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Posts published in August 2006

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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.

Even more of a press conference

We've long argued that the proper format for candidate debates is the simpler the better: Clear away everyone but the two (or more) candidates and a moderate to keep the peace and guide the discussion. Start with a general topic or proposition, and then - within the general bounds of civility and time fairness - let the candidates have at it. You'd get much better insight into the candidates and their ideas that way - and even much better drama - than through the usual glorified press conference approach that characterizes most debates.

The new proposal by Governor Jim Risch for his lieutenant governor debate with Democrat Larry La Rocco (as reported on Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Russell's blog), however, takes things in the other direction - no candidate interaction at all, and nothing left but two glorified press conferences. Risch's proposal calls for two half-hour sessions in which each candidate would be questioned by reporters, with the other candidate entirely absent.

She said Risch's spokesman (and his son) Jason Risch explained the idea was proposed “due to the disruptive nature of previous experiences with the opposition.” Russell did not indicate that he elaborated.

The proposal was rejected by Elinor Chehey, the veteran coordinator of debates for the League of Women Voters.

A pile of questions come to mind. Let's sift through some of the more pertinent. (more…)

WA 8th: The ad debate

The first television spot from Democratic challenger Darcy Burner - opposing Republican incumbent Dave Reichert in Washington's 8th congressional district - is out. And is it ever controversial.

Among Democrats.

What should a challenger Democrat do this year, by way of message? There's a great to-and-fro on the subject, and analysis of this opener ad from every which direction, up on the MyDD Democratic political site. It's a good discussion of campaign strategy and tactics, and the debate shows why these things remain more art than science.