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Posts published in November 2006

Exile on Boise Avenue

You know it's a new century when the Rolling Stones play Boise - no, wait, excuse us, Nampa - as they do tonight.

You know it's an even newer century when you get to follow the report on the concert by blog - and newer yet when the blog to watch will be that of: Dennis Mansfield.

The social conservative, Republican candidate and church activist will be there and will be blogging. From a Mansfield e-mail recently received: "Yes it is true. I will be blogging the Rolling Stones Concert in Boise tomorrow night (11/14/06), as it unfolds. Though, not on the stage (something about my yodeling style not meeting certain standards...) I will be in the seats way high up near where the air may not be too clear....hmmmm.

"Why blog it? Because, as my website, www.DennisMansfield.com says: Business and Culture do Matter. Visit the site now for some pre-game warm up notes....and add your own. Visit the site tomorrow as the concert begins in the evening, around 6 pm or so MST. Have fun, make comments, join in the event...if only by blogging."

We're not able to make the concert, but we'll definitely be reading the blog. (Though you might take with a wink and nod the case there that the Stones are "conservative.")

Walden for gov?

Once an election is past, the next cycle begins - yes, even if it's a four-year cycle, as in the case of such offices as governor. And Republican blogger Ted Piccolo (I Am Coyote) is throwing in an intriguing prospect for the next-up.

Greg Walden
Greg Walden

As the field developed for the Oregon governor's race in 2006, one of the Republican prospects who opted away was U.S. Representative Greg Walden, whose constituent turf includes the Medford area and everything in Oregon east of the Cascades. Walden is popular enough in his own district that, if he does what he's done up to now, he presumably could keep the seat as long as he wants it. (His re-elect precentages range from the high 60s to the low 70s.) He's shown signs of interest in other things, though, and a some time early this year he didn't seem to discourage talk of a run for governor, even after the Republican field was filling with other contenders. (He even joked about it, with a semi-serious edge, at last winter's Dorchester conference, where he moderated the debate of the three Republican gubernatorial candidates.)

And there's a new inducement since then: Life in the minority in the U.S. House, which has to be a downer to the many Republicans there who have only known life in the majority.

Piccolo mentions that a lunch meeting was held some weeks back to move toward a Walden run. Now, he writes, "Here is what I think will happen. I think Congressman Walden will make this his last term in Congress. I think he steps down to allow someone (Sen. Jason Atkinson? Ted Ferrioli?) else to run for his seat. He works to help a Republican win the 2008 Sec. State seat. He then spends two years campaigning. If this is the case then one would have to consider Congressman Walden as one of, if not THE, frontrunner for 2010."

Of course (as Piccolo notes) four years is a long time off, which cuts both ways. The political atmosphere today would not be favorable for a Walden statewide run, but who knows where we'll be in 2010? As the smarter Democrats demonstrated this year, you only get to take advantage of opportunities that do arise if you're prepared for them.

Whence independents

Iif you did an Oregon politics version of the celeb mag standby "the most fascinating people of the year," Ben Westlund would have to be right up there. He probably was more charismatic than anyone else who ran for governor this year, but more than that he is trying to do something new: Found a new political movement.

Ben Westlund
Ben Westlund

His departure last winter from the state Republican Party seemed part of the machinery of his gubernatorial bid, announced around the same time. But the governor's race is long gone, abandoned last summer, as is his neutrality in it: He wound up endorsing Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, which should win him some points with the second-term executive in the months and years ahead. (That could and probably will manifest in ways other than an appointment of Westlund to something or other, which the senator indicates he wouldn't want anyway.)

Equally, it likely will not with the members of his old Republican caucus. As the Bend Bulletin remarked today in a profile of Westlund's prospects, "When Westlund launched his independent campaign for governor, Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said Westlund would be invited back into the Republican caucus if the campaign didn't pan out. At least for now, it appears the welcome mat is no longer out."

All of which matters now because Westlund will have to go back to work in the Senate, a Senate dominated not by independents like himself - though those ranks have been added to the addition of former Democratic Senator Avel Gordly of Portland - but by Democrats and Republicans. And he is now headed into the last half of his Senate term: In 2008, if he wants to remain in the Senate, he will have to run for re-election, in a heavily Republican district, presumably as an independent.

How all of that will go over will likely depend on what Westlund does next.

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Ballooning Twin

The larger areas of growth near Boise and Coeur d'Alene get most of the attention and remarks, but there are others of note. Today's Twin Falls Times News has a good roundup of growth and development at that city - substantial, too, suggesting continued expansion of a city already growing plenty in the last decade.

A question, though: To what extent is Twin expanding at the expense of other Magic Valley towns (a number of which have lost people and businesses to the regional center) and to what extent does it mark an expansion of the region?

WA legislature: A count, with notes

Apart from one early count on Sound Politics (which has held up pretty well), there hasn't been much rundown of exactly where Tuesday's elections left the Washington legislature, other than that Democrats did really well and Republicans didn't.

Here's what we take away from the election results so far, recognizing that not all votes have been counted but also that, in most cases, at least enough have to nail down results. We see only two Washington legislative races still in realistic doubt.

Chamber 2004 Dem 2004 Rep 2006 Dem 2006 Rep 2006 undec
Senate 26 23 32 17 0
House 57 41* 64 32 2

.

*House numbers are thrown a bit by the Rodney Tom party shift.

About the two seats we single out . . . Both are currently held by Republicans who were running for re-election. Incumbent Republican Barbara Bailey in District 10, as of the end of last week, held a 172-vote advantage over Democrat Tim Knue; she's favored for re-election, but this is still too close to definitely call unless (and this wasn't clear) all votes are in. On the other hand, Republican incumbent Jim Dunn in District 17 is behind 144 votes, losing to Democrat Pat Campbell; but again, we're not clear on what ballot remain out there. If one went Democratic, the House split would be 65-32 - a more than two-thirds margin, which could have significance in some House procedural or other actions.

For a good many years, most of the last decade at least, Washington's statehouse could reasonably have been described as closely split (especially bearing in mind the case of Tim Sheldon in the Senate). That is no longer true: Democrats now hold the most decisive margins in both chambers that either party has enjoyed in a long time.

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Deccio: Politics had nothing to do with it

ARepublican whose departure from elective office takes effect in January, and word of it comes out on election day. But for Washington state Senator Alex Deccio of Yakima, the reason isn't politics - he's in mid-term and wasn't up for election this year. It's health. He's dealing with prostate cancer, and it needs his attention, and he so informed the appropriate officials (the lieutenant governor and his party's leaders) on election day.

Alex Deccio
Alex Deccio

Doubtless his party's leaders were sorry to see him go, but at least he will be replaced by another Republican, in contrast to some other Republicans that day.

There's a certain other irony here. Some legislators are generalists, and some specialists. While Deccio certainly looked after his district (the Yakima Herald-Republic story on his departure attached a picture of him at the Yakima SunDome, development of which he played a key role), his legislative specialty was health.

Deccio looked at it broadly. You might not expect a Yakima Republican to lead work on AIDS-related legislation in the country, but he did. He did that work while never becoming an outlier in his party's caucus, a notable achievement. (He did also, it should be noted, take some anti-stem cell research stances as well.)

Democrats looking to work on health issues next session at Olympia may want to review his record; some useful pointers may be found there.

The Cantwell expansion

Much remarked on the general election win by Democratic incumbent Senator Maria Cantwell was its size (57.2% as of this morning - the endless Washington county goes on). We'll note here of two implications of that.

Cantwell counties 2000
Cantwell counties 2000
Cantwell counties 2006
Cantwell counties 2006

This was a broad win, not just deep. You see the point in the maps of Cantwell's super-close win in 2000 and this one: Her wins of just five counties of Washington's 39 has expanded to 22 counties this time. That's an important demonstration of ability to win in places outside the most liberal sectors of the Puget sound region, which is mostly what she took last time. It's a demonstration of durability, for one thing.

Some of the county wins had interest of their own. The win along the eastern Spokane-Whitman-Asotin strip was notable, for example. A win in Spokane County wasn't necessarily very striking by itself, though put together with its award of a second state Senate seat to the Democrats that city - long reputed a Republican bastion - does seem to be in political transition. But Cantwell's numbers in Asotin and Whitman, normally Republican places, are of note, as is her close loss in Walla Walla County, which similarly could be undergoing some (wine country and gentrification-related) transition.

The decisive win in Clark County may be of some importance too. That county is a generally close partisan split, and Democratic wins there are not especially unusual. But Cantwell lost it last time, and Clark's fast growth in this decade means a lot of votes have been up for grabs and may be becoming oriented for some time to come. Growing numbers of them there seem to be orienting toward Democratic candidates.

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Boise blue: The Fischer take

Yesterday we noted that the city of Boise (not the environs in Ada County) went heavily "blue" on Tuesday, voting strongly for Democratic legislators and similarly elsewhere on the ballot.

10 Commandments monumentAmong other things, Boise city voters rejected (47.3%-52.7%) the initiative aimed at moving the Ten Commandments monument back to one of the city parks from its much more visible current location on church grounds across State Street from the state capitol building. Our sense of this is that voters probably were less concerned where the monument was located than they were in putting to rest such a purely symbolic issue that has taken up a lot of attention, time and effort that might have been devoted to more practical pursuits.

There are, of course, other ways of looking at it. Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance, which championed the initiative - taking it to the state supreme court at one point - and fought the battle before that, has a rather different one, though factoring in the same political shifted we noted here.

Fischer's view: "Today is a sobering day for the pro-faith community of Boise. Not only did the city turn its back on God and his abiding standards, it also sent 12 secularists to the state legislature. Of the four main districts which lie wholly within the city limits (Districts 16-19), not a single seat is now held by a conservative.

"The reins of Boise city government are also in the hands of confirmed liberals. A kind of moral and spiritual darkness has descended on this city, and its effects will be felt for years to come."

Next up

Okay gang: The 2006 campaign cycle is dead. Long live the 2008 cycle - for the next 24 months.

A quick reminder here of what lies ahead.

ALL THREE Presidential contests await. After the results from 2004 and - atop that - this year, Washington, Oregon and Idaho may not be foremost targets; the first two have taken on deeper shades of blue and Idaho remains about as red as ever. But hope may spring quadrennial.

WASHINGTON No Senate race, but the governor and statewides will be up, along with all the U.S. House members, about half the state Senate and all of the state House. The governor's race is likely to be dominant, so expect action on developing a Republican candidate for Governor Chris Gregoire to kick in before long. Gregoire's numbers are still not where they really ought to be for a governor at this stage of term; but they are a lot better than in early 2005, and better than Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski's were a few months back. Will Republican Dino Rossi try again? Our guess is not, though he likely has first right of refusal.

Expect another hard run at the 8th congressional district. As for the legislature - its level of vulnerability may depend greatly on how the enhanced Democratic majority handles its increased power.

OREGON Republican Senator Gordon Smith will be up, and a battle royal that contest may be. In 2002 he won decisively (but short of a landslide) against Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and polling indicates he remains personally popular. But a working majority of Oregon voters has soured on Republicans, ace fundraising isn't enough (paging Ron Saxton), and several strong Democratic prospects hanging around out there. (Either former Governor John Kitzhaber, now comfortably recovering from politics though still apparently retaining an interest, or Representative Earl Blumenauer, who's been visible statewide and burnished his national support network this campaign season, would give Smith a helluva race.

Beyond that, races for partisan constitutional officers other than governor, the U.S. House delegation (all reconfirmed in their electoral strength by this year's results) and the legislature. Expect the Oregon House, teetering at the brink of partisan control, to return as a high focus of attention.

IDAHO Republican Senator Larry Craig is up, and there's some question about whether he will run again - a cycle in the minority (where, to be sure, he has been before) after those years in the majority, may be ill-appealing; especially if he wants to set about making some money pre-retirement. He already has a fierce primary opponent in Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez. Some Democrats are trying to talk recent congressional candidate Larry Grant into the race.

The House seats will be up as well, with the question being: What will be the state of play as regards Bill Sali's first term? The legislature (all of it in Idaho) will be up, with the question: Can the Democrats retain/expand their new substantial base in the city of Boise?

A small transition, by the river

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski's win on Tuesday was a good deal more substantial than his first for the office in 2002, when he narrowly won and carried eight of the state's 36 counties.

Kulongoski counties 2002
Kulongoski counties 2002
Kulongoski counties 2006
Kulongoski counties 2006

Those counties were Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Mulnomah and Tillamook. They were barely enough to eke out a win.

In this election he won with a much bigger margin even though adding just two counties to the mix. The numerically important of those was Washington County, the state's second largest, a county trending Democratic steadily over the past 20 years and a key building block to Democratic statewide wins. It accounts for many of the gains leading to Democratic control of the state legislature. (Kulongoski nearly won it four years ago.)

The other, much smaller but in some ways more interesting, is Wasco County, home of The Dalles.

Going way back, The Dalles and surrounding country is ranching, timber and resource country that has trended Republican. It had enough union base to support the Democratic surge in the mid-50s and into the 60s, but in the 70s seemed to begin joining the parade of rural counties in casting Republican-dominant votes. Only in the 90s did it occasionally, quirkily, vote for Democrats in the case of a particularly popular candidate. But in this new decade, there's been a subtle transition, and now it seems to have taken hold.

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Boise blue

Most Idaho Democrats had to content themselves with vicarious pleasures on Tuesday; their in-state races were mostly a long string of disappointments, and for the first time in well over half a century the party is left without a single elected representative above the level of state representative.

We'd guess, though, that one finder of a silver lining was David Bieter, a nonpartisan mayor of Boise who wasn't even on the ballot Tuesday - he will be up for re-election in May. The numbers were bound to give Bieter some cheer. Especially the numbers in four legislative districts.

Go back to the top of the decade and you'll find Boise legislators who were Democrats, three of them bunched in one district, District 19 in the north end of town. There, in that little corner, they were unassailable, but mostly lost when they ventured into other districts.

Four years ago, though, there were signs of progress, with a couple of state Senate seat wins in the neighboring district. Two years ago, in 2004, they expanded on that a little, so the map of the district looked like this.

Ada districts in 2004

Clearly, the Democratic strength was expanding outside District 19 into its three neighbors (the purple areas indicate mixed delegations of three per district).

This year, they consolidated, and strikingly took over those districts, really made them their own. These districts now look like this.

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WA results 1: A focused push

The results in so far suggest that the worst bit of campaigning tactics Dave Reichert engaged in this season was allowing himself to be photographed with George W. Bush.

We don't yet know if that was a fatal error. King County has been frustratingly slow in its vote counts, so far - as this is written early Wednesday morning - counting not much more than half of the ballots it has in place. (And more will be coming in the mail beyond that.) So we don't really know, yet, how the 8th district congressional race (in which Reichert is challenged by Democrat Darcy Burner) is coming out, other than that it is presently close and probably will continue to be.

We see, so far, a string of legislative races in the same general area as that district which mostly have been turning to Democrats, eviscerating what was not long ago a big Republican base on the east side of King County. But we can't yet be sure that's happening because the county continues to take its sweet time releasing the numbers.

Well, better accurate than early, if we must choose. But some explanation seems needed. Soon.

The Eastside seems to be the core of action, because not much else in the state seemed to change normal patterns by much. There was a lot of talk that Washington's 5th district (based around Spokane) was up for grabs - even the Republican incumbent, Cathy McMorris, clearly thought so - but in the end she defeated Democrat Peter Goldmark decisively.

Reichert-Burner has been a lot closer. Reichert has had the edge through most of the counting, but not so much as to - yet at least - put it away.

Back before long.