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Posts published in May 2006

A dance of the long knives

It wasn't boring. If you're in the mood for some offbeat TV drama, and you haven't seen it already, consider this a recommendation to check out the Idaho 1st congressional district Republican debate on streaming video from Idaho Public Television.

For sheer slash and burn, you won't find much better reality TV. Republican politics does not get blunter - in public - than it did here.

It may have been the single most attack-packed major debates in the Northwest in years; not until its last quarter or so did the action let up. There was little subtle here, and few punches withheld, even from unlikely sources. A prospective voter planning to vote Republican but knowing nothing about the race save the content of the debate must be left with a deeply uneasy feeling. Did the debate produce a winner, or a single loser? It's hard to imagine. No one stayed entirely above it all; everyone got burned, to some extent or another. (more…)

Tom Luna: The Missing Years

Four years have passed since Tom Luna became the only statewide Republican candidate in Idaho to lose in November. His chances for the same office, superintendent of public instruction, look good this time: He has the odds to win the Republican nomination (he was unopposed for it last time), and probably throws the Democratic nominee into presumptive underdog status. All this owes something to early planning, good organization and solid campaign skills, which were not bad in 2002. It seems to owe little to the four years in between, during most of which Luna was a high-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Education.

Tom LunaThat piece of his track record isn't ignored, exactly. It's appropriately referenced on his resume, and mentioned in passing. But it's hardly the focus and highlight you might expect. In running for the top education job in Idaho, his years on the Nampa School Board really aren't an especially great recommendation, or his work on some state advisory committees.

Luna was a Bush Administration official from early in 2003 into 2005, and one online resume lists him as senior advisor to Secretary of Education Rod Paige, director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities (2003-04) but primarily, apparently, he was executive director of the U.S. Rural Education Task Force. One might expect Luna to speak at length about these experiences; instead, they tend to get perfunctory mentions. Why?

Could it be because there's not much to tell? Or because the telling might make for some uncomfortable juxtapositions? (more…)

A blog endorses

No, not this one - we haven't and won't, in any political race. (At least that's our past and current policy; like all things blog, it could change in future.) But what does it mean to say that a blog has endorsed a candidate?

The question is a little trickier than it might appear at first.

Some blogs, like this one, are relatively controlled-access and have some control of viewpoint. You can comment about our posts, and we encourage that, but anyone who says this space has endorsed someone or something because a commenter has, is simply wrong. On the other hand are blogs like Blue Oregon or Red State Northwest which are joint efforts by a number of bloggers; if one of those bloggers urges the election of a specific candidate - as occasionally happens - you still can't easily say that the blog has done that.

And there's a secondary question: What does it mean to endorse? Is writing favorably about the idea of someone's election enough? Newspaper endorsements are typically clear-cut; they say that "we endorse X for election," or something clearly similar. On the web, the situation is a little less certain.

All that preface to a response by the campaign of Keith Johnson, a candidate for the U.S. House in Idaho's 1st district, to a question posed here about one of its messages. The message said that "2 out of 3 left wing, Idaho bloggers endorsed Robert Vasquez in the Republican primary for Congress. Because he would ensure the Democrats a win in November. The third endorsed Sheila Sorensen. Enough said.”

So, we asked, who were the bloggers? The campaign responded today, and here are the links: (more…)

Giving due notice

How far does a government's responsiblity to warn people extend? Consider the just-decided case of John Osborn, et al., v. Washington before you answer - but first, here are the underlying facts.

Neither party disputes the tragic facts of this case. Rosenow was a registered sex offender. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to third degree rape of a woman at knifepoint, and in 1999 he pleaded guilty to second degree assault for choking unconscious a former sexual partner. When Rosenow was released from prison in June 2000 he moved to Hoodsport, Mason County.
The prison preliminarily classified Rosenow a level II sex offender, but Mason
County reclassified him a level III sex offender.1 Detective Jason Dracobly handled sex offender registration and community notification for the Mason County Sheriff's Department. Before Rosenow's release Shannyn Wiseman, a resident of Mason County, contacted Dracobly who said he would post fliers and otherwise notify the community of Rosenow's presence. Dracobly registered Rosenow and posted a notice identifying him as a sex offender on Mason County's website, but did not distribute fliers. Wiseman contacted Dracobly again, informing him that Rosenow had followed two minor children, reporting Rosenow's change of address, and asking whether Dracobly still intended to distribute fliers. Dracobly told her he was too busy to distribute fliers and discouraged her from doing so herself. In December 2000 Rosenow moved from Hoodsport to Shelton. But on February 24, 2001, he returned to Hoodsport where he raped and murdered Osborn.
Osborn's parents sued Mason County for failing to warn them of Rosenow's
presence. Mason County moved for summary judgment, arguing that the sex
offender statute then in effect, former RCW 4.24.550 (1998), imposed no
duty to warn and conferred immunity from liability for failure to warn and
moreover no duty to warn existed under the public duty doctrine.


And they are who, exactly?

Last week we e-mailed the Keith Johnson congressional campaign with a question. We haven't gotten a response to it yet. If we get one, we'll post it, but for the moment - what the with the Idaho primary election scant days away - we thought we should note the inquiry here.

Johnson's web site includes several clever "enough said" videos. One of them says this: "2 out of 3 left wing, Idaho bloggers endorsed Robert Vasquez in the Republican primary for Congress. Because he would ensure the Democrats a win in November. The third endorsed Sheila Sorensen. Enough said."

Well, not quite: Who exactly were the three "left wing, Idaho bloggers"? Or was the campaign just trying to make a satirical point, while stating it in the form of a flat, factual allegation?

Is it possible that Johnson's statement is true? Maybe . . . but we monitor the Northwest blogosphere fairly closely, and can't come up with a single "left wing" blogger endorsing either Vasquez or Sorensen. (Several of them have effectively endorsed Larry Grant, the leading Democrat in the race.) So who exactly are these bloggers? - we'd be interested to know. Or are we to be left with the speculation they don't exist outside the Johnson campaign?

UPDATE (5/18/06) The Johnson campaign has responded with three blog links. See the more recent post "A blog endorses" (above) for discussion.

Day-after and recurring patterns

There will be more as the weeks roll out, but enough numbers are in and crunchable to sketch a few preliminary notes about the contours of the just-ended Oregon gubernatorial primary, and the larger shapes and sizes it suggests.

Maybe the point most noted about the election, other than the actual results, was the low turnout, apparently the lowest for a primary in Oregon for decades. (The exact number of ballots and party designations on them aren't available yet, and we'll revisit this when they are.) A note here: The numbers for 2006 that follow are neither final nor official, but they do seem close enough to final for the statistical uses we make of them here.

The low turnout rate might have been accounted for in part by voting not keeping up with population increase. But no: The actual numbers of voters dropped. A question: Did more of that falloff occur on the Republican or Democratic side?

To judge from the votes cast for governor, the one major office up for grabs Tuesday, the falloff seemed almost perfectly split. Take the number of voters in the 2002 Republican primary for governor (332,575), compare to the 2006 combined votes (285,457), and you get 85.8% of the vote in '06 compared to with '02. Run the Democratic numbers for 2002 (354,284) and 2006 (303,350) and you get 85.6% - remarkably, almost exactly the same. If the decline in vote had to do with disinterest, which seems plausible but isn't easily provable, the malaise must have crossed party lines. Or maybe (just as plausibly) each side had its own set of issues. (more…)

Kulongoski v. Saxton

So, in the end, the polls were more or less right - take an average of where they were in the last couple of weeks, and they didn't run far from the final results. There were no massive underground swells, in either party (though the prospect for one was mainly held out on the Republican side).

Ron SaxtonProbable public explanation on Ron Saxton: Republicans wanted a winner; Kevin Mannix was too damaged by past losses and recent controversies; Saxton moved enough to the right in image at least to pick up a heavy slice of the conservative vote. Our take: Some truth in all of that, and a bit more besides.

One interesting early indication: There was no groundswell to the right beyond what polling already is picking up. That could have implications for a string of contests to come around the region. More on that in a day or two.

Ted KulongoskiProbable public explanation on Ted Kulongoski: Labor and several other interests weren't strong enough to engineer a replacement. Our take: True, but the guv be underestimated as well.

In both cases, however: A number of factors have yet to be evaluated, including a closer look at the vote totals. We'll be getting around to those soon.

There were political careers ended (Mannix) or seriously impaired (Hill, Sorensen). Atkinson did well enough electorally and impressed enough as a campaigner that he's by no means done, if he wants to run again. Which, sooner or later, he likely will.

Implications for Ben Westlund's independent campaign: Not especially good, at least at first glance. Both major party nominees won decisively, and a Mannix win on the Republican side (or a Hill upset on the Democratic) would have worked better for him. But this will take more evaluation.

Looks like a fun one come November - the early line at least is that Oregon apparently has a hotly-contested gubernatorial contest on its hands.

Partials from late Tuesday night:

Republican Ron Saxton 43.2% 97,629
Republican Kevin Mannix 29.6% 67,052
Republican Jason Atkinson 21.7% 49,068

Saxton got off to a substantial lead almost the moment polls closed, and never lost it. Same for Kulongoski.

Democratic Ted Kulongoski 54.3% 132,471
Democratic Jim Hill 29.5% 71,957
Democratic Pete Sorensen 16.2% 39,529

There were other indications worthy of note from the Tuesday numbers: The sweeping ouster of Multnomah County Chair Diane Linn maybe most notably. More comment on these and more results will be forthcoming.

Early returns

The Oregonian has an excellent vote resource for tonight's elections up at its website. (There's also an interesting experiment in webcasting going on there, but the connection has an annoying way of cutting in and out.) We'll be tracking it and other sources this evening. (And, to be noted: We'll be updating this post several times with results, rather than run a half-dozen new ones as we go.)

On the more hotly-contested Republican side, in the second round, Saxton's lead continues to hold as Mannix' percentage drops a bit, partly owing to a strong vote for Atkinson from Jackson County:

Republican Ron Saxton 45.0% -
Republican Kevin Mannix 33.4% -
Republican Jason Atkinson 15.5% -

Saxton's off to a decent start, and his people are probably just about to kick in the celebrations, but there's a lot yet to go.

On the Democratic side, second round shows Kulongoski's lead picking up and heading north of 50% - a psychological line that sorta kinda separates a technical win from an emotional win. A trend seems to show the governor doing best in rural counties, weakest in Marion, Lane and Polk:

Democratic Ted Kulongoski 53.5% -
Democratic Jim Hill 27.6% -
Democratic Pete Sorensen 18.9% -

The conventional wisdom had Saxton winning a strong plurality and Kulongoski flirting around with a majority. Both seem to be meeting or bearing expectations so far.

A closure, a diminishment

You see the expansion notices in Meridian or Post Falls, but they don't spread evenly. Rupert today joined the list of rural places taking a hit, as Kraft Foods said it would close its processing plant there, taking 140 jobs with it, early in 2007. The plant produces cheese products.

Are there any takeaway lessons for local people, like those in Rupert, or elsewhere in Idaho or the Northwest? Well, yes, if you look closely at Kraft and its business environment.

Not, that is, at Rupert or Idaho - local conditions in that city and state appear to be irrelevant to the closure. (Not that the closure will be irrelevant to the city and state - it will put some hurt on Rupert.) Kraft was quoted as saying the closure had nothing to do with local productivity - and there's no reason to assume otherwise - but rather is part of a series of consolidation of its processing facilities. Certainly the corporation is doing some restructuring - late last month it announced it was outsourcing most of its communications and database work.

An internal squeeze seems to be on, and in that connection you might consider this from an on-line piece basically about Wal-Mart: "In fiscal 2005, Wal-Mart saw sales grow 9.5% while inventories climbed 9.3%. Wal-Mart was able to wring out such good results by putting much of the onus on suppliers such as Procter & Gamble Co. , Kraft Foods Inc. and Estee Lauder Cos."

Message to community economic development entities: When considering which manufacturers or base-level industries to attract to your community, or considering the mix you already have, ask who that business sells to. From that, you may be able to better determine if that business has a long or possibly short life span in your community.

A subtextual scorecard

With just a short bit remaining before the Oregon polls close, a quick refresher on some of what we might learn before the night is through other than the numbers attached to winners and losers.

And listen up in Idaho and Washington - Oregon, with the first primary of the year, gets to sow some possible lessons for Idaho a week hence and Washington late in the summer.

We can consider the numbers of Democrats and Republicans casting ballots. The highest-profile office on the ballot, governor, has serious contests on both sides. Is one party voting much heavier than the other - and remember, the registration balance between the parties is close.

We can consider how the candidates' results stack up to the polls - and consider whether the poll numbers reflected an underground surge for one or more candidates. Or whether an underground surge happened.

We can tell pretty quickly the geographical split of the candidates. And in Portland, we should get some good read on attitude in the races for county commission chair, city council and Tri-Met auditor (believe it or note). And there will be a few other local races worth watching.

Just shortly ahead.

Site of note

Many are the candidates who complain that they just don't have enough money. Few are the candidates who take advantage of one of the best low-cost ways of communicating: The web.

One of the most notable Northwest campaign web sites - notable now especially since it may or may not survive next week's primary election - is that of Dennis Mansfield, candidate for the Idaho Senate in West Ada County's District 15. Here's a site showing some of the possibilities of using the web to commicate effectively as a candidate.

There are the usual issue statements, photos, donations opportunities and links, of course, that you find on most campaign sites. Mansfield has a blog, for one thing - no, correct that, several blogs, to cover several areas of the campaign, and there's plenty on them. There's an RSS news feed (this is, to be sure, becoming more commonplace, but still far from universal). He has an electronic image, a banner, that supporters can place on their web sites. He has started communicating directly through a multimedia tool called skype - something approaching a conference, scheduled periodically. There are videos. And more - the site keeps on adding new material, even new media. You're pulled in: you start coming back to see what they're adding next.

None of this had to, or probably did, cost much at all, but it adds up to a lot of ways to reach people, and beyond that to interact as well. A site worthy of your attention as the primary days wind down.

Loren Parks and the meaning of money

In many states you could not do what Loren Parks and Kevin Mannix have done. Oregon, however, appears to have accepted the concept that money equals speech, and therefore can't be constrained - only reported - in a political campaign.

That has allowed Loren Parks to contribute something approaching a million dollars on behalf of a single candidate for governor of Oregon - $731,000 directly to Republican Mannix, and another substantial sum to a third party (Greg Clapper) who produced and promulgated negative ads aimed at Mannix' main primary opponent, Ron Saxton. Parks has contributed more than half of all of Mannix' campaign funds. He has contributed about one dollar out of six in this year's Oregon governor's race. So far. No one in Oregon history, at least since contributions have been publicly recorded, has ever contributed nearly so much to a single candidate.

That's remarkable. As is this: Parks' efforts, probably more than those of any of the seven major candidates now in the race for governor, are more directly responsible for the negative tone that has clouded the contest in the last couple of weeks. His buys of independent negative ads, together with his funding of a Mannix campaign that went very heavily negative toward the end (notwithstanding a disavowal of that approach recently), were the most important trigger in the darkening of the late air war. (more…)