In Washington State’s 14th legislative district, a tax rebellion is growing against Republican State Senator Curtis King, acknowledged architect, author, and champion of Washington State’s most recent gas tax increase. In November, local voters will have an opportunity to demonstrate whether this rebellion will have an impact at the ballot box.
Washington’s 14th legislative district is mostly rural containing all of Klickitat and Skamania Counties, as well as a large portion of Yakima County and a small slice of Clark County. The City of Yakima is the largest city in this legislative district. Senator Curtis King was born in Yakima, and 2016 is the first re-election where he has an opponent on the ballot. King was originally elected to the position when the previous state senator retired early and King defeated the appointed incumbent in 2007. He was elected in 2008 and 2012 unchallenged by anyone. This year is different.
King’s unpopular tax hike invites challenge
In 2016, King faces an opponent from his own party. Challenger Amanda Richards is a 14-year resident from Klickitat County running as an “Independant GOP.” King’s well publicized championing of the largest gas tax increase in Washington State history (SB 5987) was a large part of the motivation for Richards to challenge him this election year.
As chairman of the State Senate Transportation Committee, Senator King was able to push through the 11.9 cents per gallon tax increase, which ensures Washington State drivers pay the second highest gas tax in the nation at 49.4 cents per gallon (Pennsylvania’s drivers pay 50.3 cents per gallon). When the Federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon is included, Washington State’s drivers pay 67.8 cents per gallon of fuel every time they fill up at the pump. This might be chump change to politicians and bureaucrats in Olympia, but to average citizens it adds up quickly to take a real bite out of a family’s budget.
Unlike most states, Washington voters have an opportunity to vote on tax increases (thanks to initiative 960). These votes are called “advisory votes” and they serve as an opportunity for voters to register their support or opposition to tax increases passed by the legislature and the governor. Based on the advisory vote totals from 2015 (64% voted to repeal the tax increase state-wide) , voters strongly opposed this gas tax hike and in Senator King’s district, the opposition was even more pronounced at( 77% to repeal in Yakima, 76% to repeal in Skamania, 75% to repeal in Klickitat) .
King knows better than the children who voted for him
Throwing fuel on this fire of tax hike opposition, Senator King went on a King5 interview in February of last year and compared the voters in his district to “children” who need discipline. Not surprisingly this quote has fueled some of the growing opposition to Senator King, and this audio clip was featured in a video created by the Richards campaign.
“I have children, and I’ve made decisions for those children that they didn’t like. But it was the right decision…” – Curtis King 2015 on King5 interview explaining his authorship and drafting of the gas tax bill
(click below to listen to audio)
Some local residents appear to have jumped into the fray this election cycle and started to post notes at local gas station pumps throughout the district like the images shown here to inform local residents just why they are paying higher gas prices (and who to blame). This appears to be a grass roots styled protest unaffiliated with the Richards campaign or any formal outside organization.
How much this guerilla messaging campaign can influence the
election will be seen in November. Washington State has a “jungle primary” election system, which means that all candidates for any political office run in one primary (rather than a partisan only primary), and the top two candidates continue to the general election in November. King was comfortably ahead in the August 2, 2016 primary over Richards, and based on his lackluster fundraising efforts he appears unlikely to change his mind on more tax increases in the future.
More King Controversies
Republican Senator King has also helped stir up opposition to his future political prospects by hosting fundraisers for Democrat Party candidates for office. Earlier this year, King hosted a fundraiser for Democrat candidate for Lieutenant Governor Steve Hobbs, despite the fact that there were four Republicans on the primary ballot for the same position. Candidate Steve Hobbs didn’t make it out of the primary (Hobbs received 15% of the vote), despite King’s financial help.
Additionally, it was common knowledge that Senator King recruited a Republican challenger to neighboring conservative Republican State Legislator David Taylor in the 15th District. King is reported to have recruited Republican David Kearby to challenge conservative Republican incumbent Taylor, but Democrat challenger AJ Cooper narrowly squeezed out Kearby in the primary by the slimmest of margins (8 votes – who says your vote doesn’t count?). Taylor is expected to easily win reelection in this heavily Republican district, but King’s well-known efforts to intervene may not be forgotten any time soon.
Transportation’s Tax Kingdom Come
Entrenched incumbents are difficult to remove from office. This is particularly true when the political battle is between candidates of the same political party. Most political observers expect the local Democrats to solidly line up behind King because that political party always supports tax hikes of any kind. Additionally, the latest gas tax arrived at a time of falling gas prices, so the obvious impact on voter’s income was blunted. Most residents are unaware of King’s $16 billion tax increase. This recent guerilla effort by local residents to spread the word in King’s district is obviously attempting to change this. We will know if their efforts are successful in a little over a month…
Our Constitution begins with the phrase “we the people.” It was the founder’s intent that government be created by the people, to serve the people. It wasn’t their intention for the people to serve the government. It was always intended that government which failed to serve the people should be “altered or abolished.” Until we return to the founder’s intent, we remain We the Governed…