There are a number of close Senate races and not much time before the polls open. When things are this tight, it’s not a bad idea to look at some of the ballot measures in the toss-up states.
1. In Washington state, tax issues and green initiatives are intertwined.
Polls show Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi in a total toss-up going into Election Day. If Republicans want to take the Senate back, Washington has to go for Rossi. Joining this race on the state ballot are some interesting initiatives. "60 Minutes" already mentioned Washington's bellwether call to adopt an income tax, but it’s the seventh issue on the ballot that grabs my interest.
It’s listed as Referred Bill 52 and according to the Washington’s office of secretary of state, it asks voters to approve selling bonds that would finance energy efficiency projects for the state's K-12 and higher education systems. If enacted, it would direct $505 million in tax revenues to the program — but there's a catch. Another issue on the ballot calls for an end to special taxes on junk food, soda and bottled water. If Washington voters choose to repeal that tax, there would be no money to fund the green schools program.
2. California may be going green, but not that green.
If you leapfrog from Washington to California, you'll find close races for Senate and the governor's mansion. The current polls for both races show what may be a positive sign for Democrats and environmentalists: Polls show that Jerry Brown is pulling away from Meg Whitman in the race for governor, and a similar situation in the race between Sen. Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina for Senate. Fiorina and Whitman have campaigned hard and long for the shot to topple two of California’s most recognizable Democrats. If they come up short, it will be because progressives turned out to vote. A large progressive turnout is also good sign for environmentalists who have California’s Propositions 23 and 26 in the crosshairs. Both measures could drastically change California's clean energy future, and it is likely that most people who vote for Brown and Boxer will vote against Prop 23 and Prop 26. As for Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana, polls show the Boxer-Brown momentum isn’t going to push the legalization issue across the finish line. If pot is legalized in California, people will have voted differently than what they told pollsters they would do.
While California is a potential bright spot for progressives, other states are thin on ballot initiatives that might drive turnout for the left.
3. In Nevada, Alaska and West Virginia, it’s all about the candidates.
In Nevada, there are four ballot initiatives, but none are major wedge issues for either party. It’s all about Harry Reid and Sharron Angle — and the longer the race goes on, the worse it looks for Harry Reid. Alaska has three ballot issues, but most aren’t controversial, so the three-way mystery race between Lisa Murkowski, Scott McAdams and Joe Miller will be a toss-up until the last ballot is counted. West Virginia has no measures on the ballot this year — just candidates.
4. In Colorado, social issues could cost environmentalists a Senate seat.
Colorado’s race between Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck is a toss-up. The most divisive issue on the ballot, after Buck and Bennet, is one that is likely to appeal to Buck’s base, while also bringing out opposition from the Democrats. Amendment 62 to the Colorado Constitution deals with abortion. If approved by a majority of voters on Tuesday, it would redefine the earliest stages of human development as, “personhood”. In recent elections, similar ballot measures in Colorado have been defeated. If that trend continues, that could be good news for Bennet. But consider this: In recent weeks the two candidates have clashed over several issues including climate change and energy policy. It will be interesting to see if a social issue like abortion can deliver a Buck victory while also a defeating a senator who supports a national climate policy.