It’s been a dreary month of July for Tim Eyman

Initiative tax cutter is losing his fanbase, Cornfield says

Jerry Cornfield

Jerry Cornfield

OLYMPIA — Contrary to the customary exuberance expressed in his emails, Tim Eyman isn’t having a very good month.

Washington’s pioneering initiative barker — whose own financing creativity is a subject of an ongoing state probe — failed July 5 to turn in signatures needed to get a far-reaching, constitution-bending, tax-hike-erasing measure in front of voters this year.

Jerry Cornfield

Jerry Cornfield

Two days later, the indomitable Eyman was on the hunt again for petition signers to put essentially the same term limits on tax initiative on the ballot in 2020.

He had momentum and didn’t want to lose it.

But in those 48 hours, he did lose a chunk of it. Leaders of a new affiliation of conservative-minded folks who energized signature gathering for the failed measure told Eyman they weren’t mobilizing for Round 2.

Cary Condotta, of Wenatchee, who served 16 years in the state House, and Mike McKee, owner of a meat market in Quincy, made clear they didn’t think the new venture, Initiative 1082, had any better chance to pass constitutional muster than the original, known as Initiative 1648.

They asked him to pause for a few weeks to draft something different, something more likely to survive a legal challenge, and they’d be on board. They said they were pursuing what they believed to be such an alternative and needed time to parse it out.

“He said ‘No,’ I said, ‘Tim, I guess you’re on your own,’” Condotta recounted. “We didn’t believe in 1082. Tim will be Tim. We’ll see how it goes.”

Condotta and McKee are guides for the group Restore Washington, whose motto is “Legislation By The People, For The People.”

It’s an outgrowth from an Eastern Washington-spawned movement to split off a chunk of Washington into a 51st state known as Liberty State. McKee embraces that vision but said Restore Washington is a separate vehicle to deal with the here-and-now of what emerges from the Legislature and governor’s office.

“The mission is to create a large organized network of folks to keep Olympia in check through the initiative and referendum process,” according to the group’s Facebook page, which claimed 10,876 followers as of July 17.

Eyman was one but isn’t now. He got kicked off and blocked from commenting, McKee said, because he wouldn’t stop trying to use it as a platform for raising money for the new initiative and legal defense.

No surprise there as Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute, adeptly noted online this week.

“Because initiatives are Eyman’s business, he must always have a scheme to sell … it keeps the hustle going,” he wrote.

So it looks like one can now add Condotta and McKee to a crowd of recognizable conservatives in the state who upon experiencing Eyman up close, wish it came with the Surgeon General’s warning of its potential impact on their health, well-being and wallet.

Eyman seems to realize his base of support is shrinking. Last week, he used email and Facebook to respond, arguing that he’s got a record with initiatives and the newbies — whom he artfully wishes well — don’t.

“We face a threat: disunity,” he emailed and posted on Facebook July 15. “Here’s what’s happening: there is a competition to earn your support. I welcome it. I take tremendous pride in what we’ve accomplished and are accomplishing. This new group is indicating they want to do it, too. I welcome them.”

Eyman said the “heroic foot soldiers” in his camp “dislike disunity and chafe at infighting. They shake their heads at the idiocy of a circular firing squad. None of them believe that the best way to gain support is to try to drain support from others.

“I have faith. I have hope. How ‘bout you,” he concluded with far less than his usual exuberance.

It’s been a tough month.

Jerry Cornfield is a political reporter for The Daily Herald in Everett. He can be contacted at 360-352-8623 and jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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