Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in July 2006

Gas in the tank

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.

The Kropf opening

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. (more…)

File under ‘explosive’

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.

On medical ed, and then some

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.

Early polling

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? (more…)

Best options

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 . . .

The falcon that ate 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.

Mike Moves In

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.

Southfork on the South Fork

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?