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Posts published in August 2007

Let’s get this straight

As Washington voters wrap up their primary voting today (almost wrote, "head to the polls," that now be nearly an anachronism), we'll be paying most attention to the city elections in Spokane and the port election in Seattle. (Seattle council looks to be an incumbent-heavy snoozer.)

And we may note the discernment of voters in a couple of Spokane instances.

The Spokesman-Review's Hard 7 blog has a pointed post about the paper's local endorsements. From the original editorials:

Council District 1

Donna McKereghan: This council seat, which represents northeast Spokane, calls for a change from incumbent Councilman Bob Apple, who too often finds himself isolated from other council members. Going against the tide has its place, but public interests would be better served by a council member with the energy and savvy to dig into issues and help craft collaborative solutions. Challenger Donna McKereghan has shown herself eager and able to take on that role. ...

Council District 3

John Waite: Legislative bodies need at least one voice that can be counted on for an unorthodox contribution to the conversation. John Waite, seeking the northwest Spokane seat being vacated by Rob Crow, represents that and more. ...

Meaning the criteria for endorsement are . . . what exactly? Hard 7 suggests, "Um, maybe in the next election, the board can endorse Apple as a challenger in his district and call for Waite's removal in his."

On today’s Riley

Afew quick thoughts on the just-posted Riley Research Associates statewide Oregon poll on presidential, Senate and ballot matters around the state. (Happily for analysts, crosstabs are included.)

bullet The size of the undecideds in the presidential and Senate contests. After all these months of intensive headlines, we're struck by the large number of people who have yet to make of their minds, maybe most notably in the presidential contest - on both sides. (Maybe the Republicans especially: Nine polled-for candidates and 35% - among women, 46% - can't express support for any of them? Not that the Democrats are so very much stronger.) That suggests some serious fluidity in the two contests; a lot is up for grabs and can happen. We're not quite sure what to make of the seeming runup in former Senator John Edwards' numbers.

bullet The low Smith numbers. Out of context, the matchup of Republican Senator Gordon Smith and Democrat Jeff Merkley (no Steve Novick numbers, unfortunately) at 38% to 19% looks not bad for Smith. But add the context. Merkley has just entered the race, and remains hardly known outside his Portland-area state House district. (His best numbers are in the Portland metro.) The polling does include Independent John Frohnmayer (7%, which sounds high), who may or may not enter. The undecideds are at 35%, which ought to be a huge red flag for Smith - undecideds usually break for challengers. Smith's 38% isn't good. And don't get us started on his 44% in central and eastern Oregon, which usually runs 65%-75% for upper-ticket Republicans. This has the look of a highly competitive race.

bullet Backers of the ballot measures, 49 (land use) and 50 (tobacco tax), have work to do. We've suggested from the start that these measures are passable if a solid campaign for them is staged. But they are not done deals, and the current 58% for the first and 53% for the second, with substantial undecideds, isn't strong enough to allow their supporters to coast.

UPDATE Should have noted here some of the difficulties with this poll and for that matter with any poll so early - none of them would be suitable for taking to the bank. We find the numbers interesting, but no more than that - very far from conclusive. There's a useful detailed critique of this one specifically on the MyDD blog by Oregon blogger torridjoe.

Sali primary: A name attaches

Pat Takasugi

Pat Takasugi

When you have a primary challenge to an incumbent higher-level elected official - U.S. representative, say - from someone who has yet to be elected to anything and isn't really a public figure, there's a usual tendency to shuffle it aside as a matter of attention. And, usually, for good reason: Such races only rarely go anywhere.

Matt Salisbury of Nampa, who has said he will run in the Republican primary against Idaho 1st District Representative Bill Sali, has fit the criterion; after a small flurry of attention in early July when he announced, we've not heard much more (nor been able to locate a campaign web site, we should add).

We have not been given a lot of rationale for Salisbury's race, mostly what can be implied from some early comments to the Associated Press, that he “described himself as a ‘Lincoln Republican’ who believes politicians should stay ‘out of your bedroom and out of your social mores.’ ‘Idahoans deserve a candidate who doesn’t represent social engineering, who doesn’t represent anything other than carrying out the public trust.'" (Which seemed to set him up as running to the left of Sali, at least as assessed by Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance: "These phrases, of course, are right out of the playbook of secular fundamentalists, who do not want to give religious convictions any place at all in public policy debates.")

We do now, however, have a more visible public figure associated with the race: Former state Agriculture Director Pat Takasugi, who also is a former chair of the Canyon County Republicans, who has signed on as campaign chairman. Interviewed by the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Takasugi (like Salisbury) didn't much get into specifics about why Sali ought to be ousted.

What we'll have to watch at this point is whether he is able to pull other prominent Republicans into Salisbury's race. That's not a given; but we'd have to put the Salisbury campaign into a new category at this point.

A call to impeach, no less

Last week Oregon Senator Ron Wyden held town hall meetings in-state about Iraq. Wyden was among the minority of senators opposed to war in Iraq from the beginning, among those most consistently critical. He seemed to barely escape with his skin intact from the Portland event (more than 300 during a noon hour), and Eugene wasn't a lot kinder: Wyden wasn't nearly critical enough of the Bush administration to suit these Oregon crowds.

Said one: "Do you have any idea how angry we are at the Democrats?" - for not being sufficiently fierce in opposition. He went on to ask: "How do you sleep at night?" Oregonian columnist David Sarasohn suggested that "the audience members demanding impeachment were the moderates."

We're not suggesting here that those 300 were typical of all Oregon voters. But we do think there's a change in the political center of gravity, that some ideas and concepts not quite mainstream even a few months ago may be becoming so.

Call that preface to today's announcement from the new Jeff Merkley Democratic campaign for the Senate (against Republican incumbent Gordon Smith) calling for the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. (Specifically, he's supporting the resolution introduced a few weeks back by Washington Representative Jay Inslee.)

"Only through impeachment proceedings will we be able to hold the Attorney General accountable for his actions. I applaud Oregon's four Democratic Congressional Members for their early leadership in co-sponsoring the Inslee resolution in the House," he wrote.

Three or four months ago, you might have called that daring. Today, it's a signal that Merkley's aiming for the Oregon Democratic mainstream.


Check out by all means the fine appreciation piece Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs today on Karen Marchioro, a former state Democratic chair and probably as active in party politics recently as then (in the 80s).

When Washington Democrats were wounded and bleeding after the 1980 election, Marchioro led the party through a decade-long recovery, into strong majority status again by the time she retired as chair in 1992. Then came the 1994 crash and Republican triumph. Signal for Marchioro (and her husband, Jeff Smith) to get to work again. And after another decade, Democrats are back.

Connelly: "The lady is tenacious, but lately has slowly given ground to the most relentless of adversaries: She has cancer. It's time for an appreciation - of Marchioro, to be sure, but, by implication, of those across the spectrum who keep a democracy renewing itself and never crawl into a corner after losing."

An Alternate Energy view

Don Gillispie

Don Gillispie

We've made, on occasion or two, skeptical comments about the proposal to build a private nuclear power plant at Bruneau. Leaving aside the wisdom of the idea (which we haven't much gotten into), we've simply been doubtful that it's an idea likely to see fruition, possibly ever and almost certainly not in the next decade.

And Alternate Energy Holdings, which is aiming toward such a project, says it intends to build a good deal sooner than that. (Our take is that any private nuclear project that can get federal approvals is less than a decade from inception will have worked a miracle in modern times.)

That said, we found interesting this commentary, enclosed in an email (through a public relations firm) from Don Gillispie, the CEO of Alternate Energy. Consider it an alternative view for your Sunday reading.


Same as, maybe less so

About time some journalist documented this: Whether immigrants here illegally are, as alleged, filling up the nation's jails. What they are actually doing is about what you'd expect: Keeping pace, in terms of jail space and type of offenses, with our native population.

Today's Oregonian story on the subject focuses, naturally, on Oregon and secondarily Washington, but the results implicitly ought to apply similarly elsewhere. From the story: "In Oregon state prisons and Portland metro-area jails, presumed illegal immigrants make up a small percentage of those behind bars, and their crime rates are on par with the general population, statistics show. The types of crimes that send them to prison also compares with the general inmate population, according to a review of state records."

It's about what you might expect from a population that, on one hand, wants to keep its collective head low and avoid encounters with the authorities, but that also has little money, sometimes desperate living conditions and may have limited understanding of the place they've reached.

Which is not to say there isn't a problem here. But it does give some useful parameters within which to rationally, rather than emotionally, come to grips with it. A highly recommended read.

Golden won’t run

We suggested some weeks ago, when House Speaker Jeff Merkley entered the race the the U.S. Senate next year, that over time, odds were that he and earlier entrant Steve Novick likely would have the Democratic field mostly to themselves.

And since then, other prospects indeed have been dropping off, including state Senator Alan Bates of Ashland and now Jeff Golden, who had gone so far as to leave a job behind to consider the run.

Golden was a host on Jefferson Public Radio at Medford, and quit that job to consider the race. He may go back to it (it's not yet been filled) in coming weeks.

Could be that someone else in additional to Merkley and Novick wind up on the Democratic primary ballot. But theirs are likely to be the only candidacies of substance.

Middle ground

We haven't much gotten into the Gordon Smith/Dick Cheney/Klamath fish killoff story since it first broke, in part because the details have been covered thoroughly elsewhere. But a story this morning in the Bend Bulletin does suggest a thought about the way Oregon Senator Smith is handling the matter, a pattern to look for in the year-plus to come.

To oversimplify, the issue concerns the low water flows in the Klamath River in southwestern Oregon and northern California, not enough water for both the farmers in the area and the fish in the river. Federal action - directed, we now know, by Vice President Cheney, partly on behalf of Smith (and with his approval) while Smith was up for re-election in 2002 - led to water delivery to the farmers. Some months later, an estimated 77,000 salmon in the Klamath died - the largest single die-off of fish ever recorded in the western United States. Cheney's role in this has become the subject of a U.S. House committee inquiry.

Smith has defended the federal action, which was generally popular around the Klamath area but less so in urban areas - many found the fish die-off troubling at least. The Eugene Register Guard reported that "Smith, who pushed the Bush administration to help get water for farmers' potato crops and alfalfa fields, said he recalled that the salmon 'died of some gill disease, which is not uncommon and happens periodically.'" That (and his statement that the fish died a year and a half after the water shutdown, as opposed to the correct six months) has led to at least a limited firestorm. Blogs on the left have taken after Smith on these points, but so did the Register Guard, which editorialized: "The problem with Sen. Gordon Smith's defense of the Bush administration's 2002 decision to divert Klamath Lake water for irrigation isn't that the Oregon Republican is wobbly on the facts. It's that he's willing to bend and selectively omit the facts to justify ideologically driven political positions."


Money, public or private

dark cell On matters financial, basics are basics, and we get into trouble - as in our current housing market - when we talk ourselves into the idea that fiscal wizardry can solve our problems. Consider this a cautionary note as state leaders in Idaho, one of the nation's top lock-em-up prison states, confronts the question of cost.

Prison costs are rising in Idaho (as they are most everywhere, to some extent) and the fiscal conservatives in Idaho government aren't pleased at the idea of spending the money. A Spokane Spokesman-Review article on the subject, noting that hundreds of Idaho prisoners already are locked up out of state and possibly 5,500 more beds will be needed in the next decade, outlines the strategy being developed by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter: Outsource it. It quotes Corrections Director Bent Reinke as saying, "There’s a desire by both the board of correction and the governor’s office to have Idaho’s next prison be privatized.” (The idea would be that, as in Texas, it would hold out of state as well as in-state prisoners.)

Otter: “It’s really a question of capital . . . We just simply, without absolutely busting the budget, we can’t make that kind of capital available as we need it.” Private enterprise, he said, “can go out in the marketplace and kind of work their magic.”

The red flag should be the phrase "work their magic," because in the end there's no magic to be worked.