The absolute assertion in today’s lead Salon article that Madison County, Idaho – and notably its main city, Rexburg – is “the reddest place in America,” is open to some dispute. We can cite a county or two in Idaho that may statistically surpass it, and elsewhere around the country there may be a few more. But that feels like a quibble; certainly you’ll not find many places more Republican in 2006 than the home of the Brigham Young University-Idaho, an institution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Rexburg cityHave been there many a time over three decades, we can testify that writer Tim Grieve well captured the political nature of the place. Anyone interested in why much of Idaho, including much of eastern Idaho, is as it is, would do well to read it, though Rexburg sets somewhat apart from most other Idaho communities by virtue of the presence of the explosively growing BYU-I, which is just as conservative if not more so than its parent, BYU in Provo, Utah.

Grieve might be interested to know that, though Rexburg has for a century and more been overwhelmingly Mormon (recent estimates put the church’s portion of the population at well upward of 90%), it has not always been single-party. A generation ago it regularly elected Democrats alongside Republicans to the legislature and courthouse, and one of the leading families in town, in local politics and as owners of the local paper, were staunch Democrats. But those days appear to be past.

As this passage indicates:

And perhaps the results are preordained because of the monolithic influence of the Church of Latter Day Saints. As BYU-I English professor Dawn Anderson tells me, it’s important to understand that most voters in Madison County are Mormons, and that “everything of a political nature” has to be understood in that context.

“The climate surrounding faithful membership in this organization is not always conducive to challenging authority,” she says. “People here are reluctant to openly criticize the president and his administration, even if they privately disapprove of his job.” And many of them don’t disapprove, even privately. “After 20 years of teaching Mormon students, I’ve learned that the majority of them have little knowledge of issues outside the Republican platform. They only know that Democrats are lesbian baby-killers.”

She’s not being figurative. Anderson also recounts: “She remembers the time when a group of classmates followed her third-grader home, shouting out ‘baby-killer’ all along the way. She took it up with the teacher, who didn’t seem to mind.”

Anderson (who is a Democrat) doesn’t go on to say whether the BYU-I students, when they cast their votes, genuinely feel they are casting well-informed votes. But in this particular college town, such a concept takes on a framework all its own.

If Idaho largely remains, in this year of the blue wave, determinely red, there are reasons.

CORRECTED to change the name of publication to the (correct) Salon.

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In Oregon as nowhere else, the general election campaign jumps the shark today. By now, just about all Oregonians have received their ballots, and today they begin to vote; “election day” November 7 merely marks completion of the process.

ballots The campaign is hardly over, however: People do not cast their votes all at once. So to what extent do the remaining ads, campaigns, statements, news items and so on still count for something? A substantial amount, apparently.

We can put numbers to it. The Oregon Secretary of State’s office tracks the number of ballots returned by day, and from those numbers we can pull some trends.

The patterns differ for primary and special elections, but general election returns tend to be bunched near the end. In the 2004 general election ballot returns were fairly spread out, only modestly bunched at the end (40% of returns in the last three days, out of 13 days available). But in the 2002 general election, 55% of all returns came in the last three days out of 13. And in the 2000 general, 54% arrived in the last three of 12 days, the number was 51% in 1998.

Some of this may reflect active get out the vote (GOTV) campaigns which track who has and hasn’t yet voted (which is not especially hard to do), and then getting their people to send in those ballots. Some of it may reflect procrastination.

But while those late voters don’t eliminate the value of late campaigning, the half or so that vote earlier do wipe out many of the late slime campaigns voters elsewhere are accustomed to.

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In Oregon, ballots already are in the mail (some may have received them Saturday, most others should on Monday), so endorsements are long done. Although the Portland Oregonian is still dealing with fallout from last Sunday’s gubernatorial endorsement of Republican Ron Saxton: the paper says that somewhere near 400 letters to the editor flooded in last week in protest.

Will any of these other regional endorsements generate such response?

They tend not to generate a lot of surprise.

SEATTLE TIMES/SENATE Not a big shocker, that the Times went for Republican Mike McGavick over Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell (whom it endorsed six years ago). But the language seemed tepid. It didn’t much blast Cantwell, who (it said) has a decent record, taking issue mostly with her “caution.” The McGavick praise seemed a little narrow, praising mostly his spirit of innovation.

So the paper left itself open to an increasingly frequent charge, really needing to address it – as it did: “Critics will note that McGavick supports the elimination of the federal estate tax, a cause for which The Seattle Times has campaigned many years. That is part of why we endorse him, but not most of it.” How much of it will be a topic for easy dispute.

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER/SENATE Elsewhere in the same large bundle of paper on Washingtonians’ doorsteps today they will find the PI‘s opposing take on the race. (Times goes R, PI goes D; okay, got it.) Their take, with a more definitive tone than the Times‘, concluded, “With America needing to fix off-track federal leadership, every Senate vote counts. Maria Cantwell is the candidate for a real change in course.”

SPOKANE SPOKESMAN REVIEW/U.S. HOUSE 5 After minimal coverage of the 5th district race – little that we could find, anyway – the paper endorses the incumbent, Republican Cathy McMorris.

EVERETT HERALD/CONGRESS The Herald went with the Democrats in its endorsements for Congress: Cantwell for the Senate, and Jay Inslee and Rick Larsen for their House seats. The argument for Inslee particularly was notable since it seized on what Inslee might do in case of a Democratic takeover of the House.

BOISE IDAHO STATESMAN/U.S. HOUSE 1 No shocker here either, as Idaho’s largest paper endorses Democrat Larry Grant over Republican Bill Sali. The Statesman notes that Grant “is a first-time candidate – yet he shows a studied, nuanced command of the issues.”

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Our Thursday post on the regional U.S. House races listed Washington’s 5th district contest, between incumbent Republican Cathy McMorris and Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark, as a serious contest – running up steadily to the point that it now merits serious watching.

We half-expected some counter on that from some area Republicans, and surely would have a few months ago. But conditions have changed, that assessment is mainstream, and now comes confirmation that the race is closing from none other than McMorris.

We got this courtesy of a glitch in telephone technology and Spokane Spokesman-Review political reporter Jim Camden. Camden on Thursday had dialed in to listen to a McMorris town hall session on veterans. Placed on mute (so that he couldn’t participate) – but inadvertently not on hold, like other participants, which would have blocked the private conversation – he overheard some pre-meeting chatter between McMorris and Idaho Senator Larry Craig, who chairs the Senate committee on veterans services. During that short conversation, McMorris told Craig, “It’s a closer race than I first imagined,” and advised her fellow Republican that Goldmark was “hitting very hard” on veterans issues.

Craig’s response was that nationally, “The new numbers are just devastating.”

This looks to be turning into an unusual political season.

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The ist district House race remains Topic A in Idaho – and beyond: We just got off the phone with a reporter from the Washington Post, so look for an ID-1 piece there soon – so: Here’s another log on the fire . . .

We’ll refer now to the blog byBubblehead (a term derived from his years in military submarine service, in case you wondered), a Republican who has issues with Republican 1st district House nominee Bill Sali. This paragraph in a recent post caught our attention.

Your biography indicates your faith plays a great role in your life, and I respect that. Many people in this district feel the same way. Do you feel that you could effectively represent those in this district who don’t share your beliefs? I’m a little concerned about this because the national leader of your church, Calvary Chapel, doesn’t believe that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are Christians. Considering that over 25% of Idahoans are Mormons, I think it would be of interest to us to know if you believe the teachings of Chuck Smith in this regard: do you personally believe that Mormons are Christian?

This brought back to mind an incident fron seven years ago, on the edge of the 1st district.

Reel back to July 1999, to Spokane, when the Mormon church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – was building and preparing to open their first temple in the city, a big event for the faithful in the area, and an indication of the solid growth in church members in the area. (Temples serve large regional groups of Mormons, as opposed to the local LDS ward buildings which appear in many communities around the Northwest.)

At the time, the largest single Christian church there and then was Calvary Chapel Spokane – you notice the name – was decided, amidst this activity, to bring in a high-profile guest speaker to preach at three well-promoted events. He was Bill McKeever, founder of the California-based Mormonism Research Ministry, and his speech was aimed at debunking Mormon doctrine. (It was not a one-time thing: The Spokane church still has a thorough criticism of Mormon doctrine posted on its web site.) The basic Mormon response was to “turn the other cheek,” rather than get into a theological war. But the incident still had to sting. (A Spokane Spokesman-Review account of this can be found about halfway down a research web document.)

The Kuna church does not include such items on its web site. But, taken together with attitudes toward religion nationally and in governing circles in Washington, it does suggest that Bubblehead’s question isn’t irrelevant.

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How’s this for a head-spinner: An attack on Idaho’s Proposition 2 from the right that very nearly matches with a central attack on it from the left, and center?

Robert Vasquez
Robert Vasquez

The tone is unmistakable, though: This could be no one but (retiring, but upcoming Senate candidate) Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez.

In an Idaho Statesman guest opinion, he takes after the land use initiative in part (and this is very much a loose paraphrase) based on his experience in local government, arguing that local governments, which are most closely beholden to the voters, would be superseded by a state action. In that, he joins the view of a lot of other elected officials around the state.

Then this:

Let me set the stage by reiterating the collusion between Idaho’s 1st Congressional District candidate, Bill Sali, and the Club for Growth.

Club for Growth bought the candidacy of Bill Sali for a mere $330,000 (more or less) in soft money, negative campaign ads. Then Laird Maxwell, a staunch Sali supporter, steps forward with this Proposition 2 proposal, under the guise of “free market, private property rights” that would, of course, strike a chord with the Idaho sense of independence. What Mr. Maxwell does not disclose in his efforts is the fact that the Club for Growth has contributed to the funding to get Proposition 2 on the November ballot.

Now enters Bill Sali, still serving as a member of the Idaho House of Representatives, professing to be a low-taxes, small government conservative Republican, who voted in August to raise the Idaho sales tax by 20 percent, but makes no comment when asked about his position on Proposition 2.

Why? Because Club for Growth is guiding both campaigns, in hopes of fooling the Idaho voter once again into giving up their congressional representation to corporate greed, and the citizens’ right to testify in opposition at land use hearings under the existing land use law.

Whew. And concluding: “Let us send a message to the Club for Growth, and their puppets, Laird Maxwell and Bill Sali, that Idaho is not for sale.” Notice that Democratic call-out at the end? (Don’t tell us it was inadvertent.)

Appears, more and more, that Idaho voters are increasingly likely to kill this thing.

THE SALI ANGLE Sali’s role in this requires a little more explication, and happily the Nampa Idaho Press Tribune ran a piece today adding useful details.

Bear in mind the early conventional wisdom on Prop 2 was that – given the way its supportive rhetoric matches neatly with often-winning political rhetoric in Idaho – it would sail through to a win. We still don’t know for sure what will happen, but its chances of success today look considerably trimmed from a few months ago. Add to that a normal bit of political strategy, that politicians like to associate themselves with winning issues, not with losers. Watch people like Republican gubernatorial candidate C.L. “Butch” Otter struggle with Prop 2 and finally come out against it, and you can see the prevailing winds in action.

In July, the Boise Weekly‘s Shea Anderson asked 1st House district Republican nominee Bill Sali about Prop 2. He wrote that Sali said he would vote for it, and added the comment, “As John Locke said, ‘the preservation of property’ rights is the ‘end of government,'” Sali said in a statement e-mailed to BW. “Government should be a good neighbor with property owners, and Proposition 2 embodies that principle.” Based on that, Prop 2 organizer Laird Maxwell listed Sali on his web site as a supporter, which seems reasonable. Sali’s name has been there for quite a while; it is listed there still. (A quick aside: The endorsement list for Prop 2 includes one state senator out of 35, four state representatives out 70, and one incumbent local government official, out of thousands statewide. There may be a message in that.)

The Press Tribune today quoted, “Bill is still undecided on how he’ll vote on Proposition 2,” in the words of candidate spokesman Wayne Hoffman; and “I think what Bill said is that he supports the concept but he still needed to review the proposal.”

This from the man whose campaign is based around the idea of black-and-white certainty about such matters as (among others) taxes and property rights. If Hoffman’s words are literally true, then Sali must be one of the last people in Idaho tracking public affairs at all who doesn’t know what they think – pro or con – about Prop 2. And that would be remarkable.

This is a landmark development in this election season in Idaho. It speaks not just volumes but shelves about both Sali and about the proposition.

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It’s a statewide nonpartisan poll, conducted October 6-8, relatively little noted, on key Oregon election issues, including the governorship and all the ballot issues. As noted by its provider, it has to be taken with caution. But it still may be of interest.

The chief cautions: A low number of respondents for Oregon statewide (the original intent had been higher), a ihgh margin of error and a survey population that’s out of whack with Oregon’s overall. It also registers a high percentage of undecideds. Still, the methodology looks reasonable, and the results may be worth noting if you adjust for basic demographic factors. It was conducted by the Linfield College (McMinnville) School of Communications.

After accounting for several adjustments, the poll suggests that (as of its survey time) Democratic Governor Ted Lulongoski held a discernible lead, though well less than the survey suggests on its face (an 18.9% lead).

Maybe of more interest, it offers the chance to compare popularity of the ballot issues against each other. Most popular: 40, 45, 47. Least: 42, 38.

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The three Pacific Northwest states (those we track, anyway) have 16 U.S. House seats, 10 held by Democrats, six by Republicans. All are up for election this year; just four appear to be seriously contested. But three of those four are getting increasingly interesting. Below, we’ll do a reassessment.

By excluding some races from the ranks of “seriously contested,” we aren’t suggesting that the campaigns in all other districts are without point, but we do suggest the evidence points to them more as longshots than as prospective nailbiters on November 7. We’ll take a run through the “active” races as well.

First, the top four, in order of the likely edge-of-the-seat quality for election night, and the likely nervousness of the incumbent – and there are incumbents in all of them (just one open seat in the Northwest this year).

In the case of three of these races, a quick note. In months past, we’d periodically remark that we’d consider it very close or competitive or switching direction if certain indicators appeared on the horizon. Suffice to say: Many of them have duly (maybe surprisingly) appeared.

Dave Reichert
Dave Reichert
Darcy Burner
Darcy Burner

1. Washington 8th – incumbent Dave Reichert, Republican, challenger Darcy Burner, Democrat. Look on any substantial national list of key House races nationwide in the last half-year, and Reichert-Burner will figure prominently. Our most recent post on this one called it a tossup, and there seems no reason to change that. Quite a few national assessments say the same. So do a lot of polls, which in the last few weeks consistently have shown these contenders within two or three points of each other, both hanging close to, often barely shy of, the 50% mark.

This race got to that point in a smooth trajectory and since appears to have become stuck in neutral, maybe in part because not many undecideds may be left. It’s become a terrific tug of war. The ad war has been fierce, and sometimes there’s been blowback. Burner has been airing a spot featuring video of Reichert saying, “So when the jeadership comes to me and says, ‘Dave, we need you to take a vote over here because we want to protect you and keep this majority,’ I do it.’” It leaves out what he says next: “There are some times where I say, ‘No, I won’t.’” And it was taken from a video presentation by TVW, which bans use of its material for political campaigns. Burner has some significant complaints too, especially about the wave of third-party ads and robocalls in the district. Reichert got the Seattle Times endorsement; Burner’s backers seem if anything energized in their responses to it.

One indicator of a superheated race is when it draws big national money late in the game, when everyone most desperately needs it and priority decisions have to be made. This race has drawn massive funding in recent days from national Republican sources, and it’s the only one in recent days to draw a big pile ($355,00, last night) from the national Democrats as well. Washington 8 is as fiercely contested as any race in the country. A significant Democratic wave – even one smaller than now appears in development – could put Burner on top. This is an increasingly nationalized race, and that’s bad news for Reichert. In his campaigning and in his term as congressman, he’s been just close enough to President George W. Bush and to House leadership (pictures and all) to give Burner terrific ammunition.

For the moment, we’ll keep it in the tossup category, but barely. Reichert is riding on the ragged edge. He not only cannot afford a mistake; he can’t afford to run less than perfectly from here on. And that might not be enough.

Bill Sali
Bill Sali
Larry Grant
Larry Grant

2. Idaho 1st – challenger Bill Sali, Republican, challenger Larry Grant, Democrat. Political analysts nationally today view the overall contest for the U.S. House far differently than they did a few months or even many weeks ago. Even in mid-summer, few serious analysts in either party figured more than 25 or 30 Republican House seats were in significant jeopardy; today, that figure has doubled. That kind of massive national trend is one of the “free radicals” we suggested earlier this year as a contributor to a possible Democratic – Larry Grant – win in the 1st. National trends favoring Democrats tend not to permeate well into the Idaho electorate. But this surge looks truly big, and if it is, this seat is up for grabs.

Two factors underlie this. One is the Democratic wave, of course, but what gives that wheels is other consideration, a persistent sense that Republican Bill Sali has not brought all his party’s supporters under his umbrella. Republican moderates fled early, but that was never considered a big problem; conservatives have won substantially here before without them. The bigger issue seems to be uneven support in the mainline Republican organization – relatively few of Sali’s fellow legislators seem to be standing with him, for example – together with gaps in support. The latter appears most visibly in the form of one of Sali’s primary opponents, Robert Vasquez, who has continued blasting away at Sali in recent weeks. Vasquez’ second-place primary status shows he has a following that will listen. These in-party issues would not be enough, either, without (a) a meltdown on Sali’s part, (b) a brilliantly offensive campaign by the Democrats, or (c) a massive national wave that might pull just enough Democrats along.

Sali hasn’t melted down. His campaign has been run smartly, and Sali has performed well and sometimes better than that in his debates and other appearances (as has Grant). Grant’s campaign, if not a brilliant takedown effort, has established him as solid and credible. Neither campaign has made a serious slip so far.

Is this race close? The last poll put it 49-43, Sali leading – and that’s competitive. A better indication is Sali’s radio ads, which have gone negative on Grant: If Sali’s Republican tag were clearly sufficient to win, he’d be running out the clock with positive ads about himself instead. An even better indicator is new third-party robo-calls and the massive influx of money from national Republican sources, which materialized after Republicans polled on the race, and then declined to release the results. Yes, it looks close. (Less so than Washington 8, though; national Democrats haven’t been as forthcoming here.)

Republicans in Idaho have, over the last generation, showed uncommon skill at closing the sale right at the end. We aren’t labelling this a toss-up yet; it leans Republican. But gently; a much stronger breeze could push it over.

Cathy McMorris
Cathy McMorris
Peter Goldmark
Peter Goldmark

3. Washington 5th – incumbent Cathy McMorris, Republican, challenger Peter Goldmark, Democrat. In 2004 Cathy McMorris blew away two strong Republican primary opponents and in a near-landslide general election the best Democratic nominee the district had seen since Ton Foley. When her opponent this year turned out to be a rancher named Peter Goldmark who had never sought elective office before and wasn’t very well known around the district, and had no strong fundraising edge . . . well, this didn’t look like a nail-biter.

Today, though, you’d have to call it a serious race, and if the national Democratic wave is large enough, Goldmark could win. Today, we’d still call this a Republican-leaner. A week from now, that could change.

The big factor is the national picture, but Washington 5 is a district pointing out the folly of just letting the incumbent party go unchallenged – for that matter, of doing less than your best. Goldmark (who does have a political pedrigree, in that his father was a state legislator in the 60s), has had only limited advantages, but has made quite a lot of what he does have. He is a rancher from Okanogan, and uses the slog “Ride with Goldmark” – distinctive and more rugged-sounding than your typical Democrat. He only is a rancher, but looks (exactly) like one; and not only that, he’s been extremely active for decades in farm and ranching organizations and causes, giving him leg up in the rural areas where he’s been running especially hard. His race – this contest – has gotten little media attention in Spokane. But Spokane Democrats are re-energized this year, and better organized than usual. After a slow start, money has started coming in, and that together with web video has allowed him to cut some well-crafted spots that could logically sell in this district. He has done well in debates with McMorris. You sense a real energy around his campaign.

McMorris, by contrast, hasn’t been defining herself in especially helpful ways; at this point, she is easily cast as one of the participants in that awful Congress.

There’s not much to go on by way of polling or other big indicators. Our sense of this race, though, is that it’s becoming a real race. We’d not call it likely for Goldmark, yet. But if on election night you start seeing a smattering of Democratic dark horse wins around the country, don’t be too surprised if this is one of them.

Darlene Hooley
Darlene Hooley
Mike Erickson
Mike Erickson

4. Oregon 5th – incumbent Darlene Hooley, Democrat, challenger Mike Erickson, Republican. There is one basic reason this race is so serious: Erickson’s money, which he has contributed plentifully toward his effort to unseat Hooley.

Hooley is not without funds herself, and Erickson’s barrage of negative TV spots (some positives of himself intermixed) has been met solidly with return fire from Hooley; she didn’t just sit there and take it. In terms of pure TV visibility, it may be the most visible U.S. House race in the Northwest. If Hooley is genuinely vulnerable, this campaign should be enough to expose the weaknesses.

We’re not persuaded those weaknesses – there are some – are strong. Hooley’s support in the district is not overwhelming but it does seem solid enough not to be wiped away in a single run of TV ads. The seat is more than gently leaning in Hooley’s direction, we think. (None of this even factors in the national political trends, which favor Hooley to the extent they materialize.) If there have been unseen termites quietly chomping away at that support, we’ll take the measure of that, too, on November 7.

OTHER RACES We have kept a lookout on these other races, too. All can be considered active races: Candidates on both sides are making legitimate efforts, are much more than placeholders – but as matter stand none look likely to be close enough to keep everyone wondering late into the night.

IDAHO 2 Republican Representative Mike Simpson is simply a very, very tough target for Democrat Jim Hansen, who has been running a sound, intelligent and enthusiastic campaign pushing well beyond simply carrying the banner. But his odds here are just very tough, even in a year like this. If this seat flips, you will have witnessed a political cataclysm. (Do keep a look, though, on what the final percentage it; that may be parse-worthy.)

OREGON 4 Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio has run and won here in 10 general elections, few of them in conditions nearly so favorable as this. Republican Jim Feldkamp has worked hard in his second run in a row, but there’s little evidence he’s farther ahead now than he was two years ago at this point – and two years ago, when President Bush was a lot more popular in this district than he is now, he got crushed.

WASHINGTON 2 A string of newspaper editorials and news stories said it, and we won’t argue: Republican Doug Roulstone, who has run a solid and (for a challenger) well-funded campaign, is such a match for this district he probably would win this seat if it were open. As it is, he’s challenging a Democrat – Rick Larsen – who has the experience of barely winning some squeakers before consolidating his support and winning big last time. That kind of hard-won experience coupled with the wrong kind of year for Roulstone indicates that this cycle isn’t good timing. Larsen may not pull a landslide, but he’s a very solid bet to win.

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The longest single batch of endorsements in the Northwest is out today from Willamette Week, an entertaining read as usual but offering few surprises.

In the case of the governor’s race, you pick up an air of general disgust, though in the end WW did what you’d expect and endorsed Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski.

Most amusing endorsement, in House 29: “Flip-flop alert: Four years ago, we endorsed Riley against Republican Mary Gallegos, who painted him as a taxaholic. He lost. When the two squared off again in 2004, we backed Gallegos, who grew a set after she was elected to the House. She lost. We’re endorsing Riley this time against Republican Terry Rilling and Libertarian Scott Harwood. (And no, we’re not endorsing him in the secret hope that it will cause him to lose.)”

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We checked out Candidates Gone Wild in Portland on Monday, and it was good for evening of solid political standup. The downside may have been that the top two candidates for governor didn’t show, but the three minor-party contenders did and proved themselves not only blessed with a sense of humor but smarts as well. (Mary Starret’s segment on “Blind candi-Date” was funnier than anything we’ve seen in a theatre for quite a while.)

Today, we have something else. For your reading pleasure, here’s Seattle Weekly‘s instant messaging transcripts between city officials and their interns. The parody is specific to the officials, but don’t let that discourage you if you’re not from Emerald Town – the barbs are clear enough on their own …

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Those like us thinking this evening’s gubernatorial debate – apparently the final, and aired on KGW of Portland – between Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski and Republican challenger Ron Saxton might turn really explosive, watching a faceoff a good deal less startling than that.

As before, neither did badly, and neither overwhelmed. We heard no really inspiring rhetorical flourishes.

Of the two, Saxton’s presentation was smoother; he seemed the more comfortable. Kulongoski’s was less so (he got rid of the crutch word “suggest” but replaced it with “actually”), but he did make coherent arguments for both sides of the case: The merit of his re-election, and case for Saxton as an improvement. Saxton built a clear enough case against Kulongoski, but when asked – at one point bluntly – what vision he has for the state, he flubbed, and seemed to have little to say beyond improved efficiencies and a lid on taxes.

They disagreed on where they’re at as the campaign winds to a conclusion: Kulongoski maintained he’s comfortably ahead, and Saxton that the race is very close and he’s about to cross the line. On this issue, at least, we’ll get a definitive answer soon.

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Not much else to say for now beyond what’s already there – on the airwaves, blogs and soon to be media – on the Larry Craig outing story. Briefly, a gay activist and blogger named Michael Rogers, who has written about gay members of Congress and congressional staffers in recent years, posted a blog entry and went on nationwide radio this afternoon to say that Craig participated in a number of gay sexual incidents. (Some reports notwithstanding, Rogers did not describe Craig as gay.)

Larry Craig
Larry Craig

Craig has denied, to at least the Spokane Spokesman-Review and possibly other media as well, the substance of the allegation. (Note in the link the Spokesman‘s take on dealing with the story.) Rogers does not offer any independent proof, other than his own assurances that he is certain; he does note that he has made earlier comparable allegations which proved accurate. Nor is there any suggestion of abuse of office or abuse of minors.

The tough question here at the moment is: Does this story have legs – will it grow? – or, absent evidence, will it die away? For that, no immediate answer. Nor for now to the question of whether it might impact the hottest race in the state, the contest for the 1st congressional district.

For a range of views, we’ll refer you to the Spokesman‘s Huckleberries Online, where the comment section has been buzzing. Writer Dave Oliveria remarked in one response: “… this aired on a national radio program this afternoon. I’m not saying it’s legit. I’m telling you what’s out there. I’d be asleep at the switch if I didn’t post items of interest to North Idahoans. Do you want that? Do you want me only to post comfortable things? If this isn’t true, Mike Rogers is in a heap of trouble. If it isn’t true, it’s still a story that a top gay activist has targeted Larry Craig.”

OF NOTE Dennis Mansfield has posted thoughts on all this on his website.

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Aquick note for those following the Boise radio situation after Jon Duane and Chris Kelly, who had been morning anchors at KIDO-AM for many years and probably the key morning radio figures in the area much of that time, departed early this year.

Idaho Radio News has an update:

KIDO picked Kimberly James and Brian Norton this summer to replace Duane & Kelly. The station parted ways with James just a few weeks ago – leaving the program in further flux. As I’ve hinted at before – CC Boise went after a number of well-know local folks to fill the morning slot – and clearly wasn’t able to come up with that big marquee name it hoped to land.

KIDO lost ground in all major demos (and overall) in the morning day part. Since Jon & Chris left midway through the book, it leaves you to wonder: what will fall look like?

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Next legislative cycle, proposals will be offered almost certainly to ban mass robo-calling, and there’s good cause both out of precedent and out of public service.

telephone The precedent for such a ban is in the current bans on unsolicited faxes and e-mails and telemarketing calls to land and cell phone lines. The rationales are simple: While these are inexpensive ways for people to spread a message, they place a cost – in time at least and in money as well – on the recipient, in a way that, say, direct paper mail does not. If these things can be banned, surely political robo-calls can be as well.

You see the complaints growing. In Idaho, the Larry Grant campaign last Friday posted a note saying, “A torrent of complaints is pouring into the Grant for Congress campaign about harassing, annoying, computer-generated telephone calls. It’s not us! We, too, have been getting them and find them just as annoying as everyone else. The computer-generated calls (robocalls, in political parlance) began Thursday, Oct. 12, and are continuing, apparently, across the First District. We believe two versions are being used, one that begins ‘When you go to the polls on Nov. 7 you’ll see the name ‘Larry Grant’ on the ballot. Let me tell you a little about Larry Grant….’ The other opens with ‘Larry Grant needs a lesson in Economics 101…’”

These efforts are simply a try at tossing in a bit of slime in a fast and unanswerable way. More seem to be coming in that race.

So too in Washington state’s premier legislative race, between incumbent Republican Senator Luke Esser and his challenger, Democrat (former Republican) state Representative Rodney Tom. The recording, among other things, alleges that an ethics investigation of Tom is underway; in fact, that’s not true. But the attempt to slip the idea into the subconscious of a telephone listener could be marginally effective.

Until legislative emerges banning them, these robocalls need to be recorded and dragged out into the sunshine, where they can be properly addressed. In the case of the Tom message, Horse’s Ass blogger David Goldstein has done just that. Now you can click and hear the little slice of slime – with the difference that you are forewarned as to its contents.

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Atough poser for all the political junkies out there: What will be the political effect of Paul Evans’ call-up?

Paul Evans
Paul Evans

Evans, a former mayor of Monmouth, is a veteran of the Air Force and also the Oregon Air National Guard. A few days ago, he got the word: He’s been called back to the Middle East – he is a veteran of repeat tours in Iraq and Kuwait – this time to Afghanistan. He is scheduled to leave on November 5.

This is of specific note here because Evans is also a candidate in one of the two or three hottest state Senate races in Oregon, a Democrat running against respected incumbent Jackie Winters. The race is commonly considered to be close.

This is an unusual case. The Salem Statesman Journal noted, “He likely is the nation’s only candidate who will be on active duty in the Middle East on Election Day.” There is a near-comparison: “State Rep. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, has taken leaves from his second-term campaign for military service. Boquist is a veteran Army special-operations officer, also with Iraq war service, who remains an Army reservist.” But Boquist’s re-election to the House (in the same area) is not in doubt.

Evans’ election prospects, on the other hand, are unclear. Does this callup at the tail end of campaigning season throw too big a kink into things to overcome? Does it create a wave of public sympathy for him? Does it create concern about whether he can properly serve as a legislator? (The new callup is scheduled to last just 60 days, so he would be – according to schedule – back by the time time legislature convenes.) Thoughts, please.

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