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Posts published in August 2006

Filed away

Pigs must be flying, and it must be as cool in Hades as it was yesterday in the Northwest. You got it: Your scribe has become a candidate for office.

Do not expect that anything about this site or any other Ridenbaugh Press activities will change as a consequence. (Possibly, maybe, an iota more sympathy for those who put their names on the line ...) None of what follows in this post is of any broad Northwest significance; but we thought it should be noted here by way of full disclosure. (more…)

Coordinated campaign

Sometimes political campaigns aren't altogether what they're supposedly about. Sometimes you have to makes connections and pull pieces together.

In Oregon, for example, there's Measure 48, and then there's a set of ads that have begun appearing on another, apparently unrelated subject. We're betting they're closely related.

Go back to our post yesterday on 48 - the TABOR-derived spending cap - and the quotes from its Oregon petitioner, Don McIntire. Who does he see as his opponent in the battle over the ballot issue? Not someone most Oregonians probably would cite: "the real leader of the government class in Oregon – Tim Nesbitt, recent President of the Oregon AFL-CIO. I will debate Mr. Nesbitt as many times as he would like between now and election day."

All of that was largely in response to Governor Ted Kulongoski's offer to debate the man most responsible for underwriting the Measure 48 campaign, New York businessman Howard Rich. Kulongoski's move drew fresh attention to the non-indigenous nature of the initiative, that it's a clone of brethern circulating in a bunch of states, all funded by Rich and associations he's closely linked to.

McIntire's comments sounded like an attempt to swing the spotlight in another direction. In Oregon, unions had been peripheral in the discussion about Measure 48 up to that point, but McIntire went well out of his way to make them central.

But in a bigger context, his comments look in no way accidental. (more…)

The mystery senator?

UPDATE: We'll leave the post here intact, partly because the national issue is still worth noting. However, the premise - a question about whether Idaho Senator Mike Crapo is the senator who placed a secret hold on a contractor database bill - appears to have been resolved. His communications director, Susan Wheeler, just sent us this note: "Senator Crapo does not normally confirm or deny if he is the Senator who placed a hold on legislation. However, given that the Majority Leader has asked Senators to disclose such information, Senator Crapo has instructed me to let you know that he is not the Senator who placed the hold."

Could Mike Crapo be the mystery senator? The one the whole blogosphere, left and right, has been trying to track down and wail upon if cornered?

Idahoans may want to know.

Here's the background. Earlier this year two U.S. senators from distant poles, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn and Illinois Democrat Barack Obama, got together on a bill to bring some transparency to the federal government. It would set up an online database, accessible to and searchable by the public, of all federal contractors - who gets the money, how much and for what. It would be free to the public. A lot of people from the left and right quickly seized on the idea as a way to monitor spending and possible corruption. It got widespread support in the Senate, cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee with a unanimous vote in favor, and seemed set for a favorable Senate floor vote. But then a senator placed a "secret hold" on the bill - a procedural that freezes it in place for the rest of the term, unless the senator releases the hold. No reason need be given, or was (as is usual in these cases).

Who was the senator? No one would say. So a bunch of national political blogs, some each from the left and right, began collecting, and urging their readers to collect, statements from senators either acknowleding the secret hold or flatly denying having done it.

Over the last few days, senator after senator has been crossed off the list, having issued clear denials. Washington's Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and Oregon's Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden, were quickly eliminated. When a caller contacted Idaho's Larry Craig, spokesman Dan Whiting's response was, "of course not."

But then, on the tally web page, there was this: "Sen. Crapo's spokeswoman Susan Wheeler tell us 'It's not Sen. Crapo's practice to confirm or deny any hold on any bill.' So that's a refusal to answer."

Among the 100 members of the Senate, there are four others - Robert Byrd, Judd Gregg, Orrin Hatch and Ted Stevens - for whom answers have not been obtained. Mike Crapo at present is the only senator, according to the tally, who has refused to answer.

We'll be watching.

UPDATE: Coburn has accused Stevens of being the secret-hold senator. Stevens isn't saying.

TABOR debate debate

Pobably there are a few things about the opposition on Measure 48 that its in-state petitioner and veteran initiative organizer, Don McIntire, can't stand. In his current released on the subject, he didn't seem happy about much. But what probably irritated most was the particular place the spotlight was pointing.

It was pointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski, whose re-elect campaign has been getting persistently savvier, and which on Tuesday made perhaps its smartest move yet. (Except that this latest bit isn't yet posted on its website; the material here on his statements comes via Blue Oregon.) Here's Kulongoski's note to Howard Rich, a New York City businessman who has underwritten an estimated $1.1 million of the Measure 48 - TABOR - proposal. (And no, it isn't a "Rainy Day Amendment," and we will keep on noting that.)

Since you are the chief financial backer of Oregon ballot Measure 48, I invite you to Oregon to publicly debate the merits of the measure. You have already put $1.1 million dollars into this effort, so I am certain that you can afford the price of a plane ticket. ...

For too long out-of-state special interests have used Oregon as a laboratory for their failed ideas. As Governor, I feel it is my obligation to stand up to the special interest groups you fund and protect the most vulnerable in our population - kids and seniors - who depend on services you are proposing to cut.

Your subordinates may try to help you avoid the publicity by offering to debate in your stead. I do not see such an arrangement as acceptable. If you are willing to pour millions into our state as a social experiment, the least you can do is come here and explain in person to Oregon voters why the face of our future is so important to you.

I welcome my Republican opponent join me in this discussion with you, but while he opposes this measure, he refuses to campaign against it. Please contact my campaign as soon as possible so that we can finalize arrangements for the forum.

Sincerely,
Governor Ted Kulongoski

Rich, of course, declined. He's not much on public appearances or statements, just likes to drop several hundred thou or a million in a state and watch the fireworks: "I'm happy that I could help out the local group in Oregon--they've faced a real uphill climb against public employee unions and special interests. The fact is, though, that the local group has done all the heavy lifting, and the result of their hard work is that voters will have a say in state spending in the fall. It sounds to me like the Governor is afraid to debate local leaders like Don McIntire, or face up to the 162,000 Oregon voters who have already signed the petition."

But as Kulongoski noted, the heavy financing of petition signature-gathering and campaigning is the reason Measure 48 is on the ballot: It wasn't a home-grown invention. Similar ballot issues have been paid for in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Montana and elsewhere, also underwritten with Rich money. To imagine him as anything less than the prime reason it's on the Oregon ballot is to ignore a lot of external evidence. (more…)

Leading, variously

Two new, and essentially conflicting, polls on the Maria Cantwell-Mike McGavick Senate race. Both show Cantwell ahead; they differ sharply on the spread.

The new Strategic Vision poll gives her a five-point lead, 48%-43%. That's actually up from a four-point lead a month ago. SV polls mainly for Republicans.

The latest Survey USA poll puts Cantwell ahead 56% to 39% - a 17-point lead.

Our suspicion is that the current reality lies in between.

Both polls were conducted during the period when McGavick's confessional (from last week) was making the media rounds.

Power strategies

The Rob Brading campaign seems to be almost on to something - almost. Tactically, it knows it has to do battle with the library Internet porn charge poured down from an ally of its opponent, Oregon House Speaker Karen Minnis. But the strategic element hasn't quite been there. Yet. But could be. May be that Oregon's premier legislative race - and if it wasn't before, it surely is now - hangs on it.

It hangs on a question of power.

Karen MinnisKaren Minnis has been speaker of the House for four years, and she is no figurehead. In close alliance with Majority Leader Wayne Scott, she runs the House; her effectiveness in the role is acknowledged by her critics. Her effectiveness is widely bemoaned, in fact, by many Democrats.

As makes sense, she plays this up in her district (the 49th, in eastern Multnomah County, including Troutdale and Wood Village and part of Gresham). Watch her campaign video for a good sense of how. In a short but effective string of examples, she shows people from the district talking about problems they have faced, and how Minnis helped them through her work in the House. It's cleanly produced and an effective declaration of usefulness and effectiveness. And at the end of it one of the (unnamed) people adds, "They say Karen's in for the fight of her political life. I can't see how that's true. She's never stopped fighting for us."

Rob BradingIt's an interesting acknowledgement, and probably necessary. Two years ago, when Minnis was coming off her first term as speaker, she drew a little-known opponent - Brading - who ran an enthusiastic but lightly funded and organized campaign against her. Minnis won, but it's a tossup which candidate was more surprised at the close margin, just 53.4% for a solidly established House speaker who drastically outspent her opponent, who never seemed to have delivered a real blow of his own.

Or, in a backhanded way, did he? The most notable incident of the campaign came when Minnis, in an unusual acknowledgement of her opposition, suggested that in his service on a library advisory board, Brading should have pressed for more efforts to keep children from accessing porn at Internet-linked library computers. The implication that Brading is okay with kids viewing porn was too much, and he demanded an apology from Minnis, and got one. The subject was not revisited. That cycle. (more…)

Netrooting

The mass media may not take note, but it should: The Northwest now has two Democratic-"netroots" endorsed U.S. House candidates. Darcy Burner, challenging Dave Reichert in the Washington 8th, was endorsed a while ago (and in our estimation remains the closest call of any House race in the Northwest). Today a second was added: Larry Grant, the Democrat running in the open Idaho 1st, against Republican Bill Sali. There are 18 such candidates nationally, so it's not a massive group - each one gets some genuine attention.

Meaning what? These races essentially are being put on the national liberal net network, backed specifically by blogs such as Daily Kos, My DD and Swing State Project, all among the most visited political web sites in the country. That translates to putting these candidates consistently in front of hundreds of thousands (at the least) very active activists, who have demonstrated an impressive track record in generating money and on-ground support for favored candidates, as well as putting the opposition under an atomic microscope. Such support is not enough to win an unwinnable race. It can be enough to matter if the race tightens on its own merits. (Republicans, by the way, do not yet appear to have any direct counterpart.)

And in Grant's race? We've suggested before that the dynamics of the race presently favor Sali, and still think so, but that does not mean the dynamics cannot change. Given the nature of the year, the nature of Sali, and other intriguing elements, that is certainly possible. And if it does - if the race looks as if it's closing at the end - this kind of support can be very important. It has been in other House races around the country.

A coolness on 933

Afascinating report in the Seattle Times suggests that Initiative 933 - the land use measure - has thinner support in that state than most people probably have supposed.

I-933 is the spawn of Oregon's Measure 37 from 2004, aimed at limiting governmental enforcement of land use rules. The Oregon measure passed easily in that state. The Washington provisions are somewhat different, in part reflecting differences in the two states' laws, and partly other considerations, but the overall intent is the same. In Oregon, measure got support from a wide range of people and groups traditionally active in the property rights movement.

In Washington . . . apparently, not so much.

The Times piece by Eric Pryne notes, "The state's leading developers are providing scant backing for a measure opponents label a 'developers' initiative.' They offer varying explanations.
The Building Industry Association of Washington says it has higher priorities this year. The Washington Association of Realtors says its members are deeply divided on I-933."

And, in another irony, the initiative's main organizational backer is the Washington Farm Bureau - an organization that in Oregon was deeply divided on the measure, and probably more opposed than in favor. The Washington campaign seems to be taking on a flavor unexpected a few months ago.

One session, three thoughts

It was a long day at the Idaho Statehouse. A bill of some significance, House Bill 1, a property tax measure proposed by Governor Jim Risch, was passed. We were struck most especially, however, by three other things.

Mark RicksSympathy for Mark Ricks. You had to feel for Idaho's new lieutenant governor, just appointed, Mark Ricks. His appointment by Risch some weeks backwas supposed to be mainly an honorary thing; it expires in January. But here comes this session, just one day but very rugged, and it put him through the mill. Neither he nor Risch, who appointed him, could have expected anything like it.

Only one bill was on the agenda, but it was controversial. Everyone seems to want to do something about property taxes, but over the last month a large protest around the state developed against Risch's proposal, which involves moving much of the cost of paying for public schools from the local property tax to the state sales tax. That protest in advance included press conferences and "pork BBQ" lunches, but it was only a warm up. Once the session started, Democrats, first in the House and then even more forcefully in the Senate, used almost every parliamentary device in the rule book to block the bill. Some of those devices, including obscire protests, hadn't been tried in a generation or more. A Senate session expected to last maybe two or three hours went on, and on. A session launched at 8 a.m. and originally expected to be over at least by late afternoon, wrapped at about a quarter past 11 at night.

Ricks presided over just about all of the Senate session. Years ago, as a senator and a majority leader, he periodically presided over the Senate, and knew the rules and presided fluently. But he left the Senate 12 years ago, and he is 82 years old now, and the procedures don't roll out quite so easily. And this was his first day on the job in a dozen years. From time to time, he would sound confused and - you could hear it from a distance - call out for help.

No matter. Ricks, a courteous man with a positive outlook, managed to keep both his perspective and his humor throughout what had to be a rough experience. He emerged as a class act. (more…)

Starrett stays

Maybe, as Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and his staff considered the complaint filed last Friday against Mary Starrett, the name Douglas Patterson came up as well. If it did, it easily could have prompted the line of though that led to a decision keeping Starrett on the general election ballot for governor.

On Friday attorney Kelly Clerk, representing three northwest Oregon clients, filed a complaint with the secretary of state's office. He said that the Constitution Party of Oregon, which nominated Starrett for governor, had not followed proper procedures in offering notice of its upcoming nominating convention. Whether it did or not remains in dispute. Assuming the secretary of state' s office also perceived a violation, Clark wrote, it should strike Starrett from the ballot, as having been improperly nominated.

Mary StarrettStarrett has some strategic political significance here. Her odds of actually coming close to winning are not good - most political observers probably would agree (she would not) that she will get more than 1% but less than 10% of the vote, well less than Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski or Republican nominee Ron Saxton. But her presence on the ballot as a skilled candidate and as a more-conservative alternative to Saxton creates problems for the Republicans, and if the race otherwise is close, she could cost him the win. May not turn out that way, but it's a plausible scenario.

Bradbury's decision was that whether or not procedures were violated, candidates should not be thrown off the ballot as a result. If the party really screwed up, some form of sanction might be considered - a fine, for instance - but the candidates shouldn't be barred.

All of which has led to Starrett and the Constitution Party accusing Saxton or his backers of being behind the ballot challenge (no hard evidence of that has developed), and Republicans accusing Democrat Bradbury of giving Starrett a break.

In the process, everyone forgot about Douglas Patterson. And Dean Wolf.

He was another candidate nominated by the Constitution Party convention, for the 5th district congressional seat; Wolf is his counterpart in the 1st district. The question, unasked publicly: If Starrett should be thrown from the ballot, should not too Patterson and Wolf? And two state Senate candidats, Robert Simmering in District 16 and John Pivarnik in District 17?

Expand on that a bit. Why should the make-a-mistake-and-bar-the-candidates principle apply only to minor parties? Suppose the Democratic Party found a legal glitch in the way the Republicans processed their party's business, should that be grounds for throwing all the Republican candidates off the ballot? (Or, of course, switch the parties if you like.)

It's not hard to see how quickly mischief can develop from this approach. The state law doesn't specify what sort of action should be imposed if a party failed to jump through its bureaucratic hoops, but something aimed more directly at a party's structure would seem more appropriate.

Meantime, Starrett and her allies have something to be really, personally, steamed about.