A 2017 Political Look Ahead

A 2017 Political Look Ahead with Former Governors Michael Lowry and Daniel Evans


   Governor Michael Lowry
  Governor Daniel Evans

What happens when the political norm is anything but normal? Former Washington State Governors Michael Lowry and Daniel Evans answered that question and more during the CleanTech Alliance Breakfast Series event held on January 11 at Perkins Coie.

Michael Lowry served as the 20th Governor of Washington State from 1993 to 1997. Lowry is a Democrat. His principal policy initiative was enacting a statewide health insurance system with premiums based on ability to pay. Lowry had a brief career working for the Washington State Senate and as a lobbyist for Group Health Cooperative before being elected to the King County Council in 1975. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978 where he served until 1989.

Daniel Evans served as the 16th Governor of Washington State from 1965 to 1977. Evans is a Republican. He is known for his liberal policies on environmental protection (he founded the country's first state-level Department of Ecology, which became Nixon's blueprint for the EPA) and strong support of the state's higher education system, including founding Washington's system of community colleges. Evans served in the U.S. Senate from 1983 to 1989.

Can a Republican and Democrat agree on anything? Governors Lowry and Evans provided the following seven insights as an answer:

  • The Donald Trump phenomenon isn’t as unique as you might think. Governor Evans compared the 2016 election to the presidential election in 1800, which marked the eventual demise of the Federalist Party and rise of the Democrat and Republican Parties. A flaw in the initial Electoral College design resulted in a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr (ousting President John Adams). The tie pushed the decision to the House of Representative, which elected Jefferson after 36 rounds of voting.

    Rutherford B. Hayes offers a second example. A contentious and bitter battle across the Electoral College ended with the Compromise of 1877, which named President Hayes the victor over Samuel Tilden. The 1876 election is one of five where the elected president did not win the majority vote.

  • President Trump may create a bipartisan silver lining. Governor Evans predicts that President Trump will quickly push the bounds of his authority across all branches of government, causing a backlash from Congress. Governor Lowry agreed. Both Governors see an opportunity for Congress to come together under a common goal, putting aside bipartisan bickering to push back against a potential power grab.
  • Geography and politics are more intertwined than ever. Governors Lowry and Evans agreed that politics are different now with Lowry stating that you can no longer rely on voters following a single, rigid party line or ideology. Geography has a lot to do with it, especially at the national level. The current geographic reality is that Democrats tend to be centralized in urban areas while rural areas tend to vote Republican. The urban centralization for Democrats is growing, which is impacting the party’s ability to hold a majority in Congress and across the Electoral College. That’s going to be hard to overcome since Republicans are more effectively dispersed across the electorate. Governor Lowry believes that the fix is coming by necessity rather than by design. The cost of living and commuting may drive more political diversity across the electorate as more people relocate from urban centers to rural settings.
  • Washington State is in good hands. An audience member asked what the future holds for Washington State’s political leaders. Both governors see a lot of potential in the next generation, especially leaders like Representative Judy Clibborn, Senator Hans Zeiger and Senator Joe Fain. According to Lowry, the younger legislators just aren’t as divided as the old guard. There is even an under 40 caucus that is creating bipartisanship efforts.
  • The cleantech sector is really important. Governors Lowry and Evans emphasized the importance of clean energy and clean technology several times throughout the conversation. Both work continuously with conservation and environmental stewardship causes and agreed that climate change is an issue. Governor Evans shared his take on climate change and the push for a carbon tax, stating that it was an issue during his tenure in the Senate and as governor. According to Evans, government officials at the time weren’t 100% certain about climate change, but his team still took it seriously and found steps that could be taken toward a solution. The caveat is that the solution had to make sense both environmentally and economically. The hope was to create a climate change insurance policy that was beneficial across multiple fronts. Unfortunately, the Senate was more concerned with getting everyone to believe climate change was real than putting together a solid plan. Disagreement sunk any plan no matter the details.

    Governor Lowry followed with a statement on the need for carbon and clean energy innovation. He sees the Northwest region as a leader within the global cleantech market and is happy that the progress is being made.

  • Education is a key issue and for good reason. Education funding is top of mind for 2017, but the governors shared a word of caution. According to Evans, Washington State needs to make major changes in education. Simply pumping money into a failing system only creates a more expensive failing system. Major change is needed to solve the underlying issues.
  • The Golden age for our region is still to come. Both governors have a lot of optimism for what lies ahead, especially as the cleantech sector continues to grow.

Want to learn more? Check out the #CleanTechBacon Twitter conversation.

The CleanTech Alliance Breakfast Series is your opportunity to rub elbows with distinguished cleantech executives from across the Northwest and beyond. Sponsored by Perkins Coie, join 100 cleantech industry leaders for a monthly conversation featuring a tremendous lineup of distinguished speakers. Check out our full lineup of executive speakers!