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Posts published in “Day: August 10, 2006”

Westlund reshapes gub politics, again

Almost exactly six months ago, state Senator Ben Westlund, newly-minted independent, promised to shake up Oregon politics by running for governor. He did. He also said he would run only to win, not as a spoiler. This afternoon, he held true to the spirit of that, too.

Ben WestlundHis dropping out of the race nonetheless comes as a surprise. Six weeks ago, he looked like an uncertain quantity to make the ballot; as of yesterday, he looked like a slam dunk to make it.

And he has had some useful things to say, like this in his announcement today: "We must end once and for all extreme partisanship’s bitter grip on Oregon’s future, because if I have learned one thing in this campaign so far… it is this: Until we as Oregonians are allowed to vote our hope… as opposed to being forced to vote our fear … Oregon will continue to spiral into mediocrity and below at an increasingly faster pace." The catchphrase on his website, "Vote your Hope, not your Fear," is one fht best political bumper stcker phrases of the year. (And we should note that his website, put together in-house, is one of the best of any Northwest campaign this year.)

We visited Westlund's Bend headquarters on Tuesday. It looked a little quiet, but with signs of recent activity - nothing amiss. There were a few impressive indicators, and the one striking hardest was the four-foot-wide shelft of white notebooks which contained copies of all the petition signatures the campaign had gathered around the state - about 50,000 of them. We remarked that those tens of thousands of names could be a hell of a resource in a general election campaign where turnout may be king. Westlund's staff indicated that the point had not escaped them.

Beyond that, Westlund simply presented himself well - impressively, drawing good reviews all over better reviews more consistently than any of the other candidates. He seemed poised to launch ahead into the finals.

All of that said, his political instincts were right. Recent polling has shown him somewhere around the 5% to 10% mark, far back of the major party nominees, Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski and Republican Ron Saxton. It might have been enough to reshape the race, in some way, but far short of winning. Hence, Westlund's dropout.

Does this, now, reshape the race?

Probably, but only at the margins. Evidence of whether Kulongoski or Saxton was losing votes to Westlund has been mixed for months. The prevailing view seems to be that the governor benefits the most, but the exact difference will be hard to gauge.

It certainly does simplify the race. More on that shortly - and also more thoughts on what may become of the Great Middle.

Republican endorses Democrat . . . ah . . .

Only a few weeks ago Republicans all over the country were scoffing at the idea of Democrats in Connecticut ousting their three-term U.S. senator, Joe Lieberman, because he was too close to Republicans. Ridiculous, they said. And so did many Democrats; leading Democrats from Bill Clinton on down came to campaign for him. And when Liberman lost his primary on Tuesday, and said he would continue on as a sorta-kinda independent in the general election, it would be as an independent Democrat.

Perhaps they would like, then, to explain this statement issued today from Washington's Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, Mike McGavick: "In support of Sen. Lieberman’s campaign for civility, I wish him the best, and Gaelynn and I plan on contributing to his campaign.”

Lieberman seems about to become the real Republican nominee for the Senate in Connecticut, whether he wants to be or not.

Note: Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, McGavick's opponent, endorsed the Connecticut primary winner, Ned Lamont, just prior to McGavick's statement.

Pencil it out

Before we forget, a quick reality check on the property tax-sales tax proposal offered by Governor Jim Risch, scheduled for passage by the Idaho Legislature later this month.

The snap view for many people is that any proposal which reduces their property tax will be beneficial, and Risch's plan will - there's no dispute on this - reduce property taxes, in many cases by around a fifth The catch is that he plans to raise the sales tax by a penny, to six cents, to do it.

There's an emotional component to this. Many Idahoans have gotten so accustomed to the daily chore of complying with sales tax rules that they simply accept it and think little about it, and think little about wht the sales tax takes out of their pockets - they oull together only rarely how much those pennies and nickels and dimes add up. Property taxes, on the other hand, are paid in lump sum and can easily constitute a major hassle, even a crisis. So the roaw numbers may not be the whole story.

Still, how would you feel bout Risch's plan if you learned that as a result of it, you'll actually be paying more in taxes - less property tax, perhaps, but more in sales tax?

That is likely to be the end result, to one extent or other, for most Idahoans. To find out if you're one of them, check out the Spokesman-Review Risch tax calculator. It isn't statewide-perfected - some of the calculations relay on property tax rates for certain northern Idaho school districts - but it should be close enough to give you a general idea of what the plan will save or cost you.

Take the survey, and then watch the action on in a couple of weeks.