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Posts published in “Day: July 24, 2007”

Is Merkley in?

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

We hadn't especially pegged Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley - fresh from his first session in that role - as a big dice roller. There again, if you have ambitions, you move when the time is right, and you can't always pick your time.

Both the Associated Press (according to "two sources close to the campaign") and Willamette Week ("Three highly-placed Democratic sources") today are reporting that Merkley will file paperwork early in August to run for the U.S. Senate, for the seat now held by Republican Gordon Smith. Merkley has made no formal acknowledgment, saying only that a final decision still is forthcoming.

The one substantial Democrat so far in that race is Steve Novick, a consultant who has deep background in Oregon politics but who has not run before. Odds in the primary seem to go to Merkley, who has national encouragement and an instant large fundraising network. (Although, if Novick were to beat him, he would emerge in the general to face Smith as a proven giant-killer.)

Offers one comment writer on WW: "Dave Hunt will make an excellent Oregon House Speaker, and either Diane Rosenbaum or Arnie Roblan will make a very good House Majority Leader."

Fire politics

The recent spate of heavy fire seasons has begun to result in a fire politics too, in rural areas. Some of this played out today in a piece in the Twin Falls Times News.

South-central Idaho is a logical place for it, since this is on the southern end of the hottest fire territory in the country. Three adjacent counties stretching across much of southern Idaho - Owyhee, Twin Falls and Cassia - have been declared fire disaster areas by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

Last night, about 120 ranchers and others from these rural areas gathered in the small city of Castleton and fired questions at Tom Dyer, director of the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho. Many of them had to do with the Murphy Complex fire, which reportedly ran to nearly 900 square miles. They asked if the agency could have kept it from becoming so massive if they'd hit harder, earlier? (Current reports are that it is now smaller in size but still only 20% contained.)

Some of them argued that grazing regulations left too much vegetation in place, serving as fuel when the fires took off.

Could go in a variety of directions, but fire looks like a front-burner (sorry - would you rather we called it incendiary?) issue for a while, especially if the fires continue getting worse.

Vance’s analysis

Here's a sequel we'll be itching to read - the followup to today's piece in Crosscut by Chris Vance, the former Washington state Republican chair and now a political consultant.

His first piece, dated today, is a compelling and useful rundown of the road from the days (pre-Depression) when Washington was a Republican-dominated state, to today, when the party is just short of marginalized. He writes: "I'm not working on a campaign, but I still seem to spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about Washington state politics, and one reality constantly looms: the Republican collapse of 2006. What happened? What does it mean? Can Republicans recover, and if so, how long will it take? This is obviously a subject of some personal interest to me but should also concern anyone who values a competitive two-party system."

Causes cited in article 1 include Washington's relative secularism (though he points out that major Republican campaigns in recent years have not been based around social conservatism), Democratic financing and superior Democratic candidate recruitment. We agree with parts of his analysis so far, quibble with others, and think he omits some crucial factors, but overall it is worth a careful read.

We're eager to see his promised prescription.

(Note to Idaho Democrats: You guys might want to read this two-parter too.)