The Jefferson County Republican Party received its first visit from statewide anti-tax crusader Tim Eyman during the local chapter’s celebration of the party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner April 28.
In the case of the Jefferson County GOP, it was actually a Lincoln Day Luncheon, which began at noon and was preceded by a silent auction at the Port Townsend Elks Lodge. Master of ceremony duties were performed by Scott Hogenson, former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs under President George W. Bush.
Eyman and Hogenson took turns at the podium with Jim McEntire and Jodi Wilke, both Republican candidates for the state House of Representatives, District 24, as well as Jon Cooke, the sole Republican candidate running for the Jefferson Board of County Commissioners, District 3.
Eyman joined Cooke and Hogenson in praising Wilke for her role in leading the “No on Proposition 1” campaign in Jefferson County last fall, which saw nearly 70 percent of voters cast their ballots against the measure. Passage of Prop. 1 would have raised property taxes for seven years to support affordable housing.
Eyman compared Wilke’s work to his own, which began in 1995 with a ballot measure to prevent tax money from being used to build a sports stadium.
“The legislators then conducted an emergency session, in which they decided to go ahead and build it anyway,” Eyman said. “It’s so backward, when you remember they’re supposed to work for us. That first campaign, more than anything, has influenced everything else I’ve done.”
Eyman wore a bright orange T-shirt signaling a return to his roots, as he is again championing the cause of $30 car tabs, inspired by one of his first successful ballot initiatives in 1999.
“The first time we got this passed, a judge said the voters were confused,” Eyman said. “To his credit, Gov. Gary Locke, a Democrat, was the one who stepped in and said $30 car tabs were here to stay.”
After Eyman presided over the successful passage of Initiative 722, imposing a 2 percent cap on property tax increases in 2000, he told his audience, “Another judge said it was too confusing,” which simply motivated Eyman to push for Initiative 747 in 2001, reducing that cap to 1 percent.
“When government pushes against you, you need to push harder in the opposite direction,” Eyman said, even as he acknowledged that this later initiative was itself struck down by another judge. “Supposedly, I misled the people. The powers of persuasion I must have,” he joked, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Eyman touted the more than $40 billion he estimates his initiatives have saved taxpayers between 2000 and 2017, but as the state government has “pushed back” and “regained ground,” he told his audience he always knew he would return to the issue of $30 car tabs.
“You have to finish the job you start,” Eyman said. “I remember holding my son, when he was just a baby, the first time I filed a car tab initiative. He’s now 20 years old, and he signed the latest petition. His whole life, he’s seen his dad wearing these dorky T-shirts.”
When state Rep. Jim Walsh, representing the 19th District, took to the podium after Eyman and Cooke, he eschewed a microphone to deliver his remarks in a booming voice, and explicitly tied together Eyman’s and Wilke’s work.
“We are building upon the momentum of your ‘No on Prop. 1’ campaign,” Walsh told Wilke. “What you did went well beyond the limits of this county. The rest of the state was paying attention, and it shivered the timbers of a lot of bad ships.”