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Posts published in February 2007

Romney pulling Idaho’s GOP

With the latest news that Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig is becoming one of the two Senate "liaisons" (Utah Senator Bob Bennett is the other) for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, you get the sense that most of Idaho's top-tier Republicans are headed into the Romney camp.

We've thought that likely for a while. Locally, Romney has been talked up more than any of the other contenders. And there's the Utah connection (through Romney's work on the Olympics several years back) and as a member of the LDS church, to which something like a third of Idahoans also belong. His personal style is probable more appealing, too, than that of his two leading competitors, John McCain (whose sometimes a "maverick," sometimes not manner may not sit well) and Rudy Giuliani (who among other things may simply be too New York for Idaho tastes).

Not that all Idaho Republicans will necessarily fall into line. We'd not be surprised if Representative Bill Sali signed on with the longshot campaign of Tom Tancredo; that association runs deep into the early part of Sali's campaign last year, if not earlier. But in the main, for now, Romney seems to have the main Idaho track.

Wasn’t just Crow

Alot of attention focused in the last few years, among those tracking the Idaho Legislature, on (now former) Representative Dolores Crow, R-Nampa, who for years chaired the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, from which tax bills originate. She, it was said or implied, was the bottleneck that kept a lot of wide-desired legislation from making its way through the process.

She was without doubt an impactful legislator, but the story was never that simple. The evidence has come in the record of the committee this year, as it has rejected various tax proposals, some of them backed by the libertarian-conservative governor, Butch Otter. On Wednesday, the committee rejected a proposal to reduce form 66.6% to 60% the vote needed to establish a community college district, something loads of advocates in the Ada-Canyon area have been pushing for. Rev-Tax has, in other words, behaved this year, under its new Chair Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, not very differently than it did under Crow. (Albeit that Lake is a much smoother, less abrasive and more numbers-comfortable chair)

Idaho Statesman editorial page editor Kevin Richert has delivered two highly pertinent posts, both worth reading, about this on his new blog, after watching the committee in action for a while.

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Dismissal confirmed

John McKay
John McKay

Confirmation today that suppositions from early last month [on this site among other places], that former U.S. Attorney (for Western Washington) John McKay was forced to resign - was fired - were on target.

McKay at first had little to say about his abrupt departure, other than in what he didn't say - that he he was leaving for another job, for health reasons, for family reason, and so on. (He has since taken a job as a law professor at Seattle University.) Now he's on record:

"I was ordered to resign as U.S. attorney on Dec. 7 by the Justice Department. ... I was given no explanation. I certainly was told of no performance issues."

Nor were any evident externally. Robert Lasnik, the chief federal judge in McKay's district, offered: "This is unanimous among the judges: John McKay was a superb U.S. attorney. For the Justice Department to suggest otherwise is just not fair." The last performance review of McKay by the Justice Department's evaluation board (which the Seattle Times obtained and released] said "McKay is an effective, well-regarded and capable leader of the [U.S. attorney's office] and the District's law enforcement community."

It may be that what finally brought McKay to speak out was a Wednesday remark by Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, that "performance-related" matters were what led to the simultaneous dismissal of a string of western state attorneys.

Light is continuing to crack open on this.

Out on the edge

The Red State Rebels blog (proprietor, Julie Fanselow) has nominated state Representative Steven Thayn as the best choice, for the moment, as "the most extreme legislator" in Idaho. The farthest out to the edge, that is, on his side of the philosophical divide, which probably would mean the farthest out (on his side of the face) among the northwest's 347 state legislators.

She has good evidence. Her assessment seems the sounder when you add to the material she already provides.

Which starts with a snippet of committee debate quoted in today's Idaho Statesman, suggesting taxpayer money could be saved if school hours were cut to four hours a day.

She goes on to a nice find, a website apparently set up for Thayn (nicely designed by a Nampa web company, Impact Design Studios). The Committees of Correspondence site (with the quite different url http://www.reclaimidaho.com/) suggests a larger organization, but Thayn is the only person mentioned. If there's more to it than the web site, that's not made clear; and most parts of the web site are empty, apart from several pages of philosophizing and a plea for $25 contributions. A newsletter is on offer, but samples are not. Red State Rebels has links to a number of quotes from it.

To that, we have some additions.

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NIMBY on NASCAR

Kitsap Map/WSDOTFor a time there seemed to be some doubt about where the people of Kitsap County stood on the prospect of a NASCAR track and associated facilities located on their peninsula. Their - it has to be said - transportation-strapped peninsula, where major bridge access is about to get costly, where ferry services seems to be a matter of increasingly intense negotiations.

So maybe the report today in the Tacoma News Tribune about the unveiling of 20 legislative backers of state funding which would be key to development of the track, a group led by Representative Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, shouldn't come as a surprise.

The key point wasn't that 20 signed on. (Remember, in Washington that's 20 of 147 - 13%.) It's that no one from Kitsap County, or anywhere especially close to the proposed track location, is among them.

The paper notes: "Nearly all of the Kitsap County legislators are actively opposed. State representatives from Pierce County have been cautious at best about the idea. Tacoma Rep. Steve Kirby said a lobbyist for the track tried to get his support. He told the lobbyist the proposed site near Bremerton is a bad location because of access problems. Track opponents have said traffic getting to the peninsula racetrack would choke the Tacoma Narrows bridges and Puget Sound ferries." And, he said, the track doesn't seem to be locally popular.

Take that as a sign.

Romney gains one

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney

The Northwest has not jumped early or hard into the presidential contest, in either major party, though all indications are that anyone who waits significantly longer to enter (with the theoretical exception of Al Gore, among the Democrat) will probably be shut out. For all that, not many major political figures in the Northwest have hopped anyone's train as yet.

Idaho Representative Mike Simpson just has, with his endorsement of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. (He may be the first major Idaho political figure to endorse. ) In an e-mail sent out today under his campaign logo (sorry, no direct links as yet. Romney's campaign blog lists Simpson on his "congressional whip team" in a campaign blog post today); he is the only northwesterner among its 22 members.

Simpson: “Mitt Romney has the clear momentum among Republicans and I hope to help him expand his base in the Pacific Northwest. I’m convinced he is our Party’s best candidate and is ideally equipped to be our nation’s next President.”

Romney seems to be developing clear support in Idaho and Oregon; Washington seems a little less clear at the moment.

Chat tonight

Our second weekly Wednesday chat is on for tonight at 6 pm Pacific, 7 pm Mountain, accessible off this page. (Scroll down to the right to the "nickname" box, enter your name, click the button, and you're in.) It lasts about an hour, give or take.

We had a good discussion on a range of topics last week, so we're off to a good start.

The job gap, ’07

Northwest Job Gap studyTime again to draw attention to one of the Northwest's (not that we're alone) most powerful indicators, found in the annual job gap study by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations. And it has quite a bit to say about family values.

In the report, the group does two things. First, it works out in four Northwest states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho plus Montana) what a "living wage" is, bearing in mind the number of people to be supported by it - a single adult, a single adult or couple with a child, or with children. Then it determines how many jobs - and especially, how many jobs of those coming open - will support people at or above that level.

The group's reports in recent years have not been encouraging, and neither is this one.

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Smith, scattered

Gordon Smith
Gordon Smith

We remarked after Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's December 7 speech on Iraq - which had a very anti-Bush policy tone to it, and which dropped the word "criminal" - that it didn't scan, didn't cohere, didn't add up to anything specific in particular. That's in considerable contrast to the mass of reviewers who ran with Smith's tone and declared him an anti-Bush Republican.

The speech was nothing of the kind. It may have been an attempt at nuance, it may have been simply confusing, but it was not a declaration of on which side of the Iraq ramparts he stood.

Which is why, after his recent talk of supporting a resolution (the bi-partisan one, crafted by Virginia Republican Senator John Warner) critical of the administration's Iraq policy, we are unsurprised that he wound up today voting for a filibuster to oppose even discussing it. (The other filibusterers, almost all Republicans, not only included Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo - no great surprise, since they'd not been central to the resolution discussions - but also - wait for it - Warner, whose proposal ostensibly it was.)

The degree of fallout always depends, of course, on the extent to which people pay attention, and we'll find out about that in the next few days. But it could be considerable: This vote could do Smith a great deal of damage in 2008. For all meaningful purposes, the vote for a filibuster (as Smith's was, and which Senator Ron Wyden opposed) was a vote in favor of, an endorsement of, President George Bush's escalation of American troop levels in Iraq.

Democratic blogs from Loaded Orygun to the national Daily Kos have brought up the four-day-old quote in an Associated Press story (that ran widely across the state) saying: "Smith's spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said the senator 'has been helping forge a middle ground in the Senate, and he believes this resolution sends a strong and responsible message that the status quo in Iraq is unacceptable.'” So why, one might ask, vote against even debating it?

Leading Kos to opine, "Smith is a coward and a puppet of Mitch McConnel and George Bush and the extreme right-wing of the GOP." And a bunch of commenters to that post, quite a few of them from Oregon, unleashing anti-Smith vitriol well beyond what we've seen before.

Facing election from a state that really doesn't much like either President Bush or the Iraq war, Gordon Smith has entered dangerous territory.

NUANCING A comment on Blue Oregon's piece about this adds transcript from a recent interview of Smith by Portland conservative talker Lars Larson. Toward the end of the interview, the point was put with precision:

Larson: Just so I understand, you don’t oppose sending the additional troops in, but you don’t believe it is going to do what the President believes it will do?

Smith: That’s correct. I mean, I would not do it…uh, I don’t think it gets him where…see, to really fight an insurgency, you have to take the entire city of Baghdad and make it a Green Zone. That takes a lot more than 160,000 of our folks. That takes more like a half a million. That’s my guess…

One wonders how many troops it would take to secure Iraq. Not to mention why Smith supports (or will not stand in the way of) something he believes will not work.

At their word

DOMA is constitutional because the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not, in the legislature’s view, further these purposes.
- Washington Supreme Court, majority opinion p. 6, Anderson v. King County (2006)

Okay. If the Supreme Court's interpretation is correct, then the initiative proposed by the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance should pass muster, if it can pass the voters. It does already have initial approval from the secretary of state's office.

Despite what you might think, this DOMA is not a supporter of the other DOMA - the state Defense of Marriage Act of 1998, upheld for constitutionality by the Washington Supreme Court (in the opinion producing the excerpt above). Quite the contrary, and it makes an emphatic point in response.

For the sake of argument, it argues, let's take the court's logic seriously - that the point of marriage is procreation, and this is a legitimate concern of the state. It draws out the implication in three proposed initiatives. (They need a large number of valid signatures to qualify for ballot status; their ability to get them may turn on just how much the voters of Washington embrace irony.) The first of them, I-957, is the most striking.

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