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Posts published in November 2006

Mapping the culture wars

The canvassed Idaho vote is now available, and for offices for legislative and up, and statewide ballot issues, county and precinct level vote information is now available at the secretary of state's web site in downloadable Excel spreadsheets. (As per usual, they've done a fine job getting that information out there, well ahead of many of their counterparts.)

Lots of fun things are possible with this data, of course. We got right work on one: Charting the outlines of the culture wars in Idaho.

The simplest way to do that this election is with House Joint Resolution 2, the constitutional amendment banning formal domestic relationships other than man-woman marriage. This surely drew the culture war line in Idaho as clearly as anything this election, and it may be one of the components in the Republicans' sweep of the Gem State in the teeth of a Democratic wave. Statewide, the measure passed with 63.3% - a landslide.

But it did not pass equally everywhere.

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Immigration wars, 2.08

By way of the Republican RINO Watch, a new website dedicated to blasting Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's stand on immigration:

Deport Gordon Smith.

Considering the recent history of the Ron Saxton's campaign on illegal aliens, one has to wonder where Oregon Republicans - those, that is, pushing this latest effort - think this initiative is going to get them.

Editorial opinion

Dave Oliveria of the Spokesman Review blog Huckleberries reports receiving an email from Robert James, the newly former editor of the Bonners Ferry Herald, which is owned by Hagadone Newspapers. In it he wrote, "Last Friday, Hagadone corp. fired me, the managing editor of the Bonners Ferry Herald, apparently for endorsing democrat Jerry Brady in a personal opinion column."

Remarked Oliveria, "And you guys wonder why I don't cut HagaWorld much slack." Oliveria does due disclosure in noting that he too once worked for and was fired from that organization. In further disclosure, your scribe also briefly reported for (though not long enough to be dismissed from) that same company.

Oregon Hotline

Quick advisory on the National Journal Hotline report today on Oregon people and places. It notes but does not indicated probabilities on the prospect of a run by former Governor John Kitzhaber for the Senate against Republican Gorden Smith in 2008. Two more distinctive items emerge, however.

1. On the subject of Independent state Senator Ben Westlund - whose next moves are of high interest among Oregon political types - Stacy Dycus, who was his campaign spokesman during his run for governor this year, had little conclusive to say. There was this, however: "Democrats have been asking Ben to run against [Smith] but he really hasn't considered it." Same, she indicated, with re-election to the state Senate and with the office of state treasurer, where incumbent Randall Edwards will be term limited out. (Republican bloggers hve speculated Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski may champion a Westlund run for the latter as payback for Westlund's support of him this fall.)

Maybe most intriguing, this: "He is an independent and all I can tell you is that his heart and mind is closer to the views held by Democrats, but he has no plans to change registration. If asked, he may caucus with the D's this session."

2. Among other Democratic names bring circulated for Senate if Kitzhaber declines: Edwards, Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo (nonpartisan in her current job, but a former Democratic legislator) and Clatsop County District Attorney Joshua Marquis (also in a nonpartisan job, but with Democratic background). The list of Democratic prospects seems to be growing explosively.

Smith at the starting line

Much of the context is still lacking, but political topic A in Oregon clearly is: To what extent is Senator Gordon Smith, the only statewide elected Republican, vulnerable in 2008, when his seat is up? Not only Democrats but Republicans as well are pondering the question.

Gordon Smith
Gordon Smith

Nationally, of course, Smith is too obvious a target to miss: A Republican in an increasingly blue state, and the only Republican among the three Pacific coast states (excluding Alaska). Nothing resembling a definitive answer is possible yet, of course, because we lack so much of what will be the context for that race. What will the state and nation look like then? How will Oregonians assess the credit or blame? Will they feel as harshly toward President Bush and the Republican Congress as they do now? Will the Democrats in Washington and Salem do well or poorly? How will the presidential campaigns affect political 2008 in Oregon?

Not to mention more race-specific issues. Will Smith run again? (The presumption is that he will, but there's no formal declaration yet, and likely won't be for a while.) If he does, will he raise a huge amount of money, or less than that? (He apparently has about $2 million on hand now.) How does he present himself to the state now, as the Bush era winds down? How do issues impact him? What sort of a campaign does he run? And, needless to say, who might he draw as opposition?

Only on some of those latter points is even loose speculation feasible. Which, of course, isn't slowing down the politically interested from taking a crack at it.

First step is working out Smith's own relative vulnerability.

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Mr. President

Would be highly interesting, say a year or so from now, to check back on the aftereffects of this decision goes . . .

Bill SaliIdaho U.S. Representative-elect Bill Sali has been elected to something else: President of his freshman class of Republican representatives. (The last such from Idaho was then-Representative Mike Crapo, in 1992.)

It is not a massive class, to be sure. But we will be intrigued to see how the choice holds up.

Comments more than welcome.

A hat tip to the correspondent who sent us a mail noting the development.

Wenatchee – the meeting capital

The new slogan almost harkens us back to those days, almost two years ago, when Washington state's political eyes were centered on Wenatchee because of the big trial over the governor's race . . . but that's just us.

Those of us accustomed to seeing the familiar "Apple Capital of the World" sign upon approaching Wenatchee will see it no more, the Seattle Times reports. The new sign graphically points out the city's dramatic canyon and riverfront location, and its words link to that: "Wenatchee. Meeting Rivers. Meeting Friends. Meeting Needs."

Wenatchee

It's part of an ongoing development: Places are tending to define themselves less by their natural or agricultural resources. Check out the Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce web site and you'll find a little thumbnail shot of an apple, and a screen-wide picture of east and west Wenatchee, stradding the river at twilight. Apples get a mention, but no more than that.

Check out the Wenatchee city site, and you'll see much the same: "One of the most digitally connected places in the country, Wenatchee offers the perfect place to balance all aspects of life, from building a company to raising a family or meeting the challenges of a new career. Wenatchee is world famous for our apples but it has so much else to offer --- like over 300 days of sunshine a year and a wonderful turn of the century downtown that serves as a vibrant arts, culture and retail center."

Not everyone is thrilled. The Times pulled these qutoes from Wenatchee people:
"It sounds more like an outreach program than a city." "This new [slogan] is too New Age touchy feely. [It] leaves me feeling like a phony."

Okay. But spend a little time around Wenatchee - the city itself, not the countryside - and you'll not find yourself thinking a lot about apples, either.

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Air extraction fron one small bubble

The national or even regional real estate market is so large you can't easily get your figurative arms around it. You wind up with oddities like a pair of stories in today's Oregonian, headlined "Portland real estate goes own way - up" (actually, the story doesn't very well justify the head) and "home building goes downhill."

Pearl District (from Wikipedia)Maybe a little easier to absorb is the smaller-scale experience of a specific place. An excellent post on Blue Oregon lays out the situation in the Pearl District in near-downtown Portland.

The Pearl is Portland's largest artsy and high-end district, blocks of refurbished warehouses now turned into restaurants, galleries and such - and condos, lots of condos. (Stroll by for a First Thursday art night and you'll see the condo-ites overhanging their windows and balconies.) Condo construction has been brisk in this area, and so has the increase in condo prices. But in recent months, according to the post by Jenson Hagen, the bubble is bursting.

"They are still building these things like mad," Hagen writes. "The John Ross by the new tram. The Wyatt will add another 245 units to the Pearl. The Strand is going up where I-5 crosses the Willamette. Their website claims an additional 1,335 condos are going up along the Willamette."

But alongisde that, some disquieting trends. Hagen said that in July he started noting how many Pearl condos were available for sale on the major web site for such sales, Buying Pearl Real Estate. Those numbers rose from 266 in July, to 322 in August, 379 in September, 422 in October and 480 in November. The average condo price is not cheap - most you've seen listed in the last year or two run upwards of a half-million. But the numbers of condos offered for under $200,000 (steadily up from 13 in July to 41 in November) has risen faster than the average - an indicator of dropping prices.

Is that the distant sound of a train wreck we're hearing?

Beyond the Tide: WA 8

Last of four posts on competitive congressional contests in the Northwest.

In our list earlier this fall of four close House races, we picked the contest in Washington District 8 as the toughest and prospectively closest. We were right (not, of course, that we weren't in a rather large crowd in making that assessment). The reasons were clear enough. And now, after election day, as a lot of Seattle area Democrats wonder what went wrong, those reasons and others often mentioned this fall stand.

close districts mapIt was, for some months, presumed to be a close race. It was, very close, close enough that the outcome wasn't fully clear until well after election night. It stood a fair chance of being one of Republican House seats the Democrats could pick up this year, but it never seemed likely to be a runaway win.

Let's review the main reasons Washington 8 was competitive to begin with. It is a historically Republican district trending Democratic, and based on the state legislative election results on November 7, you could reasonably argue the area has now shifted from "lean Republican" to "lean Democratic." Fertile ground, in other words, for a Democratic challenge. The challenge, from former Microsoft manager Darcy Burner, was unified - no primary conflict - highly energetic and (increasingly as the year went on) well funded. Burner was a fine fundraiser and a reasonably skillful campaigner. Republican incumbent Dave Reichert was framed to a degree as a manipulated good haircut riding on the glory of an old criminal case he oversaw when he was sheriff of King County. And in a year of fury at President George W. Bush and the Republicans in charge in Washington, Reichert made the mistake of allowing himself to be identified fairly closely with them.

But don't forget what's countering that. While the 8th district is in transition, that doesn't mean all the Republicans in it have crawled into caves - or that a lot of the voters are disinclined to split their tickets. (The transition probably goes along with increased ticket splitting; the heavier Democratic voting below may have slightly depressed Democratic voting above.) Burner was, if intelligent and enthusiastic, also a new candidate, with a learning curve not only on her part but also on the the part of the voters - they didn't know her all that well. Because much of the campaign backing her was based on the anti-Republican mood, they didn't learn a lot. But they did know Reichert, and for all his flaws, a lot of people in the area liked the guy.

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