"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Soon enough we’ll get to the general election implications of Bill Sali’s win of the Republican primary for the 1st U.S. House district. Those, and what it says about the first district itself.

For the moment, though, let’s reflect on the primary results as such, and for both Republicans and Democrats some prevailing trends suggest themselves.

Bill SaliGenerally speaking, this primary was good for hard-line social conservatives. Sali was Exhibit A: He posited the race explicitly as himself – defined as a sort of purist conservative – against Sheila Sorensen, loosely defined as a moderate or liberal or something equally unsavory. His final appeal is that the winner will be him or her, and true conservatives would know what to do. The religious conservative front certainly did, from the appeals on the anti-abortion front to the Alan Keys event in Kootenai County last weekend. Sali’s win was part of an organized effort, and it should be no surprise that the effort bore fruit elsewhere too. Our suspicion (voiced in this space) was that just such support would allow Sali to outrun the indicators of polls.

There were other exhibits of this too, on Tuesday night. Phil Hart, hardcorne on the tax and social front in the Panhandle was challenged by the veteran legislator, Wayne Meyer, he beat two years ago; the win then seemed almost a fluke, attendant in part to Meyer’s not paying enough attention. Hart’s smackdown of Meyer this time shows that nothing fluky was involved. In Gem County, Kathy Skippen’s loss to Steven Thayne was another takedown of a relative centrist in the House Republican caucus by a candidate far to the right.

True, some races ran the other way. In Canyon County’s District 10, Robert Ring’s holdoff of front-the-right challenger Rob Oates probably reflected some built-up personal appeal by Ring. In district 14, Stan Bastian has a long history around Eagle and a solid personal constituency, and his from-the-right challenge, Rod Beck, has run and lost a little too often; once a strong vote-getter in the region, he may be considered just a perennial candidate now. And the District 16 Senate contest between John Andreason and Dennis Mansfield was an unusual case; Mansfield is on a journey of discovery, and he isn’t quite as easily pigeon-holed as he once seemed to be. What may have seemed like philosophical blurriness – not to us, but possibly to some voters – may have hurt him.

Then there’s the very interesting case of the nomination for superintendent of public instruction, about which the prevailing wisdom was that Tom Luna, who campaigned for this office hard to the right in 2002 and softened his stand this year, would probably win. State Representative Steve Smylie was thought not to be “conservative” enough to win the primary vote, and Coeur d’Alene principal Steve Casey was an unknown to the party. Casey wound up in a fairly predictable third place, but the curiousity is that Smylie and Luna wound up in a nailbiter. At this writing, Smylie was leading by one percentage point, but about half of the precincts still out were in Canyon County, where in early counts Luna was ahead. So we don’t consider this race callable yet.

What happened? Three items that we suspect contributed: Smylie seemed to project a more conservative tone in the primary; meanwhile, Luna seemed to shift toward the center, possibly in a long-range bid for general election votes; and (we just have the suspicion) in this season of high immigrant awareness, there may have been some pulling of support for Luna, who is Hispanic, in the Republican primary.

The Republicans seems to be edging, this season, gently to the right.

And the Democrats? There’s less to go by, mainly two races, for lieutenant governor and superintendent. LG went to Larry La Rocco, who may have seemed a safe choice since he is certainly an experienced candidate. That wasn’t a surprise. The choice of Department of Education administrator Jana Jones over eastern Idaho state Senator Bert Marley, though, was: Marley would seem, on the surface at least, to be the more electable in November. But maybe the logic ran this way: Jones can be presented as a continuation of the Marilyn Howard Administration, since Howard is the only suriving statewide Democrat. And, before her election, Howard had never won elective office either.

Comments and notions regarding any of this are more than welcome . . .

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At the Huckleberries blog out of the Spokesman Review, Dave Oliveria has written – twice – that if state Representative Bill Sali hits the north with something close to a majority, he will probably win, because the population base in that area will head his direction.

He’s likely right, and now just that appears to be happening. With just over half of the 1st congressional district precincts counted, Sali is ahead at 26.7% of the vote (by seven percentage points and about a 2,500 raw vote lead) over Sheila Sorensen, who is barely ahead of third-place Keith Johnson.

The problem Sorensen and Johnson both have right now is: What should be their best pools of votes are largely tapped. Where do they go from here to catch up? If Sali hasn’t got it wrapped up yet, he’s very close.

Stay tuned.

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The Associated Press vote tallies as run through the Idaho Statesman web site are coming in much faster than the numbers from the Secretary of State’s office; unfortunate, since the SoS numbers have more county detail. Still, there’s some grist here, finally.

Among the 1st District Republicans, state Representative Bill Sali has maintained a steady lead all evening – not a big lead, but to this point a definitive one. Former Senator Sheila Sorensen and Controller Keith Johnson have been swapping second place, about five points back. The other three are trailing – the race pretty clearly now seems to be between those three. (Your scribe was quoted accurarely earlier today in the Congressional Quarterly web site as saying, “All I can point out are winners that would surprise me more versus winners who would surprise me less. … Sali and Sorenson would be the least surprising, with maybe Johnson as a dark horse.” Well, here we are . . . so far . . .

Highly interesting in the so-far returns: The very close Republican superintendent of public instruction contest between state Representative Steve Smylie and former nominee Tom Luna; the weight of opinion (including ours) had been that Luna would be a clear winner. It’s not so clear at the moment.

Back shortly.

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Well this is taking its time. At two hours past polls closed, just 117 of 917 precincts are in, and most of those are from eastern Idaho. Not a lot to work with yet in the premier race, the Republican nomination for the 1st congressional district.

Based on early results, the big gubernatorial primary win by C.L. “Butch” Otter looks about on track, at 69% (wouldn’t be surprised to see it bump a little higher as the night goes on). On the Democratic side for lieutenant governor, former congressman Larry La Rocco appears to be piling up a substantial win over Dan Romero – there had been some question about that. The early numbers also seem to suggest a win by Tom Luna for a second Republican nomination for superintendent of public instruction, and – a surprise if it holds, which it may not – a lead by Jana Jones over state Senator Bert Marley on the Democratic side.

And in the 1st? Bill Sali, Keith Johnson and Sheila Sorensen bunched together at the top, with Sali in a narrow lead. Will it hold? The next couple of hours ought to tell the story . . . if the pace picks up . . .

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Toward the beginning of U.S. District Judge William Redden’s decision Tuesday in American Rivers v. NOAA Fisheries, there was a sentence with a striking word in it.

The sentence was, “This opinion addresses the latest in a series of biological opinions issued by the federal government that have ostensibly attempted to stem the decline of threatened and endangered Columbia and Snake River Basin salmon while preserving tribal fishing rights, and protecting the region’s economic and political interest in cheap hydropower, agricultural irrigation, and commercial/recreational fishing.”

Did you catch the “ostensibly”?

Redden’s decisions over the last few years have built a portrait of the judge as a persistent and accelerating critic of federal environmental policies, and an ally of environmental groups (even if, in this decision, he technically gave American Rivers only a partial win). He can’t force congressional policy, and so he remains simply at loggerheads with his critics . . .

Unless, that is, this latest decision upends a key section of the federal-state-Nez Perce Tribe agreement, so carefully worked out over a period of years, in the Snake River Basin Adjudication.

That may not be the case, and for the moment it isn’t – necessarily. For one thing many of the key points were not actually decided but remanded for more evaluation. Redden’s key conclusion read like this: “I conclude that the 2005upperSnakeBiOp is arbitrary and capricious, and invalid under the ESA because it relies on the same flawed comparative jeopardy analysis used in the 2004BiOp for the down-river dams. The 2005upperSnakeBiOp will be
remanded with further instructions to NOAA and BOR to correct its flaws. I conclude that NOAA and BOR may continue to segment the upper Snake water projects from the down-river FCRPS operations in the upcoming consultations during the remand period for both biological opinions.”

The segmentation approach for the river is critical in this; if the river can be amanged only in a unitary way, the Nez Perce agreement may not be managable.

So. The Idaho congressional delegation started their response by saying “Not only does this ruling jeopardize the careful and long collaboration process between the federal, state, and local governments and the Tribes, but it also jeopardizes the potential for a long-term solution.” But it added: “We do note that the judge put the remand of the Upper Snake and Federal Columbia River Power System Biops on the same schedule and agreed they should remain segmented. With these objectives in mind, we will watch very carefully the way that the region responds to the judge’s ruling, particularly with regard to the way the remand order is implemented.”

It doesn’t endanger the SRBA or the Nez Perce agreement yet. But Redden is unlikely to hold much sacred, and you almost start to wonder whether he’s just found the two-by-four that gets the attention of a whole bunch of regional elected officials.

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And so much of it comes down to this. We’ll be right here, of course, well through the evening and tracking the results. We’ll pass on what we have, and analysis of it . . . but we don’t guarantee how far we’ll hang in there into the early ones Wednesday morning. (It could be that kind of election.)

Additional places to check for results info start with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, which had a good and often-updated report in the November 2004 election night. Election night posting at the Idaho Statesman has varied in quality over the years, but you’ll likely want to check it out this time. The freshest TV election returns usually are those of KTVB-TV (Channel 7).

A growing number of counties are doing real-time on-line returns. Ada County has been running them reliably for a couple of cycles. Canyon County, Kootenai County, Bonneville County, Bannock County, Twin Falls County, Nez Perce County, Bingham County, Bonner County (note that it has a pop-up screen), Madison County (note that it’s on a PDF linked to the main page) and Idaho County.

Have fun. And send in your ideas, analysis, thoughts, facts, plaints, whatever, as the night progresses.

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We will be watching to see how the Oregonian responds to the fallout from one of its more striking recent stories – not on politics or even anything very controversial. The story was less broadly significant than the errors in it – if errors they were.

The story was a great read about Mark Provo, a manthematician by inclination (and a sometime teacher professionally) who chucked it all a few years back to live in a motel room at Centralia, Washington, to try to develop a hitherto-elusive proof to a mathematical equation. The story by Tom Hallman was a beauty, a fine read. Problem is that its subject, Provo, says it was riddled with errors, about 30 or so. Which becomes an issue if the reporter involved is a star reporter, a Pulitzer winner, as Hallman is.

The Willamette Week has a piece up about this. Nothing yet in the O. We’ll be watching.

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Just a quick note on the Idaho 1st district race: The endorsements are now in, and may be considered.

We’re aware of three newspaper endorsements in District 1. On the Republican side, State Controller Keith Johnson got those in southern Idaho, at the Boise Idaho Statesman and the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune. Sheila Sorensen got one up north, at the Spokane Spokesman-Review. On the Democratic side, Larry Grant (who is only barely challenged in the primary) got all three.

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Awhole lot of the premises in our society – the concept of a free market, for one among many – stems from the idea of arms’-length negotiation and agreement: Parties with comparable leverage reaching a deal that works for both. In the real, non-theoretical world, such equation of leverage is relatively uncommon, but we’ve gotten away from the tools and procedures that could help compensate.

As a boat against the current, then, consider the foster home parents of Washington state. They have had a group organizaton – the Foster Parents Association of Washington State – since 1973. Now they’re planning to link with the Washington Federation of State Employees, a labor union, to put a little more muscle behind their efforts.

We’ll keep a watch on how this turns out.

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Credit University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer with pulling the plug on the latest cycle of insanity-cum-outrage, a cycle spinning fast courtesy of a small group of UO students on one side, and none other than Bill O’Reilly on the other.

Student Insurgent flagStarts with a group of students who for some years have been publishing something called the Student Insurgent, which proclaims, “We are unaffiliated with any partisan organization. We seek to provide a forum for those working towards a society free from oppression based on class, gender, sexual orientation, race, species,and free from the threat of ecological collapse.” Sounds predictably far-left-wingy, and it is; it seems to be trying to make a point of being farther out there than anyone else. It is funded in part by student fees and has used campus mailing to get a discounted rate, though it is not a student newspaper (that would be the Daily Emerald).

The editors of the Insurgentdecided in their March edition to provoke some thought (thought? or just yelps?) about the recent battle over cartoons in Europe on the subject of Mohammed and Islam; the cartoons published in Eugene would be cartoons of Jesus. Some of them were graphically sexual in nature, were designed to provoke, and to that extent succeeded. Uproar quickly ensued.

The haymaker developed according to its predictable script. Various Christian activists were furious, especially with a public university giving mail discounts to the publication. (William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, remarked, “”The March edition of the Insurgent … was one of the most obscene assaults on Christianity I have ever seen.”) The univeristy reviewed its policy and found that the Insurgent shouldn’t have gotten the rate, and held up the controversial issue at a mailing facility. Letters and requests have gone out to the governor and a constellation of other elected and unelected officials. Some on the left cried foul on grounds of freedom of speech. Some on the right said the university didn’t go nearly far enough –

– and (you’ve probably beaten us to it) that is the point at which Bill O’Reilly got into the picture. (Thanks to Blue Oregon for the pointer to some of what follows.) He invited UO President Frohnmayer on his May 17 program; after he declined, he got two students to do the (predictable) point-counterpoint. After which the host wrapped up, ” “If any publication funded by student dollars endorsed the KKK or Nazism, the university would step in and say it violates the standards of the school. But in this case you can brutalize the image of Jesus and nothing is done. University president Dave Frohnmayer is a coward who needs to be fired.” (It did, of course, get its university priveleges pulled, and it is the students who have the option – and it is their option – to quit funding it.)

If you suspect that O’Reilly’s firing call had something to do with Frohnmayer’s decision not to appear, you’re probably right. Why didn’t he appear? According to the Emerald, the president said he would have had to drive to Portland to get in front of a camera for the show, and “there’s no reason to drive 200 miles to appear on a show that’s entertainment.”

But that he would lead a parade of similar no-shows – on the O’Reilly circuit and through the rest of this circus. Frohnmayer’s simple explanation contained the least spin-per-word in a comment by anyone drawn so far into this rather minor incident . . .

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To read opinion pieces about blogging in newspapers (and see them on the tube), and to read about the MSM (mainstream media, to you dead-tree folks) in many blogs, you’d think a kind of trench warfare between two opposing sides is underway. It isn’t true; the lines have long since been breached.

Blogs have from the beginning relied heavily on other media for news and other items (and we reference them regularly). For their part, newspapers have increasingly been using blog-developed information too. And the key bridge between the sides may actually be the growing number of blogs by newspaper writers, under the aegis of those newspapers.

Our immediate hook for this discussion is the launching (okay, it was last month, but we just spotted it) of a blog in the Olympian newspaper by reporter Adam Wilson. But let’s take a look at the newspaper politics/public affairs blog scene around the Northwest; there’s more here than you might think.

Oregon: The Oregonian has some some modest promotion of regional blogs for some time, but didn’t get seriously into its own until recently. Its politics blog now has become fairly active, and was a highly useful stop on primary election might. Two city beat reporters run a Portland city hall blog, which may not quite replace the old Portland Communique but is still a good stop for the interested. There’s also an editors blog discussing in-paper doings, but it’s only semi-active (two posts in all of April, and just two so far in May). And there are other blogs on sports, schools, entertainment and other matters.

The Salem Statesman-Journal has no reporter blogs per se, but it does have an interesting opinion blog, which which editorial page staff set out a question and invite local comment, and often seem to generate a pile of it. The Roseburg News-Review has Off the Wall, a sort-of-blog of recent news items. Several other papers which don;t have blogs do have reader comment boards (see the McMinnville News-Register for an active example).

Idaho: Not many newspaper blogs in the Gem State, but some are under development. The strongest Idaho newspaper political blogs, in fact, have a Spokane source (see below).

The Twin Falls Times News is developing a batch of blogs, one of them called The City Desk, though the project seems to be in its early stages. The Lewiston Tribune has just started a collection of newsroom blogs by staff, though none of them are public affairs-related, as yet (the arts is a larger focus). Just a bit further along, the Pocatello Idaho State Journal has a Journal Politics blog, but it seems to include mostly reader comments (a lot of pro and con on the president, for example, and not much on the local scene). (No blogging we could find, by the way, at the Boise Idaho Statesman.) None of these blogs yet have more than a limited utility from a political or public affairs point of view, but give them time: They could easily develop into more.

Washington: On the other hand, lots of blogs in Washington.

Longview Daily News blog logoThe single most intriguing bit of newspaper blogging in the region is at one of the smaller daily newspapers. When you get a few moments, pop over to the Longview Daily News and check out their reporter blog. That paper has a reporter, Michael Anderson, who is assigned in large part to running the blog and fostering a community conversation. He seems to have had some success at it, often drawing significant numbers of respondents (well over 100 on one recent day when the big topic of discussion was the upcoming implosion of the Trojan tower across the Columbia).

The Seattle Times only periodically runs blogs, with one substantial exception, Brier Dudley’s blog – and it’s often a good read – on business and tech. The Post-Intelligencer, though, has developed a whole tribe of blogs, several of them public-affairs usedful. One, called Strange Bedfellows, is mostly political, and there’s one on the environment and several on business (including Todd Bishop’s Microsoft Blog, highly useful for anyone tracking the doings at Redmond).

The Tacoma News Tribune has several blogs on its site, one about the paper by its editors (a good one, much more active than its Oregonian counterpart, and often including “What we’re working on for tomorow’s paper”), another looking at on-line developments in the South Sound, and several on sports and features. But nothing specifically public-affairs oriented. The Everett Herald has four blogs, but none on public affairs.

Out East, the Spokane Spokesman-Review is highly active on that front – maybe more so than any other paper in the region. While much of the paper’s content is barricaded behind a paid-subscription wall, its blogs are free access. Three of those have for some time been regular stops for us. The overtly opinionated one is Huckleberries Online by long-time editorial writer Dave Oliveria. His personal views are clearly conservative but Oliveria is no censor; the blog includes loads of local comments of all stripes, and it’s typically a very entertaining read as well as informative about the Inland Empire. Followers of Idaho politics have for several years known reporter Betsy Russell’s Eye on Boise blog is an obligatory visit to keep up with Boise doings. The paper’s Eye on Olympia is a little less consistent but still worth a check. The paper does several other blogs too, but from a news perspective the other must-see is Daily Briefing, a reflective take on the paper’s news coverage.

And lest we forget, there’s now the Olympian with its new State government Blog by Adam Wilson, a reporter at the Olympia paper for a couple of years and before that a political and state reporter for the Lewiston Tribune in Idaho. It’s off to a good start, with regular and substantive posts.

As is media blogging around the region. Check back a year from now, and we’ll bet the equivalent of this post will be twice as long.

UPDATE 5/21/2006 A day after this post, the Seattle Times announced a new blog on politics by its chief political reporter, David Postman, starting operation on Monday. The Times column noting the addition doesn’t say – so we will – that Postman in effect took blogging on a trial splin last year, when he did minute-by-minute updates at various critical points during the battle over the Washington governorship (and compelling reading much of it was, too).

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Given the location of ski resort complexes, you might expect the sort of thing now bedeviling the Schweitzer Mountain ski area near Sandpoint to be a periodic occurence. And maybe over years to come, it will be.

Areas in the mountain turf near Schweitzer have developed some serious geologic problems, cracks in the mountain and landslides – generated at the moment by sudden spring heat – that have virtually wiped out two condo complexes and apparently have rendered a third a hopeless cause.

The damage apparently did not occur on the ski resort’s property, but its managers may have some cause for concern anyway – even if only as a matter of perception. The ski complex, located at a beautiful sites in the mountains above Sandpoint (which is one of Idaho’s prettiest city locales), has been a major draw for the region for some time now. Quite a bit hangs in the balance as specialists re-evaluate the mountain.

Others with comparable interests may want to take note of what happens there next.

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