Smith on Politics: Wisconsin-Style Recall Couldn't Happen Here

Three contests will dominate election airwaves.

Wisconsin voters have decided not to recall their Republican governor and replace him with a Democratic challenger.

Such a recall couldn’t happen here, or, at least, any recall in Washington state would be far different.

First, a recall petition in Washington can’t be based on a mere political disagreement. It must be based on misfeasance or malfeasance in office.

That means that no one can seek signatures on a recall petition without first getting a court to find probable cause that the elected official has violated the law or violated his or her oath of office.

A judge found probable cause to allow a recall petition against the mayor of Spokane a few years ago. A lack of probable cause kept a recall effort against the Lynnwood mayor from proceeding last year.

Second, any recall election would be a simple yes-no vote on retaining the elected official. There would be no opposing candidate. A vote to recall an elected official would simply make the position vacant. If the governor’s office would become vacant, the lieutenant governor would take over pending another special election. If a State legislator were recalled, the position would be vacant until filled by appointment.

Three contests will dominate election airwaves

We’ll vote on a lot of things this fall, but expect three contests to dominate radio and television advertising.

By mid-October, we won’t be able to turn on a Seattle TV station without hearing about Referendum 74, the 1st Congressional District or the contest for governor.

Those three contests will bring in lots of outside money – much of it from those unregulated “super-PACs.”

Referendum 74 is about affirming or rejecting the same-sex marriage law. Several groups on both sides of the issue have built big war chests, but national anti-gay-marriage groups will spend really big money to be able to keep saying that gay marriage has never won at the ballot box, and pro-gay-marriage groups will match that spending to try to end the winning streak.

The new 1st Congressional District, which stretches from the high-tech areas east of Lake Washington through the rural areas of Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, is one of seven congressional districts within the reach of Seattle radio and television, but it’s the only one that isn’t safely Democratic or safely Republican. The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will target the District as one of 25 it needs to win to retake control of the House. Republicans will target it in their attempt to keep control, and independent groups will buy attack ads aimed at both sides.

The governor’s race between Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna presents Republicans a chance to win a governorship that Democrats have held for 28 years. Outside money on both sides will buy plenty of attack ads.

Don’t expect much on the presidency or the U.S. Senate. Washington is considered too reliably Democratic.

The candidates for attorney general – Democrat Bob Ferguson and Republican Reagan Dunn – will have money to spend, but their contest won’t bring in outside money.


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