Too often Washington state elections are won or lost on geography.
Overall, the state tends to be politically moderate with a slight tilt to the left. King County-Seattle is big and its heavily left-leaning voters can change an election.
On Tuesday, the ballots once again broke along geographic lines from county to county, but Initiative 522, generally considered to support a liberal-leaning cause, was defeated.
Reason trumped feel-good rhetoric.
I-522, which mandated labeling of products containing genetically modified ingredients, was rejected by a 55-45 margin statewide. Of the state’s 39 counties, just four — King, Whatcom, San Juan and Jefferson — supported the measures. The rest of the state rejected it.
The “No” on I-522 campaign was heavily financed by Monsanto (maker of the herbicide Roundup) and other large agribusinesses.
But it wasn’t just money that had an influence, it was old-fashioned good sense.
The practice of manipulating the genetics of wheat, apples, grapes and other crops has taken place for a long time. It has been OK’d by the FDA as safe.
Still, some are concerned. Products labeled as GMO free are already being sold for that reason. And availability is increasing to meet that preference.
Getting the message to voters was important, but having a message that resonated with voters was key. The argument against was grasped by those living in “Goat Rock” Washington, a political region defined by former-Secretary of State Ralph Munro.
Munro, a moderate Republican, doesn’t see the Cascades that divide Washington’s east and west as the point where liberals and conservatives part ways politically. He believes that divide is geographic — “two Washingtons” — rural (“Goat Rock” Washington) and the urban (“Space Needle” Washington).
Munro notes that one Washington can be seen from the 520-foot Space Needle in downtown Seattle. The view essentially takes in much of urban areas along I-5.
The other Washington can be seen from the summit of the Goat Rock Wilderness Area in the Cascade Mountains. The 360-degree view takes in the whole state except a portion — essentially “Space Needle” Washington — where the view is blocked.
Munro’s “two Washington” theory was on display Tuesday.
Most rural areas crushed I-522. In Walla Walla County, it received support from less than 27 percent of voters. Columbia County hated the measure even more with a 21.5 percent approval rate.
The wheat-growing regions of the state followed a similar trend. The rest of “Goat Rock” Washington hovered in the 60-40 against range.
But “Space Needle” Washington either rejected I-522 (Pierce County-Tacoma and Snohomish County-Everett) or approved it by a relatively narrow margin. The most populous county in the state, King, supported the measure 56-44.
I-522 was defeated because most rural voters have a better understanding of how food is produced than many (not all, of course) urban folks.