Not too often does the Arabic news agency al-Jazeerah take note of Northwest figures. It did in this passage from an opinion piece posted today:

The strategy to militarize the country is moving forward as planned despite apparent setbacks in Iraq. As the Washington Post reported on Nov. 27 the Dept of Defense is expanding its domestic surveillance activity to allow Pentagon spies to track down and “investigate crimes within the United States”.

An alarmed Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) said, “We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without a congressional hearing”.

Is this the first time that the naïve Wyden realized that the war on terror is actually directed at the American people?

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On the senator’s part, he’s just doing what senators usually do by way of passing along information. The question is, why is Senator Larry Craig – and no doubt he isn’t the only 0ne in this position – being used by federal agencies as bearers of bad tidings?

Larry Scott of VA Watchdog, who lives in Washington and is heard on Portland radio, has a peculiar story to tell. Here’s an excerpt from his post on Op-Ed News.com:

Earlier this year, veterans were surprised by the VA’s “second signature required” (SSR) policy. SSR applied to approved claims for many “high-dollar” disabilities and stipulated that the claim be re-approved by another VA staffer. However, if the claim was denied by the first staffer, there was no second review.

Veterans’ groups claimed that a SSR policy should apply to all claims for any condition whether they were approved or denied. The fact that the VA chose to apply SSR to disabilities with “high-dollar” compensation was proof to many veterans that the agency was just trying to save money by denying benefits.

The SSR policy was NOT announced by the VA. Only some very good investigative work by Cheryl Reed of the Chicago Sun-Times brought the story to light. This is just one of many instances where the VA has instituted policies detrimental to veterans without making the actions public.

The latest “unannounced” move by the VA is a new review of PTSD diagnosis, treatment and compensation. The VA’s plans came to light on November 16, just six days after they had canceled a review of 72,000 PTSD claims awarded at 100 per cent disability. Pressure from veterans’ groups and Democrat members of Congress forced the cancellation.

The VA’s new PTSD review was not announced by the VA. There was no VA press release. There was no VA press conference. The information was not posted on the VA web site.

Information about the new PTSD review was made public in a press release by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The release, in part, said, “The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it has contracted with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on a two-pronged approach to the examination of PTSD.”

Except, the VA hadn’t announced anything. They were using Senator Craig as their conduit to hand out the bad news. Since Craig’s press releases don’t have a high readership, this information has gone virtually unnoticed.

Upon reading Senator Craig’s press release I called the Public Affairs Office at the VA. They had no knowledge of the review. I then called the Institute of Medicine. They had no knowledge of the review.

Senator Craig’s office was more helpful. They forwarded the two documents the VA had sent to them. One document is a Fact Sheet detailing the contract between the VA and the IOM. The other is a Question and Answer sheet.

One wonders: What’s the take within Craig’s office on all this?

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Idaho Oregon

The traditional take on the p0litics of campaign finances is that most people don’t care where the money for their candidates is coming from, and that it will not likely affect their vote.

If that is beginning to change – this being a debatable proposition – blogs could be one of the key reasons why.

Jim FeldkampBroadcast news media seldom mention campaign finances at all, as a matter of specifics about specific candidates. Newspapers sometimes note the totals, and occasionally list a major donor or two, but that’s generally as far as it goes.

Some of the political blogs, however, have been digging deeper. Now, today, we’re seeing specific impact affecting a substantial candidacy.

The candidacy is that of Republican Jim Feldkamp, who is rerunning his 2004 matchup against long-time Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio. Feldkamp is an underdog, but he has started early and apparently has been working hard. And fundraising hard; and maybe a bit incautiously.

Last week, the Eugene Register-Guard published a story about local Democrats calling on Feldkamp to return $10,000 his campaign had received from indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. That drew on a response that DeLay, though indicted, had not yet been convicted and so was not yet guilty.

Then bloggers at the Democratic blog Blue Oregon added meat to the bones. Blogger Jon Perr noted, as the paper hadn’t, that “in May 2005, the Jim Feldkamp for Congress campaign was fined $1,000 [see page 11] for failing to acknowledge all relevant contributions in the required 48-hour reports, including $5,000 from Delay’s ARMPAC the previous year.”

Monday, Blue Oregon blogger Kari Chisholm wrote that finance records also show Feldkamp received $1,000 from American Prosperity PAC – the political action committee set up by disgraced, resigned and guilty-pleading former California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

That may have struck a nerve. This morning, though the contribution apparently was unreported elsewhere, Feldkamp’s campaign said in a press release it was getting rid of the money:

I was saddened to learn U.S. Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) has resigned from the U.S. Congress upon admission of pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax charges.

Congressman Cunningham’s service to our nation as a Vietnam flying ace is legendary – he proudly fought for our country and for that we shall always be grateful for his service.

In light of the current events, I feel it is necessary that I donate the $1,000 contribution Congressman Cunningham gave to my 2004 congressional campaign to Food For Lane County.

It’s possible Feldkamp’s campaign decided to get ahead of the story and planned the dispersal before the blog item spread. But the timing is interesting at least.

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Oregon

The comparison of Ketchum/Sun Valley to their peer ski resort towns – Jackson, Aspen, Park City, Telluride, and others – is no new thing. But the specific head-to0head comparison between K/SV and the “granddaddy” of these places – Aspen, Colorado – gets a good going over in the Idaho Mountain Express.

Basic conclusion: The parallels aren’t perfect, but yeah, they have a whole lot in common.

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Idaho

And sometimes you just drop your jaw however much you may expect it. Such as the instance of an immigrant family settled into Cataldo, Idaho from Yakima, Washington, moved there for reasons having little to do with “quality of life” – at least, as most people are led to understand it. Next time you hear someone say they’ve come to Idaho for the “quality of life,” ask for a definition: Some people view it differently than others.

The facts apparently are not at issue. Dotys, who have become a cause celebre in some circles, have seven children, and they run a house-moving business. The interaction of the two is the issue: Two of the older children, Zach, 13 (when the dispute began) and Stephen, 11, were put to work as employees, operating heavy machinery such as bulldozers and backhoes. They also were assigned to ride on top of houses moving down the road, to push low-hanging electric power and telephone lines out of the way. All of this is part of the home schooling (you were expecting that, weren’t you?) which is the education for all seven children.

Washington officials had a few problems with this, including violations of child labor laws and failure to pay worker compensation insurance, and fined Jude Doty $100,000. Doty’s response was to contest the fine, and decamp to Cataldo. There – Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas is quoted as saying – the state simply doesn’t regulate child labor in businesses which take in less than $500,000 in revenue annually and operate entirely within the state. The Dotys are free in Idaho, to put their pre-adolescent kids befhind the controls of heavy machinery, balancing on the roofs of houses moving down the highway while handling high-voltage power lines.

Unregulated free enterprise in action.

Will the Idaho Legislature want to interfere? If you think this can’t be spun in a way that might appeal to it, think again.

The family’s web site, Families that Work says, “Historically the law has supported apprenticeship and the rights of parents to train their children in their religious values. Although case law and statutory law still recognize family farms and family businesses as exempt from child labor regulations, state bureaucrats are now threatening our liberties with administrative code and policies, claiming that parents cannot allow their children to do any appreciable services for the family’s enterprise.”

The argument spins further. In an August essay “Destroying Families that Work,” Tricia Smith Vaughan wrote, “If you own a business and think you’re immune from such treatment, think again. If your child brings in mail regarding that business from the mailbox to your office, you could be forced to stop that child from bringing in the mail or lose your child.”

And there’s the quote to the Spokane Spokesman-Review from one of the working kids, Zach: “I think it’s pretty clearly outlined in the Bible … It says to be with your children all the time, 24/7.”

That achoes this from the Doty’s web site: “But when it comes to training and working with our youth, we will continue as God requires. If we cave in, we are forsaking our God-given duty to apprentice our youth, and our children’s rightful inheritance of being with their father. The scripture encourages saying: “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to their children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6) As for our boys, they are not our employees, they’re our children.”

All of this has been apparently little noted in Idaho (there’ve been lots of headlines in Washington, and some in Oregon, but it’s listed on underreported.com) save for a scathing editorial today in the Lewiston Morning Tribune (sorry, no link available), which noted how thin regulation has made the state a magnet for the acolytes of Randy Weaver and Bo Gritz.

Add the Dotys to the list.

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The significance of the U.S. House firestorm over Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, a generally hawkish Democrat who has proposed a six-month pullout from Iraq, hits home in today’s Seattle Times piece on Norm Dicks.

Norm DicksDicks, who has been representing a southwest Puget Sound area (roughly centered on Kitsap County) in the House since 1976, has long fit much of the same description as Murtha: A liberal out of the old Henry Jackson mold, strongly pro-military and not particularly averse to approving military action. His district, packed with military installations, is a match. He is one of those Democrats respected by Republicans, and who has long worked smoothly with Republican as well as Democratic administrations (like not only Jackson but also his old boss, Senator Warren Magnuson); he long has been one of the most keenly effective, if headline-quiet, members of the Northwest delegation.

He is a long stretch from a Democrat like Representative Jim McDermott, the Seattle liberal who opposed the Iraq war before it began; Dicks’ friends are people like Murtha, and Dicks voted to authorize the war. The Times piece recounts how, as the House exploded in anger over stands on the war, Dicks sat with Murtha in the clockroom, and reflected on how things had come to this.

Near midnight, he drove to his D.C. home, poured a drink and wondered how defense hawks like he and Murtha had gotten lumped in with peaceniks by their colleagues and the administration.

And he thought about all that had happened over the past couple of years to change his mind about the war in Iraq.

Dicks and Murtha are still not of exactly the same mind on Iraq, but they have been walking similar paths.

Dicks now says it was all a mistake — his vote, the invasion, and the way the United States is waging the war.

While he disagrees with Murtha’s conclusion that U.S. troops should be withdrawn within six months, Dicks said, “He may well be right if this insurgency goes much further.”

“The insurgency has gotten worse and worse,” he said. “That’s where Murtha’s rationale is pretty strong — we’re talking a lot of casualties with no success in sight. The American people obviously know that this war is a mistake.”

Dicks, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, says he’s particularly angry about the intelligence that supported going to war.

Without the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), he said, he would “absolutely not” have voted for the war.

The McDermotts are often, and easily, dismissed by many on the right as simply ideologically driven. The Dicks (and the Murthas) are much harder to dismiss: These are people who really would rather not believe Iraq is a bad mistake, but have been dragged to the conclusion by facts, and past regret and sorrow.

Those polls showing most Americans now think the invasion of Iraq is a mistake does not mean that most Americans have joined the ranks of the McDermotts. It probably means, rather, that there are a whole lot of John Murthas and Norm Dicks out there.

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Washington

In partisan terms, you can call the latest Oregon legislative announcements as more or less a wash.

The least surprising was Senator Rick Metsger’s statement that he won’t run for governor, but would seek to stay in the Senate. Metsger would have been a long-shot, especially with his late announcement of interest and the pleentitude of other possible Democratic contenders. Democratic strategists concerned about maintaining control of the Senate probably felt a bit better, since Metsger would be in good shape for re-election. He won last time with 54% in a rural district consisting mostly of Clackamas, but also Democratic-trending Hood River County.

Mark HassOn the other hand, what may be protended if Willamette Week is correct and Representative Mark Hass opts out?

Hass, considered a Democratic moderate, represents a small slice of Multnomah County but mainly Washington County, near Beaverton – an area of considerable civic turnoil right now. The area has been trending Democratic, even strongly Democratic (Hass landslid in 2004 with about 65% and was unopposed for re-election in 2002).

But it is in turnoil, and transition in the legislative ranks – and an open seat in the middle of it all – logically would suggest opportunity to Republicans. And remember: Washington County is, right now, the pivot of Oregon politics.

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Oregon

Not to hammer the point too heavily, but, well, we thought this might happen. And so we can’t report ourselves shocked, shocked.

Jim RischSome Idahoans probably were surprised, though, this afternoon when Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch said that he would run in 2006, not for governor as many had anticipated, but for re-election as lieutenant governor. (To which office he very likely will be returned. A quick disclosure note here: Your scribe was the manager of the 2002 general election campaign for Risch’s opponent.)

One of them may be a Boise columnist who stated plainly that Risch would be seeking the governorship – as Risch, to be sure, had strongly indicated for quite a while. This space, on July 7, suggested caution in adopting that view.

Here’s a piece of the July 7 post:

The new Dan Popkey column in the Idaho Statesman does something unusual and dangerous: It makes a flat, unqualified prediction about something a politician will do. In this case, in discounting the rumor mill swirling around Boise, it says that Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch will run for governor in 2006.

And maybe he will. But this space wagers not a cent on what Risch will do.

Popkey quotes Risch several times in his column, but the language the lieutenant governor uses is – and this is not unusual for him – a little elliptical. The key quote: “You’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg on the rumors … The whole thing’s a result of this getting started so early. I’ve said all along, ‘We have a plan and we’re sticking to the plan.’ Until then, I’m not doing interviews, and I’m not going to comment on rumors.”

You can keep looking for a while for the “I’m running for governor – period – end of story” in there, but you won’t find it. (If Risch told Popkey something like that, Popkey didn’t use it, which suggests the words weren’t spoken.)

And if the rumors are rampant, the reason isn’t entirely limited to the summer political doldrums. And if the argument for Risch doing something next year other than the governor’s race has gained attention, there’s plenty of reason for that too.

Risch would like to be governor, no doubt, and there’s little doubt that he sought and won his current office with the idea he would move up, either through election in ’06 or succession before then, if Governor Dirk Kempthorne lands an outside job. Succession still could happen, but it grows ever less likely with time. If it does – if Kempthorne really does leave sometime in, oh, the next seven or eight months – then a Risch candidacy for governor would make a great deal of sense. He’d be running as an incumbent, and probably a powerful one.

Meantime, he has a problem named Butch Otter. Otter is a former lieutenant governor and now the three-term congressional from the 1st U.S. House district. Otter may not have formally announced for governor but he’s done everything short of that: raising money, putting together a campaign (including, as Popkey notes, his best possible choice for campaign manager, Debbie Field), staffing an office, touring the state, building bridges. He has held events linking himself to up and coming Republicans, especially in eastern Idaho – his weakest area, and Risch’s strongest. For all practical purposes, the Otter campaign has been moving solidly ahead for half a year, lining up support and exhausting the political oxygen. He still has plenty of critics in Eastern Idaho (for reasons that relate both to lifestyle and his 1978 run for governor in opposition to Blackfoot leader Allan Larsen), but he’s even made some inroads there. He is very strong in the big and fast-growing Ada and Canyon County areas (where Risch did poorly in the 2002 elections), and he has a strong base up north as well. Risch’s reference to the unusually early campaign start is obviously correct; it is also a relevant strategic fact.

Meanwhile, Risch has yet to kick off a campaign. Conventional wisdom in Boise is that the train has already left the station: Otter already is too far ahead to catch.

This space does not adhere to political absolutes: No one is elected until the ballots are certified. (Or sometimes, in Washington state, even then.) Is a Risch win out of reach altogether? It seems highly improbable, but maybe Risch – who is a fine political strategist, one of the best in the state without doubt – has a plan for turning it around. Could be. But day by day, that seems ever less likely.

Jim Risch is liked in some quarters and not in others, but almost everyone who knows him will agree on this: He is a pragmatist. He is no chaser after windmills. He does what he thinks he can do. He does not live in a fantasyland.

And a lot of people will also tell you this about him: He hates to lose.

So when you match the reality of the situation with pragmatism and a serious distaste for loss … The talk about Risch not running for governor has, at least, a logical coherence to it.

Added to which, there are options. One is seeking reelection. He could stay in his office for the asking. That would likely not interest him, but it could be easily done.

Done and done. Risch may have concluded it was either this oropting out or being carried out. And for someone with so much of his life, and energies and skills, invested in Idaho government, being “out” is probably least interesting of all.

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The comparisons are a long way from exact, and this is – so far – just one case. but what if it doesn’t stay that way?

The legal case is unfolding in Federal Way, in Washington, a state where so many pedophilia cases have developed to haunt the Catholic Church. But this one was in another church, another major regional religious organization: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormons.

The case concerns two girls, now grown, sexually abused by their stepfather. All were members of the LDS Church. The elder of the girls brought the abuse to the attention of her ward’s bishop but, according to the lawsuit, was told that the family should work out its problems through worship. The abuse continued, and later extended to the girl’s younger sister.

What do you do with a case like that? The step-father’s culpability is clear enough (provided the abuse is clearly determined), but how liable should a church be?

In this instance, a jury in King County awarded $4.2 million to the sisters – most of it to be paid by the church. That is a much larger award than in most church-related abuse cases, and the size of it apparently is sending shock waves through the Catholic Church – and likely through the Mormon Church as well.

LDS leaders say they will appeal and contest the ruling. It seems right that they should: Liability of religious organizations is a matter that has developed case by case through the courts, without any larger overview or sense of policy. It is a fit subject for legislatures to consider (as uncomfortable as that idea may be).

The reason is that for all the cases that have arisen, we may only be seeing a piece of the picture even yet.

Timothy Kosnoff, the plaintiff attorney in the Federal Way LDS case, also is a lead attorney in cases involving the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in the Morning Star Boys’ Ranch cases at Spokane. This area of law is developing a center of gravity: More will likely be pulled into its orbit before long.

And we have not seen the end of LDS Church involvement. consider this piece of a report by the Child Protection Project:

Last March, the Bellevue, Washington-based attorney filed suit against the Mormon Church and a former bishop in Portland, Oregon. His client, 19-year-old Jeremiah Scott, says he was molested from ages 9 to 10. Repeatedly. By someone he trusted. By a man of God.

Scott and his mother, Sandra Scott, invited Sunday-school teacher Frank Curtis into their home nearly a decade ago to live with their family. The Scotts say that former bishop Gregory Lee Foster knew Curtis had a history of molesting children, but he covered it up, even when Sandra Scott sought his counsel before allowing Curtis to live with them.

“(The Mormons) encourage good works, and this man was elderly. He had approached my client’s mother and said he wanted to live out his remaining years in a family setting and asked if he could come and move in with them,” Kosnoff said in a telephone conversation. “She went to the bishop and told him what she was anticipating doing. The bishop was aware of problems with this man and never said anything, never warned her, and as a result, she invited this man into her home who proceeded to sexually abuse her son.”

In researching the case, Kosnoff said, he found numerous sex-abuse cases involving the Mormon Church which bore a resemblance to the Scott suit – one of them local. In September 1997, prominent Fairfield physician and Mormon Church leader John Parkinson was sentenced to 6 years in prison after being convicted of 16 felony counts of sexual penetration. Parkinson was accused of giving unnecessary pelvic exams to female patients, even after being stripped of his medical license in March 1995 on grounds of negligence.

(Though it’s gotten little attention in most media outlets, there’s more about this case on the web.)

This will be getting much bigger.

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And they seem surprised. And they shouldn’t be. Governor Ted Kulongoski has been sending clear signals about seeking re-election for months. Now that he has filed, the race – which does have quite a few unknown elements – should start to settle down.

(His web site isn’t really established yet, but it does have a homey touch.)

Among the other major (prospective) candidates, by the way, only Kevin Mannix has actually filed. The other two who have filed are Republicans, David Breen and William Spidal.

Expect the first fallout from this filing to be a thinning of the Democratic field.

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Oregon

Beaver State politics over the next year just might revolve around the governor’s race. (Willamette Week has a highly-recommended and fun read on its current formal and possible players.) But it could also fizzle. The battle of significance we know will be fought out is the contest for the Oregon House.

The last few elections in Oregon have been gnetly trending the way of Democrats, and as 2005 nears its end, the next cycle looks to head that way as well.

The Oregon Senate, now in 18-12 control of Democrats, has little low-hanging fruit for either party in 2006, and Republicans seeking to take back the chamber – as they must – will find the battle uphill.

The Oregon House is a different matter, what with all 60 seats up for grabs. The 2004 election left it with 33 Republicans and 27 Democrats; six seats would have to change hands for Democrats to take over in 2007. (Two changed in the Democrats’ favor last time.) On its face, that seems unlikely; we’re taking about a large turnover. And yet if the year trends Democratic, it could happen, especially if Democrats run a larger effort aimed at House Republican leadership, as they have started to do. The odds seem at the moment to favor ongoing Republican control. But a shift of just four seats would be involved; the odds are slim.

We’ll take several bites of the Oregon House apple. Below the fold, we’ll start with a look at the 10 closests Oregon House general election results of 2004, and what they suggest for targeting in 2006.

Just because a race was relatively close last time doesn’t mean it will be next time. But history is worth considering in thinking about options.

Closest 2004 races: Republican seats

District 10

mostly Lincoln County, with pieces of Lane, Yamhill, Polk and Tillamook (Republican vote, 50.5%) Alan Brown-R, Jean Cowan-D.

Alan Brown The closest House race of 2004, this pitched two likable and well-established candidates against each other, and against the backdrop of a dramatic state Senate race – which went to Democrat Joanne Verger. Brown’s incumbency may have helped; but clearly, he still had some residual problems from the reapportionment earlier this decade. (His 2002 race was almost exactly as close; how long can his luck hold?) Lincoln County went decisively for Democrats in 2004, from the presidential level on down, and if that direct maintains, this would be a logical top target for Democrats in 2006, especially if the well-regarded Brown opts out.

Which is possible, since he has not yet filed for this seat for next year – but Cowan has.

District 51

mostly northern rural Clackamas, with a small piece of Multnomah (Republican vote, 53.2%) Linda Flores-R, Kathryn Firestone-D

Linda Flores The Multnomah piece isn’t enough to affect much here (though it is clearly more Democratic than the much larger Clackamas part). And the Democrats had an above-average challenger in Kathryn Firestone. And Linda Flores’ 2002 contest was not nearly so close. But don’t discount the shakiness of this district; newcomers, many from Portland, are pouring into new developments here, and some shifting may be going on.

If Democrats field another strong candidate (Firestone again?) this district will be worth watching. Demnocrat Ryan Olds of Boring is the sole filer here so far.

District 37

Tualatin, Lake Oswego, West Linn (Republican vote, 53.1%) Scott Bruun-R, Jim Morton-D

Scott Bruun Close-fought suburban territory south of Portland, evidently most comfortable with very moderate Republicans like former Representative Randy Miller – and torn between the current choices. Is there any reason to suspect a Democratic candidate in 2006 will necessarily do better than Morton, who was very presentable and ran a good campaign?

No. But this is a growing, percolating area, and not especially predictable. Democrats would be missing a bet to pass on it, especially considering Morton’s respectable showing. Bruun has filed for re-election.

District 24

Central and western Yamhill County, small piece of Polk County (Republican vote, 54.5%) Donna Nelson-R, Tim Duerfeldt-D

Donna Nelson Okay, so there are lots of indications that Donna Nelson is simply entrenched in this district, that enough people like her that she will not be blasted out. There’ll be no prediction here, anytime soon, that she will be defeated in 2006. And yet there’s that nagging fact – in 2004 (despite winning what looked like a tough primary going away) she had the fourth closest call of any House Republican, her percentage whittled down somewhat by a multiplicity of small-party contenders. Is she beginning to wear thin in Yamhill? Might she be taken by a fresh, strong contender at a time when Yamhill is growing rapidly and a lot of new voters are joining the base? Stay tuned. (There have been no filings here yet.)

District 18

Southeastern and rural Clackamas County, including Silverton, Mount Angel and Molalla (Republican vote, 55.8%) Mac Sumner-R, Jim Gilbert-D.

Mac Sumner Another growth area (picking up a trend here?) where politics could be unloosened a bit, especially if a national wind is blowing in 2006. Democrats have only fitfully challenged here in the past, but when Gilbert did run a substantial contest, he also ran up a respectable (albeit not razor-close) vote total. It suggests some substantial Democratic possibilities here, especially in a Democratic year.

Sumner, running for his first re-election (he has filed), could be vulernable. Still, this is clearly a Republican district.

Closest 2004 races: Democratic seats

District 35

southeast Washington and southwest Multnomah counties, centered on Tigard (Democratic vote 49.2%) Larry Galizio-D, Suzanne Gallagher-R

Larry Galizio This closest win by a Democratic House candidate in 2004 ousted an appointed Republican incumbent, and was something of a bellwether race in a growing suburban district not tied down to either party. It seems to be moving gently Democratic, but Galizio, who door-knocked with special rigor in 2004, will have to push hard again.

Galizio, who is seeking re-election, is respectably positioned, but the democratics show neither party can take this seat for granted. It is a logical Republican target.

District 32

mainly Clatsop (but not Astoria) and Tillamook counties, with slices of Washington and Columbia counties (Democratic vote 50.1%) Deborah Boone-D, Douglas Olson-R

Deborah Boone Olson was an unusually strong Republican candidate, running against Boone at a time when she was newly establishing herself as a legislator. On the other hand, the 2002 race here was even closer. Republicans may want to consider this district carefully; if they get another candidate of Olson’s caliber, it might be worth the investment.

Boone has filed for re-election.

District 9

mainly Coos County, with small pieces of Douglas and Lane (Democratic vote 51.1%) Arnie Roblan-D, Susan Massey-R

Arnie Roblan This is a more Republican part of the coast than most of the counties to the north. But Roblan has a fine local issue (airport funding) to turn against House Republican leaders if they come after him, and Coos has been trending slightly Democratic of late. Barring mistakes, this one may not be so good a prospect as 2004 numbers would indicate.

It may, however, have a hot race. The one candidate filed so far is Al Pearn, who ran a heated and fairly close race for the state Senate in 2004 against Democrat Joanne Verger. This is definitely a district to watch.

District 48

split between Multnomah and Clackamas (Democratic vote 51.2%) Mike Shaufler-D, Dave Mowry-R

Mike Schaufler Another growth district, east of Milwaukee (and southeast of Portland), centered on the Happy Valley area – another boom place somewhat up for grabs. As it continues to grow, the loyalties of the newcomers here will be sharply tested.

Shaufler ran close enough last time to figure that Republicans will have to take a hard look here in 2006. There have been no filings here yet, but Republicans surely will not let this ballot spot go vacant.

District 11

rural eastern Lane and eastern Linn counties (Democratic vote 57.1%) Phil Barnhart-D, Michael Spasaro-R

Phil Barnhart Not really all that close in 2004, but this is an unusual case of a true rural district voting for a Democrat, and no conservative Democrat at that. This district, if nothing else, might leave Republicans scratching their heads and thinking, “we should be able to pick that up.”

In theory.

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Oregon

On the front page of the Spokesman-Review web site (full story by subscription only):

“Rathdrum insurance agent Steve Nagel is battling city hall and his weapon of choice is pigs. Nagel plans to retaliate against Rathdrum and the Kootenai County Commission for denying a request to rezone property he owns at the edge of town for commercial use by instead putting hundreds of pigs on the 12-acre parcel along Highway 53.”

Sounds from here like a good argument in favor of the necessity of land use laws …

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Idaho

Not sure what it was exactly that prompted Idaoh Senator Larry Craig to push with such determination on revision of the Patroit Act, but he now has gotten as solid on this issue as on any he has undertaken.

The difference here being, he is charging – hard – against an administration of his own party, which he has loyally supported.

The initial push-back in this region against the sweeping PATROIT Act was by fellow Idaho delegation Representative “Butch” Otter. But with Otter headed out of Congress, Craig seems to have picked up the standard. he is now one of six senators (two other Republicans, Sununu and Murkowski, and three Democrats, Durbin, Feingold and Salazar – a well-balanced group) pushing for scaleback instead of simple renewal. In alternative, they have backed something called the SAFE Act, which keeps some of the PATRIOT’s provisions but eliminates some of the most controversial impingements on civil liberties. The House hasn’t been of like mind, and the measure seemingly emerging from a conference committee is more House-like (and Bush-like) than SAFE-like.

The response of the six: “”The conference report, in its current form, is unacceptable. There is still time for the conference committee to step back and agree to the Senate’s bipartisan approach. If the conference committee doesn’t do that, we will fight to stop this bill from becoming law.”

This could get interesting.

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Idaho

Effective today, a new procedure in federal dam relicensing. From the Federal Register:

As required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), the
Departments of Agriculture, the Interior, and Commerce are jointly
establishing procedures for a new category of expedited trial-type
hearings. The hearings will resolve disputed issues of material fact
with respect to conditions or prescriptions that one or more of the
Departments develop for inclusion in a hydropower license issued by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Federal Power
Act. The three Departments are also establishing procedures for the
consideration of alternative conditions and prescriptions submitted by
any party to a license proceeding, as provided in EPAct.

A little faster, to keep people on their toes.

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Idaho Oregon

The official stats out today show a positive picture for jobs – on the official unemployment front – regionwide.

Still, the improvement was spotty, and it still doesn’t seem to do much for wage rates, which are at least as critical a factor.

In Washington, the rate was essentually unchanged at 5.6%. The state’s report said that “Discounting the effects of the [recent Boeing] strike, Washington employers added 11,700 jobs over the two-month period, for an average gain of 5,850 jobs each month. ”

Not spectacular, but improvement.

Oregon, which a year ago had the highest unemployment rate in the country, has been marking steady improvement, down now to 6.0% (compared to 6.2% a month ago). Here’s the overall picture:

In October, seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment grew by 1,200. This gain followed average monthly increases of 5,100 over the prior four months. Even though October’s gain was below the average of the prior four months, it kept Oregon’s economy expanding. The change in October employment was elevated by 900 due to the end of a one-month strike in the aerospace industry.

Over the past 12 months, payroll employment added 49,400, or 3.0 percent. This indicates Oregon’s economy has been expanding at an annual rate of close to 3 percent for much of the past two years.

In October, most of the major industry sectors performed slightly better than their normal seasonal trend. Trade, transportation and utilities was an exception, as it added 3,000 more than its typical trend. Pulling down the numbers for the month was leisure and hospitality, which rebounded from a one-month spike in employment and declined by 6,000 in October.

So, something of a mized bag.

In Idaho, the official unemployment rate was even better, at 3.6%, with a record high number of people employed – though the unemployment rate actually rose in October. Most of that, according to the state, had to do with normal seasonal changes. They expected the rate to remain about the same for the rest of the year.

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Idaho Oregon Washington