Writings and observations

It must be the Season of the Chicken. In Oregon, one of the TV spots in high rotation is one from the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix aimed at his main primary competitor, Ron Saxton, accusing him of flipping on position after position and using a chicken in the background footage (with chicken vocals as well) to drive home the point. (Right about now, you can’t miss it on Portland TV.)

Dan Adamson and Jerry Brady at the coop

In Idaho, most of the gubernatorial candidates haven’t that kind of TV money, but two of them did have the wit to employ the fowl as a visual.

The springboard was the withdrawal a few days ago of Republican gubernatorial candidate C.L. “Butch” Otter from a primary debate (originally set for Thursday, and now cancelled) with his main primary opponent, Dan Adamson. Otter is the presumed easy winner of the race, but his pullout set him up for what he got on Tuesday.

Which was a highly unusual joint press conference featuring Republican Adamson and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brady, both urging that if Otter failed to show up, Brady be allowed to speak in Otter’s place. Not a bad thought: There should be some kind of significant penalty for doing what Otter did.

That won’t happen, of course, even if it probably should. But Adamson and Brady did manage to drive home the point with a visual, by holding their press conference in front of a chicken coop. (Originally misspelled in a press released as “chicken coup,” which probably wasn’t what they had in mind.)

Chickens are going to get a bad reputation this way . . .

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Does anyone really believe an incumbent politician who complains that they’d love to participate in that debate but gosh darn it, their schedule just isn’t going to allow it?

Barring a demonstrable emergency – which is a little difficult to demonstrate weeks or months out – such an excuse doesn’t even reach the “my dog ate my homework” threshold. It didn’t work when Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski (or rather his staff) said he was just too busy to debate his Democratic primary opponents – a situation that changed, with the governor added to two primary debates, after a raft of bad publicity ensued.

Will it change in the case of C.L. “Butch” Otter, the U.S. representative now running for governor of Idaho, who has pulled out of Thursday’s primary debate? Probably only if enough people get vocal enough about it. But if the outcomes of the primary and general elections seem a lock – as to many people they seem to be – will that be enough in Otter’s case? (In Kulongoski’s case, the outcomes seem not nearly so locked.)

It is true that Otter’s primary opponent, Dan Adamson, has only the most distant of odds of winning; Otter will probably crush him in the primary. Adamson’s campaign has been imaginative and shown some energy, but Otter is the heavyweight favorite. Otter could have said, with some honesty, that the Adamson campaign simply wasn’t rising to the point of serious contention, and he’s not going to debate every sliver candidate in the field. If that was the concern.

Or maybe the concern is that while Otter is on track for an easy primary win, a primary debate might raise some embarassing issue or idea or fact that could haunt him later. Or maybe he simply didn’t want to bother prepping for a debate in a race he knows he’ll win easily anyway.

What’s reasonably certain is that calendar conflicts did not underlie the pullout, since he was offered three different dates for the event, and none were suitable. If appearing at the debate was a priority for Otter, he could and would make it happen.

We’ve said before and we’ll say again: No official duty should take precedence over reporting to the boss – that would be us – and explaining one’s work on the job face to face with the boss’s alternative for handling the job in the next cycle. If sitting presidents can find the time to do it – as every one of them has over the last 30 years – surely a member of Congress could manage to show his employers the same courtesy.

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Yes, we too saw the Earl Blumenauer Tv spots last week. That’s not entirely a stunner. He does, of course, have an almost perfectly safe district – Oregon’s 3rd (which takes in most of Portland and some surrounding area east of the Willamette) is about as secure for a Democrat as the 2nd (east of the Cascades) has been for Republicans.

Earl BlumenauerStill, if he’s going to raise campaign money (he has raised $354,743 as of the end of March), he’d better spend some of it 0n something. Even if he has no substantial opposition, which he doesn’t (and no Republican at all to worry about in the fall). And the ads were nice, pleasing, good-government type ads. Nothing controversial.

Or could there be more to the story?

Tucked away in a column item, the Portland Tribune is reporting that “The most likely scenario, according to informed political observers, is for the U.S. Senate, namely the seat currently held by Republican Gordon Smith. There has been speculation over whether Smith will run for re-election in 2008; even if he does, he will be a major target for the national Democratic Party. This explains why Blumenauer’s fundraiser last week at the Oregon Convention Center had a statewide, bipartisan feel to it, focusing on issues like agriculture, popular votes on how to spend the kicker, and favoring the open primary that lets anyone vote in either main party’s primary election.”

Unmentioned but possibly notable: Bluemenauer’s predecessor as 3rd district representative was fellow Democrat Ron Wyden, who is now Smith’s colleague in the Senate.

UPDATE: A reader in Bend notes that the Blumenauer ad is running on local stations there – quite some distance from his 3rd congressional district but smack near the geographic center of the state . . .

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For a satiric look at the cultural variations around the Northwest, you could do worse than Barbie.

Someone around the web, somewhere, got hold of the idea that Barbie dolls, which long have had different versions based on profession or interest, could as well be described differently according to geography. Amd so they have. Available on the web now are well-developed lists of Oregon and Washington Barbies (Portland’s KPAM radio has one of the best for Oregon, and STAR 105 radio has a good list for Washington. Be advised that some locale descriptions appear to have been plagarized from some others – although even those choices are indicative.

The Washington list is west-of-Cascades only. Bloggers at the Spokesman-Review web site, notably Dave Oliveria at Huckleberries, are at work remedying that situation, having already developed proposals across the Idaho line for Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint, Moscow and even Athol Barbies.

Oregonians will easily get the point of the Eugene Barbie: “This Barbie is made out of recycled plastic and tofu. She has long straight brown hair, archless feet, hairy armpits, no make-up, and Birkenstocks with white socks. She does not want, or need, a Ken doll. If you purchase the optional Subaru wagon, you will receive a free rainbow flag sticker. Available at REI.”

Or the Salem Barbie: ” Comes with a bland wardrobe and sensible shoes. The navigation system on her white Jeep Cherokee is preset with her favorite destinations: Target, Big Lots, Tin Tin Buffet, Lancaster Drive, and the Four Square Evangelical Church of Jesus the Redeemer. Customize her ride with included bumper stickers: ‘Support the Troops,’ ‘Stop Abortion Now,’ and ‘My Child is a Honor Student at Christ the King Bible School’.”

Looking for a quick cultural shorthand? You could do worse.

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Idaho Oregon Washington

The timing was not good. Just days after announcing the upcoming $3 toll at the rebuilt Tacoma Narrows bridge, there’s more news: The April 2007 opening has now been moved to July 2007.

Presumably, the contractor is not happy about this either; apparently the delay wil lbe costly on that front. The question here: Will the delay make the toll a tougher sell?

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Alot of people in the Bend area take great pride in the rapid growth that area has seen in recent years. A city of just 13,710 people in 1970 (and just half again as many in 1990), its population now is estimated to clock in at 70,328.

All of that has not come without its pressures, which get reflected in the way other communities consider it. Hence, an article in the Bend Bulletin about the reputation that city has to the northeast, in Walla Walla.

The keynote was this quote from Walla Walla lawyer Daniel Clark: “(Bend) certainly has a reputation for that type of very rapid growth that has overwhelmed the pre-existing community. That’s not something that people who value their community and their culture and their environment really ask for.” Or, to sum up from an increasingly popular bumper sticker seen in town, “Don’t Bend Walla Walla.”

Walla Walla, a pleasant southeast Washington town of about 30,000 – its population has been generally steady state for a generation – has a varied economic base: The state prison, a substantial private college (Whitman), a well-known apple crop, and a fast-rising and highly-regarded wine industry. Some locally are wondering if the place is beginning to develop the kind of cachet that could lead to big-time growth. It may be on the verge of being “disocovered.”

The point of the Bulletin story: A number of local people seem to be getting out ahead of the curve, not to stop growth or change but to manage it, so the small city doesn’t lose its character and special qualities, which it does have.

That alone would, in a number of respects, put it out ahead of Bend.

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Oregon Washington

Not long after we ran the Tuesday post on the Sorensen poll, we started hearing about it.

The poll is a campaign poll, from the campaign of Sheila Sorensen, one of the half-dozen candidate for the U.S. House in the

We heard personally from one of the other candidates, who disagreed with the analysis (which was only partial and limited in that post). The Nampa Idaho Press Tribune ran a story today about the other candidates reacting to the Sorensen poll. (No free link to that available.) We also got this from a reader:

I can’t help but wonder if you have suddenly become her press secretary. Who conducted the poll? From people that I have talked with, it is evident that this is push polling.Do you have the questions that were asked? What is the name of the reputable company that has done this polling? Then, why doesn’t she have this info on her web site?

Taking these points in reverse order . . .

We don’t know why they’re not on the Sorensen campaign site. Best to ask them.

The poll was conducted by the campaign itself, not a polling or research company. In our opinion, that makes it neither more nor less reliable than any other campaign poll we’ve seen over the years; any campaign poll should be taken with the largest of grains of salt.

Have we seen the questions? Yes (at least, to be precise, what we were told the questions were, which is all anyone outside a polling office ever gets). We have some experience with polling and polling procedures, and if the poll was conducted as the Sorensen people say it was – and they did provide paperwork with questions, procedures and so on – it appears to have been a done in a credible manner. We’ve seen no evidence to suggest it was a push poll.

And no, we’re not on the payroll of anyone’s campaign. (Donations to this website, on the other hand, are always welcome . . .)

There are a few other points about the poll that should be noted, however.

Professional pollsters might take issue with the random selection procees used here in choosing phone numbers to call; the campaign appears to have accounted for usual primary voters and selected for Republicans, but did it hit the right combination of factors to develop a truly random sample? The question is tougher than it looks, because the world of polling is churning these days.

Some national polling firms are trying automated polling and other tactics which have been questioned by their peers; some of them have shown success but the debate is far from settled. The Sorensen’s campaign use of automated polling (and again, the campaign itself set it up) is one of the first we’ve heard of like this on a local level. How accurate, or not, it turns out to be, may have repercussions for many future campaigns. If this poll proves out, or hits reasonably close to the mark, then the approach may have usefulness for other campaigns in the future. That was a large part of the reason we decided to write about it.

(That and the fact, still noteworthy, that no other candidate has released a poll yet; although there are strong suggestions that at least two other candidates have conducted at least one poll apiece, and probably much more than that has been done. Any other candidates want to leak their poll, we’ll duly note it.)

Does it feel on target? The wise answer would be, ask again after election day. Perhaps unwisely, we did and do have some thoughts about the numbers.

The poll gives Sorensen 33.2%, Robert Vasquez and Skip Brandt tied for second at 15.4% each, Keith Johnson fourth at 14%, Sali fifth at 11.8% and Norm Semanko last at 10.2%. There is a 5.2% margin of error.

The Sorensen percentage feels a little, not a lot, high. The Brandt number feels very high; his has been the least visible or extensive campaign, with the smallest base, of the six, and should be far below its tie for second place. As for the other three, all are in the margin of error. But the polling probably doesn’t reflect the effect of Semanko’s considerable organization or the energy in that campaign, and it certainly doesn’t reflect Sali’s grass roots effort among the religious right.

Of course, any polling trying to figure a finish order among six candidates, none of whom is running away with the game, is problematic to start with.

Bottom line remains: A win by Sali or Sorensen would be least surprising to us, while a win by any of the other four is not out of the question. Whatever polling may emerge, this doens’t yet look like a locked race.

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Some states, Washington and Oregon for two, develop statewide and localized voter guides which include information about the candidates for office, and information from the candidates – campaign statements and so on – included as well. They can be helpful assists to voting.

Idaho doesn’t have such a publication, but it does have this primary season something called the Gem State Voter guide, published by a collection of very conservative groups – Idaho Values Alliance (conservative Christian, led by Bryan Fischer) , Education Excellence Idaho (principally backing charter, private and home school options), Idahoans for Tax Reform (an anti-tax group, led by Laird Maxwell), This House is My Home (another Maxwell group, aimed at undercutting land use planning), and Idaho Chooses Life (anti-abortion, led by David Ripley). Word is that their voter guide will be distributed through churches and allied organizations around Idaho.

What’s interesting in these surveys is both the nature of questions asked, and who responds, and how.

In this survey – in the range of questions posed to candidates, which understandably vary somewhat from office to office – some subjects are addressed in detail, while quite a few other fields are skipped. You’ll not find much here about economic issues (aside from taxes and property rights), environmental matters (though salmon and dam breaching are referenced briefly), education, health, law, crime and the judiciary (except where they touch on sex-related or religious matters).

What’s in? Here are some of the questions posed to candidates for the Republican nominatiom for Idaho’s 1st U.S. House seat (in the form of support or oppose the proposition):

Amend U.S. Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman
Vigorous prosecution of obscenity laws
Ban abortions except to save the life of the mother
Parental consent for underage girls to get an abortion
Woman to receive an ultrasound picture of her unborn baby before an abortion
Require women to receive thorough information about abortion risks and development of unborn child before an abortion
Federal ban on all human cloning, including embryonic stem cell research
Return control of education to state and local government
Teach the Bible as literature and history in public schools
Abstinence-only sex education in public schools
Education tax credits to expand parental choice in education
Post Ten Commandments on public property
Impeachment of judges who exceed their Constitutional authority
Protect right of chaplains to pray according to their convictions
Retain “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance
Continue property tax exemption for churches
Continue right of churches to address public policy issues without losing tax exempt status
Continue right of churches to distribute non-partisan voter guides
Elimination of all budget earmarks
Reduce government spending rather than raise taxes
Reduce welfare programs
Pledge not to raise taxes, fees or rates
Freeze federal spending for non-defense outlays
Simplify the IRS Code with a flat income tax
Social Security choice of investing in individual retirement accounts for younger workers
Federal Balanced Budget Amendment
“Just compensation” for home and property owners when government land regulations reduce property values
Allow teaching man is a created being, not an evolved being
Allow teaching Ten Commandments is the foundation of western law
Allow teaching man’s law should be consistent with God’s law
Allow teaching basic rights are a gift of God, not government
Allow teaching the proper role of government is to protect rights given to man by God
Legal use of firearms as a defense against criminals, without fear of being prosecuted or sued
Allow convenience store workers to carry firearms behind the counter
Law-abiding citizen’s right to carry a concealed weapon

Of the six candidates for the nomination, Sheila Sorensen and Robert Vasquez did not respond. (Sorensen presumably figured the crowd that gets and uses this guide isn’t her natural constituency; Vasquez’ reasoning is a little less clear. Nor did most of the few Democrats cited in the report respond.) The other four – Skip Brandt, Bill Sali, Norm Semanko and Keith Johnson – all said (according to the guide) they were in support of every one of the propositions in the list above.

Realizing that, you might want to review the list above one more time.

All of them also said they were opposed to:

Homosexual adoption of children
Taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood
Physician assisted suicide
Use of eminent domain for economic purposes
“Sexual orientation” language in hate crimes legislation
Casino gambling on Indian lands
Internet gambling

The degree of unanimity on all of these issues, pro and con – a few these topics may represent broad consensus but most are true hot buttons – is striking.

The four candidates did split on a few issues. On “Remove jurisdiction from the U.S. Supreme Court over religious liberty issues,” Brandt said he opposed, Johnson declined to say, and Semanko and Sali said they were in favor. On “Line item veto for the president,” Brandt said he opposed, Sali was undecided, while Johnson and Semanko said they were in favor. Interestingly, on “Abolish the IRS and replace with a national sales tax,” Sali was the one undecided while the other three were in favor.

Still, whatever you conclude from all this, the survey throws a bright light on these candidates. And suggests some followup questions, as well, in the short stretch of campaign season remaining.

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The state quarter design choices have been an intriguing proposition all around: How do you effectively summarize what your state is about in a simple, and small, image?

Washington quarter designIt’s an imperfect thing, but the idiosyncrasy of it can be charming. Does Crater Lake really sum up Oregon? Well, no. But it’s a pleasing design, and you could say that some of the things you can say about Crater Lake can be said – metaphorically – about the state.

And so maybe Washington’s choice too, chosen by Governor Chris Gregoire and just released, with the salmon and Mount Rainier. Think in terms of metaphor, and some of the connections with the state;s life and society and economy and even politics can come a little clearer.

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The just-out Oregonian and KATU poll shows Ron Saxton in what looks like a decided first place, poised to win the Republican nomination for Oregon govenror in the election now underway. (Yes, under way, ballots already having hit home mailboxes and started making their way back to the counties).

Maybe he will. But call us a little uncertain just yet.

The poll, which gives Portland lawyer Saxton 31% of the vote (favorable or leaning toward), while 2002 nominee Kevin Mannix gets 24% and state Senator Jason Atkinson 18%. There’s a 5.6% margin of error, which could render the race fairly close.

(There’s a bigger gap on the Democratic side, with Ted Kulongoski predictably well ahead of Jim Hill and Pete Sorensen.)

So does that suggest a Saxton win in the making? Certainly, a win is quite possible; he’s heavily outspending his opponents, his ads have been hard to miss on the tube, and he’s been picking up plenty of endorsements, notably newspaper endorsements. But then, in 2002 he picked up 24 of 25 of those around the state, and still came in third.

The variable in the equation is: Who actually votes? Traditionally, the extreme and the party activists do, and that would help Mannix, out of proportion to his poll numbers. On the other hand, good headlines for Saxton during the voting period might shore up his numbers.

Don’t assume a done deal.

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