If you thought Amazon went crazy trying to buy Seattle City Council seats last year, look at what political action committees are spending to unseat state Sen. Mark Mullet, an Issaquah Democrat.
Labor PACs are spending more than $2 million to replace Mullet with political newbie Ingrid Anderson, a North Bend nurse and Democrat.
This could make the District 5 Senate race the state’s most expensive legislative contest this year.
Washingtonians should pay attention. Millions are being spent because so many of their tax dollars are up for grabs.
Billions may be collected by new taxes the Legislature will consider next year, and labor interests want the state to go big.
Anderson is an unabashed supporter of more taxes and spending. Mullet is a moderate whose support for spending increases is tempered by concerns about the impact on jobs and the economy.
Regardless of tax policy, massive PAC spending is disappointing. It skews elections to favor the richest political players. Constituents and local issues become secondary.
It’s also disappointing to see special interests spend a fortune to oust one of the most effective and principled legislators in Olympia. As this board explained in its Sept. 11 endorsement of Mullet, the spending is obviously a threat to other moderates who don’t fall in line.
For voters, this should raise questions about Anderson’s independence. Will she prioritize interests of Seattle power brokers over those of constituents in her largely rural district in the Cascade foothills?
This echoes Seattle’s 2019 City Council election.
Amazon gave $1.5 million to support moderates in seven council races, an average of $214,000 apiece. News outlets widely covered its attempt to buy seats.
Council President M. Lorena González then proposed limiting campaign spending by entities like Amazon but made an exception for unions.
It turned out labor also spent more than $1 million in Seattle’s election, outspending Amazon two to one to defeat a District 7 moderate. New council members then imposed a payroll tax raising $200 million a year for more city spending.
One PAC that spent heavily in Seattle’s election, Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy, was backed by the same labor interests now funding the anti-Mullet PAC, Washington Cares.
As of Monday, Washington Cares raised $1.6 million. Its largest backer is one of Washington’s most powerful political entities, Seattle-based Service Employees International Union 775. It represents 45,000 caregivers in Washington and Montana; they’re spending the equivalent of $22 apiece to unseat Mullet.
The Washington Education Association teacher union PAC is spending another $472,050 to elect Anderson.
Committees supporting Mullet raised around $500,000 so far, including $384,793 from the Committee for Proven Leadership. The PAC’s major funders include associations of real estate agents, dentists and banks.
Mullet, an Issaquah small-business owner, said he supported SEIU in the past. Upon joining the Senate in 2013, he worked to give SEIU workers a raise, then supported a controversial 2018 bill strengthening SEIU’s role administering state home health workers.
They split over an SEIU-backed payroll tax passed last year to fund long-term care services.
Mullet said that will collect $1 billion a year from all Washington workers, much of which will likely go to services involving SEIU. He opposed it, though, because he’d rather see such a huge, new revenue stream go to early-learning programs that are chronically underfunded.
That sort of balance and context is needed in the Legislature as it embarks on tax reform.
There was already a strong case to reelect Mullet. Outrageous efforts by Seattle political interests to buy his seat only make it stronger.