Eyman initiatives: Will he meet deadline? Some doubt signature strength for tax cut push

Richard Roesler
Spokesman-Review Staff writer

June 12, 2004

OLYMPIA After months of touting two high-profile ballot measures to reduce property taxes and dozens of appeals to supporters for cash tax foe Tim Eyman appears to be struggling.

Eyman himself predicted last December that it would cost $400,000 to collect enough signatures to get his property tax cut, called Initiative 864, on the fall ballot.

Now, with less than three weeks to go before the deadline for signatures, campaign finance reports show that he's raised only $218,000.

"There are a lot of things that add up to concluding it's dead," said David Goldstein, a frequent critic of Eyman's proposals. "Everyone else wants to be very cautious and not predict his demise until after July 2nd, but I look at the numbers and I just can't see how he'd do it."

The picture's slightly better for Eyman's other initiative, I-892, which has so far raised $300,000. It would allow taverns, bowling alleys and other businesses to install the slot-style machines now permitted only at Indian casinos. Taxes on those new machines would be used to offset a statewide property-tax break.

Initiative 864's money has come from hundreds of individuals, many of them sending small contributions. The well is apparently deeper, however, for I-892, which is backed largely by the pubs, casinos, bowling alleys and gambling companies that badly want the machines.

Eyman pooh-poohed the suggestions that his initiatives, particularly I-864, are in trouble.

"With both initiatives, we're making good progress, but we're not there yet," he said in an e-mail to supporters Thursday. "We're just going to keep our heads down and keep working hard. With every initiative we've ever done, it boils down to the last few weeks."

On the phone, he declined to say how many signatures he's gathered, or whether as his critics speculate he's shifting his efforts to the better-funded I-892. Everything he had to say, he said, was in the e-mail.

"If I thought I could be more articulate off-the-cuff, I'd be happy to talk with you," he said.

Goldstein and another Seattle Eyman foe, Steve Zemke, have made a hobby out of monitoring Eyman. Zemke said two companies soliciting signatures for Eyman's measures one in Seattle and one in Vancouver have recently stopped.

"It's just really strange to stop paying (for signatures) at this point in the campaign, with a month to go," Zemke said. "It either means you're out of money, or you've made a decision to quit the campaign."

It could also mean that Eyman has raised enough signatures with volunteers. But Goldstein and Zemke said Eyman doesn't seem to have the army of volunteers that would be needed. In a state of 6 million people, Zemke said, Eyman's email list includes only about 3,800 people.

"Eyman doesn't have these hordes of people out supporting him," he said. "It's an illusion."

Other Eyman critics refuse to write him off, partly out of concern that premature gloating will spark a last-minute flurry of contributions.

"I've been doing this a long time, and I've learned better than to declare victory at halftime," said Seattle political consultant Christian Sinderman. "Certainly the numbers are encouraging. It shows that his grass-roots momentum is dying."

"There's no way to know, really, with any certainty how he's doing," said Chris Dugovich, president of the Washington State Council of County and City Employees. "This guy has a miraculous way of coming up with the necessary signatures to put something on the ballot."

 

 

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