When Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski hired consultant Jim Ross to run his re-election campaign on Wednesday, he apparently gave little indication why Ross, whose campaigns have centered in the San Francisco area where he lives, was his choice. (His previous manager resigned after the primary election.)

We can only guess what Kulongoski’s reasons were. But after checking into Ross, his background, his campaigns and his views on the subject, we can suggest at least one very good one: He may have concluded that turnout will be the key to winning the November election, and he wants on board one of his party’s top experts in making it happen – and Ross is, and has.

His signature race also has some hallmarks similar to this one. In 2003 Willie Brown was retiring as mayor of San Francisco, and a range of people filed for the job. The general election resulted in a mid-sized win for Gavin Newsom, a businessman who had won elective office in San Francisco a few times. But there would be a runoff, and polling quickly showed a very close race with second-place Matt Gonzalez; both were Board of Supervisors members, but Gonzalez seemed to have energized more of the liberal activist core – a key to winning in The City. (Does the dynamic – a close race as the two-way runoff begins – sound a bit familiar?)

Enter Ross. In a short but influential (certainly much linked-to) article on line, Ross described what happened that gave Newsom a strong runoff win.

In December of 2003 while managing Gavin Newsom’s mayoral race we identified the need to effect turn-out in his favor in order to win the election. San Francisco’s mayoral elections are traditionally close and very hard fought campaigns that attract national attention. They have also been a testing ground for voter turnout techniques and voter identification.

During the course of the campaign we learned several things:
• You can start voter identification early and those voters that endorse early, if you communicate with them, will stick with you.
• Reach out to areas or communities that may not universally support you, a campaign can find pockets of support in even the most hostile areas.
• If possible use vote by mail or absentee voting and early voting to extend your GOTV efforts.
• Use volunteers to reach the voters you can’t reach through other means.

There’s nothing unique about most of these ideas, but by various accounts Ross worked through ways to carry most of them out; the article lines out a number of the tactics. Results: “On Election Day Gavin Newsom lost. He won Election Night because he received 20,000 more absentee votes than Matt Gonzalez.”

If the name Newsom vaguely rings a bell, it may be because he was the mayor who tried to “legalize” gay marriage in San Francisco. Some Oregon Republicans may jump on the ross selection on that account. But consider this desciption in Salon of the political fallout for Newsom locally: “His staff has spun the rancor of national Democrats into political gold for the new mayor, who was widely viewed as the conservative candidate in last year’s election and is now beloved by local progressives.”

There’s also another related echo. Remember how the primary election this year drew below-average turnout? Here was the take at the Newsom campaign on runoff election day, 2003: “Gavin Newsom’s campaign manager Jim Ross said it was harder to motivate people for this election than it had been in either of the campaigns that he ran for former San Francisco mayor Frank Jordan. ‘It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen,’ he said. ‘There’s usually a lot more heat by now.’ By 4:00 a.m, lights were on at Newsom headquarters on Van Ness. Soon, fueled by coffee and more than 40 dozen doughnuts, 100 volunteers were walking six-block precincts.”

Whatever else Kulongoski has or lacks at this point, he may have found a strategic direction.

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Aquick bit of amusement: Dave Oliveria asks his northern Idaho/eastern Washington readers which towns in either state they would not want to live in. Of course, “Besides Athol?”

The pile of responses are sometimes funny and sometimes surprisingly enlightening.

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Who’s the most popular senator in the Northwest (and elsewhere)? SurveyUSA has the answers.

The polling company, which polls state by state in coordination with local organizations (TV stations, in the Northwest), has been doing regular popularity numbers on top elected officials. As of June, here are the numbers for the region’s Senate delegation:

Senator State Favorable % Unfavorable % Margin
Mike Crapo/R Idaho 59% 31% 28%
Ron Wyden/D Oregon 56% 33% 23%
Larry Craig/R Idaho 58% 35% 23%
Patty Murray/D Washington 51% 40% 11%
Gordon Smith/R Oregon 47% 41% 6%
Maria Cantwell/D Washington 48% 43% 5%

None of them were super-high; Crapo, who ranked highest, was 27th among the 100 senators. Cantwell ranked at 80; poor luck for her that the lowest-ranking of the senators is also the only one in the region up for election this year.

In 2008, however, Idaho’s Craig and Oregon’s Smith return to the ballot (assuming they’re running again – neither has announced). Neither have overwhelming numbers, according to SUSA, and Smith’s in particular seem a little weak. If Democrats fare well in November in Oregon, the partisan knives will be out for Smith before long. An approval rating at 47% isn’t where you want it to be if you’re heading up to an election.

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One of the flaws with a lot of “property rights” arguments is that only one type of property interests – one type of rights – tends to be addressed, and complexities of real-world real estate get missed. Consider the case of the owner of a manufactured home park at Wilsomville.

Wilsonville is on the southern edge of the Portland metro area – about as far away from downtown as commuters en masse will live – and it is surrounded by some of the area’s classiest and highest-priced property (million-dollar horse estates and the like). For some years Roger Ash has owned a manufactured housing park called the Thunderbird Mobile Club, which has provided spaces for about 270 of what used to be called “mobile homes.” How, because the property could be much more valuable used for high-end housing or other purposes, he wants to sell.

Call it a rare case of a newer euphemism turning out to be more accurate than the old description. These manufactured homes may technically be moveable, but not much more easily than a stick-built. And if you try to move them, you’ll discover the limitations on where, since many jurisdictions no longer allow them to be moved into the city or county. If you own a manufactured home which is situated at a park, the only practical way you may be able to leave it is to sell it to its next owner, at the same place. Most states (including those in the northwest) have laws coveirng “mobile home parks,” but most of those laws are sorely in need of revision.

Ash’s desire to sell is understandable, and you can get his frustration when he bumped into a new Wilsonville ordinance. It says that owners of parks like Ash’s have to obtain a city permit before closing, and are responsible for finding a similar kind of place for their residents to move. If they can’t, the owners have to buy out the owners of the homes. There is a trap door of sorts, allowing the owner to appeal the terms to the city.

Ash has challenged the ordinance in court, on grounds it is impinging on his property rights – he’s being barred from selling his property.

And so he is. But the alternative seems to involve property rights of the 270 residents, who would be put to great expense and difficulty, and loss of their property, so that Ash can exercise his property rights. The question may come up: What makes his property rights superior to theirs?

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It flies in the face of conventional Washington politics, of campaign finance numbers, of the political atmospherics and more. but the polling numbers look consistent: The Washington Senate race keeps getting tighter and tigher.

Maria CantwellThe latest Rasmussen Reports Poll on the race shows a lead by Democratic incumbent Senator Maria Cantwell over her Republican challenger, insurance company executive Mike McGavick, of 44%-40% – just about at the margin of error.

Maria CantwellApart from the closeness, two aspects here ought to give the Cantwell people big worries. One is that her lead has been diminishing, steadily, since January, from 15% then, to 13% in March, to 8% in April and 5% in May. About the only consolation is that the race may not be tightening quite as fast as it was.

The other, maybe bigger, issue is that since March or so she has fallen below the 50% mark, and an incumbent held to below 50% is an incumbent in high risk. Again, a minor consolation: McGavick’s numbers are up only 3% since the polling started last fall, so he hasn’t been gaining a lot, either. (The counter to that would be that McGavick is still introducing himself to voters, while Cantwell already is well known.)

These results aren’t unqie; they fit generally with other recent polling results as well. Consider this from Survey USA, which polled only favorable/unfavorable about incumbent senators: Cantwell polled 48% favorable and 43% unfavorable – again, not good for an incumbent.

One thing this suggests is that Washington residents, so far, arent’ falling in love with either one of them.

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As in, the need for: You really need to check out the information around a factoid before deciding what weight or interpretation to give it.

Googling around this evening, we came across this item from the D.C. newspaper The Hill in a Google list: “… Butch Otter (R-Idaho) faces a tough race and is therefore putting his job on the line.”

Stuffed with righteous indignation about how full of it The Hill was, we turned to the story (about how this election cycle marks the first time in three decades that more U.S. representatives are running for governor of their state than for the Senate), and saw the full quote:

“Every congressional gubernatorial candidate except Rep. Butch Otter (R-Idaho) faces a tough race and is therefore putting his job on the line. One of them — Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) — already lost in a primary.”

Oh. Never mind.

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The next newspaper up for sale in the Seattle area is – no, not the Post Intelligencer, but rather the suburban daily to the east across the water, the King County Journal.

King County JournalIt never seems to have had an easy history. It started with great, bright promise: two small east King newspapers, the Eastside Journal and the Bellevue American, were sold to a new publishing group which turned them into the daily Bellevue Journal-American. We remember visiting their offices in the late 70s (in a beautiful woodsy setting); the place was full of ambition and seemed ready to vault ahead. And the timing would seem to have been perfect, since the Eastside then was just on the edge of the fierce growth that continues today. We would have guessed then, if we’d known how Bellevue, Renton, and the other communities in the area were about to grow, that the J-A would become an extremely successful paper, its circulation well over 100,000.

The King County Journal, which is its renamed successor today (and consisting as well of merged local papers), is well short of that. Not a bad newspaper for its area, and something like the 7th-largest daily in the state, it does seem to have a limited ambition, operating in the shadows of the behemoths across the water. Its owner, in recent years Horvitz Newspapers (led by Peter Horvitz), has put money into it – a big $20 million plant project just a few years ago – and tried various combination and approaches, but the papers never quite seem to have found their niche.

Usually newspaper companies describe the reasons for putting papers on the block in terms of corporate strategic planning – “this paper didn’t mesh with our long-term corporate plan.” Horvitz, who in the past has been quoted as saying the papers never have been as profitable as he would like, was more blunt in his announcement.

The paper said “Horvitz said he and his board of directors decided to sell because the company doesn’t have the resources to achieve the paper’s potential.” That’s a remarkable statement. And more: He was quoted directly as saying, “We’re proud of the significant progress these newspapers have made over many years, especially in a very difficult economic and competitive environment, and we believe that much progress can be made in future years if King County Journal Newspapers is owned by a company that can continue to make the necessary investments in the newspapers.”

In other words: Don’t buy these papers with the idea you can make any quick bucks, and expect to pour money in before you get much out. If that’s not the most conventional commentary an owner might offer before sale, Horvitz’ statement does have an uncommon ring of painful and precise truth.

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Astate like Idaho which has no formal party registration gets its members informally, very informally, through self-definition. If you think of yourself as a Republican, or as a Democrat, then you are. And in Idaho, to judge at least from voting results, a good many more people self-define as Rs than as Ds.

That’s why you want to be very careful when you say publicly the kind of thing U.S. Representative Mike Simpson said at last weekend’s state GOP convention.

He was talking about the candidacy of Bill Sali for the other U.S. House seat; he opposed Sali in the primary but now supports him as the Republican nominee, against Democrat Larry Grant. So much was a normal pitch for party unity. Then, according to several reports, he added: “I’ve heard some talk about Republicans for Grant. There is no such thing as a Republican for Grant. They are Democrats.”

We’ve written in the last few days about a subtext of “purification” in the current Idaho Republican Party, and this may be the clearest instance of it: You have to vote not just for nearly all Republicans, but every single one, or you’re no Republican at all. Cross the line once and you’re outta here.

Is that reaction over-sensitive, the misreading of an independent viewpoint? Well, consider the testimony of Bubblehead, a blogger, a retired submarine officer and a self-described lifel0ng Republican who has voted mostly Republican and never Democratic for president. [The point came via Red State Rebels.] After meeting and talking with both Sali and Grant, he decided to support Grant.

After hearing about Simpson’s line, Bubblehead responded: “I’ll be honest – this upsets me quite a bit. I feel I’ve done enough for my country to be accepted as a member of either one of the two main political parties, no matter who I happen to vote for in one election. And anyway — who is Mike Simpson to throw me out of my own party?” After which he goes on to rant about Simpson and the party. The seeds of a larger-purpose walkout may have been planted.

No one knows yet, or will for a while, what sort of crossover vote Grant may attract. But if it is substantial, Simpson – and some other Republican leaders – may wish the congressman could take his words back.

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File this one under “money ain’t everything,” a substantial little subcategory of this site’s political analysis section.

To be clear: Money can be important in political campaigns, and it’s surely helpful not to be seriously outspent. But money buys elections only in the odd or unuusal case. Usually, money follows credibility – the person considered the likely winner anyway – or other strengths. The big money people usually want a reason to believe the person can win before they’ll invest; so, ordinarily, do small contributors. When such consideratons are thrown to the wind and a candidate gets big bucks anyway, more often than not they do little good.

Case in point is this morning’s Oregonian piece on a city council race in Beaverton, the Portland suburb which has been in legal conflict for a few years now with a near neighbor, the shoe-making Nike Corporation, and its honcho, Phil Knight. The issues have had to do with such matters as annexation and an ugly legal battle since over origins of the annexation attempt. But for Knight it seems to have gotten personal, with the elected city officials.

In this year’s Beaverton city elections, Knight decided to stake an opponent, named Bob Burke, to one of the council members seeking re-election, Betty Bode, who was first elected in 2002. Burke consequently was able to spend $64,905, of which more than $60,000 (some of it in-kind) came from Knight or other Nike sources. That swamped Bode’s campaign, which spent $15,825.

The catch was, the voters didn’t feel like ousting Bode. So they didn’t, re-electing her with 59.1% of the vote – a strong win even against a relatively minor opponent. The Oregonian calculated that Burke spent more than $13 per vote, to Bode’s $2.21 per vote.

The paper quoted Nike officials as saying the campaign shows to Beaverton that Nike is willing to spend its money on local political races. The numbers suggest the larger lesson, though, is that Knight and the corporation will be wasting their money, however much they spend, unless their preferred candidates already have a strong rationale within the community for winning.

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No, there’s no actual fire yet, at least none visible. But those tracking Oregon legislative races may want to keep a watch on what happens over the next couple of months in the race in House District 39.

Wayne ScottThis is a mildly Republican leaning but almost competitive district on the ground, but not in the ranks of “races to watch” largely because of who holds the seat: House Majority Leader Wayne Scott, R-Canby, a formidable personality, a powerful lawmaker and highly popular at home. Simply, there’s been no good reason to think of him as in trouble. He has drawn a Democratic challenger, Mike Caudle, but he has been considered a relative longshot.

Two considerations are affecting that calculation. One is a new Libertarian candidate for the seat, Wes Wagner, who publishes the new occasional NW Meridian newspaper, which is distributed free in some areas around the Portland metro area. Scott has been effective enough in his role as majority leader, and co-leader of the legislature’s budget panel, as to be a serious negotiator and compromiser, and some in his base are less than thrilled. To quote one commenter from the right: “He’d probably be more fiscally conservative than Scott or any other Republican in the O legislature.” Wagner’s votes, however many there are, would come out of Scott’s base.

That still likely wouldn’t be enough to matter but for the ominous puffs of smoke. Those might be dismissable except for the source, the well-connected I Am Coyote at the NW Republican blog. He was all over the Kevin Mannix finances expose in the Oregonian weeks before it happened – nailed it cleanly. Now, here’s his note on Scott: “There are now a small handful of newspaper reporters snooping around Rep. Scott. Some of the stories coming out of the transom seem to indicate possible problems with the EPA and some folks inside the fireworks industry that are not too happy with him.”

What that all means, we’re not sure. But the blogger has a track record on this sort of thing, and its not to take lightly. If something related to Scott blows up, Oregon House Republicans could have a devil of a time – House Speaker Karen Minnis and Majority Leader Scott in a battle for survival simultaneously.

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Since the e-mail was addressed not to this blog but to a personal address, we’ll not note here the writer’s name, other than with the description (obvious enough) of, supporter of Bill Sali. (If the writer wishes to come unmasked, a sign-on in the comments section would be welcome.) It was aimed as a simple blast in response to recent posts about Sali and his campaign, but it contained a center that involves a political argument – one that we think ought not to be a political argument. Hence, worth discussion.

We’ll not re-reference the Sali posts here (run down through recent Idaho category posts and you’ll find them easily enough); suffice to say that there are criticisms, implicit and explicit, of Sali in several. Here’s the text of the e-mail:

I want to thank both you and [Idaho Statesman columnist] Dan Popkey for your “Hate Bill Sali” campaign.You two democrats are doing more to solidify the Sali political base than anyone else. Bill is a decent family man and a moral upstanding citizen who dares to sometimes question another politician. For that, you two spread your hate venom and half truths about him. You are losing all credibility as so called journalists.

The central sentence – the basis of the outrage and the purported reason for the criticism – is of course, “Bill is a decent family man and a moral upstanding citizen who dares to sometimes question another politician.” We’ll be hearing this again, put in various ways, and so it’s worth a closer look.

Let’s take it in order.

To the argument “Bill is a decent family man” we can say only: We have no idea whether he is or not. And: How can you possibly know?

By way of that, a personal note.

A few weeks ago my mother passed away; my father preceded her about a decade ago. They were married, happily, for close to 50 years. I spent my first 18 years living with them, and a good deal of time visiting in the years since. After a half-century, I should know them about as well as anyone can. But how well is that? I had one impression of their marriage when I was growing up. That was altered somewhat through my adult years, seeing them with adult eyes. After my father died, my sense shifted again as my mother recalled her years with her husband. More recently, as she approached death, and as my sister and I reflected on our parents, and talked with other people who had known them, my sense of the dynamic of their marriage was altered again. How perfectly do I estimate I know them now? Not perfectly.

How well do you know your neighbor down the street – the one you talk to regularly? How well do you really think you understand what goes on (in the title of a song my folks always enjoyed) behind closed doors?

Ask, for that matter, a partner in a marriage how perfectly they understand their own partner, and their own marriage. If they’re honest, they’ll admit to not knowing it all. The truth is, no one does – we even know ourselves only but so well.

So is Bill Sali a “decent family man”? Maybe he is. We have no idea, and we will say conclusively that neither does anyone outside the Sali household. Maybe not even there: And that’s no comment on the Salis – we could say the same about the Grants or the Simpsons or the Hansens – but rather on human beings.

This gets political because politicians are so often touted as good family people. In recent Northwest politics, maybe no one was more strenuously hyped that way than Washington Democrat Brian Baird was in the campaigns leading up to his 1998 win of a U.S. House seat (which he still holds). His commercial spots were full of pictures about the loving, handholding couple and their devotion to their kids. Two days after Baird’s election, they announced the divorce – just about no one else had had a clue. And if you think that’s an unusually strong case, you shouldn’t; the disparity between image and reality often smacks hard. You don’t have to follow many of those depressingly familiar headlines out of Washington, especially those about members of Congress, to see it. (You think family member testimony, especially pre-election, is golden? Ask Mary Baird. Do you want a list of Idaho spouses we could add to her name?)

So pardon us if we discount the “family man” goodness. As qualification for Congress, it ranks roughly alongside Sali’s skill as a musician (which, in contrast, actually is demonstrable and evidently quite real).

Part two: “A moral upstanding citizen.” Does Sali fit here?

It may depend partly on what you mean by “moral” – Sali’s definition of the word, and the e-mailer’s, may and probably does differ from ours. Many people have a bad habit of defining morality to render their own actions A-OK and those other things, things they have no interest or inclination to do, as being bad and immoral. (We call it grocery-list morality.) Many people base their definition of “morality” on a reading of the Bible, but those often are selective readings: In some quarters, certain angry sentiments on the part of Paul and imagery in the book of Revelations tend to get a whole lot of emphasis, the book of Leviticus gets swept under the rug, and the teachings of Jesus used selectively as convenient. How does that compare to Sali’s version of morality? To yours? To ours?

Morality is a reasonable subject in a political campaign. But if it’s to be used, it should be not a club used for defense or attack – as is so often the case – but as a doorway into exploring what we think is right and wrong, and why. That would be a fine subject for a congressional campaign. We’d invite Bill Sali, and his opponents, to wade deeply into it. We’re not holding our breath, of course; the results of such an exploration might not be what one expects.

The last word there – “citizen” – is also worth some serious consideration. On one level, and to a point, Sali has been an “upstanding citizen” in the literal sense: He has stood for public office, repeatedly, something most of us don’t do. hre has gotten into the arena, and he has scrapped for the ideas that he appears to believe in. (We have, at least, no evidence of insincerity.)

But when you undertake a job as a citizen, at whatever level, there’s a responsibility that goes with it, to do the job, of behalf of the people, well. Our longstanding contention has been, for example, while citizens have a duty to vote, they also have a duty to cast educated and thoughtful votes – and if they cannot cast such a vote, they should pass. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.

Do we really have to recite the record, again, on how Sali stacks up here? If need be, search our earlier posts – or almost any random collection of news stories about him over the last 16 years. This is, in any event, central territory over which his fitness for Congress should be evaluated.

The third part falls to pieces fastest: When this site sets about praising a politician, or anyone else in a political sphere, as often as not it is precisely because the person has “dared to question.” In itself, we think that can be a wonderful thing to do – we question political acts, policies, systems, ideas and more most of the time – and we don’t see it as particularly rare. (Daring to question Sali and his supporters evidently is less virtuous.) What has Sali questioned? What new answers has he found? His campaign hasn’t much seen fit to give us the bill of goods. What we’ve seen more often than questioning, however, is a legislative version of tantrum-throwing. Legislators – Sali’s colleagues – tend not to mind being questioned, but they do tend to disapprove of discourtesy.

Besides that, any action depends to some extent on its context and consequences: To cry “fire” in a crowded theatre would be criminal if there were no fire, but possibly essential if there were.

So? A look to Sali’s record would be instructive here, too . . . but maybe even more so, a look to his ongoing and upcoming campaign.

At least, when we talk about such things as on-record statements and performance in office – and these, not personal reactions (we don’t dislike him personally) form the raw material for our evaluation of him – we have something concrete to talk about. If Sali’s defenders care to do a counter-analysis of his record in office, using hard facts to build a case that he has been a good overall legislator and done a solid job serving the needs of the people of his district and his state, that would surely be worth considering. It might be a daunting challenge.

The fact that it hasn’t been forthcoming thus far – communications about the candidate instead focusing on what a moral family man he is – is more than a little telling, and says more than our posts could.

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Those around Idaho politics in the 80s and early 90s when Gary Glenn was a substantial figure in Republican circles, may be interested to follow his latest lines of activity and subject of interest. They portend now as then matters of significance for Idaho and for Republican politics.

Governor Mitt RomneyThe subject at hand is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican elected to that office in 2002 and now a presidential prospect for 2008. That latter point partially explains his appearance in Idaho Falls this weekend; some polling at the moment puts him in a rough third place nationally and in NewHampshire behind John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani. There’s also a secondary aspect, which is that Romney is a member of the LDS Church, with the idea that he may be in line to pick up heavy early support in places with substantial Mormon populations like Utah, Arizona, Colorado (which he also visited this weekend) and, of course, Idaho.

By most reports, Romney’s visit to the Idaho Republicans went well enough. But there’s an undertow here too, and it’s connected to an important piece of Idaho Republican politics. And Gary Glenn, long gone physically from Idaho but still quite connected, is somewhere approximately in the middle of it.

Gary GlennGlenn in Idaho and since has been an activist on various causes usually called “conservative.” (You see such descriptions as “extreme” or “ultra” conservative to describe him; we’ll eschew them as having little meaning these days. ) He was a leader of the Right to Work effort in Idaho in the mid-80s, then moved more toward the candidate side of politics, working on campaigns and eventually running himself for office, winning a seat on the Ada County Commission but becoming such an extremely contentious figure there that he actually lost the job in 1996 to a Democrat. A couple of years later he took a job at Michigan, and since 1999 he has been president of the American Family Association of Michigan. It lists as its key categories of interest “Abortion, eminent domain, Homosexual Agenda, AFL-CIO, Boy Scouts, Public Health, … marriage, … Public Schools and Universities, Religious Freedom, Religious Heritage.” Glenn’s focus appears to have moved from the economic to the social side of things.

He has not lost touch with Idaho, or with its Republican politics – which seems to have been moving steadily closer in his direction. He was evidently a major figure behind the Bill Sali campaign for Congress, which so far has netted the Republican nomination for the 1st District U.S. House seat. (Sali’s positioning as a contentious figure in the Idaho House mirrors Glenn’s own background in elective politics.) He has stayed in touch with Bryan Fischer, a minister who has been active on the Ten Commandments issue and on other similar topics, and also has been a key Sali supporter.

Now cut to the Republican state convention at Idaho Falls, and its key national speaker, Mitt Romney.

Romney’s religion was surely enough to excite some conservative Mormon Republicans in Idaho. But his track record back in Massachusetts ticked off some others. Fischer sent a letter to Idaho Republican Chair Kirk Sullivan, blasting the invitation to Romney: “I read with surprise that Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is scheduled to be a featured speaker at this year’s Republican state convention. Research the Idaho Values Alliance [Fischer’s organization] has done reveals that Mr. Romney holds views which are wildly out of alignment with the party’s own platform and with public policies that are best for Idaho’s families. We think Idaho citizens need to have this information.” The areas of concern involved Romney’s stances on abortion (largely pro-choice), gay rights (in favor of civil unions), the Boy Scouts (relating to an invitation not extended) and others. Those were, it should be noted, positions you’d ordinarily expect of a governor of Massachusetts.

The Fischer letter got some media attention around the state, but not only there: Because it was a shot at a leading national candidate for president in the heart of what should be his best initial base of support, it got attention in national Republican circles too.

Fischer posted his letter on the national Red State Republican blog, and there it drew a pile of comments, mainly criticisms from either Romney supporters or others who thought Fischer’s arguments were unfair or unfounded. The Fischer defense instead came from – that’s right – Gary Glenn.

He started out by minimizing his role: “over the next two years, every time someone new raises concerns about Romney’s disturbing pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agenda, pro-gun control record, am I going to get the credit? Even when other presidential candidates, who have far more resources for research than I, start talking about it, will it all be because of that bad guy from Michigan? Am I to blame for Romney’s record, or is Romney?”

But that cry of nonchalance follows an impressive record of posts. A quick search of his commentary on that site alone turns up dozens of comments on Romney, and they aren’t friendly. In one of his comments, he winds up – after spilling another bill of goods against Romney – with this provocative line: “When this stuff comes out more broadly than just a few posts on a blog, he’ll be toast among pro-family conservatives in the GOP primary.”

Let’s bring this back around to Idaho and to Bill Sali.

One of the hot points at the GOP convention was a proposal that Idaho Republican candidates be required to either endorse the state platform without reservation, or specifically cite which elements of it they disagree with – any such dissenters to be duly noted by the party. That proposal, reportedly backed by Sali, was passed in one convention committee before it died on the floor. (The floor leader in opposition to it was National Committeeman Blake Hall, a former state party chair who could never be called a RINO – not by anyone with a straight face; Hall’s concern clearly was about a proposal that could tear the party apart.) Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey noted that after he talked with Sali about it, the candidate returned to lunch with – that’s right – Bryan Fischer.

All of that occurred just around the same time that virtually the whole leadership of the party went well out of its way to visibly throw its support behind Sali.

These elements and incidents all are linked, and of one piece: The Sali campaign and the forces behind it is in considerable degree intended as a Republican effort at “purification,” at ridding the Idaho Republican Party of its Romneys (as well as its Sheila Sorensens). It does not include a majority of Idaho Republicans or even a majority of its party people or elected officials, but it does have a significant piece of them – maybe a third (to judge from the floor vote on the litmus-test proposal, which got 105 outof 283 floor votes).

In the hands of people like Fischer and Glenn, that can be enough to matter, to alter the political environment for a lot of people, including presidential candidates like Romney. Can be more than enough. As the Sali campaign evolves, we – and a lot of nervous Idaho Republicans – may find out just how much.

UPDATE: This post has been edited to correct several words of sloppy writing in the original version that conveyed an unintended impression – which was that Bryan Fischer’s letter to the Republican leadership was critical of Romney on the basis of Romney’s religion. As noted in the revised version above, it wasn’t.

From an e-mail to us from Bryan Fischer: “Randy, good factual piece overall, but how in the world do you justify this: ‘Romney’s religion was surely enough to excite some conservative Mormon Republicans in Idaho, but it ticked off some others. Fischer sent a letter to Idaho Republican Chair Kirk Sullivan, blasting the invitation to Romney.’ My letter made no mention or reference to Romney’s religion whatsoever. In fact, the Idaho Values Alliance board of directors includes a member of the LDS Church. What IVA’s letter did detail was Romney’s decade-long record of rhetorical support for abortion on demand and elements of homosexual activists’ political agenda, including his support for homosexual Scoutmasters — all of which are anathema to LDS social-cultural-moral values. This would have been a fair and accurate statement: ‘Romney’s religion was surely enough to excite some conservative Mormon Republicans in Idaho, but his record ticked off some others.’ As written, you falsely suggest religious bias as a motivation for IVA’s letter. That’s not only untrue but unfair. It is Romney’s record of support for abortion and homosexual Scoutmasters that is ‘anti-Mormon.’ In fairness, please publish an appropriate clarification.”

Fischer is correct; apologies and clarification are hereby tendered. We try for precision, but we missed on that one.

UPDATE 2: We also received this from Gary Glenn:

“Hi Randy, Hope you’re doing well. For the record, I’m an equal opportunity offender: McCainGiulianiRomneyAll three

Let it not be said Gary Glenn lacks a sense of humor. Or energy. Or an unwillingness to run on lesser-trod roads.

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The old line about newspaper editorialists was that they’re the guys who ride onto the battlefield after the fighting is done, and shoot the wounded. Could something similar be said about the latest report of a federal investigation in Oregon?

To be sure, Oregon’s state mental health hospital has been a disgrace for years – it may not have been fully up to the times for a century or more. The Salem facility has been crumbling and probably is a serious physical risk for the people in and around it.

But there are efforts at change. A few years back Governor Ted Kulongoski started an effort to rebuild, and two years ago Senate President Peter Courtney took it on as a crusade. Last year the Portland Oregonian ran a strong serious of editorials on the need for repair and new construction, and won (this year) a Pultizer prize for them. And just a few weeks ago, Kulongoski, Courtney and House Speaker Karen Minnis agreed on a $330 million construction plan for four new hospitals.

Sounds as if progress is getting made. So why now, after all that, is the U.S. Department of Justice launching an inquiry into possible violations of rights on the part of patients, in years past, because of the state’s failure to reconstruct? Isn’t this a little behind the curve? Or was that the point?

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You seldom see this sort of thing happening anymore: The top leader of an organization who runs into trouble is not either cleared or kicked out altogether, but rather demoted to a middle position in the organization.

Derrick Foxworth Probably you rarely see it because of the difficulties involved. Imagine being the CEO of a corporation one day and a department head within it the next, reporting to someone who reports to someone who used to report to . . . you. There’s some built-in discomfort involved.

Such will be life for Derrick Foxworth, the former Portland chief of police accused of sexual harassment and other improprieties, some of which he acknowledgement (including an affair with a female police employee who reported to him). The situation landed in the lap of Mayor Tom Potter, for whom it had to be excruciating, since Foxworth was a protege of Potter (himself a former police chief).

In wrapping up the investigation and releasing his conclusions and actions today, Potter did at least two things that must have been difficult for him.

Potter at the Foxworth news conferenceOne of them was letting loose the details of one of the most embarrassing incidents Portland city government has had in years.

Because of the serious nature of the allegations, and the fact they were made against the Chief of Police, I have decided to release the investigative report to the community. I do not do this lightly. When a City employee comes forward to report what they believe is discrimination or harassment in the workplace, they must be able to do so secure in the knowledge that the City will protect their privacy and their rights, and that others who may follow will be protected as well.

But in this case, I believe there is an overriding public interest in knowing how the public officials they have given a special trust are held accountable for their actions. I also believe that government works best when its actions are transparent to the people it serves. And rather than risk our community being divided by rumors, I want everyone to have the same information so they can see for themselves the allegations and facts of this case.

The report said that Foxworth wasn’t guilty of sexual harassment, and technically found legal fault just once, in a relatively technical violation. Potter said he’d issue a reprimand to cover that instance.

Given what the report says, Potter probably could have rationalized leaving the situation at that, and restoring Foxworth as chief. But he didn’t let anyone off that easy.

However, I believe there is a larger, more important issue before our community.

We make extraordinary demands of every man and woman who becomes a police officer. To make it possible to meet those demands, communities give police officers their trust.

We trust them with our safety, and the safety of our families. We trust them to make difficult decisions in often dangerous situations. We trust them because we believe in their judgment – and because we trust them, we ultimately hold them to a higher standard.

Without trust, no police officer – especially not the Chief of Police – can do all that we demand of him. And while this was a private, consensual relationship between two adults, it has now been made a part of the public’s consciousness. Men and women of the Portland Police Bureau and members of the public look to their Chief to set the tone for acceptable conduct. I do not believe Chief Foxworth’s example meets the standards that I, as the Police Commissioner, expect of the Chief of Police.

I have concluded Derrick Foxworth’s ability to lead the organization effectively as Chief has been damaged. Therefore, I am demoting Chief Foxworth to the rank of Captain, and reassigning him to duties within the Portland Police Bureau.

This conclusion won’t entirely satisfy; the Oregonian, for one, called for Foxworth’s resignation or firing weeks ago. But Potter took no easy outs in getting there.

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Most people who have worked on a recently-founded (often, small) non-profit organization probably have lived through the scenario: The key person, the person whose efforts led to the founding and blossoming of the organization, is still around. That doesn’t mean they’re unwelcome or unneeded, or that they aren’t helpful. But an organization doesn’t really, truly become a freestanding organization until the founder lets it go. And then it either flies off on its own – like a child leaving the nest – or crashes. Sometimes the foudners step back willingly or even eagerly, sometimes they’re reluctant to let go, sometimes they’re pushed out. But only after the founder steps back does the organization really live as an independent entity.

Bill GatesBill Gates apparently understands that.

From the day it was birthed, Microsoft has been Bill Gates more than anyone else – a situation still fundamentally true today, incredible as it may seem for such a large organization. Like many created (and creative) organizations, the entity is a reflection of its founder. And whatever the founder’s title – call him CEO as he once was, or chairman, ro chief software architect, or whatever else you choose – if he’s around, he’s going to be The Dude. And in Gates’ case (and only partly because of his dominent stockholder position), no one is ever likely to push him out.

Apparently, though, he’s going anyway, saying at a news conference that two years from now, he’ll no longer be involved with the corporation on a daily basis. His attention, he said, will go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley suggests that this may lead to a relaxation – in the sense of fresh air – at Redmond. That may be right. Certainly, Microsoft will much more become its own self in another couple of years.

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