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Originally published Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 9:39 PM

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State's voters opt for pragmatism

Up and down the ballot voters showed little appetite for nonsense and distractions. Pragmatism was the victor in early vote counting.

GAY rights, public services and experience. Up and down the ballot voters showed little appetite for nonsense and distractions. Pragmatism was the victor in early vote counting.

Initiative 1033: Gone are the days when professional initiative guru Tim Eyman dreams up a clever formula for restraining government and voters fall in line. If Eyman can't read newspaper headlines about deep cutbacks in public services — parks, public safety, education — voters surely can. They know government is not flush right now and in a painful recession, the public sometimes needs a little help from government.

The initiative to cap revenues collected in cities, counties and in Olympia resonated in some parts of the state, 18 counties by one count. But practical voters elsewhere said they understand the value of higher education, of reasonable staffing for public safety and access to public parks. Government has to be there when the floods come and when people need help.

Eyman himself became an issue. With an initiative almost every year for the past 10, he is in essence in his third term — that is, if he ever had the nerve to run for office. Ask any politician who has tried: Messages and personalities tire after 10 years.

Referendum 71: A pragmatic spirit of live and let live was evident in support for Referendum 71, which was leading in statewide results. Opponents tried to make it a vote on gay marriage, but most people understood it to be about families.

Washington voters were asked to approve a sensible expansion of the state's domestic-partnership laws. The referendum was on Senate Bill 5688, which had been passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Senate bill was the second fine-tuning of the state's partnership laws since it was created in 2007. Each additional adjustment was about the reality of same-sex partners and their families living within the rights and obligations of Washington law.

From the very beginning, legal issues about gay partnerships have been about how committed couples and their children go about their lives through all the normal events of family life. Voters understood the simple, yet complex, dynamic of allowing families to take care of their own within the law.

King County executive: In a region with multiple problems, voters opted for experience, vigorously supporting Dow Constantine, the unabashed Democrat in a newly nonpartisan race.

Floods are coming; the flu is here. The vote for Constantine was largely about which candidate voters believed could get to work right away.

The Howard Hanson Dam looms over the Green River Valley and voters are in no mood for on-the-job training.

Susan Hutchison ran a fine campaign, rushing to the political middle with support for Referendum 71 and opposition to Initiative 1033. But she was difficult to get to know. All the questions she ducked and her refusal to post questionnaires from interest groups on her Web site made voters jittery.

Seattle voters knew they would have a neophyte as mayor, no matter how that contest ends up, so many pragmatists opted for experience in the county executive office.

In that daunting job, Constantine's enormous challenge will be to capitalize on the credibility he has with county unions to create health plans and salary arrangements that can help the county balance its beleaguered budget. Fixing the county budget is a priority for the new executive.

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