The race for the White House won’t be the only show Tuesday night.
Also at stake are dozens of state races and ballot measures as well as several local elections — some that arguably could have a more immediate and substantial effect on South Sounders’ lives.
Here’s what else to watch when you’ve had enough of the presidential contest. Washington state ballot returns start rolling in after 8 p.m.
Better transit and higher taxes?
Imagine a 33-minute ride from Tacoma to Sea-Tac Airport aboard a shiny light rail train.
Sounds nice, yes? Could happen by 2030 if voters in three counties approve Proposition 1, the $54 billion measure also known as Sound Transit 3.
Now imagine paying increased sales, motor-vehicle excise and property taxes for at least 32 years to fund it.
Hmmm. Takes a bit of the shine off that apple, eh?
Transit supporters are hoping voters think the cost is worth the benefit, and they warn this might be the last, best chance to get light rail extended to Tacoma.
“It’s our turn,” Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and vice chairwoman of the Sound Transit board said recently.
Here’s what Pierce County would get if a majority of voters from Pierce, King and Snohomish say “yes” to Sound Transit 3:
▪ Light rail would be extended from Federal Way to Tacoma, giving South Sound residents the eventual option of taking rail from Pierce County as far north as Everett.
▪ Sounder commuter rail would be extended to DuPont, with a new station at Tillicum, and daily trains lengthened by up to three cars to expand capacity.
▪ Bus service would be improved along the Pacific Avenue/state Route 7 corridor between downtown Tacoma and Spanaway.
The local sales tax also would increase by .05 percent, the motor vehicle excise tax by .08 percent and the property tax by 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Cost for the average adult: $169 per year, according to Sound Transit.
Those taxes would run until about 2048, when Sound Transit would be required to reduce its overall tax take (which includes money it’s still collecting from Sound Move and Sound Transit 2) to a level sufficient to cover only maintenance, operations and equipment replacement.
And if voters say “no,” as opponents who call Sound Transit 3 too expensive with too-little congestion relief, hope?
There is no Plan B.
“Over the next seven years, the agency would focus on delivering projects that have already been approved by voters, and it would be up to the board to discuss whether or when to engage with the public on further potential expansions,” Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said.
Those already approved projects include extending Tacoma Link from downtown through the Stadium District and on to the Hilltop by 2022 and adding two more round-trip Sounder trains from Pierce County to points north, which is scheduled to take place in 2017.
Control of Legislature
Republicans are unlikely to break Democrats 30-year hold on the governor’s mansion this year, but another goal is potentially in their reach: Full control of the Legislature.
The GOP already controls the state Senate and would need to pick up only two seats to also control the state House. A gain of even a single House seat for Republicans would cause a tie in the Legislature’s lower chamber, forcing a power-sharing agreement that last existed from 1999 to 2001.
Democrats, meanwhile, think high turnout during this year’s presidential election will catapult them to victory in several local races. For their part, Democrats would need to win only two seats to retake the state Senate. If they could do that and avoid losing seats in the state House, it would put the entire Legislature in Democratic hands.
To help maintain their House majority, Democrats are looking to unseat Republican state Reps. Teri Hickel and Linda Kochmar in the Federal Way area’s 30th Legislative District. They think Democratic challengers Kristine Reeves and Mike Pellicciotti are up to the task.
Meanwhile, Republicans are confident they will pick up a seat in the 31st Legislative District that straddles King and Pierce counties. There, former Republican state Rep. Phil Fortunato is battling independent Democrat Lane Walthers for an open seat.
In Pierce County’s 28th Legislative District, which includes Joint Base Lewis-McChord, state Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-Tacoma, is facing a challenge from Democrat Marisa Peloquin, while state Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, is defending his seat against Democrat Mari Leavitt.
In the same district, Democratic state Rep. Christine Kilduff of University Place is looking to defeat Republican challenger Paul Wagemann, whom she narrowly edged out two years ago.
Another race to watch is the one between state Rep. Jesse Young, D-Gig Harbor, and former state Rep. Larry Seaquist. Seaquist, a Democrat, hopes to return to the Legislature after being unseated two years ago by Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard.
Caldier, is being challenged by Democrat Randy Spitzer, who runs a choral group.
Other high-profile races for control of the Legislature lie mostly outside the South Sound.
They include the matchup between Democrat Lisa Wellman and state Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island; the Senate contest between Republican state Rep. Chad Magendanz and incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet, both of Issaquah; and the fight between state Rep. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, and former state Rep Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Don Benton.
New leader for Pierce County
Five races will go a long way toward determining the direction of county government.
Pierce County hasn’t had a Republican executive since Doug Sutherland held the office from 1992 to 2000. Puyallup Republican state Sen. Bruce Dammeier hopes to change that. He’s running for the executive position against County Councilman Rick Talbert.
Also possibly up for grabs: Control of the County Council, which has enjoyed a conservative majority for much of the 2000s. The council has four Republicans and three Democrats.
District 2, which includes Northeast Tacoma, Puyallup and Sumner, will get a new council member no matter what. Republican state Sen. Pam Roach and Democrat Carolyn Edmonds, a former member of the state House of Representatives and King County Council, are vying to replace Joyce McDonald, a Republican who can’t run again due to term limits.
In the other three council districts on the ballot, sitting council members are hoping to keep their seats. District 3, which includes Spanaway, Roy, Eatonville and Graham, Democrat and former Bethel School Board member Dennis Townsend challenges incumbent Republican Jim McCune.
In District 4, which includes Fircrest, University Place and swaths of Tacoma, independent Kit Burns, best known for his role in helping kill the county’s proposed new administration building, takes on incumbent Democrat Connie Ladenburg.
And in District 6, which includes Lakewood, DuPont and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Democrat Linda Farmer, a Pierce County Charter Review commissioner, takes on incumbent Republican Doug Richardson.
Over the coming year, the makeup of the County Council and who comes out on top in the race for executive has the potential to affect a number of important decisions.
Farmland preservation, stormwater standards, and school and transportation impact fees are all expected to be discussed.
The size of the sheriff’s department also is expected to loom large in 2017. How many deputies should be added, and how those positions will be paid for, seems certain to be a major issue.
Finally, even if the current County Council passes a countywide one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax for mental health care before the end of the year, much of the grappling over how that new revenue will be spent will fall on the new council and executive.
Staff writers Adam Lynn, Melissa Santos and Matt Driscoll contributed to this report.