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Posts published in August 2006

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.

Almost all-mail

Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed is figuring that when votes are cast for the September 19 primary, about 80-85% of them will be cast by mail. Only five counties - King, Kittitas, Klickitat, Island, Pierce - still allow the option of voting at a precinct polling location, and even there, he estimated fewer than a third of voters will choose that option.

For meaningful purposes, that will mean the mail voting option will get a good, solid test in Washington this year. It has worked well in Oregon; now we'll see how well it exports.

Confessions of a candidate

This one made us stop and pause. There is an inescapable element of political tactic here, and we'll get to that, but also a more painful matter: Have we got to the point that candidates are bound to reveal their darkest, back-of-the-closet secrets to the world if they choose to run for office?

Mike McGavickWe suspect things haven't gone quite that bad, but Mike McGavick, the Republican running for the Senate in Washington (and near-certain nominee), apparently does. And so, today, he decided to confess all, to the news media and directly to his supporters through a post on his blog. (He also says he had no indication that these items were slated for disclosure by Democrats, that he was beating them to the punch. That's credible, since he makes no effort to excuse or minimize.)

You could say that in one astonishing shot he characterized himself as a drunk driver - testing .17, extremely drunk - a man who got a divorce because he and his wife simply came not to like each other much, a part-time father, a purveyor of a dishonest campaign tactic - in a U.S. Senate race, no less - and a corporate exec who, Enron-style, first said the business was fully righted and then proceeded to lay off 500 employees who weren't expecting it.

You could say that - it would be an intepretation which may get out there and take hold. It would not be a fair interpretation. Three of these incidents were incidents, one-time events, and McGavick indicates remorse for each. The other - about his first marriage - is an essentially private matter, and what he describes is unfortunately familiar to a lot of people. He suggests he has learned and grown. "Here it is," he writes. "I have lots of faults, and I have made some mistakes that I deeply regret." (more…)

Sheldon-Lucas is up

Took a bit, but the transcript of the state Senate Democratic primary chat between Tim Sheldon, often blasted in-party as too pro-Republican, and challenger Kyle Taylor Lucas, is posted on the Olympian site.

Top reader question: "Sen. Sheldon, in the past you've explained some of you more controversial votes by saying the 35th District is much more conservative than other parts of Washington. This implies that your votes are based on what your district believes, rather than what you believe. What votes would have changed had you voted your conscience, rather than what you believed was the will of your district?"

His answer: "I can't think of a bill I personally disagreed with." Make of that what you will.

LaBeau at IACI

Alex LaBeau, for quite a few years the top lobbyist at the Idaho Statehouse for realtor interests, has been hired as the new president of the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, replacing its veteran leader, Steve Ahrens.

Idaho Association of Commerce & IndustryIACI is one of the two or three most influential organizations in Idaho politics (and some say you can strike the "two or three"), partly because of some skilled leaders (such as Ahrens) and partly because of its membership, which includes a large chunk of the state's leading business community. It rarely loses at the Idaho Legislature, and it does well in negotiations with state agencies and other groups as well. The sucession, once Ahrens announced his retirement earlier this year, has been closely watched, and a number of names have been floated.

One of those most floated in recent weeks (whatever the validity) was Brian Whitlock, who was a chief of staff and budget official for former Governor Dirk Kempthorne. That makes him very well connected, close to many of the people in power (albeit less so to the new Risch Administration). The IACI choice for LaBeau sends a somewhat different message.

Not that LaBeau isn't well connected. (For that matter, as the government guy for the Association of Realtors, he has been an active participant in IACI committees and decision-making.) But he's known (well known) in governmental circles more as a solid lobbyist and widely respected - put another way, a pro at doing the sort of things IACI expects its government affairs operation to do, whoever's in power at the time. That may be sound thinking for the long run.

In the middle of somewhere

Not bad: A total of what will be five debates - counting one earlier this summer at Mount Hood - for the two major candidates for Oregon governor. It's a good number; most states don't get that many. More would always be nicer, and Republican challenger Ron Saxton was at one point talking as many as eight (and evidently would like one located east of the Cascades, which none now are). But Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, who for a time pulled the office-keeps-me-too-busy bit during the primary election, certainly can't, with this number of debate, be accused of hiding from the opposition.

Three of them apparently will originated somewhere in or around Portland, and be hosted by Oregon Public Broadcasting, KGW-TV with the Oregonian, and the Portland City Club, from September 28 to October 17. The last will be in Medford about a week later.

The minor party candidates won't be included.

Neither campaign seems to be saying a lot about it; neither website refers to be the debates (yet), so there's not a lot of spin out. Loosely, we'll suggest this: Kulongoski, who has been getting some pretty good poll data and as governor has the excuse to duck most debates, wound up accepting more of these meetings that he really had to. Presumably, he/his staff did that because they figure there's some advantage to be gained. We have reason to believe (see previous posts) that base turnout is a key component of that campaign. Do they see the debates as a useful tactic in that strategy?

Regardless, it means Oregonians will get to see and hear a good deal from their candidates for gov this year. Two of them, anyway.

Reflective of what?

Senator Larry Craig and his staff - and they wouldn't be alone - must still be wondering about just what the hell happened at their town hall meeting Tuesday night in Coeur d'Alene. They'd have good reason to, because a significant issue rides on it: To what extent did it reflect a substantial strain, or just fluke fissure, in the community?

Craig has taken heat for a few years now from parts of the conservative community - which for most of his years in Congress has given him unqualified support - for his stand on immigration and illegal aliens, a stance bearing some resemblance to that of President George W. Bush. Yes, there are a lot of people in this country who aren't supposed to be, and that fact - and border security - need to be dealt with more effectively, Craig has suggested. But he also suggests that there's no reason for a panic reaction, either.

As he was quoted by the Coeur d'Alene Press: "You can't go door to door and force between 8 million and 10 million people to leave at gunpoint. For 20 years, immigration laws have failed. We know there's a problem and we're working on it. The first step is securing the border and we're doing that."

That seems hard to argue with, reflecting a general reality we've managed to live with for a long time, and yet the reaction has suggested it's an edgy statement. In some places, as at Bonners Ferry and Sandpoint, audiences have been fine with it. In some places in southern Idaho, reaction was angrier. But the reaction at - and yes, this is where it was - the Human Rights Education Institute at Coeur d'Alene, was something else again. (more…)

SUSA: Governors up

The new round of Survey USA reports - we noted presidential popularity in the Northwest a few days back - are out, with mostly good news for the area's governors.

The most critical situation is that of Oregon, where Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski has had to deal with low poll approval numbers for some time now. They got especially bad earlier this summer, but now seem on an uptick - 44% approval, 47% disapproval. Not good, but better than where he was, and very close to where he was toward the end of last year.

SUSA approval chart

In Washington, Democrat Christine Gregoire has improved her numbers considerably from the early part of her term; on taking office in January 2005 her approval/disapproval according to SUSA were a horrible 34%/58%. Early this year the lines crossed, however, and excepting one month (June) her favorables have steadily grown. She now stands at 51%/45% - not great, but a lot better than a year ago.

Idaho Governor Jim Risch, in office only since May, has a shorter track record, so you can't really do an analysis based on trend lines. The current snapshot - 53% favorable, 32% unfavorable - is certainly positive enough, though, enough to rank him as the 18th most popular governor in the country. (Gregoire is 31st and Kulongoski 36th.)

I’ll be the round about

Down at the very end of U.S. Highway 30 at Astoria, close to where it meets U.S. 101 and the Pacific Ocean, there is a tricky little roundabout, a circle where four roads come together; you use the circle to get from the road you're on to the road you're headed.

That is not an unusual roundabout, either, and in Washington and Oregon you'll find them in some unexpected locations. (We distinctly remember getting discombobulated at one in Arlington, Washington.) In Oregon, there are enough roundabouts that you can expect questions about their proper use on your driver's license exam. (And be aware there's a distinction between a roundabout and a traffic circle.)

Idaho, like most of the Rocky Mountain states, never has been much for roundabouts - if any have existed at all in the Gem State up to the last couple of years, we can't think where they are. (If anyone does know, please advise. The loop on the south side of the Clearwater River bridge at Lewiston doesn't count.)

But that's changing. The city of Nampa, which is doing a massive re-do of transportation (and understandably, given the explosive growth there), has just opened its first roundabout, at Amity Road and Happy Valley Road. More are planned for construction before long. And not only that, others are planned for Ada County.

Will be interesting to see how they work in Nampa, Boise and Meridian. Most places we've spotted them in Washington and Oregon, they've been in substantial-traffic but smaller communities, since the circles do require a considerable traffic stop or slowdown.