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Posts published in October 2006

WA 5: (Overheard) it’s closing

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.


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. (more…)

Prop 2: Right flank

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.

Another poll

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.

House in review

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. (more…)

OR endorse: The WW list

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.)"

IM in emerald town

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 ...

Pop, fizzle

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.

From uncertain foundation

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.