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Posts published in “Day: October 5, 2006”

Fusion: Candidates in multiplicity

In Oregon today, as in most states, you got your Democratic candidate for governor, your Republican candidate for governor, your minor party candidates for governor - and no sharing, please. Each candidate picks one party, and each party picks different candidates.

Was not always thus, as Lou Jacobson, a deputy editor at Roll Call (the D.C. Capitol Hill newspaper), points out in his latest column. For a century and more, until about a century ago, multiple political parties often cross-endorsed candidates. (The candidate who was the top vote getter ever among Idaho candidates for governor, Frank Steunenberg in 1896, was one of them, collecting endorsements from five of the six parties on the ballot.) The practice is uncommon now in most of the country; occasionally it still happens in New York.

Jacobson points out that an initiative to allow fusion voting is on the ballot now in Massachusetts. The idea is to allow smaller groups to become part of a joint process in nominating and electing candidates.

We note that here because he also says this: "Already, Oregon's WFP [Working Families Party] is trying to enact fusion voting through the Legislature. If that fails, it may try to circulate a ballot initiative, said Ben Healey, communications director for the Mass Ballot Freedom Campaign, the group that is sponsoring the Massachusetts initiative. Other states where activists have been trying to promote the idea include Ohio, Missouri and Washington."

This could be transformative for some minor parties. We'll be watching.

Vasquez rides again

Robert Vasquez, th Canyon County commissioner whose focus on illegal immigration has become his calling card, came in second place earlier this year in the Republican primary for the 1st congressional district. Wednesday, he delivered an announcement suggesting that is his rationale for running in 2008 for the U.S. Senate, against incumbent Republican Larry Craig.

Robert VasquezA note of caution should be inserted before we go any further. Underdog candidacies announced so early, even before the two-year election system begins (that won't happen for another month), have a way of not materializing: The candidate comes to appreciate the difficulty of the task ahead, and bails, quietly. That could happen here, but we think probably not. Vasquez is a man on a mission, for one thing, and for him the campaign is worth running even absent success. Besides that, he just got done experiencing the realities of a U.S. House race. He wouldn't be going into this unawares.

The question then becomes, how seriously shold Vasquez' candidacy be taken? The core answer is, somewhere between earth-shaking and dismissable. It stands to become a factor, if he does stay in.

There is the matter of Craig's future, for one thing. Vasquez is contending that Craig has lost touch with Idaho after so many years in Congress. (He first joined the U.S. House in 1981, so it's been more than a quarter-century.) But then, there's some question about whether Craig necessarily will run again anyway. In 2008 he will have had 18 years in the U.S. Senate, a long stretch, and if he has any interest in doing something else (such as making a larger amount of money), this would be a logical time. There's another consideration. Craig has spent much of his time, and most recent years, in the majority. Odds seem about even right now who will be the majority after this year's election, and because of the nature of seats up in 2008, Republicans might not keep their majority then even if they retain it this year. Craig could be factoring that into his thinking, too; being in minority after having been in the majority isn't nearly as satisfying.

Vasquez has been nearly a one-issue candidate, and that usually doesn't sell well. But in a field of six Republican House candidates, it was this year good enough for second place.

He could be strong enough to pose an issue for Craig. And if Craig opts out - he wouldn't on account of Vasquez, but might for other reasons - Vasquez starts out as the early contender.

Worth bearing in mind as we move beyond this cycle, as soon we will.