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Posts published in “Day: March 20, 2007”

The Edwards beachhead

John Edwards
John Edwards

Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney were the first major presidential candidates to pick up top-line state support in the Northwest; now former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is becoming the first to do it among Democrats.

Edwards' regional beachhead is in Oregon, and his collection of backers in-state is impressive - more impressive than a short thumbnail sketch may suggest. There are, after all, no statewide elected officials or members of Congress among them. But then, most of those titled people tend to hang back, not to commit until they see the lay of the land beyond the horizon, which hasn't been periscoped well as yet.

(Our presidential support page listings are updated to reflect the Oregon changes.)

The people Edwards has brought in have some sweeping implications, and no few numbers of Oregon Democrats will recognize that. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will have a hard time matching this crew, at least until or if one or both puts Edwards away.

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Age and perception

We've long thought that much of what makes legislatures potentially powerfully useful - we're talking potential here, not always reality - is the number of varied viewpoints that can be brought to bear in the process of legislating. Not simply the fact that we have a hundred or so people rather than two or three: If that crowd thinks alike, then they may as well be two or three, or one.

(We explored that a bit recently on a personal level. Your scribe was asked to join the board of a local arts organization, and agreed, partly on grounds that his background would be distinctive from most other members, and therefore possibly useful in bringing fresh perspective to the table. One hopes.)

That point cuts a variety of ways, but today's post has to do with age: Of these hundred or so people in a state legislature (10 less in Oregon, five more in Idaho, 47 more in Washington), how varied is the experience these people bring to the game? Thanks to an analysis by the Scripps Howard newspapers, we have statistics to examine. (The take of that effort focused on the arrival of the baby-boomers; our look here is more cross-generational.) Based on those numbers, here's a chart of the birth-years of the legislators in several states, with percentages of membership noted.

State 1906-24 1925-45 1946-64 1965-83
Idaho 5 55 39 2
Oregon 0 30 62 9
Washington 1 38 52 10
Montana 1 32 57 10
Utah 3 27 63 7
California 3 33 58 6
Nevada 3 27 58 12
Texas 1 28 60 11
Florida 0 24 59 17
New York 3 30 60 7
Ohio 1 19 62 18

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The first thing we should note is that, when all ages are factored in, Idaho's legislature is on average the oldest in the country, while Oregon's and Washington's are relatively unremarkable middlings.

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