Archive for October, 2006

Oct 31 2006

One-car smashup

Published by under Idaho

One of the core principles of Republican strategist Karl Rove is supposed to be: Hit ‘em not where they’re weakest, but where they’re strongest. Undermine their core strength, amd they’re in trouble.

In the Idaho 1st district race, Republican Bill Sali keeps doing it to himself.

Sali’s core strength is supposed to be that he is an absolutist, rigorously pure of ideology – a black/white guy, no shades of gray at all.

Now comes a ballot issue on which Idaho voters will have to decide next week – an important one, on land use policy, Proposition 2 – and polls make clear that most Idahoans have figured out what they think. (Last weekend’s Idaho Statesman/KIVI-TV poll shows the margin between favor/disfavor as close.) Elected officials and candidates have let loose their thoughts, as have just about all of the candidates for office.

Bill Sali apparently can’t decide.

He told the Statesman that “it’s one of the most complicated things I’ve read in my life.” Too complicated for him but not for hundreds of thousands of Idaho voters and every other candidate on the ballot? (His opponent, Democrat Larry Grant, is in opposition.)

That lack of a position appears to obtain even though, as Prop 2 manager Laird Maxwell correctly notes, Sali has not protested Maxwell’s listing of him as a Prop 2 backer on the initiative’s web site.

Could the fact that some of Sali’s key out of state backers support the measure have anything to do with his indecision?

We noted this pecuiarity several weeks ago, assuming it would be clarified before now. With a week left before the election, looks as if Sali may remain the fuzzy candidate clear to the end. (If that should change, we’ll post to that effect.)

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Oct 30 2006

Earl at large

Published by under Oregon

Oregon U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, represents the most liberal part of Oregon – his district consists mostly of Portland – but he’s been getting a considerable dousing in more conservative waters as he campaigns for Democrats elsewhere.

Earl BlumenauerHe is only barely opposed in this election, and so has the free time. It may turn out to be useful experience if he winds up campaigning statewide in 2008. (Okay, he’s done the disclaimers. But it remains a live possibility.)

Blumenauer’s travelogue, which includes a fairly detailed section on his stopover and campaigning in Idaho, has been posted on Daily Kos.

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Oct 30 2006

Nationwide

Published by under Oregon,Washington

Acall from the Associated Press/Portland this afternoon prompted the question: To what extent is the national political mood likely to influence down-ticket races? Or, will state and local Republicans pay the price for the unpopularity of Republicans based on the far coast?

The correct answer seems to be “sure – to some extent,” which begs the question of to what extent, which is something we’ll all be wiser about in another week. But some impact is highly likely.

Politicians are picking it up. Oregon’s governor race is one of the clearest examples. It is not directly tied to the Bush Administration or to Congress – the candidates are not running for, never have run for and are not serving in federal office. But the swing in energy in Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski’s campaign came suspiciously close to the time he and his ads starting linking – sometimes with subtlety, sometimes not – Republican Ron Saxton with Bush and Washington Republicans. And if that’s a little subjective for you, the latest Saxton TV ad blitz – in which he acknowledges that he’s a Republican but promises that he won’t be too much of one – ought to be a convincer.

Or consider the numbers.

This is the rundown of partisan balance in the state Senate and House in Washington, Oregon and Idaho for the last two major wave elections, in 1994 and 1980. The numbers indicate the seats held by each party – listed as Republicans/Democrats – before and after those two elections, by chamber.

Yr/Chambr WA prv WA aftr OR prv OR aftr ID prv ID aftr
1994/Senate 21/28 24/25 14/16 19/11 23/12 27/8
1994/House 33/65 61/37 32/28 34/26 50/20 57/13
1980/Senate 19/30 25/24 7/23 9/21 19/16 23/12
1980/House 49/49 56/42 26/34 27/33 50/20 56/15

.

In all 12 transitions, Republicans gained seats – House and Senate, net totals, in all three states. The size of the gain was widely variable, though. They range from the astonishing Republican pickup of 28 House seats in Washington in 1994 – a number proportionately greater than in the U.S. House that year – down to the modest Oregon changes in 1980. (But remember that in the cases of the Washington and Oregon Senates, moreover, the numbers are held down because only half of those seats are up for election in a single two-year cycle.)

You can figure that the wind at the back of congressional Democrats will help their colleagues down-ticket. As to how much . . . there’s a range of possibilities.

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Oct 30 2006

Broadcasting across

Published by under Oregon

Open communications permeate our society too richly to allow the areas of political segregation – the cultural walls – we’ve built up, to last forever. Sooner or later someone figure out a way through them, and then the bricks will fall.

One of those might be an intriguing experiment in counterintuitive campaigning: Democrats, even somewhat liberal Democrats, campaigning in a theoretically Republican venue. In this case, Christian radio.

Three Oregon House Democratic candidates – Rob Brading, Charles Lee and David Edwards – have started advertising messages on Christian radio stations. The ads have a similar feel: In each, the candidate talks in an easy voice, about how his faith affects his candidacy. Lee, for example: “My father taught me that living by God’s Law makes life easy—all you have to do is tell the Truth and you’ll be fine. But he also taught me that the Truth needs courage and firm convictions to survive.”

All three are in serious races, Brading opposing House Speaker Karen Minnis, Lee against Representative Kim Thatcher and Edwards against Everett Curry – all three seats are substantially up for grabs, in politically marginal areas. (The most interesting of the three may be Edwards/Curry, since Curry is a pastor of a Baptist church in southern California, and since Edwards took a big hit in the Oregonian – including a pulled editorial endorsement – over a hotly disputed matter of political ethics.)

This reach for the “Christian vote” could – if it hits its target – have a real impact on the calculus in those places. We’ll be checking back to see if it worked.

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Oct 30 2006

Dead trees fall, but . . .

Published by under Washington

The trend line is persistent: Newspaper subscriptions continue their downward plunge.

For the six months ending in September, circulation nationally fell another 2.8%. Exceptions appear, but the overall is clear enough, and of a piece with the trend line in the last decade and more.

In Seattle, that has meant more circulation losses at the two dailies, albeit at slower paces – they’re sinking a little more slowly. The Seattle Times weekday circulation now stands at 212,691 (down, over six months, by 1.3%), the Post-Intelligencer at 126,225 (down 4.9%). For a close-in metro area of three million and more, that’s shockingly low. The third-largest paper in the state, the Tacoma News Tribune, dropped 5.7% (now 116,150).

In 2000, the Times stood at 225,687, the P-I at 75,794.

And probably no one expects a reversal in the next six-month report.

This kind of trend line can’t go on forever.

The sort-of bright spot for newspapers in this is that traffic on their web sites (from which they earn relatively little) is continuing a steady growth.

Question: When does the tail start wagging the dog? It’s beginning to look as if you can pinpoint the date on the right kind of spreadsheet . . .

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Oct 29 2006

Endorsement Sunday: on Sali

Published by under Idaho

Of the 1st district Idaho daily newspapers which endorse, we correctly estimated that Democrat Larry Grant either might sweep the endorsements over Republican Bill Sali, or all but one. (One more is yet to come in this race.)

The paper we were thinking might go for Sali was the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune, considering its usually very conservative editorial stands.

Not this time. Their editorial today is the thoroughgoing and powerful – and skillful – editorial blast against Sali we’ve seen all year. “Skillful” is added in because it did what is tough to do: It explains clearly why, though the candidate may be acceptable philosophically, he is unsuited for the job he seeks. It does so in fair and reasoned terms. Emanating from a solidly conservative editorial board, it has some chance of being taken more than usually seriously by conservative voters.

UPDATE: Corrected for prematurity; we had understood an endorsement had been made, which hadn’t.

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Oct 29 2006

Closer

Published by under Idaho

Today’s Idaho poll offered up by Mason Dixon – broadly regarded as one of the better polling firms in the country – courtesy the Boise Idaho Statesman and KIVI-TV in Nampa, shows a general election campaign riding on the razor edge.

The core numbers are these:

Office Republican % Democratic % Undecided %
1st US House Bill Sali 39% Larry Grant 37% 21%
Governor Butch Otter 44% Jerry Brady 43% 12%
Lt Gov Jim Risch 45% Larry La Rocco 36% 18%
Supt Pub Instr Tom Luna 40% Jana Jones 37% 23%

That these numbers are as close as they are in Idaho is noteworthy on its face, and an indicator that recent polls showing a closing of the races are not outliers.

Looks like a serious horse race. But more specifically, what do we make of it? Continue Reading »

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Oct 28 2006

Meta-stats

Published by under website

By way of notation, for any interested . . . ‘Twas almost exactly a year ago when this side moved from pure HTML to database (those older posts remain accessible through archives); we were loathe to let go hands-on site manufacture, but the demands of the modern web made it necessary, and WordPress software has been a worthy handler.

The features it made possible (common and ordinary among many web sites these days) probably contributed to this site’s growth: Our average daily visits have more than tripled in the past year, and we don’t seem to be levelling off. Total visits during that time stand at 314,388.

Thanks for stopping by. You’re in growing company.

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Oct 28 2006

Perspective on ‘red to blue’

Published by under Idaho,Washington

Democrats in eastern Washington and western Idaho were cheered this week when their candidates, Peter Goldmark and Larry Grant, in the 5th and 1st respectively, were upgraded to the national Democratic “red to blue” list – the party’s list of hot and truly competitive races. Which both, in fact, seem to be.

A moment, please, for what this says in larger-picture perspective, as we look toward the election 10 days off. Continue Reading »

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Oct 27 2006

Tying Minnis to Foley

Published by under Oregon

Musing: You have to wonder if the impact is all it might be. But it might be. Could it be that a 10-year-old civil case could cost a half-million dollars now, so much more than the $20,000 back then?

Karen MinnisThe subject is a sad incident dating from 1995, just now unearthed (the process and timing of which would be interesting to know, and isn’t entirely clear yet). The political principals are Karen Minnis, now speaker of the Oregon House, and her husband John, who in 1995 was both a state legislator (she worked for him then as an aide) and a police officer. Briefly, the story is this:

The Minnises in 1995 opened a pizza parlor at Hillsboro. Both otherwise employed, they hired John Minnis’ brother Tuck to manage it. It was an unfortunate choice. According to court records, Tuck Minnis soon began sexually harassing the help – the descriptions in court records put his actions well beyond the pale of ambiguity – culminating in an attack on a 17-year-old girl who worked there, at the restaurant, the point of “attempting to tear off plaintiff’s clothing in an apparent attempt to rape her.” She told her mother, who in turn called John Minnis (at the statehouse) to complain.

The eventual lawsuit (another female employee also eventually sued) said the Minnises “retaliated against plaintiff [the girl] for resisiting and reporting the sexual harassment conduct, as alleged above, by engaging in a course of intentional conduct designed to traumatize plaintiff and force her to quit, including but not limited to excusing defendant Tuck Minnis’ conduct toward plaintiff, assigning plaintiff to undesirable later night shifts, ordering her to change or wardrobe on and off work, setting rules for women employees that were not applied to men, reducing plaintiff’s work hours, changing her job description from hostess to cook, punitively treating her in a rude and angry manner, and writing her up for alleged insubordination on the job.” (She was at the time, remember, age 17.) She stopped working at the restaurant soon after, and then sued. The Minnises paid $20,000 to settle the civil suit. John and Karen Minnis removed Tuck Minnis as manager of the business, but kept him on as an employee there until November, when he apparently left voluntarily. Continue Reading »

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Oct 27 2006

A proposal for restoration

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

The winding down of this year’s campaign means time is coming not only to vote but also to consider how this process can be improved next time. Do we really want a 2008 campaign season that becomes simply a bigger and badder version of this one? Thought not (for most of us, that is).

Here’s one such suggestion (we will have more soon).

Consider the Thursday ruling by the Supreme Court in Montana (Montanans for Justice v. State) throwing out (more precisely, declaring void) three ballot issues which actually will appear on the state’s ballot. These issues were backed by some of the same outfits which sent their tentacles into Washington, Oregon and Idaho this season. Here’s a piece of what the court said happened: Continue Reading »

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Oct 26 2006

Not just where, but why, the money

Published by under Idaho

Do the national Republicans appreciate the extent to which this is beginning to make Republican Bill Sali look ever more like a seriously at-risk candidate in a heavily Republican district?

Word up today that yet another massive buy on Sali’s behalf from a national Republican committee – at a time when national Republican money has been pulled from some states – and that Vice President Dick Cheney will pay yet another another visit to the 1st district, once again to help Sali. There seems to be no bottom to the generosity of the national Republicans and allied groups (hello, Club for Growth) on this race – by election day, their independent expenditures on Sali’s behalf will approach the total campaign expenditures of Sali and Democrat Larry Grant taken together. What the national Republicans will spend in the last month of this campaign, in fact, probably will exceed Grant’s total spending (which has not been shabby for a Democrat) all year. That’s in addition to the Club’s central underwriting ever since last fall of much of Sali’s campaign treasury.

Gee, you’d think these guys didn’t have confidence in Sali to do his own thing. Which raises the question: To what extent is Sali doing his own thing?

It suggests two more questions too. Continue Reading »

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Oct 25 2006

Blowback?

Published by under Oregon

The biggest political question in Oregon for the last several weeks – without a lot of visible poll results – is the state of play in the governor’s race, between incumbent Democrat Ted Kulongoski and Republican challenger Ron Saxton.

Ted Kulongoski
Ted Kulongoski
Ron Saxton
Ron Saxton

Looks increasingly as if, after a stretch where the candidates were closely matched, the govenror has opened a substantial lead again.

We’re not sure we buy the whole 11-point Kulongoski lead in the just-released Riley Research (of Portland) poll report (this copy by way of the Oregonian political blog). But, with maybe a few points shaved off, it does match other scraps of evidence we’ve encountered lately about the top Oregon contest. Continue Reading »

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Oct 25 2006

The Final Push

Published by under Idaho,Washington

We now have it definitively from the National Republican Congressional Committee: The top three U.S. House races in the Northwest – Washington 5 and 8 and Idaho 1 – are among the 33 top races in the country. All three, we know courtesy of The Hill newspaper, have placed on the NRCC’s “Final Push List.”

That list is about focusing financial help to specific campaigns. PAC Director Jenny Sheffield was quoted: “…it’s crucial at this point to send in some late money to some [of] our campaigns. The funds our candidates receive now will allow them to increase their TV buys and will make the difference on Nov. 7. I have attached our Final Push list for those Members and candidates most in need of support right now. If your boss has not maxed out to those on the attached list, please ask him or her to consider sending a check from a leadership PAC and/or reelection account … IMMEDIATELY!”

You sense a tone of urgency. Considering how securely Republican the three Northwest districts have been in recent elections, this is a remarkable admission (and backs up Cathy McMorris’ comments last week that the Washington 5th is in play).

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Oct 24 2006

Goal

Published by under Idaho

We shouldn’t let this go unnoted, if only as a model for next time around: Idaho 2nd District House candidate Jim Hansen’s fundraising.

Jim HansenHansen, a Democrat, is running a steeply underdog campaign against incumbent Republican Mike Simpson. Money was certainly never going to come easy, and Hansen decided early on that he would accept no PAC money, only contributions of $100 or less. His argument: “If at least 5,000 people donate $100 that ought to be enough to run a congressional campaign without going to the PACs and lobbyists that are strong-armed by Congress to fork over huge contributions every day. It is a leap of faith based on Jim’s convictions. The consultants inside DC think it’s nuts, but virtually every person Jim talks to in Idaho – ordinary voters – appreciate it as a principled stand. It is only risky if everyone who agrees with Jim sits back and does nothing.”

He acknowledged he’d draw some skepticism, and probably did. We weren’t dismissive, though, having seen the recently-developing power of grassroots fundraising.

So what has Hansen raised?

As of September 30, according to federal finance reports, he pulled $110,888, all of it from individuals.

Simpson has overall raised much more, $467,776 (and could have raised more, no doubt, if he felt more strongly threatened). But he raised $126,755 from individuals, not so much more than Hansen.

In today’s context, $110,000 (and Hansen has doubtless raised more since September) isn’t usually enough to win a congressional seat, but it is enough to get one’s word out.

Something interesting is going on.

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JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
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NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
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