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Posts published in May 2006


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 . . .

Why the backout

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.

Never too early: ’08 Senate kicking in?

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 . . .

Culture by Barbie

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.

And late, too

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?

To Bend (v)

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.

The infamous poll: Another take

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 . . . (more…)

Choosing questions

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. (more…)

Quarter view

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.

Is it Saxton?

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.