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Posts published in “Day: October 2, 2006”

Buying TV

By all means run over - when you're done here - to the post at Loaded Orygun about how much candidates and committees have been spending in Portland's television media market.

There are some some limitations on this as an absolute overview of Oregon TV buys this campaign season. The big one is that there are other, albeit much smaller, TV markets in Oregon as well - Eugene, Medford/Klamath Falls, Bend (and the latter should no longer be an afterthought). But as an indicator of who's buying, this Portland survey will do well indeed.

The first stiking item is who's buying big. Three entities have bought over 1,000 spots on Portland TV so far - Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron Saxton, Oregonians Against Insurance Rate Increases/No on 42, and Mike Erickson. After those three, the number of spots by a specific buyer falls by mre than half.

One thing all three of those campaigns have in common is this: They are underdogs with deep pockets.

Deepest of all is the insurance industry, which has been spending millions to oppose Measure 42 - the one that would bar insurance companies from using credit ratings in setting coverage or premium levels - while its backer, Bill Sizemore, says he's literally spending nothing. What that tells us: This is an idea popular enough that budgets of millions, will be needed to keep it from passing, and that still may not be enough. It is the most remarkable such case on the ballot.

Not quite as deep are the pockets of Mike Erickson, whose hardcore air war against Democratic Representative Darlene Hooley - reciprocated fully - will be interesting to watch play out. We're skeptical about its efficacy.

Saxton, who has been a candidate for governor in the current cycle for a year or so, has been consistently behind Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski - although apparently, according to the latest polls, not by much. This effort is the leverage of raw money to win points, or at least lower the gap, and that he may have done to some extent. His 2,879 spots in the Portland market matches against Kulongoski's 387 - a gap of more than 7-1. That Kulongoski apparently remains ahead, and that the race has changed so little fundamentally, (and that the governor has spent so little of his own money so far, probably keeping him competitive in the next few weeks) may say something.

A recent lesson from across the Columbia may be pertinent. In the couple of months leading up to the mid-September Washington state primary, Chief Justice Gerry Alexander was the target of millions of dollars of broadcast attack ads, to which his side responded but with far fewer dollars - maybe about a third as many. Alexander won the election decisively.

There may be limits to how many votes these spots can buy. We'll know more about that, soon.

Helen Chenoweth-Hage

Quite a lot will doubtless be said soon about Helen Chenoweth-Hage, who died in a car crash this morning near Tonopah, Nevada. The former U.S. representative from Idaho's 1st district (1995-2001) was a distinctive and strong personality, and it seems peculiarly unfitting that her passing occur as a passenger in an auto accident; that's simply tragic.

Helen Chenoweth-HageWe recall her most specifically in connection with one arrival and two departures.

The arrival was political, in the year 1994, when she entered the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House. At the time she did that, her prospects seemed dim. Though she was a veteran Republican worker and staffer, she was the least-known of the three Republicans seeking the nomination, the less funded, the one everyone figured would be in third place - the fight, said the cognoscenti, would be between the other two. And whichever won would be unlikely to unseat the incumbent, Democrat Larry La Rocco, who had won easy re-election in two years before.

So much for all that: Helen Chenoweth (as she was then) ran an energetic race and took the prize. It was a cationary note, in a sense, to be careful who you underestimate. Which sets up the two departures ...

In 2000, she was facing a situation many of her colleagues were: In 1994 a lot of Republicans elected to Congress pledged to serve three terms and no more. In 2000 a lot of Republicans broke that pledge. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (as she was by then) did not: She kept her word and stepped down. She's had no lack of critics over the years, but they've all had to moderate their criticism of her with that tough-minded show of integrity.

As a private citizen, she remained vocal and tough-minded, and not just on a public platform. One day, not so long ago, she was at the Boise airport preparing for a flight back to Nevada, where in recent years she has lived with husband Wayne Hage. Arriving at the search area, she was instructed to submit to a search she thought was unreasonable. She asked the officials there: What is your authority for asking for this? (That being a question any citizen should always be able to ask of a government official and expect a clear answer.) She was told: We won't tell you. She then did what a liberty-minded American citizen should always do in such a situation, and what all too few actually do: She picked up her bags, walked out and drove to Nevada.

There was a day, in the early and mid parts of her congressional tenure, when Helen Chenoweth's critics were unflagging in their blasts at her. We suspect that a lot of them, reflecting today, wish she were still around to take up the battle. She will be missed.

Cantwell up by 10

Or so reads the latest poll on the Washington Senate race, by McClatchy-MSNBC. It gives incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell 50% and Republican challenger Mike McGavick 40% - close to where they have been, on average, through most of the campaign season.

Barring some really unexpected last minute quirk, the race looks close to done. McGavick has campaigned intensively and advertised intensively, but all of his efforts have moved the needle hardly at all.

One part of the reason may appear in other results in the poll: "The poll showed sharp dissatisfaction with President Bush, his Iraq policies and Congress among Washington voters. It also showed deep concern about the future of the country, with nearly 60 percent of those surveyed believing it was headed in the wrong direction." Our observations and what we see of polling results suggest that this election is becoming quite nationalized.