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Posts published in July 2006

Front-paging ID-1

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. (more…)

Off the table

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. (more…)

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

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.

School support

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. (more…)

Filing, filing

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.

Session’s on

The Idaho special session on property taxes is apparently on: Governor James Risch plans to make the announcement tomorrow.

He's hoping for a one-day session - and for good reason. If they don't do it in one day, they're apt to have a political mess on their hands. Is the outcome of the session a locked-down, done deal - as it would have to be to get it done in a day? Good, relevant question.

Victoria’s secret (lowercase)

One of the great and spectacular trips in the Northwest is the ferry ride from Washington over to Victoria, British Columbia. It's not, however, quite as super, natural as British Columbia might like, for this reason: For years, Victoria has been dump raw, untreated sewage into the water, in the Straight of Juan de Fuca.

This seems a surprisingly third-worldish thing to do, for a country so self-consciously green in many ways. But there is, and might have continued for a long time. But it appears to be headed toward a welcome conclusion in another year or two, due largely to an external influence: The coming arrival, in 2010, of the Olympics games at Vancouver, activities of which will be spread around southwest British Columbia.

Joel Connelly's column today in the Seattle P-I lays out some of this. "Bluntly put, green games could not coexist with the brown reality of "Victoria's Secret" -- the daily discharge of 31 million gallons of untreated sewage into a waterway shared by the U.S., Canada, salmon runs and endangered marine mammals," he wrote. "The province's touristy capital dumps a volume of effluent into the strait that would fill 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools each year."

This may be the single most valuable thing the games do for the Northwest.

Accomplishment

As Jim west did not leave his post as mayor of Spokane without having accomplished some worthy things, so with Dave Skramstad.

No scandal hit him; he was far less well known around the region. But he was an impactful figure in Olympia, where among other things he played a central role in changing the city's form of government.

But there was also much more. As the Olympian noted in its editorial, "When you attend a symphony presentation at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, you have Dave Skramstad to thank for the marvelous venue. When you walk along the Percival Landing boardwalk on a summer evening, you can thank Dave Skramstad for the spectacular facility. When you spend an afternoon enjoying the Olympia Farmers Market, thank Dave Skramstad."

James West

James WestWe can none of us choose what our last scene will be - what will be the last thing we do that people remember us for, before we go. Those of us, at least, who keep pushing for that next scene to come.

That comes to mind with the death this weekend of James West, 55, veteran Washington legislator and recent mayor of Spokane.

He had a long record of public service, and he won a good deal of praise for much of it. In his last public office, the mayoralty, he seemed for his first year and more to be raising his reputation to higher levels, running the city effectively and solving problems that had eluded solution for years.

Then came the scandal, as reported in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the hidden life, the use of the office for personal ends, and more. He was recalled from office, and then dropped from sight.

Before all that, before he became mayor, he was physically ill, and this weekend it caught up with him. But suppose that it hadn't, at least not yet - not for a while. You can imagine, without too much strain, a James West writing another act to his life's story, picking up pieces and doing something else useful in whatever time was left to him.

His time ran too short. And his obituaries will read more sadly than, with a little more time, we suspect they might have.

Along the third rail

One of the unheralded pillars of Republican Senate nominee Mike McGavick's campaign is his take on Social Security, a subject until not so long ago traditionally avoided by campaigning Republicans.

Mike McGavickIt became less avoidable (and we don't mean to imply that McGavick would have wanted to skirt it) in this race with a confluence of two elements: President Bush's highly unpopular Social Security proposal from last year, which put the issue squarely on the table, coupled with McGavick's background as CEO of a large insurance company (SafeCo). After all, as McGavick routinely points out, Social Security is a sort of insurance, and it makes sense he'd have something to say about it.

That doesn't mean what he has to say gets said without risk - or countering. (more…)