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A new calculus

Two or three months ago hardly anyone was seriously entertaining the idea that I-912,which sought to roll back the Washington gas tax increases passed by the legislature this year, would fail. (Joel Connelly of the P-I entertained it, but didn’t go so far as to suggest it likely.) Yet, here we are – 52% no, 48% yes, or thereabouts, with a pile of additional King County votes yet to materialize.

And where is that?

It amounts to a massive win for Governor Christine Gregoire, who helped engineer the deal and whose governorship was to an extent riding on the result. She might not have been crushed, exactly, by passage of the initiative, since passage of anti-tax initiatives in Washington have been such a recurrence. But the rejection of it is almost like the vote of confidence she didn’t exactly get in the election a year ago. She did a Big Thing, a potentially unpopular thing, and now the voters have checked off on it.

The overall Democratic tenor of this election season nationally – Republicans have to look hard, with a microscope, to find much to celebrate in the Tuesday voting – may have contributed to all this. But such moods are unifying things, and form a web of interactions. King County Executive Ron Sims’ strong re-election was a part of it. So too – there can be little doubt – the return to the Snohomish County Council of Democrat Dave Somers (a biologist), who lost his seat four years ago to, and has now defeated, Republican Jeff Sax (strongly supported by developers) – as cleanly ideological a contest as any in the Northwest this cycle.

There is a shift of mood here. Democrats will spend a few days celebrating it. Republicans, notably those in Washington (and who watched their party endorse the “sure-thing” I-912), have some pondering to do.

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