It surprised no one last week when state Senator Lisa Brown won re-election to Spokane's 3rd Legislative District. The now-four-term senator is the state's majority leader and is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2012.
Brown's 75 percent voter-approval rating last Tuesday is nothing to sniff at. Still, it means one in four voters in that district voted against the state's second-most powerful woman and for John Moyna, a Libertarian night janitor at Dick's, who calls himself "too conservative for Democrats, too liberal for Republicans, too radical for Libertarians, too constitutional for Greens and too controversial for Patriots."
"I like to surprise people," Moyna says, with a kind of impish laugh. While door-belling on the South Hill during the campaign, he included a stop at Brown's house. ("She was surprised to see me over there," he says.) To watch the results come in on Tuesday, he showed up at the Democratic Party's fete at the Red Lion. Asked if his appearance was meant to surprise or incite people, he confesses with a laugh, "Yeah, I do stuff like that," he says. "I'm a very independent-minded person."
That open-mindedness was evident in his campaign. He eschews party affiliation, and his complicated ideology -- crossing conventional party lines -- can sometimes be difficult to decipher. Most politicians outline their agenda in broad, bulleted points on their Websites -- Moyna published lengthy treatises on "Society & Reality" and "Health & Wellness." The former consisted of an 1,800-word diatribe that touched on philosophy, physics and economics before ending with this allusion to popular soap operas: "'As the world turns' you only have 'one life to live.' There is a 'guiding light' for the 'young and restless' so make the best of it before it's too late."
Moyna's campaign -- aside from being a touch abstract -- was also woefully under-funded. The Public Disclosure Commission shows no contributions to his campaign (Brown raised more than $250,000). He ran advertisements in The Inlander but nowhere else.
Still, he credits some of his relative success to his message. "I would say that some of my ideas are probably a lot more constitutional than [Lisa Brown's]," he says. "That probably helped. [Also, there's] my correct explanation with regards to the income tax issue. And considering the fact that I was wanting to help eliminate the property tax and the B & O tax."
Of course, Moyna didn't believe those issues would win the day, noting Brown's popularity and organization. But he evinces a measured happiness in the fact that he got his message out there and even won a slightly higher percentage of votes in the general election than he did in the primary. He doesn't call that satisfaction, though. "I would've been satisfied if I'd won," he says, "but I'm not really disappointed."
Moyna says his next campaign is a hunt for financial aid, so he can earn a college degree. He hints, though, at a Democratic run for state representative in 2010 (based on a rumor he heard that the recently elected Alex Wood may be stepping down from that post). For now, however, he seems content to take it easy. "Working at night and trying to do a campaign in the daytime was turning me into a zombie," he sighs. "I was sleep-walking for about two months."
-- JOEL SMITH
The Guv Rematch
After months of Dino Rossi's billboards reminding Washington voters of the salami-thin vote margin that kept him from the governor's mansion in 2004, voters were braced for another knock-down, drag-out recount in the gubernatorial rematch. But it never materialized. With 63 percent of the votes in at press time, Gregoire enjoyed a comfortable 7 percent margin over Rossi, who conceded last Wednesday.
Interestingly, Gregoire had been rumored to top a short list for EPA director in an Obama administration (she had been an early support of Obama). The rumor, reported by Congressional Quarterly in October, hinged on whether she lost. Asked this week if the governor would consider the position anyway, spokeswoman Laura Lockard was unequivocal. No, she'd turn down Obama if asked. "She's honored to have the opportunity to serve the people of Washington and looks forward to working for them for the next four years," Lockard says.
-- NICHOLAS DESHAIS
Far closer than the gubernatorial election were two closely scrutinized (but publicly obscure) races at the state executive level. For two days following the election, it was unclear whether former Democratic congressional candidate Peter Goldmark or incumbent Republican Doug Sutherland had prevailed in the race for state lands commissioner, but Goldmark squeaked out a 51.1 to 48.9 percent victory. Elsewhere on the ticket, challenger Randy Dorn upset three-term schools superintendent Terry Bergeson for the state's highest education post by a narrow margin. What this means for the WASL (the state's standardized public school test) remains unclear -- Dorn made the reformation of the test a focal point in his campaign.
One of the tightest races in the state came from Spokane's 6th Legislative District, where Democratic challenger John Driscoll's 87-vote lead over incumbent John Ahern has triggered an automatic recount. That's still second, however, to the vote in the Island County's 10th District, which is separated by only 74 ballots. (Both races will be in good company -- comedian Al Franken's run for the United States Senate in Minnesota is also set for a recount, with Franken trailing the Republican incumbent by 238 votes.)
-- JOEL SMITH
Walt Minnick pulled off the impossible (OK, it might not have been quite as historic as, you know, Obama getting to the White House, but the odds seemed long from the start). A Democrat, Minnick faced off against incumbent Republican Bill Sali in Idaho's 1st Congressional District, historically ruby-red terrain in a historically red state. Yet he won 51 to 49 percent -- becoming the first Dem to represent the state in Congress in 14 years. Minnick was successful, observers say, in large part because of his conservative credentials: Former Young Republican, former aide to Richard Nixon, former Army Lieutenant and former CEO of lumber manufacturer TJ International. But yes, he's a Democrat and in a Washington machine run by Democrats he should have some pull come January. He expects national party leaders will have his back, telling the Spokesman-Review this week, "I think they'll be more inclined to be helpful to me than they would be to somebody from a safe district."
-- JACOB H. FRIES
Secret "Vices" Revealed
Fresh on the heels of the pasting they took on Election Day, GOP members of Congress are scrambling for a new "vision thing," and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) is signaling interest.
Fresh off winning a third term, McMorris Rodgers announced she is running for Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, which divvies up committee leaderships and develops House GOP strategies... or is that tactics? She so far is the lone challenger to current Vice Chair Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas).
McMorris Rodgers' move comes as Republicans seek to reshape their leadership in the wake of losing ground in both the House and Senate as well as losing the White House. The leadership scramble began the day after the election when Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) stepped down as chair of the House Republican Conference.
"It is my desire to help our conference advance the principles and values we hold dear," McMorris Rodgers wrote to House colleagues. "We must communicate a vision for America's future that inspires people and rallies them to our banner."
-- KEVIN TAYLOR
Jail vs. Sheriff
In Kootenai County, voters overwhelmingly gave Sheriff Rocky Watson another term, with 75 percent picking him over challenger Arthur "Skip" Ingle. But interestingly, while voters seem to approve of Watson's job performance, they soundly rejected one of his agency's main priorities: a $147 million jail expansion project. They turned down a bond measure for the jail 64 percent to 35 percent; it would have raised property taxes to pay for construction. They also shot down a proposal to raise the sales tax by a half-cent for 10 years, which would have been used to offset the property tax increase. Watson has said the proposals were doomed to fail because supporters didn't have enough time to win over the public.
-- JACOB H. FRIES
Weeks before the election, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown predicted that her party would retain its legislative might. "The Democrats haven't had a majority like this since the 1960s," she told The Inlander. "We have 32 seats out of 49. I think we will continue to have 32 or maybe even 33. It's not a year where there will be big changes in the Legislature." She was almost right. The Dems did keep the majority but the party lost some seats in both chambers. And in a favorable year nonetheless. Before Election Day, Democrats had a 32-17 majority in the Senate and a 63-35 majority in the House. But it was the Republican Party that picked up a seat in the Senate, and it appears like it'll pick up two in the House. Local Republican Kevin Parker defeated incumbent Rep. Dan Barlow by 6 percentage points, the first time an incumbent Democrat in the House went down in defeat in almost a decade. And on the Westside, Rep. Liz Loomis (D-Snohomish) is losing by a hair -- just 118 votes out of more than 65,000 cast. The race may be headed for a recount. The Dems still rule, but with a little less voting power.
-- NICHOLAS DESHAIS
Statistics for the presidential election are still incomplete, but projections indicate that the total turnout (between 126.5 and 128.5 million) makes it the largest election in American history. However, the turnout was markedly less than expected and in terms of the all-important percentage (around 60 percent of eligible voters), the election still fell behind the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy, when 63.1 percent turned out.
In terms of demographics, CNN exit polls show that Obama did exceedingly well among young people (as expected) but got less approval with each higher age group, from 66 percent among voters in the 18-to-29 age group to 45 percent among voters 65 and older. Among the largest age group (voters between 45 and 64) Obama scored exactly 50 percent. The poll also shows that men broke almost evenly for the two major candidates (with 49 percent favoring Obama and 48 percent favoring McCain), while women preferred the candidate who didn't have a woman on the ticket by a 9 percent margin. n
-- JOEL SMITH