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Posts published in November 2005

and in Idaho Falls

There were few shockers in Idaho - most everything in southwest Idaho was predictable, and was predicted, with maybe excepted the small size of the Swindell vote. But every election has its surprise, and for that we turn to Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls city hallThat city has a new mayor, since three-termer Linda Milam, long assumed to be in effect a moderate Democrat, opted not to run again. In this conservative city, the ongoing expectation was that her replacement would be the man she defeated eight years (two terms) ago: Bill Shurtleff, then a county commissioner who went on to serve on the city council, and clearly a conservative Republican. He is more experienced now than he was then, a number of people noted. And some of his then-rough edges have smoothed over a bit.

But so much for making assumptions. Shurtleff's main opponent (there was a third, minor, candidate too, nicknamed "Huggy Bear") was an 18-year Idaho Falls police officer named Jared Fuhriman, a new member of one of the local school boards but not terribly well known. But he presented himself well, and he picked up Milam's endorsement. His status as a public employee and backing from a political moderate would not seem to be good medicine in a community as "conservative" as Idaho Falls. But who knew? He took 58% of the vote to just 36% for Shurtleff - a stunning win.

Maybe there's more going on under the surface in Idaho Falls than most of us think. Or maybe even that city caught a whiff of the Tuesday night political air.

A new calculus

Two or three months ago hardly anyone was seriously entertaining the idea that I-912,which sought to roll back the Washington gas tax increases passed by the legislature this year, would fail. (Joel Connelly of the P-I entertained it, but didn't go so far as to suggest it likely.) Yet, here we are - 52% no, 48% yes, or thereabouts, with a pile of additional King County votes yet to materialize.

And where is that?

It amounts to a massive win for Governor Christine Gregoire, who helped engineer the deal and whose governorship was to an extent riding on the result. She might not have been crushed, exactly, by passage of the initiative, since passage of anti-tax initiatives in Washington have been such a recurrence. But the rejection of it is almost like the vote of confidence she didn't exactly get in the election a year ago. She did a Big Thing, a potentially unpopular thing, and now the voters have checked off on it.

The overall Democratic tenor of this election season nationally - Republicans have to look hard, with a microscope, to find much to celebrate in the Tuesday voting - may have contributed to all this. But such moods are unifying things, and form a web of interactions. King County Executive Ron Sims' strong re-election was a part of it. So too - there can be little doubt - the return to the Snohomish County Council of Democrat Dave Somers (a biologist), who lost his seat four years ago to, and has now defeated, Republican Jeff Sax (strongly supported by developers) - as cleanly ideological a contest as any in the Northwest this cycle.

There is a shift of mood here. Democrats will spend a few days celebrating it. Republicans, notably those in Washington (and who watched their party endorse the "sure-thing" I-912), have some pondering to do.

Boise wrap

No basic changes from the earlier post on the Boise races. The bottom line remains: incumbents Bisterfeldt crushes Seeley and Jordan crushes Swindell by landslide margins, and Tibbs ousts incumbent Mapp by a smaller but substantial margin.

This was not a pro- or anti-incumbent thing. People clearly drew a distinction between Tibbs and Swindell instead of - as pieces of their constituency sought to do - linking them together. Their candidacies were about very different things. The candidates could hardly have been more different:- Tibbs very well known in town for decades and deeply involved in the community on a range of subjects, Swindell a flash who showed up to protest on the Ten Commandments and has little other relevant background in civic affairs. The voters may have noticed.

This was not a particularly ideological thing, either, though the small size of the Swindell vote, following all the publicity she got and organization brought to bear, does suggest that Boise (the city, not the area beyond city limits) is backing off, gently, from the philosophical right, and toward the center. That may give some reassurance to Mayor David Bieter as he looks toward re-election in a couple of years. And that can be effectively counterpoised with the presence of Tibbs on the council, which certainly should keep the mayor on his toes.

912 going down?

The list of political axioms which includes the notion, "You can't beat an anti-tax initiative in Washington state," may have to be revised.

The night is still a little early for flat predictions, but based on which counties are reporting in - and how they are reporting - the anti-gas tax initiative, I-912, looks poised for a loss. It passed in many of the rural and conservative counties, of course, but not all of them (Walla Walla?). It has failed in Shohomish, Jefferson, Thurston and a few others, and among King County absentee voters, which are about 15% of the total. The balance right now is very close, but the key is this: The big chunk of remaining votes coming in will come from King County, that 85% of precinct voters. And if they vote anything like the absentees did - and the absentees went 62% against 912 - then you can stick a fork in this initiative.

If it materializes that way, it will be a remarkable outcome which - together with the possibly-underestimated Sims win - could reshape Washington politics for the next cycle or two.

In Washington

First, some kudos to the Northwest liberal site Pacific NW Portal, which has some of the best local web election results reporting anywhere. Those guys have done a heck of a job this evening in keeping up with prompt results, and their approach should be emulated.

Now:

The marguee race here among candidates is for King County executive, where Republicans have been looking forward for a long time for their shot at Democrat Ron Sims. They really thought they had him this time, with his loss a year ago in the gubernatorial primary, problems in the elections office and other things. Turns out they didn't have him, though possibly the negative publicity about personal and ideological issues may have wound up hurting Republican challenger David Irons. But the Irons negatives shouldn't be allowed to become the whole story: Sims, simply, is strong here, as long as he runs for local office. He was tougher to beat this time than many Republicans wanted to admit - King County is majority Democratic, after all - and he will be tougher next time (if there is a next time) too.

The non-personal marquee race, I-912 (roads funding), showed it passing (meaning a defeat for the funding passage) in early returns, but many of those were from rural counties already expected to vote against. The jury is still out on that one.

More soon.

Idaho cities, round 1

All right, the vote counters are being a little slow this evening, but the 10 precincts reported in the Boise council races - since we do know which they are and where they are - do turn out to be enough to let us draw some preliminary conclusions.

That's because the districts are so widely scattered: three in the southeast, three in the west, one in the north end, the others around the bench and northwest. Politically, they're a smattering, not unreasonably representative of Boise as a whole, probably de-emphasizing the North End vote if anything.

Those precincts give incumbent Vern Bisterfeldt 76% in his race: He'll win going away. In the Maryanne Jordan (incumbent)/Brandi Swindell race, Jordan seems to be doing nearly as well, with 73% of the vote against a high-profile, energetic and organized opponent. Guess here is that the 73% will slip, but not nearly enough to cost Jordan re-election. More on this in a bit.

In Jim Tibbs' effort to unseat long-time incumbent Jerome Mapp, things are a little less clear, though looking good for Tibbs - who has 53.7% - at the moment. I wouldn't call it yet, but Tibbs seems to have an edge.

Elsewhere in Idaho, Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase looks (based on a third of the vote in) to be cruisng to a landslide re-election. Council member Richard Stallings (a former congressman) appeared to be doing likewise, though conservative Harry Neuhardt appeared to be in trouble.

A shocker in Idaho Falls may be in the making, however, if early numbers hold up. Former county commissioner and council member Roger Shurtleff, who was expected to cakewalk into the mayoralty, looks headed for defeat. We'll update before long to check if that holds up.

Election night

Be sure to check back in after the polls close this evening. We'll have review and analysis of the Northwest elections, starting as soon as the numbers arrive.

Snow!

This time last year Northwesterns were remarking on the dry autumn and the slow start to the snowpack. We lucked out then; the snowpack grew somewhat later in the season. But that was indeed getting lucky.

ODOT Siskiyou PassWe're off to a better start this season, although drivers are having to struggle. Siskiyou pass on the Oregon-California line has turned snowy and is turning icy; it may be a difficult drive the next few days. And until earlier today, Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades east of Seattle was no pass at all - closed completely owing to a rockslide combined with heavy snowfall. Even now, only one lane each way is open, and it may stay that way for a while.

Still, as the saying goes, we need the water. Or certainly will next summer.

Strip club measurements

As a matter of politics, you'd think that strip clubs fall onthe minority side of the equation - a form of business that, if voters had the option of simply voting away, would be voted out.

And maybe so. But now comes the Seattle Citizens for Free Speech, which seeks to overturn by initiative the Seattle City Council's restrictive new strip club ordinances in favor of looser regulation, with what it says are 27,138 petition signatures and more to come - well over twice the number needed to force the election. (more…)

Falling papers

Dark days for newspapers have been here so long it's hard to remember when they were a growing, thriving medium. When was that? A century ago, when most mid-sized to large communities still had two or three? A half-century ago, when all but a few communities were monopoly markets but the papers still had strong penetration into their communities?

Circulation reports for daily newspapers, according to the new FAS-FAX reports, are down almost everywhere, large papers and small alike.
(more…)