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Posts published in February 2006

OR CD2: A candidate?

Oregon usually doesn't fall prey to the delibitating disease of let-the-incumbent-have-a-totally-free-ride, but you could understand it this year. Last time around, all five House seats were challenged, and all cruised to easy wins (and that doesn't mention the Senate race). But odds are growing that the requisite major party challeges will emerge in all five, even if the races wind up lopsided.

The latest indicator comes courtesy the new Oregon political blog Loaded Orygun, and touts the prospective candidacy of Scott Silver, a Bend-area environmental activist. It doesn't say Silver is in the race, but implies he is not far from entry. He sounds to be thoughtful activist with a range of ideas, as opposed to a narrow partisan. Which could at least make him interesting, and expose the district to some new perspectives.

If he does enter, he will not find it easy. Incumbent Republican Greg Walden was last time with 71.7% of the vote, and it was no fluke: The guy is popular, and he's been doing a capable job.

Of course, as they say in the lottery, you can't win if you don't play. And you never know.

ID CD1: Johnson, revisited

Are we misunderestimating Keith Johnson? After our latest runthrough of the odds for the Republican candidates for the Idaho 1st congressional district nomination, in which we placed Johnson in the lower of two tiers of probability to win, we heard from the Johnson campaign. They said they thought they were being sold short, and offered to send more information to make their case that they're more strongly positioned than we indicated. Fair enough.

Keith JohnsonWere they sold short? After a re-look, and a look at some facts available now but not last Wednesday (when the last analysis was done), our thought is that Johnson's standing is a little better than we originally suggested. But not enough, for now, to call for a wholescale rethink of the dynamics of the race.

The biggest single change marker is in campaign finance. As of February 1, Johnson's campaign finance report hadn't been filed. Later in the week it was, and showed him raising a respectable $72,104, most of it from individuals but about $18,327 from PACs, which suggests that some of the money people, at least, think he has a shot. Among the six candidates, only Sheila Sorensen has comparable PAC backing. (In many respects, individual contributions are better than PAC funds, but the PAC money is a market for how races are assessed.) But the funds raised overall put him in a clear fourth place among the six.

There is also this: With $40,243 cash on hand at the end of 2005 (the end of the reporting period), Johnson had more funds available than any other candidate except Bill Sali (who had $133,904). That isn't a perfect indicator of much, because some of the other campaigns may have been buying things Johnson had yet to buy; exact comparisons are dicey. It also doesn't account for revenue dumps pledged or planned but not yet occurred. But it's worth noting, and a small plus for Johnson. (more…)

Mourning in Seattle

And wailing, rending of garments, etc. A lot of loyal Northwesterners were betting this Seahawks thing would go all the way. A 21-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was not what they had in mind.

Seahawks logoLook at it this way: Hardly anyone expected it to go this far. And with the base now set, who's to say they can't return to the SB next year? (Well, not Sports Illustrated, to judge by their analysis; but who were they predicting would be in the ring a year ago?)

Immigrating issue

Illegal immigrants - f0r that is the issue emerging in Northwest politics, not that of immigration as such - may be reaching the front burner. Whether it stays there depends, presumably, on what sort of response it gets over the next two to three weeks.

The subject of illegal immigrants - and again to be plain about it, we're talking mainly about persons who have crossed the border from Mexico and points south without legal permit - degenerates easily into a nast racist matter, ugly finger pointing at "them." It doesn't mean there aren't legitimate issues related to illegals, including the batch of matters in which we treat illegal aliens as if they were here legitimately. (No, the idea of someone who is here illegally being officially licensed by our government to do things, such as drive, seems simply wrong. We would not expect to illegal cross over into Mexico - or Canada, Japan, Germany or Russia for that matter - and expect such licenses; at best, we would hope to con our way into them.)

That ethnic aspect is fuzzed at bit in Idaho where a congressional candidate of Hispanic descent (but United States birth), Robert Vasquez, has been waving it as his personal bloody shirt for years.

But did Ron Saxton, the Anglo Republican Oregon gubernatorial candidate, give it much thought when he took the lead on the issue in Oregon - "I will support a zero tolerance policy for illegal immigrants."

In this Dorchester weekend, that has prompted his two Republican competitors, Kevin Mannix and Jason Atkinson, to jump all over the issue alongside him. How did it become so hot an issue so abruptly? Maybe because the candidates all were looking for a hot button to ride - there has been none very decisive so far - they felt they had to ride this pony quickly. Certainly no major new development has made illegal aliens that much more critical a matter today than it was, say, four or eight months ago, when it wasn't getting the attention.

A note of caution is warranted, though. As a matter of policy, there really isn't a massive difference either between these candidates or between then and the man one of them likely will face in November. A statement solicited from Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski said that "The governor has a strong record of fighting to enforce immigration laws in Oregon."

The difference here could be in one of tone. And if Republican candidates, or any of them, start sounding bigoted, they could be doing themselves a world a damage. There are good reasons this issue hasn't emerged in many political campaigns in the last few years, and been decisive in . . . any?

Steady up

The Portland State University Population Research Center reports just out figure Oregon has added about 50,000 people between the summer of 2004 and the summer of 2005, and about 200,000 people since the 2000 census.

Sounds about right, as do the estimates of where in the state, exactly, these people have been going. The standout really is Washington County, which is estimated to have added more than 9,000 people just in that recent year, and nearly 45,000 since the 2000 census (meaning, practically, at least 50,000 from then to now - about a quarter of all growth in the state). That's a big boost in size, even if - proportionately - Deschutes County (Bend ) did about as well or better. The other Portland-area suburban county, Clackamas, also grew but more slowly.

Portland continues to grow, adding about 5,000 people in just the recent year to reach 555,560. Salem pushes a little further ahead of Eugene; the cities are still close in population but no longer virtually tied. And Gresham is edging close to the 100,000 mark.

Safer with sunshine

Will Oregon officials follow up with some incentives under the law to encourage reporting of medical mistakes?

It would seem a logical step. The Oregon Patient Safety Commission has taken the useful step of requiring reporting, and then analyzing the reporting, of mistakes made in the course of medical care. It is now working on administrative rules on the subject.

Still, how good - how useful - the numbers are will depend a great deal on to what extent medical professionals 'fess up instead of cover up. The incentives, most especially liability concerns, all run in the coverup direction to date. That will constitute a major challenge.

If the commission gets past it, it may be on the verge of a breakthrough.

Walker: Longshot to tough call

Today's decision by Eugene Senator Vicki Walker not to go after incumbent Governor Ted Kulongoski in the Democratic primary maybe leaves both of them relieved, but still only a short gap to rest.

Kulongoski's re-elect bid just got a little bit easier. A month ago he was facing the possibility of a very tough primary against former Governor John Kitzhaber, and, failing that, Walker; the talk was of how the whole Democratic party seemed to be in revolt. Times have changed. Kitzhaber opted not to make the run, and while he hasn't been boosting his sucessor much, he hasn't criticized him, either. Walker would not have done as well in the primary, but she might have inflicted more damage: Her criticisms about PERS, Neil Goldschmidt and other matters have been more than pugent. Some of them have cut deep, and repeated exposure around the state would have hurt Kulongoski. As it is now, the governor still has a primary challenger (Pete Sorenson of Eugene), but little trouble.

Vicki WalkerWalker, on the other hand, still has a high challenge before her: A tough opponent in her run for Senate re-election. For all that Eugene has the reputation of being a Democratic stronghold, there are plenty of Republicans around, and plenty of votes for moderate Republicans. Exhibit A is her opponent: Jim Torrey, the still-popular former mayor of Eugene (for about a decade), and a moderate Republican.

This has abruptly turned into one of the premier legislative races in the Northwest. (And it is abrupt: She had a Walker for Governor web site up and running for months, and on it she declared she was running for governor.) She has a compelling story, of a mother who became an activist, of an exposer of ugly realities. But just how compelling will it be against Torrey? She could have no stronger general election opponent.

Something of a lightning rod, she has faced strong opponents before. In 2000, when was running for re-election as a state representative, she faced another former mayor of Eugene, Jeff Miller, and she won, 53%-47%. But as that vote (and her only other Senate run, in 2002, when she won with 54.3%) shows, she's been successful at racking up wins but not big wins.

Jim TorreyTorrey was twice elected mayor of Eugene, and when he decided in 2004 not to run again, the general assumption was that a third term would have easily been his if he'd wanted it. He has been raising money (famously, with some help from one of Kulongoski's tightest political allies), and he will surely be able to call on a solid organization. (No web site yet, though, oddly.) But he's out of office now, and comebacks in such circumstances are always problematic.

This will be of the handful of general election races to watch in Oregon this year. Right alongside the gubernatorial general.

Idaho 1st, revised

Full wiki report to follow, but with campaign finance reports in hand (all but one, anyway), there's no reason not to revise our running order estimate. Consider this latest a half-fudge, since we're not ranking the Republicans as numbers one through six. But we do feel comfortable in placing them in two tiers: Top tier and lower tier.

The top tier is the "S" candidates: (in alphabetical) Bill Sali, Norm Semanko, Sheila Sorensen.

The lower tier: The other three (in alphabetical) Keith Johnson, Skipper Brandt and Robert Vasquez. (more…)

Overkill

More and more do you see the idea that legislators should be barred, for some extended period of time, from drafting or passing laws in the wake of some screaming headline. The emotional, panicked responses usually wind up as troubling pieces of law that have to be dealt with later, usually after creating unintended mischief. Splashy criminal cases are notorious for generating that kind of reaction.

The Joseph Edward Duncan case from last year - most of which occurred in Idaho, but was heavily covered in Washington as well - was a natural example. This is a case awash in not only murder but also sex abuse; Duncan had been convicted earlier elsewhere on sex abuse charges. The case probably does call into some question whether parts of the sex offender system are working as they should, and especially if offenders are evaluated, and then handled, correctly. But those are subtle and technical matters, and legislators tend to haul off on another track altogether. (more…)