Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 21, 2014

Battle for the State Senate: The 48th District

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

Continuing our series examining the closely fought battle for the Washington State Senate, here is a another guest post from The Legislative Junkie.

The Legislative Junkie has volunteered to give us some inside scoop on this pivotal race and while he shares my pithy writing style, he is one of the four regular guest contributors to this blog. You can read more guest posts by using the menu on the right. 

48th District


Cyrus Habib (D) vs. Michelle Darnell (R)


The 48th district reaches the richest niches of eastern King County, stretching from the eastern shores of Lake Washington to the western shores of Lake Sammamish, including Medina, Redmond, and parts of Bellevue and Kirkland. It’s voting patterns are typical of the suburban King County swing districts I’ve written about before on this blog – socially liberal, big business Democrats – the kind that are pro-marriage equality and anti-union. This Senate seat is left vacant by the retirement of Rodney Tom (R, D, “D,”- his own ego, Medina).


Since Rodney Tom’s late-2012 defection from the Democrats to become Majority Leader of the Majority Coalition Caucus (a move that gave governing power to Republicans and torpedoed much of Tom’s own stated legislative agenda), he has been a major target of the Washington State Democratic Party. His retirement denied Democrats the grudge match they were looking for, but it left the seat open for the taking by first-term Representative Cyrus Habib (D-Bellevue).

Cyrus Habib

Cyrus Habib

Habib is young (32), charismatic, and has a resume that, frankly, leaves me feeling inadequate (attorney at Perkins Coie, Bellevue Human Services Commissioner, Rhodes Scholar, editor of the Yale Law Review).

He’s been endorsed by people who don’t always find themselves on the same side: both the Washington Education Association AND education reformers like Stand for Children; both the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund AND the Seattle/King County Realtors. After winning his House race by 20 points in 2012 and raising more than $135,000 for the 2014 cycle, Habib has the seat all but locked up.

Michelle Darnell, the Republican in the race, is running an interesting, if not entirely ready-for-primetime, campaign. Her campaign rhetoric is anti-big business, focusing especially on the plight of homeowners facing foreclosure.

She’s also criticized Habib for supporting a Business and Operations tax giveaway to Boeing. However, she doesn’t mention much in the way of policy positions or solutions (she told The Stranger’s Election Control Board “I am not going to talk about specific policy.” Warning – the SECB’s response contains an all-caps incredulous vulgarity).*

Darnell’s campaign has an amateurish feel to it that I want to admire (she’s raised less than $10,000), but it’s also borderline shady (posting a blurry photo of yourself next to Kemper Freeman, captioned “Michelle standing beside Kemper Freeman, Owner of Bellevue Square” won’t fool anyone into thinking he’s endorsed you).


Habib has this seat won. It’s all over now but the voting.

*Darnell also pokes at a pet peeve of mine, saying “I know about education, I’ve raised four children.” That’s legitimately impressive, raising four children, and I’m all for including the wisdom of parents in education policy. BUT: no, being a parent (or having been a student) does not make you an education policy expert. It’s like saying, “I know about astrophysics, I see the moon almost every night” or “I know about nutrition, I eat three meals a day.”

Education policy, from curriculum development to resource allocation, is the keystone issue facing the legislature, and it’s more complicated than what someone can learn from their experience as a parent. Suggesting so distracts from the legitimate research and expertise of those who have devoted years to understanding education policy and practice – teachers, wonks, researchers, reformers, and activists. I hate hate hate this kind of appeal to anti-intellectualism.



  1. Sure, being a parent is not the same as being an education expert, but does bring a wealth of end-user, direct consumer perspective. Children go to school hundreds of days each year, year after year, with homework and assignments and troubles and triumphs. A 2 child family may have dealt with 14 teacher and class situations by the time their oldest kid is 12. So being a parent may not be fancy and technical like being an automobile designer, but it is very much like being a professional driver with a very large collection of classic automobiles, some of which you have had a lot of work done on.

  2. “Suggesting so distracts from the legitimate research and expertise of those who have devoted years to understanding education policy and practice – teachers, wonks, researchers, reformers, and activists”.


    Parents and the LOCAL community need to be involved and at the table on all decision making concerning the education of their children. “teachers, wonks, researchers, reformers, and activists” have politicized the system.

  3. Richard – absolutely, parents have a lot of end-user experience with the public education system. Being a parent is a huge amount of work, and parents know their own kids in ways no teacher or policy expert can. But being a professional driver who works on their own cars doesn’t mean you know how to drive a motorcycle, nevermind run an automotive factory.
    I want to re-iterate – I really am deeply supportive of parent involvement in the classroom. I come from an alternative education program that was founded by parents demanding more input in curriculum and policy. And, little is more motivating to political activism than parenthood – just ask Patty Murray.
    But education, in policy and practice, is about everything from brain chemistry to budget writing. It is deeply complicated, and a parent’s-eye view of the education system is not the whole picture. I want any candidate to start with their own perspective and learn from there. I haven’t seen indication from Darnell that she is curious about education beyond her own experience as a parent, and I am always wary of candidates who are incurious.

    • Right on, Richard. Darnell basing her campaign on being a mom and Republican traditional family values seems rather. . . (sorry, stupid) given that she left 3 or her 4 children to fend for themselves to move to the wealthy 48th. Her message would be better received in less affluent district given her focus. I’m generally Republican, but is this the best we could come up with??

      • Which is it 3 or 4? Your vagueness diminishes the credibility of your comments. [see Walter Haugen]

      • Wayne, how is 3 of 4 so incredulous? Four children, three of them younger than 18. Where? In Ferndale with friends. The youngest lives with his father, from what I’ve heard. My point is her claim that being mother of four somehow qualifies her as an expert on education is slippery platform given she’s not raising them. To try to appeal to Republican family values as dedicated mom seems disingenuous. Moving 70 miles away from young children to an unfamiliar area because there is an uncontested Senate seat reminds me a bit of Hillary relocating to New York to run for office.

  4. From The Stranger article: “Already a state representative, Habib has a long-term plan for paying for our underfunded schools, starting with an across-the-board increase on all B&O taxes, and eventually passing a capital-gains tax or an income tax on the rich. Habib is right on scores of other progressive issues.”

    Your article portrays Habib as a young, hip professional who is immediately suspect to us “shot at and missed, shit at and hit” cynics. The Stranger article, however, contains some policy positions that make me want to support him – specifically “eventually passing a capital-gains tax or an income tax on the rich.”

    I am curious as to why the Republicans could only come up with Darnell. A little more investigative journalism would please me (although I am grateful for what you have come with already).

    • Why do the 1% (or 10%) always have to foot the bill for everybody else?

      • Simple. They have the money.

    • well 29% of the population is under 18….. and 12% is over 65(I know some people keep working) So 53% of people pay income tax…..only about 6% of people I would expect to be working aren’t, and given that 12% of Americans have disabilities…….

      as a working american I don’t feel that ripped off.

      • Many people over 65 pay both Federal and State Income Taxes. I for one still pay a lot in Federal Income taxes.

        We need a flat 10% tax for every person with either earned or unearned income. The guy who makes $40,000 pays $4000. and the person who makes $100 million pays $10 million. NO DEDUCTIONS, NO EXEMPTIONS. Those under a basic cost of living are exempted. THAT IS FAIR.

        If you paid $10million in taxes you would feel ripped off.

      • I actually agree with that in concept, the only problem with it, that I see is that our government currently takes 4 trillion a year (3.7 if you want to get exact) and we only produce 15.68 Trillion in GDP, while I think our government might be able to trim down a little, I don’t think your gonna be able to get it down to a third of it’s size. But yeah, something like a 20 income tax, would actually level the playing field for some companies…….of course it will still probably hurt low income people who right now get a credit.

    • I consider myself Rebublican, but question how the party could not come up with a more viable candidate for an uncontested seat in our House Senate. Habib has strong support from the Education Community. One must question how someone can base a campaign on Education reform given this endorsement. The foreclosure issue is real, and Ms. Darnelll seems genuine in her passion for the victims–but is that the primary focus for the wealthy 48th district voting base?? To stay with her children here in Ferndale and run on this platform “might” work. What a waste of time in the most wealthy district in the state! Come back to your “roots” Michelle, and stop trying to be someone you are not in a district that does not relate to your platform.

  5. Can Habib be both young and professional, AND progressive?
    As I’ve only met him a couple of times, I cannot speak to his hipness, nor should I EVER be a considered a serious arbiter thereof. Riley is much more qualified.

    • Ah-ha! A note of wit (a wit-note?) that is sorely needed.

  6. Hey Devlin, the 10% was an example of the concept. Actually 17% (Steve Forbes’s idea) works. We can adjust the low income threshold to offset the credit. Unfortunately the lobbyists and thus the Congress and the Whitehouse would never go along with this.

    I appreciate you thoughtful and civil comments which is a rarity on this blog.

    • I’d be interested to see how 17% would work, I know we have a ton of inefficiencies just by the nature of our tax code….but I do like the idea of making it simpler, I think progressives would even accept a more regressive tax code if it was simpler.

      Thank you! I like this blog because it’s rare to find the diversity of readers that you find here.

      • Hey, maybe 17% isn’t the EXACT percentage but we can always adjust it. Steve Forbes thinks that would work.

  7. Ironic Ms. Darnell runs as “mom of the year”, therefore knowing education?? May it be known that she left her 3 underage children to move to the wealthy 48th district?? For political aspirations? To run on Right Wing Family values as mother is laughable given her personal history.

    • Where did she leave them?

    • And with whom?

  8. Apologies to Wayne Farber for reply to my comment regarding 3 of 4 children. Just noticed typo in my comment that prompted your reply.. 3 OF 4 children.(understandable that was perceived as vague 😉 ) Bob, I responded to an earlier comment by Wayne. Ms. Darnell’s children live with friends in Ferndale area and the youngest, her campaign poster child, lives with his father.

    • Wayne knew that. He was just trying to get your goat.

      • You are a goat?

  9. Daphne Dujour.
    You sound like a scorned woman….or husband. Which is it?

    • Puzzled, K Smith, how you perceive me as scorned. My opinions are not based on anything to do with my personal life. I have lived in the 48th district for several years and followed the strange politics of recent years (Rodney Tom etc) I was only expressing the incongruity of Ms. Darnelll’s touted credentials as a parent and her priority to specifically relocate to the 48th district for political aspirations while leaving her children to fend for themselves. It seems odd (and not too bright) that she has chosen a very wobbly soapbox as an expert of education when Cyrus Habib is endorsed by most education associations. The whole race strikes me as backwards. Cyrus Habib is supported by and seems to support more Republican groups and Michelle Darnell is more of a populist focused on home foreclosure issues, that would not seem to be a high priority for the wealthy 48th district. As I mentioned before, I generally support Republican candidates, but have found Cyrus to be an excellent choice for our district.

  10. Habib wouldn’t answer a single question about relevant issues when I asked him, and Michelle Darnell’s appeal and understanding goes well beyond foreclosure.


  11. […] good news. Amid the tense battles over climate change, budget and education, Sen. Cyrus Habib (D), who we profiled last year, proposed a bill that would allow you, me, and anyone with a internet connection and web cam to […]

  12. […] final passage, Senator Cyrus Habib, who proposed the amendment, noted that the title of the bill was to “provide incentives for […]

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