Archive for July, 2006

Jul 31 2006

Gas in the tank

Published by under Washington

We were speculating about a month ago about the direction the Washington Senate race has been taking, and whether it might be about to undertake another shift. Early indications are that it has.

This is a contest with a series of distinct movements, from uncertainty about Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell‘s popularity in her state, to varied receptions on the challenge entry of Republican Mike McGavick, to a strong pitch of favorable headlines and polls early this year, to several months of erosion and steady McGavick gains in the spring and summer. The question was, would Cantwell take hold of what looked like drift and turn the situation around?

We wrote that about the time her campaign started to kick its engine into gear, after a long stretch of what looked like coasting. McGavick’s campaign, operating on a smaller scale, has looked for active, from its ad buys to the promotion around his bus tour across the state. he gave off a sense of energy and action, while Cantwell was only fitfully visible in the state.

In the last month, there’s been pickup. She’s been more visible. Her campaign has gotten its ad buys underway. The blast-back at McGavick, up to and including a web site parodying McGavick’s tour, is up, and so has been the Democratic questioning and responses at McGavick’s campaign stops. (His bus tour still looks like a good idea, but the Democrats have been hard at work minimizing its value to him.) The only significant primary challenge to Cantwell (not one that could realistically deny her the nomination, but could do longer-term damage) was wiped out with the hiring of that candidate into the Cantwell campaign. That last maneuver may have generated mixed headlines (buying off your opponent?), but it probably restored a sense that Cantwell isn’t to be trifled with.

Taken together, that may explain some of the change in polling trends. At the beginning of the year, Rasmussen Reports polling said, she registered 51% to 26% for McGavick – a 15% lead. That withered away until by mid-June she was down to 44% to 40% for McGavick – a four-point lead, within the margin of error.

Then she started to engage in the campaign again, the Rasmussen poll just out puts her at 48% to 37% for McGavick – an 11% lead. Her personal favorability is up too, to 51%.

None of this makes the race a done deal yet. But what looked like shaky ground for Cantwell looks a bit more solid now, provided she maintains the momentum.

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Jul 30 2006

The Kropf opening

Published by under Oregon

Does the dropout of Jeff Fropf from re-election to his House seat open a new House opportunity for Oregon Democrats?

Jeff KropfThe snap presumption seems to be that no, it doesn’t. After rummaging through the stats, the area and the candidate situation, we’d conclude that the seat likely will remain Republican next term. Like but not definitely – Kropf’s leave-taking has opened an opportunity for Democrats that hadn’t existed previously.

Kropf is a native of the Albany area and long has been involved in real estate and run a farm near Sublimity, east of that city at the feet of the Cascades. Since his first election to the House in 1998 with 59.7% of the vote, he has had no trouble winning re-election, and his seat has been slated as safe Republican since. He has been one of the more flamboyant House members and made some headlines for flying an immigration watch on the border with Mexico; none of it has done him harm politically, and probably helped.

He filed for re-election this year, and he hasn’t been considered at risk. But in the last few years he has also been a radio talk show host, part time, at KXL in Portland (occasionally subbing for Lars Larsen), and he has said he’s interested in pursuing that line of work. It came to a decision in recent weeks when he and the station learned he’d have to give his opponent this year, Democrat Dan Thackaberry, equal air time, or pay his campaign the equivalent. Faced with the choice, Kropf ended his re-election bid rather than give up the radio show. Quote from Kropf: “I have to think about my future, and it isn’t in politics, and it’s likely to be in radio.” (Will the show lose some of its spark when its host isn’t an actual state official? But that’s another matter.)

The Republicans have until August 29 to replace him; the decision probably won’t come for another couple of weeks at least. Local Republicans said they’re not worried about losing the seat, pointing to the 43%-34% Republican edge in voter registration. Continue Reading »

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Jul 29 2006

File under ‘explosive’

Published by under Washington

It’s been on hold for a while, but within a few months – maybe around the start of 2007 – the child sex abuse case involving the Boy Scouts of Washington state, T.S., M.S., K.S. v. Boy Scouts of America, appears likely to go forward.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports: “Dozens of reports of alleged sexual abuse of Washington boys are included in the files that the Boy Scouts of America must turn over to three men alleging years of molestation by a scoutmaster. The reports are part of at least 1,000 such files compiled nationally by the Boy Scouts that can be used in a lawsuit against the organization, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.”

This may turn out to be more explosive than the gay marriage ruling – could be the hottest thing the Washington Supreme Court does all year.

ALSO NOTE As a matter of political impact, take a look at who fell where on this. Justice Susan Owens wrote the majority opinion, with Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justices Tom Chambers, Bobbe Bridge, Barbara Madsen, Charles Johnson and Mary Fairhurst joining. In opposition? Who you’d expect: Justices Jim Johnson and Richard Sanders.

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Jul 29 2006

On medical ed, and then some

Published by under Washington

Lane Rawlins, who has been president of Washington State University throughout this decade, says he will be leaving the post next year; at 68, his retirement comes at an understandable point. But it makes this next year a critical point for WSU and medical schooling in the Northwest.

Lane RawkinsRawlins is a truly experienced old hand at university administration. His years at WSU go back four decades, and his bio notes that he “served as department chair and then as WSU’s vice provost. He returned to WSU in 2000 after serving nine years as president of the University of Memphis and before that as academic affairs vice chancellor of the University of Alabama System.” And his years at WSU have been relatively smooth and solid, a time of growth but not explosion.

That makes his role in what could be an important development at WSU – expansion there of medical school facilities – potentially significant.

The question of medical education in the northwest – the states serviced by the regional co-op WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) – has become a live one in the last couple of years. There’s been some discussion in Wyoming about local medical education. There’s been more than that in Idaho, where a number of partisans of Idaho State University at Pocatello – including its former interim president and to an extent it’s new leader as well – have proposed a long-term plan for developing a medical school there. (To be sure, quite a few Idaho leaders consider the idea improbable; butr who knows?) That regional pivot is a substantial component in the medical school system at the University of Washington at Seattle, where it is based.

So how does, or should, Washington respond? An AP news story Friday reported that “The presidents of Washington State University, the UW and Eastern Washington University said Friday they will ask for the funding when the Legislature meets in January. If approved, the plan calls for 20 more medical students and eight dental students to be admitted each year to the University of Washington programs. First-year students would take classes at Riverpoint, WSU’s Spokane campus.”

You can imagine how WSU might seize on this foot in the door. But will it get that far?

That may have a lot to do with Rawlins’ work on the subject between here and his retirement next time – a stretch including the next legislative session. The new president of WSU is unlikely to have the chits or gravitas to make things happen the way Rawlins might. His last year in the presidency could turn out to be a significant pivot in medical education, and its expansion and direction, in the region.

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Jul 29 2006

Early polling

Published by under Idaho

About three months back we posted results from a political poll in Idaho – a campaign poll – with the idea that its results could then be compared to the final, actual results.

That poll, from the Sheila Sorensen campaign for the 1st District U.S. House seat, turned out not to be very close to the primary voting results. That poll. we noted, “gives Sorensen 33.2%, enough for a distant first place. It shows 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, which logically puts all of the candidates except Sorensen in spitting distance of each other.” Where did it go wrong? It drastically overstated Sorensen’s strength (she came in third) and Brandt’s (he came in last), and drastically underestimated Sali’s – he won with about 26% of the vote. It did call the Vasquez, Johnson and Semanko results with fair accuracy.

Was there a pattern? Yes. It was a pattern we’ve seen before in Idaho: An underestimation of the strength of the right, and an overestimation of strength on the left (the Brandt quirk aside).

This week we have a new poll, the first new one publicly released on Idaho races since back then. It is an independent (non-campaign) poll and its methodology is quite a bit different, but some of the aspects of the Sorensne poll might nevertheless be holding in the back of your mind.

The new poll by Greg Smith & Associates is a standard poll using traditional polling methology (the Sorensen poll was not). Here is what the new one says:

Office Candidate hard support soft support total
Governor Butch Otter/R 34% 13% 47%
Governor Jerry Brady/D 20% 5% 25%
Lt Gov Jim Risch/R 43% 8% 51%
Lt Gov Larry La Rocco/D 29% 1% 30%
1st US Rep Bill Sali/R 35% 6% 41%
1st US Rep Larry Grant/D 20% 5% 25%

What might we draw from this? Continue Reading »

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Jul 28 2006

Best options

Published by under Idaho

Annals of free enterprise: or, be careful what you wish for. Southwest Idaho’s Kuna has been, in recent years, a place celebrating growth and minimal government hindrance of same. Business is more than welcome.

Enter Best Bath, a manfacturer of showers and bath units (notably for the disabled), and which according to some of its neighbors is a highly noticable presense. In an Idaho Statesman story today: “But Kuna homeowners who live near the business park where Best Bath has another facility — and plans to move its Boise operations — told the Kuna City Council on Tuesday they will not tolerate odors from the plant, which would more than triple in size under company plans. More than 100 people turned out for the meeting. South Kuna residents expressed outrage that they were not told when they bought their homes about Best Bath’s planned expansion or its chemical emissions. Now, some say they are being told by real estate agents that they must disclose that information when selling.”

How many of these people make the connection with that dreadful “government regulation” -r – gasp – land use rules? The presumption, at least, long has been that a lot of people moved to the Kuna and Southwest Community area to escape just such regulation.

You could ask their legislators – Bill Sali, for instance – about it and see what they think . . .

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Jul 27 2006

The falcon that ate Idaho

Published by under Idaho

Most of the releases of the state quarters – those with designs emanating from the 50 states – have followed a smooth progression. Not so Idaho’s, owing partly to the peculiar timing of the shift in control of the governor’s office, and partly owing to what sounds like a screwup at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Idaho quarter designThe announcement of the Idaho quarter – those for Washington and Oregon were released earlier – came this week, though it might have saw in the treasury files for some time. Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review recounts:

And the only reason all of us know this today? Tim Woodward. The Idaho Statesman columnist and reporter, whose intrepid reporting on Idaho goings-on has brought things to light for decades in our state, has been following the state quarter saga closely, and he, alone, noticed that the U.S. Treasury had approved Idaho’s design in late June. Woodward contacted Gov. Jim Risch’s office, which the Treasury hadn’t notified. Then, once they confirmed it, he asked to see the quarter. The governor’s office declined, citing plans to unveil it ceremoniously later, so Woodward filed a public records request. That was Thursday, and by law, the governor’s office had three working days to respond. So today, they held a press conference and unveiled the quarter – one day before the deadline to respond to Woodward.

And what of the design?

As noted in this space earlier – in response to both the Washington and Oregon designs – the job of representing a state in a drawing the size of a quarter is really an impossible task.

We took a call yesterday from an Eastern Idaho newspaper inquiring about the decision to illustrate a Peregine Falcon rather than the traditional Idaho potato. We responded that the potato has gotten plenty of play already, and while an intact potato just looks like an undifferentiated oval, a potato on a dinner plate would be too complex a design for a quarter. On the other hand, Idaho now has a quarter featuring a falcon apparently ready to wash down its declaration of “esto perpetua” with a tasty snack of . . . Idaho.

But it works. Washington had the salmon at Mount Ranier, Oregon had Crater Lake. Idaho’s falls neatly in the nature scene pattern of western quarters.

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Jul 27 2006

Mike Moves In

Published by under Washington

Well, it must be an official election in Washington state. Mike the Mover is back on the ballot, running for the U.S. Senate.

Mike the MoverThis makes at least 15 elections for the former Michael Patrick Shanks – now legally Mike the Mover, and yes that is what he does for a living – and zero wins. Or even near-wins.

Why does he do it? When he ran for governor two years ago, the Seattle Times noted this: “He estimates his moving company will do about $150,000 in extra business this year because of name recognition he’ll gain from running for office — a pretty good return on a $1,360 filing fee. It wasn’t originally a money-making scheme, he said, but it worked out that way.”

Filing deadline for Washington candidates is tomorrow. But now that Mike’s in, we can all breathe easier.

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Jul 27 2006

Southfork on the South Fork

Published by under Idaho

The little rural Idaho community of Garden Valley (which loosely bumps up against the little incorporated city of Crouch) is about to become a lot more substantial.

We’ve spent a good deal of time around the Garden Valley area (north of Horseshoe Bend, off Highway 55) over the years. It has always been lightly populated, home to a couple of hundred people or so at Crouch (one of the more charmingly funky communities in the state) and scattered residents along the South Fork of the Payette river. Mostly, the area looks like rural countryside, which is what it is.

That will be changing before long. The Boise County Commission has okayed the development plan called Southfork Landing for development; that is slated to add 605 houses to the immediate area. The people living there will more than double the population of the Garden Valley area, completely changing its character.

There are protests by local Boise Countians, which is why the action occurred today. A session earlier this week turned rancorous as vounty residents declared the commission wasn’t listening to them. The decision meeting was planned for next Tuesday, but was quietly reset for this morning. Commission Chair Roger Jackson said that “If everyone had kept quiet, it would have been done at the Tuesday meeting.”

On the other hand, what difference would it have made?

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Jul 26 2006

Reaching back

Published by under Washington

In our earlier post on the Washington Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision we focused on the political and some of the legal aspects of the decision, but we didn’t get much into the substance of it.

So what are people thinking? We’ll refer you a thread in today’s Spokesman-Review Huckleberries, where you’ll see a pretty wide range of opinion.

Blog-runner Dave Oliveria, self-described as a Christian conservative, said that he approved of the ruling. Readers weighed in pro and con, with this bit of commentary from the paper’s editor, Steve Smith:

“As always, love the thread. But I can’t help but comment on the ‘time immemorial’ point. From time immemorial, marriage has included multiple-spouse arrangements (and still does in many cultures) has acknowledged gay unions (Egypt, Greece, Rome), has sanctified child abuse (eight-year-old brides for 80-year-old men), has been based on economics, politics and convenience. For most of western history, marriage was a sacrmanet that deprived women of rights, property and pesonal security with efforts to change that relationshiop labeled heresy (presumably because woman’s role was so defined for time immemorial). For American evangelicals who tend to be most opposed to gay marriage, time immemorial really means time as measured by their cultural clock. I just think we need to be honest about that.”

Oliveria responded, “I was thinking Adam and Eve here, unless the snake was involved in a menage a trois.”

Question: Whoever said Adam and Eve were married? The Bible doesn’t. And if you say God performed the ceremony, who were the witnesses?

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Jul 26 2006

Front-paging ID-1

Published by under Idaho

The big jump up and shout news this week from the backers of Idaho 1st House district Democrat Larry Grant comes to this: His opponent, Republican Bill Sali, just received a pile of money from the Republican Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP) fund.

The rationale is cleanly put by Jonathan Singer on the MyDD Democratic blog: “To this point, I knew that House Republicans were concerned about the possibility that they would lose control of the chamber. Yet I had no idea that they were in such a state of panic that they would divert hundreds of thousands of dollars to Idaho, one of just two states in which a majority of residents approve of President Bush; into a district in which President Bush received more than two-thirds of the vote; for a candidate who has already raised more than $500,000 – especially at a time when the NRCC is trailing the DCCC in cash-on-hand.”

Now. Flip over to Congressional Quarterly (yeah, right, registration required), as solid a reporter of congressional politics as you will find anywhere, and you’ll find the Idaho 1st listed as “safe Republican.” (We discussed it with them last week.)

The view here is that CQ is closer to the mark. We’ve noted before a tendency among some Democrats to underestimate their difficulties in this race.

Sali did raise over a half-mill for his primary – but that’s just it, he raised it for his primary, a notably difficult primary, and now he and his backers have to go back to the well. Grant has raised about half as much, but because he had no serious primary contest, he has relatively more money on hand. Sali’s well-heeled primary backers – Club for Growth and its close allies – will not let him go unfunded in the general. Funds get shifted around in the giant D.C. money pot. And so here we are. We’re unconvinced the ROMP money is a big deal. We’re not seeing evidence of “panic.”

However. In discussing the rating of the race with CQ, we suggested (not entirely facetiously) adding an asterisk to the “safe Republican” designation. Odds may favor Republican retention of the seat, but enough of what you might call “free radicals” are floating around to keep this race alive, and even turning it around. We may have hit a useful point for discussing some of them. Continue Reading »

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Jul 26 2006

Off the table

Published by under Washington

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled: The subject of same-sex marriage will not be a huge factor in the campaigns of this year’s general election in Washington and beyond.

Washington courtsThat sure looks like the immediate effect of Heather Anderson v. King County, in which the court held that the Washington Legislature is constitutionally able to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples. That is what the Legislature sought to do in 1998 with passage of its version of the Defense of Marriage Act; the constitutionality of the measure was challenged in court, and lower courts said it was unconstitutional.

That’s the bottom line. The decision rambles on quite a bit from there, not surprising since the justices took well over a year since the oral arguments to reach a decision which led to six separate opinions from the court. The key statement, near the top of the decision, reads like this:

The two cases before us require us to decide whether the legislature has the power to limit marriage in Washington State to opposite-sex couples. The state constitution and controlling case law compel us to answer “yes,” and we therefore reverse the trial courts.
In reaching this conclusion, we have engaged in an exhaustive constitutional inquiry and have deferred to the legislative branch as required by our tri-partite form of government. Our decision accords with the substantial weight of authority from courts considering similar constitutional claims. We see no reason, however, why the legislature or the people acting through the initiative process would be foreclosed from extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples in Washington. It is important to note that the court’s role is limited to determining the constitutionality of DOMA and that our decision is not based on an independent determination of what we believe the law should be.

That opens a political door on same-sex marriage: The legislature could always reverse DOMA and that reversal would, likewise, be constitutional. And you can expect candidates will be asked about it in the months ahead. Continue Reading »

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Jul 25 2006

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

Published by under Washington

Politics in Washington state will be rocked, and in Oregon affected somewhat, by a document scheduled to be on file tomorrow morning: The Washington Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.

We don’t know what the court will say. We can tell you right now that it will have much more political impact if it falls in the pro-gay marriage side: That will energize the social conservatives, possibly not quite as much as in 2004 but enough to keep the issue fron-burner for some time. A decision against same-sex marriage would have less impact, since no immediate policy change would be contemplated and the impact would be moderated by the gay rights law recently passed by the state legislature.

Expect also that the decision could become central to the re-election odds of two Supreme Court justices, including the chief.

Back tomorrow with more on this.

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Jul 24 2006

School support

Published by under Idaho

As Idaho legislators and citizens generally consider their options while Governor Jim Risch issues his call for a legislative session on property taxes, they may want to consider other pieces of the equation as well.

One of them is support for public schools. You can measure this in a wide variety of ways, but one of the more useful is this:

school support as measured by gemeral fund revenue

It shows what the state’s level of support for public schools, measured against actual income in the state, has done in the last few years. Continue Reading »

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Jul 24 2006

Filing, filing

Published by under Washington

You can keep track of exactly who is filing this week for office in Washington state through a comprehensive list maintained by the secretary of state’s office.

It’s on this page on the office’s web site.

So far, among the early-earlies, we have a couple of candidates for the U.S. Senate, though neither is named Cantwell or McGavick. (They should show up soon.) The first U.S. House district to draw multiple candidates is District 7, one of the most lopsidedly uncompetitive in the state.

Much more, soon.

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A truly down-home ad for Oregon Senator Merkley.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
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OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
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IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
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WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
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The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
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Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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