Sheldon survey shows deep opposition to tax increases, progressive agenda

“Taxpayers are not ATMs,” say voters in 35th Legislative District – a benchmark for the vast region beyond the King County line

OLYMPIA – A survey of voters in the state’s most rural district displays deep opposition to the agenda being pushed through the Washington Legislature in the final days of the 2020 legislative session.

The survey demonstrates the enormous gulf between the Legislature’s urban-Seattle leadership and the remainder of the state that lives beyond the King County line. Sheldon’s 35th Legislative District, which covers Mason County and parts of Kitsap and Thurston counties, strongly opposes efforts to artificially raise the cost of driving, mandate sex education in elementary schools, and impose new restrictions on gun rights.

Sheldon, D-Potlatch, the longest-serving member of the Legislature, says the results show his party is out of touch with voters who live outside the greater Seattle area. “The message here is really pretty simple,” Sheldon said. “The voters are saying ‘back off.’

“The 35th District is a swing district – the voters can go either way in any election. And that’s why these results ought to be a red flag to my fellow Democrats. By reflecting the interests of a narrow faction in the state’s most populous area, they are ignoring the rest of Washington.”

This year’s results were the biggest-ever for Sheldon’s annual survey. Some 2,311 frequent voters responded to Sheldon’s questionnaire, which was mailed in mid-February. Voters had the option of mailing the survey back or participating online. Key findings include:

  • 82 percent oppose a low-carbon fuel standards measure that would largely duplicate the carbon-tax initiatives that have been rejected twice by Washington voters. The bulk of the governor’s proposal (HB 1110) is a retread of the carbon taxes that have been rejected twice by Washington voters, and official estimates indicate it would raise the price of gasoline by up to 57 cents a gallon.
  • 71 percent oppose a mandatory statewide sex-education curriculum for public-school students, starting in kindergarten. Sheldon was the only Democrat to oppose that measure (SB 5395), which was approved Saturday and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • 61 percent say the state should not increase homelessness spending, and 63 percent say local governments should enforce vagrancy laws.
  • 92 percent say “keeping taxes low” should be a priority for the state.
  • 78 percent say they oppose a new income tax on capital gains, a proposal that enjoys much favor among Democratic legislative leaders.

Voters also said they favor efforts to save the Puget Sound orca, which summer in the waterways of the 35th Legislative District, including Hood Canal. 72 percent said they favor boosting Puget Sound hatchery production to keep the killer whales fed.

“I think the results show we care deeply about the environment we enjoy on the shores of Hood Canal, in the South Sound and in Thurston County,” Sheldon said. “What we don’t appreciate is greater government intrusion into our lives — new restrictions on our constitutional rights, big new taxes, and policies from on high that always end up taking more money from people’s pockets. Outside the central Puget Sound area, we don’t see a lot of six-figure incomes, and people struggle to put food on the table. We just aren’t that interested in protest marches, class warfare and endless talk about sex and race.

“And that’s where we see the disconnect. The Legislature needs to be sensitive to the needs of all of Washington, and not just its wealthiest urban region.”

Sheldon’s survey also asked respondents to name the state’s most pressing issues. The top choice was jobs and the economy (39 percent), followed by climate change and environmental protection (13 percent) and better roads (11 percent). About a quarter of participants checked “other” – and the most popular write-in responses were “high taxes,” “fiscal responsibility” and opposition to the sanctuary policies that have allowed violent offenders in King and Snohomish counties to avoid deportation.

Comments from constituents included:

  • “You can’t keep giving everything free to people – somebody has to pay for it.”
  • “Protect our non-urban areas from the kind of craziness going on in Seattle.”
  • “Don’t let Seattle run the rest of the state!”
  • “Thank you for remembering where our tax dollars come from, and that the taxpayers are not ATMs.”