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Posts published in June 2006

Whose property rights

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. (more…)

Tighter, tighter

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.

Context

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.

Up for investment

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.

Defining them out

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.

Down the drain

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.

Puffs of smoke

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.

Looking at people, in parts

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. (more…)

GGMichigan, Romney of MA, and Idaho

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. (more…)