Mike Heavey Pursues Family Tradition In Seeking State House Seat
by Jack Mayne
A first-time candidate from a family with a well-known political name, Mike Heavey, 30, lives on Alki in West Seattle where he grew up.
“I think a lot of people thought I would spend all my time invoking my family name, but I haven’t,” he says, but his mannerisms and the way he cautiously answers questions shows his political upbringing.
Heavey is running for state representative in open position 2 of the 34th district to replace Rep. Sharon Nelson, who is unopposed for the district’s state Senate seat.
He comes from a political family. His father represented parts of the area in the Washington Legislature for 14 years, and now is a King County Superior Court Judge. Earlier, his great uncle represented Burien in the Legislature and was also named a King County Superior Court judge, and is now retired.
The younger Heavey attended college in Alabama, then returned to the state. He worked in fraud detection at a private company, and currently is director of outreach for the King County Council, focusing on public safety, crime and youth violence.
He says he decided he wanted to “make the place I grew up in better” by running for state legislative seat.
But why now when the Legislature is facing such a forbidding task during the financial crisis?
“Now, more than ever, we need people who are smart and motivated to do this – folks like myself who have the experience and the skill sets necessary,” Heavey says. “We do have to cut lots to balance the budget, we can’t float debt (like Congress can do).
“What has been missing in Olympia has been share sacrifice, that we are all in this together. We have to expect that the state, like families, have to cut their budget. It is going to be tough, but it is something we have to do.”
What about the unpopularity of cutting the budget, where one person’s waste or over expenditure is another person’s perceived necessity?
“In this district we need to cut, but cut in a way that is consistent to our values. There are certain values that are inherent to Seattle and King County. Fundamentally, I believe that society is judged on the way we treat our most vulnerable, from people who are incarcerated to people on general assistance, (those) who are mentally ill or in the child welfare system and the education system.”
Heavey says those are areas where people here draw the line on serious cutting.
“When it comes to transportation or the environment, I think people realize if we don’t have the money for that we shouldn’t be kicking people off their medication to finance those things,” he says.
Environment and transportation should be cut to ensure we have money for social services, he stressed.
While he said he was not proposing a tax increase, he says he is not uncomfortable with “short-term levies” on such items as bottled water and candy. The extension of the sales tax to items ruled to be soda pop and candy is of “short duration” and could be repealed by an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot.
“We now have an opportunity to redefine government and find out what our opportunities and best practices are,” he says. “I am going to be going (to Olympia) to find the best way to engage our (state) employees and for what is best for our state.
“Talking about this idea of shared sacrifice, certain groups are expecting raises and cost of living adjustments. Part of shared sacrifice is to say, ‘Look, no on else is getting raises so it is time for you to chip in your share’,” he says. He wants to accomplish the same sort of compromises that Executive Dow Constantine has been able to negotiate with county employees.
“I don’t want to see people lose their jobs,” but for them to have more reasonable expectations on the amounts they are paid.
A major push for Heavey would be to reform the state’s initiative process.
“The system of voter initiated laws is very popular in this state, (intended) to keep the fat cats in Olympia under check,” he says. “But the system we have today is grossly perverted from what the framers of our constitution set up. Essentially now, if you have $2 million or $3 million, you can get whatever you want on the ballot.”
He notes the filing fee for an initiative is $5 and he says people like initiative promoter Tim Eyman file “30 initiatives and the research on these is on the state’s dime” so the best one is finally submitted to the ballot for voters to decide upon. Heavey would increase the filing fee, maybe as high at the $421 he had to pay to run for the Legislature.
He also would have the system more transparent. Currently there is no penalty assigned to those who collect bogus signatures, he says, and he would have a fine for “knowingly submitting forged signatures.” He would also require registration of companies who hire paid signature gatherers so “we can find them to collect fines” for falsifications.
“Those are some the ways we can strengthen the initiative process.”
In addition, he says he supports no requirement that signatures be kept private.
“Signing a petition is using freedom of speech and there is nothing that says if it is controversial, that it should be anonymous,” Heavey said. “You have the right to have the freedom to say anything you want but not to keep it secret.”
On education, he says he agrees with a judge that ruled the Legislature was not fulfilling its constitutional mandate to fully support public schools.
“But it is not just about funding, it is also about the expectation of excellence which we do not have now,” Heavey says. We should align “what it takes to get out of high school with what it takes to get into college” or to get a job.
He says the public should be expecting more from teachers and administrators.
“We haven’t had the courage to raise the bar in 25 years.”
The big thing is to get the best teachers into the classrooms, he says, and one way is to pay the good teachers better than the average teachers.
“I want to be able to take the best teachers (from wherever) and get them to come to Washington and be paid more than other teachers,” he says. “We can’t do that now.”
He quickly adds that 98 percent of teachers “are amazing” but we need to get rid of that 2 percent that are not and we have to “stop shuffling them around.”
Heavey calls Initiative 1053 “a tyranny of the minority.” The initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot would require all tax increases be passed by a two-thirds majority of each house of the Legislature. Such a measure has passed twice before by the people, but later set aside by the Legislature by a simple majority vote, permitted when an initiative is two years old.
“If the Legislature wanted to, say, increase the charge of 911 calls, 17 senators could block it,” he says. “I would be for it if it took two-thirds of the people voting on it to pass it as a law. To have a simple majority invoke a super-majority just doesn’t work for me.”
Some have said that Heavey’s opponent is too young and lacks experience, but the two are only six years apart in age, and both have packed a lot of experience in a short working life.