He also mentioned a slew of multi-million dollar projects the city had planned in coming years, which, under the ordinance, could be used as an incubator for new skilled workers.

The ordinance, starting July of next year, will require 5 percent of all labor hours on all city projects to be done by apprentices, who will get on-the-job training for in-demand professions. That requirement would steadily rise to 15 percent by 2017. The ordinance allows these requirements to be waived under some circumstances, but contractors who don’t meet it could face fines.

The ordinance was amended by Councilwoman Amber Waldref with provisions meant to encourage contractors to hire local labor (particularly minorities, women and people from economically distressed areas).

Stuckart said that in drafting the ordinance he made multiple modifications to address the concerns of contractors, to no avail. Several contractors showed up to testify that the measure was too punitive and imposed unrealistic requirements on an industry still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.

“For our organization, it will not work,” an owner of a small construction company solemnly told the council.

But the majority of the nearly 40 people who testified were in support of the ordinance and included many individuals from the Spokane Alliance, a coalition of religious and labor groups focused on economic issues. A parade of current and past apprentices came before the council to tell stories of how apprenticeship programs gave them second opportunities after plans of college didn't work out.

Councilman Mike Allen noted that his father probably would have fit in with the apprentices testifying in support of the ordinance, but he still couldn’t support placing a new requirement on businesses. Councilman Mike Fagan expressed concerns that the ordinance would “steamroll” local businesses.

“Again, I ask, why is OK to make this mandatory?” he asked. “Why is this OK to attach a penalty?”

Although the ordinance passed 5-2, Spokane Mayor David Condon has concerns about it as well. In a letter to Stuckart, he wrote that the ordinance should be reworked to better take into account the concerns of all stakeholders and to broaden its focus to creating more family-wage jobs in the area.

In addition to passing the apprenticeship ordinance, the council also voted to shuffle money from existing funds and direct them toward the $800,000 revitalization of the Division Street Gateway, a heavily used entry point to the city that sees 28,000 pass through it each day. Although Fagan questioned if it was a good use of funds and George McGrath, who spoke against nearly everything the council did during each public comment period, called it a “hair-brained scheme to make Spokane's entry way beautiful on Division Street,” the measure passed.

Additionally, the council voted to set up a pilot program meant to deter speeding at Finch and Longfellow elementary schools. Sponsored by Councilman Jon Snyder, the measure, beginning next year, will set up speed zone cameras that will take a picture of speeding drivers and send them a ticket in the mail.

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Gov. Inslee announces education agenda

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Gov. Jay Inslee

At a town hall on Monday evening, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his plan to pump $2.3 billion into public K-12 schools, colleges and teacher workforce training in the next biennium. 

Inslee's education plan would fulfill the state Supreme Court's McCleary mandate to fully fund basic education a year earlier than the court-set deadline; freeze college tuition increases for two years; and restore teachers' cost-of-living pay raises. You read his full plan here

What his plan doesn't do is cover the full cost of the voter-approved class-size reduction initiative, which comes at an estimated $2 billion price tag. Instead, his proposal dedicates $448 million in new spending to reduce K-3 class sizes, as required by the court's McCleary decision.  

"What we've decided here is that we cannot fully fund [the class size initiative] in this first biennium, so what we've chosen to do is fully-fund the K-3 portion of that this biennium," David Schumacher, director of the state's Office of Fiscal Management, told KPLU. "There's just simply not enough money available."

There's no word yet on where or how the governor expects to get the money to pay for his plan. He'll release his entire budget proposal on Thursday. 
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Friday, December 5, 2014

Yes on 594 campaign announces 2014 legislative agenda

Posted By on Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 3:08 PM

The campaign behind Washington's successful background checks ballot measure, Initiative 594, has more plans in store for fighting gun violence across the state. 

Yesterday, on the same day that Washington's new background check laws took effect, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility announced its policy agenda for the upcoming legislative session. The group identified six key areas in which new legislation could improve gun safety in Washington. 

Those areas include:
  • increasing access to mental health services
  • instituting "gun violence protection orders" to allow community members to petition the court to have firearms removed from a person in a mental health crisis
  • holding adults responsible when their children use their firearm to commit gun violence 
  • adding some violent misdemeanors, like stalking and reckless endangerment, to the list of factors that make someone ineligible to buy or possess firearms
  • notifying family members and domestic violence survivors when law enforcement returns previously confiscated firearms to offenders 
  • implementing policies to address lead-related safety and health violations at gun ranges
"Washingtonians are no longer interested in inaction on gun violence policies that we've seen for many years before 594 passed," says Geoff Potter, communications director of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. "We don't expect that all of this will see action in this session, but certainly, there will be many things that do and we're going to be actively working on those."  

Read more about its legislative priorities below.

Policy Agenda

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Not "like" like: What some politicians don’t get about Facebook

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 1:05 PM

RTs, many a Twitter profile inform us, do not equal endorsements. Neither, for the record, do Facebook friendships, nor Instagram likes, nor Pinterest pins, nor LinkedIn connections.

A Rep. Matt Shea email shows his two most recent opponents are friends on Facebook
  • A Rep. Matt Shea email shows his two most recent opponents are friends on Facebook

But during political season, when an association can make or break a candidacy, some politicians fail to understand that. By now, it’s too late to provide a corrective for this campaign, but hopefully this can serve as a warning for future generations. 

Witness Rep. Matt Shea’s campaign against Josh Arritola in the 4th District. Shea has a lot of ways to tie Arritola to groups many conservatives despise — including Arritola publicly telling the nurses union he stands with them. (While he says he’s against Obamacare and for right-to-work, Arritola’s wife is a nurse, and he’s unapologetic for his support for them.) But Shea goes further than just pointing to donations, endorsements or campaign photographs: He goes to Facebook.

“In 2010, my then-opponent was a liberal, pro-choice, union-supported Democrat. She too, had a bad habit of lying about me and my record to gain support,” Shea writes in an email. “So, the fact that my then-opponent and my current opponent are friends makes perfect sense.”
As evidence, he posts a screengrab of Arritola’s Facebook wall, where —J'accuse! — he’s Facebook friends with Amy Biviano, Shea's Democratic opponent two years ago. 

The anonymous attack website against Arritola goes even further, saying “according to his ‘Likes’ on Facebook, he is supportive of Mainstream Republicans of Washington State whose website (washingtonmainstream.org) states that Mainstream Republicans are Socially Moderate Republicans.”

Because many Mainstream Republicans are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, the site implies that Arritola’s Facebook like of this organization overrides his public statements against all abortion.

The opposite problem can occur as well. Back in 2010, County Commissioner candidate Al French’s campaign ran into trouble with its interpretation of Facebook: French simply listed everyone who “liked” his campaign on Facebook as a supporter (though not an official endorser) on his campaign website. That including Roseanne Lasater, a woman who had a Bonnie Mager campaign sign in her yard.

Even in December, after the election, and 50 days after she requested her name be removed from the list of supporters, her name remained as a French supporter on the website. It was only taken down after the Public Disclosure Commission opened an investigation into whether French violated the law by, “with actual malice,” falsely claiming the support of Lasater.

“There were a couple of ‘em that were obviously in Bonnie’s camp that were trying to get information off my Facebook page, but I don’t know that,” French told the Inlander this summer. He added them to their list of supporters “and the PDC said, you know what, that’s not illegal.”

More specifically, the PDC said it didn’t have a clear direction over whether campaign activity on the Internet counted as a “means of mass communication” subject to the state ordinances prohibiting false endorsements.

In fact, one name of a non-supporter is still listed as a supporter on French’s website for this campaign: Local hummus maven Victor Azar, listed in Lasater’s PDC complaint. Azar says he isn’t voting for French or any other incumbent this year.

“I don’t want my name being used in politics,” Azar told me. “I’m a non-partisan altogether. Yeah, I’m not voting for him, no.”

He friended French on Facebook, he says, but it was strictly business.

“I want everybody to be aware of my products,” Azar said. “But that doesn’t mean I endorsed the guy.”

Informed that Azar wasn’t a supporter, French wrote it down on a legal pad, intending to remove his name from the list. “If there’s anybody that’s still on there that doesn’t want to be, let me know and I’ll take them off,” French says.

Yet, to this day, Azar’s name is listed as a “supporter” on French’s campaign site.

In the large scheme of things, these are minor issues. But it gets at a bigger conundrum of this hyper-public, social media-saturated age. "Like" doesn’t necessarily mean like. "Friend" doesn’t necessarily mean friend.

Liking a Facebook status could mean you agree with the statement. But it also could mean you like the way it’s said, or you want to show support, or you have fat thumbs scrolling through a feed on your phone.

Friending a person on Facebook could mean that you are their friend and supporter in real life. But it also could mean you are their acquaintance, that you’d like to date them, that you met once at a party, that you want to keep close track of their statements, that you find their social media presence funny or mockable.

A local activist like Mariah McKay has 4,280 friends. Now, McKay is a pretty social person, but there’s no way she’s actually real-life friends with over 4,280 people. But for an activist, that's a pretty awesome tool to connect with all those people.

I friend Matt Shea on Facebook, I friend Josh Arritola on Facebook. I join Facebook groups about East Valley school politics, Complete Street design, The American Conservative, and the Idaho Democratic Party, but not because I necessarily adopt or agree with any of those views. It’s because I want to follow these people, hear what they say, and hold them accountable.

I accept almost any non-spam friend request, because I know extending my social network’s reach vastly increases the number of potential sources I can message without that message being dumped in the “Others” tab. Facebook chat has become a vital tool for a journalist: I was able to ask former councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin what she thought of Matt Shea while she was on vacation in Italy. That never would have worked if I'd avoided friending her because it would seem like an endorsement.

Many of us already live in a media bubble, with very little exposure to other points of view. The last thing we should have to worry about is being seen as endorsing the entire point of view of every person we "friend" or "follow."

Look, I’m sympathetic. The explosion of online methods of communication have introduced whole hosts of new semiotic riddles: Is that email sarcastic or serious? Is that winky-face because he’s into me? Is the animated pencil scribbling then erasing because he’s self-censoring? Is she now using squirrel emoticons on Skype instead of hearts because something subtle but profound has broken in our relationship, signaling a slow slide toward disengagement and contempt? (Probably.)

Heck, just check out this Key and Peele sketch about how easy it is to misinterpret text messages (language warning.)

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to all of this: If you’re wondering what someone's “like,” retweet, Facebook friendship, or text message means, all you have to do is ask them. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, that’s easier than ever.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

If kids could vote, Cathy McMorris Rodgers would win and universal background checks would pass

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Kids these days like smaller class sizes and gun control. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Kids these days like smaller class sizes and gun control.
More than 18,000 kids in K-12 schools cast their votes in Washington's "Mock Election" this week. They narrowly passed Initiative 1351 to reduce class sizes (51 percent to 49 percent), overwhelming supported I-594 for universal background checks (69 percent to 31 percent), and soundly rejected anti-gun control measure I-591 (55 percent to 45 percent). 

Student-voter turnout, according to a proud press release from the Secretary of State's office, was the second-highest in Mock Election history. (Hey grown-ups, think we can do better?)

Kids in Spokane schools voted to send Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers back to Congress, 57 percent to 43 percent. They also would create a headache for the state Supreme Court by passing both of Washington's dueling gun initiatives: 56 percent supported I-591 while 68 percent approved I-594. You can click here to see the full breakdown of results by county, city and school.

For the voting adults out there, check out all of our election coverage here

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The Inlander's first-ever political TV ad awards!

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 11:52 AM

In less than a week now, your airwaves will be clear of the onslaught of political advertisements about this candidate or that candidate or that initiative that's going to either make the state the best damn plot of land in the country or transform Washington into one giant, freedom-hating turd farm.

But before election season blows away in the fall wind on Tuesday night (that's when you need to have your ballot in, patriots) we'd like to recognize the creative genius of the political season with our first-ever Best Political Ads of the Inland Northwest. We need a better name than that, so feel free to suggest something.

OK, let's hand out some prizes!

The MOST DEPRESSING USE OF STOCK PHOTOS award goes to Cathy McMorris Rodgers (or McMoRodge as her fans call her) for this spot. While listing off all the things she's against, the Republican says she tried to stop Obamacare, and accompanies that message with a stock image of the saddest grandpa you've ever seen, abandoned in a hallway. It's at the 20-second mark. If that's your grandpa, shame on you.

If you head over to Idaho, where there's a real live Democrat being taken seriously for the first time in, like, forever, we have the FRIDAY THE 13th AWARD for A.J. Balukoff's donning of a hockey mask. After some killer saves, Balukoff whips off his mask to reveal that the dude knocking the puck aside is actually — wait for it — the guy running for governor! The puck represents, um, problems or something. Questions remain, though: can this gubernatorial candidate really do those sort of splits? Inquiring minds want to know!

In the race for the 6th Legislative District's seat in the Washington state Senate, we've seen plenty of ads. And since Democratic challenger Rich Cowan owns a television and film production company, it makes sense that he would take home the BEST SCI-FI SPECIAL EFFECTS award for this ad in which his opponent, current Sen. Michael Baumgartner is turned into a ghost. Why the guy who helped bring a successful zombie show to Spokane didn't turn his opponent into a zombie is beyond us.

Baumgartner isn't actually a ghost, because ghosts don't win the BACHMANN TURNER OVERDRIVE, TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS WITH THIS HARD HAT AWARD. Just check out the incumbent state senator gettin' shit done all over the place in his spot. Talkin' with his hands, pounding the pavement with his people and, most importantly, just carryin' around a hard hat in case he needs to get to work on some heavy equipment.

In the race for Spokane County Commissioner, Mary Lou Johnson won the coveted BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE award for her smooth, relaxing, comforting way of talking. Not since Bill Clinton (the 1992 version) has a candidate's voice been so inviting. I would listen to Johnson read the phone book for an hour. Not even joking.

Back in Idaho, you have to hand it to Butch Otter's campaign for their late-in-the-game TV spot that brought home the ROSS PEROT "WHERE ARE THEY NOW?" PRIZE thanks to an appearance by Mitt freakin' Romney! And he's standing in a Five Guys burger joint with Gov. Otter because, um... Idaho loves potatoes and Five Guys has French fries? But it was great to see career presidential candidate Mitt Romney back on TV, warming up for his third ill-fated run at the top office in the land.

Still in Idaho, there's this ad from Sheri Ybarra, perhaps the most entertaining candidate of the season because she couldn't remember when she got married or what degree she was studying for or how she copied her opponent's website or if she's won an award. Everything this candidate for Idaho's school superintendent position touches turns to a big ol' mess of confused amazement, including this spot. For it, Ybarra wins the HERE ARE SOME NICE KIDS, DON'T ASK ANY MORE QUESTIONS award.

That just about wraps up the show, folks. But before we leave, there's one last award. It goes to Matt Shea, who produced this spot all by himself from the middle of the woods! Although it was tough to declare a winner from the many, many excellent entries, Shea eventually came out on top for the BOASTFUL SURVIVOR MAN AWARD for this web ad in which he brags about a bunch of seemingly underwhelming achievements while standing in front of a tree... which we can only assume he chopped down with his bare hands the moment the cameras stopped rolling.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Ranking: Washington is the most Democratic state in the nation

Posted By on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Washington is the most blue state in the country, followed by Minnesota, Oregon and California, according to a new analysis from The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C. 

The Hill examined congressional delegations, legislative make-up and voting trends from past presidential elections in every state. In Washington, The Hill noted, voters have chosen a Democratic president in the past seven elections. Washington also has two Democratic senators, six Democratic House representatives (out of 10), three recent Democratic governors and a Democratic-controlled state Legislature. 

On the opposite end of the political spectrum is Alabama, the most Republican state in the nation, followed by Alaska, Idaho and Kansas. 

You can read the full ranking here.
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