Writings and observations

Political activity and convolutions in Snohomish County run about as complex as they do anywhere in the Northwest – not a new thing. The players are many, the competition between and within parties is serious, and there’s an unusual amount of back-and-forth in movement between state and county posts, certainly more than in most counties. (The county’s executive since 2004, Aaron Reardon, was a state senator and representative previously.)

For the latest mindbender, chec out “Dems may play musical chairs” in the Everett Herald today. You can get a hint of where this is going from the outline of Democratic strategic thinking; the paper reports that “what they don’t want is for the current Snohomish County Council to make the appointments for fear those selections wouldn’t be the top choice of Democrats. It happened in 2004. When an opening emerged in the 38th District, Democrat precinct leaders sent three names to the Republican-controlled County Council. While Mike Sells garnered the most support from activists, the council appointed David Simpson. Sells unseated Simpson in the following election.”

Now, there’s concern something similar might happen if state Representatives Brian Sullivan and John Lovick move over to the county side later this year, opening their House seats. Summary beyond that would be problematic; if interested, the whole thing is recommended.

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Preserve Eagle

Michael Huffaker, Saundra McDavid, Al Shoushtarian

Candidate slates are an underused political tactic in places, such as cities in the Northwest, where candidates officially run as nonpartisan. Many voters have trouble keeping straight which candidates stand where. Slates can help do that, if the issue the slate is presenting is clear enough. (It was, for example, in 1983 and 1985 Boise city elections, when a group advocating a specific planning and growth change and endorsing a slate of candidates took over every elective office at City Hall.)

In the ballooning city of Eagle (around 21,000 population now, ten times what it was only a generation ago), growth is the obvious issue on the table. City leaders in recent years have struggled with it, but in the end seem generally to have accommodated to the desires of developers, leading to some jaw-dropping results. If you’re in the area, travel sometime north of town on Highway 55 to the under-construction Avimore development, miles north of Eagle separated by mountains and open desert, but which Eagle is seeking to annex.

Not everyone in Eagle is in agreement. Three candidates – attorney Saundra McDavid running for mayor, and attorney Michael Huffaker and investor Al Shoushtarian running for the council – are campaigning under the banner of “Preserve Eagle.” We’ll be watching to see how well they do.

Here’s some of what they had to say to the Ada County Association of Realtors:

1. Why are you a candidate for this office?
We are seeking these positions in order to preserve Eagle. This is the Eagle of a few years ago, where home values were increasing, our schools were not over capacity, our traffic was not congested, there was plenty of water for everyone and we were assured of open space and a healthy community. We are not against growth in the Eagle area. We do believe that growth should be managed in a way that will preserve the quality of life in Eagle. All of us have been approached by members of the Eagle community and asked to run for these offices, as our vision is shared by a great many people.

2. In your opinion, what are the three most critical issues facing the City at the present time? Which is most important to you?
The three most critical issues facing Eagle are
– Infrastructure: whether our streets, schools, fire and police protection, libraries, water supply, sewage facility, etc. are sufficient to accommodate exponential growth;
– Budget: whether our finances are sufficient to accommodate a growing city, and
– Comprehensive Plan: We need consistent, reliable and predictable comprehensive planning. . . .

4. What do you think causes growth? How should growth be planned and paid for? Market conditions play a role in our growth. We experienced a surge of opportunistic development during the last two years and now are experiencing a market correction with an oversupply of homes on the market. Eagle’s comprehensive plan for the large tracts of undeveloped land to our west and north should be reviewed, and an emphasis put on quality, not quantity. We need to set our focus back on the Eagle heritage of open spaces and preserve the water, air and natural places that enhance our quality of life.

Growth can be planned by creating a well conceived, forward looking comprehensive plan and following it in our development decisions.

There’s a real question of whether you can preserve what’s already left the train station. But these three do seem to have a clear lode star. A fair amount of politics in the area (not to mention the area itself) could center on whether they’re in the majority or minority.

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This was the day by which Idaho Senator Larry Craig said he intended to resign. There’s been, of course, no such yet. As of midnight tonight, we’re officially off into uncharted territory. Will Craig stay another day or into early 2009? No one knows, maybe not even Craig himself.

The Washington Post is reporting today that Craig’s fellow Republican caucus members, having failed to ease him out by suasion, are plotting tougher measures:

“Worried that the disgraced lawmaker intends to remain in the Senate indefinitely, they are threatening to notch up the public humiliation by seeking an open ethics hearing on the restroom scandal that enveloped Craig last month. The Senate hearing would examine the original charges in Craig’s case, including the allegation of ‘interference with privacy,’ for peeping into the bathroom stall occupied by an undercover police officer. One senior Republican aide imagined ‘witnesses, documents, all in front of the klieg lights.’ The committee also could look for ‘a pattern of conduct’ – which means combing court records in other locales to discover whether Craig had prior arrests that haven’t come to light.”

Maybe they will. Or this could be more bark than bite, because the klieg lights might shine uncomfortably. The national political effect of the Craig story has hurt Republicans; now that the intensity of the story is easing back, would they really be wise to stoke it up again? The facts of the Craig story are already pretty much out there, and would only be reiterated. (Unless there are more legal cases buried elsewhere around the country; though we tend to doubt that, since odds are they would have surfaced in the last month-plus of intense scrutiny.)

The other possibility, if they landed really hard pressure on Craig, might be an explosion from the Idaho senator. Craig has, after all, 17 years in the heart of the Senate, and there’s probably not a lot about the dark underside of the membership he doesn’t know. The caucus might be wise to re-think the rough stuff; they may not know exactly what kind of explosive they’re dealing with.

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the giant worm

the giant worm

The chatter by stevenl on Olyblog about designating the mountain beaver as Washington’s state rodent – and please don’t tell anyone in Oregon that the beaver is a rodent – is one thing.

But we can tell you right now why this second idea is a political non-starter: What politician would want to give his constituency nightmares?

That may be why newspapers seem to have been a little wary in their coverage of newly-found cases (first in a couple of decades) of the giant Palouse earthworm (Driloleirus americanus). This charming creature is reported to grow as long as three feet (though usually half or less of that), and “is albino in appearance, and when handled it gives off a scent similar to that of the lily flower. It is reported to be able to spit in self-defense.” (The worm is listed as somewhat threatened, officially “vulnerable.” Some people may feel better knowing that.)

stevenl offers, “The beauty of making both of these uniquely Pacific Northwest animals official state symbols is that they will represent both sides of the state, mountain beavers on the wet side, giant Palouse earthworms on the high and dry side.”

Hmm. Wonder what the people in Colfax and Pomeroy would say about that. One of Olyblog’s commenters wrote, “That’s one frightening worm. I’m going to have nightmares tonight.” (Ever seen the movie Tremors?)

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Oregon politics watchers need to read a Thursday piece in the Ashland Daily Tidings, taking a look at the shifting politics in Jackson County (the Medford/Ashland area).

And they do seem to be changing, matching with our vote tracking. The Tidings piece doesn’t overstate – Medford, and Jackson County as a whole, still has a Republican registration advantage and elects overall more Republicans than Democrats. But the percentages have been changing, and Medford has been gradually moving increasingly in the direction that other Northwest urban centers have, to the point that Democrats have become competitive in the county.

Consider this from the story: “Brian Platt of Medford, chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party, agrees that the local GOP has seen a deflection locally, but argues that just because some voters might have left the Republican Party officially does not mean that they are now voting Democratic.”

But if they’ve gone to the trouble of formally cutting off from the Republican Party, that certainly can’t be taken as much of a sign that they’re planning to continue voting for Republicans as they traditionally have. (Hat tip to Blue Oregon.)

REGISTRATION STATS Statewide and in most counties, the number of registered voters in Oregon declined from January to July (the most recent numbers available) – mainly, presumably, as voters were cleared off the rolls because of moves, deaths and so on. Maybe notable, though, is that while Democratic statewide registration fell by 10,021 to 756,108, Republican registration fell 11,676 to 691,450. The Democratic registration advantage seems to be gently expanding.

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We’ve been enjoying among regional political blogs those by Statehouse reporters; so far, the largest paper represented in the group has been the Seattle Times, where Dave Postman has been blogging steadily for months. Now the Oregonian is joining in.

We just noticed the new Jeff Mapes political blog on the Oregonian site, and looking forward to see where he takes it. (Before long, we can get into some fun comparisons . . . ) He starts early on with a little self-description, alongside an already-significant batch of substance. Guess we’ll have to add this to our regular stops . . .

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John Frohnmayer

John Frohnmayer at the Statehouse

There are ways of looking at John Frohnmayer‘s Oregon Senate candidacy – any candidacy, for that matter – other than in the political calculus of polls and vote probabilities. One of the those is in the calculus of structuring the debate.

He is running as a candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon (not yet, presumably, though likely as its eventual nominee), and we’ve suggested before that his odds of pulling in more votes than the Republican or Democratic nominee is not good. Putting that aside, he may have other kinds of effect.

Formerly both a Republican and a Democrat, Frohnmayer has a statesmanslike sense to him, particularly Oregonian in style, affable but serious. (Counterparts in Washington would be more aggressive, and in Idaho a little earthier.) Unlike independent efforts of the past, this one is starting early, already has covered large swaths the state and, Forhnmayer says, will hit all 36 counties before very long.

It’s enough to get a message out and affect the discussion, especially if the tools of the digital age are put to work. And they have been. He’s already been visible on YouTube, and his staff (which he already has) also is busy finding ways to gain visibility, sometimes in unlikely places. This morning we watched as he did that in the press conference room at the Salem Statehouse, drawing only a small local media contingent – but that didn’t matter. His remarks, captured on video, were headed for YouTube, where he’s already been drawing a substantial audience. (His clip on impeachment has drawn about 3,000 views so far.)

All this could turn into enough to work its way into the Smith-Merkley-Novick discussions. And the substance could be strong enough to affect its structure and tenor.

His talk – his eventual clip – was his critique of where Republicans have gone wrong. He said he’ll later cover the Democrats too but did say of them in this talk that “he Democrats, again, turn to spin – that I am a shill for Gordon Smith to take votes from the Democratic candidate and assure a Republican victory. My candidacy offers a clear choice and I will get votes from both democrats and republicans but, particularly, from Republicans.”

His rationale covered six or seven main points, and is worth reading in detail. He started by identifying himself with such Republicans as Dwight Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt, and Oregonians Tom McCall (he likes to make a regular swing by the big McCall portrait at the Statehouse when he visits) and Mark Hatfield, and Republican traditions as they expressed them.

I became politically aware during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and worked for Mark Hatfield.s election in the early 60s. Eisenhower believed in investment, but today investment has been supplanted by greed. And it is greed, above all else, that has caused the Republican Party to lose its way. . .

Here are six ways in which traditional Republican values, traditional republican principles have been spun, jettisoned, disregarded, all to our detriment.

First, Eisenhower’s investment in our roads and national infrastructure has been neglected. Interstate 5 has ruts like a slalom course. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation approximately 25% of the bridges in Oregon are structurally deficient, and 1,200 are functionally obsolete. More than 350 roads in Oregon are rated as poor by the Federal Highway Administration. But most importantly, we need a transportation system that is coherent and connects the various transportation entities: water, rail, road, bike and pedestrian so that we can move people, and materials, and products efficiently. Investment isn.t sexy. It seldom gets political attention, but it is the DNA of a successful economy.

Second, Ike warned against the military industrial complex. His greatest fears have been realized. Last month, the present Republican administration announced that it had signed a deal for 30 billion dollars in military aid to Israel, and 20 billion dollars of military aid to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. How could that possibly make the Middle East safer?

Third, investments and deficits: Vice President Dick Cheney has told us repeatedly that, “Deficits don’t matter.” They don’t matter if you don’t care about your children or your childrens childrens children. Somebody has to pay for deficits sometime. Republicans used to spend wisely. Now they just spend.

How about education? That’s number four. I benefited hugely from the G.I. Bill that was available to me after serving in Viet Nam. I also benefited from the State G.I. Loan program so I could buy my first house. We are spending, according to the latest Pentagon Bill, 480 billion dollars a year on the military. wouldnt it be wiser if educated 50,000 children so that they could understand Farsi and Arabic and the Indian continent.s languages and Chinese and could therefore reach out to other cultures, learn their desires and motivations. Wouldn.t that make the world safer than building more bombs and planes and aircraft carriers? Military power works best when it is a deterrent as opposed to the political tool of first resort. This administration.s saber rattling about Iran should chill every American to the bone. It certainly does me. . . .

Fifth, what about investment in our manufacturing base? What manufacturing? Under this administration and, indeed, the Democratic administration that preceded it, deals such as NAFTA, WTO, CAFTA, have led to the flight of capital to other countries – China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Guatemala. We have traded quality (a very traditional Republican value) for cheap goods, throwaway items that pollute our planet, satisfy no one, and are not even utilitarian because they break. This is a frontal assault on the middle class. The quest for cheap labor and big profits has undermined the middle class and the family wage jobs upon which it has always depended. Republican leadership claims to stand for family values, but families that can.t afford to put food on the table, a family where one major car repair is an economic disaster, a family that can’t afford to support its kids in school is the kind of disinvestment that national Republican policies have brought us. Hard work, honest wages, the dignity of those people who work – those are Republican values – or at least they used to be. Education in professional industrial technology has been disregarded, ignored, stripped from school curricula. Here I’m talking about electricians, carpenters, masons, mechanics, machinists, all noble professions. How many schools in Oregon have auto shop, wood shop, or what we used to call home economics?

And sixth, in this non-exclusive list of Republican values that have washed away like the tide, is stewardship. I’m talking about stewardship of Oregon – our beaches, our forests, our plateaus and plains, our river basins. Tom McCall, a great Republican leader, was the author of the beach bill and statewide land use planning. That has given way to, “let me get mine and the hell with the rest of you.” We need to work together to create jobs, a sustainable environment, and preservation of our forests, our fisheries, our economic base and our wonderful environment. Working together used to be a Republican value. Now it.s partisan bickering, a tax system whereby the rich get richer, some corporations pay virtually no tax, and the middle class bears the burden.

We are in a national malaise. Since 9/11 we have bought a line of hokum that suggests that in order to be safe, we have to be compliant, our civil liberties curtailed, our initiative dependent upon leadership from Washington. That.s not Oregon, that’s not traditional Republican values, that.s just baloney. The very phrase “the war on terror” requires us to ask all the wrong questions. It’s not a war on terror any more than World War II was a war on blitzkrieg. The struggle that we are involved in is a struggle to reestablish values, to recognize that sacrifice and hard work and articulated goals are how we succeed as a state and as a country. We can be excellent in everything we do. We can produce the best timber, the best fish, the best wheat, the best electronics, the best wine. It.s not the war on terror. It’s the struggle to establish enlightened democratic principles throughout the world. We can, through the strength of our character, the determination of our workforce and the quality of our society include everybody, make a place for everybody, and return to a respect for the rule of law as our guiding principal as a society, as a nation, as a state.

He didn’t include the conservative religious component in the modern Republican Party, although he does on the front page of his campaign website: “If you think unifying religion and politics is a good idea, just look around the world at where people are killing each other and you will find governments who are trying it.”

There’s a substantial slice of the Republican Party which responds to the kind of talk Frohnmayer is making here, and Gordon Smith has to bear it in mind. Some of this overlaps with the ongoing development of message in the Democratic camp too – you can imagine Steve Novick or Jeff Merkley agreeing with much of what Frohnmayer has to say, phrased perhaps a little differently. But the emphasis might be different.

A lot of political dialogue has to do with what you choose to talk about, and what you choose not to. Frohnmayer may be putting some ideas on the table that others could find hard to ignore.

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The decision in the Brandon Mayfield case by Federal District Judge Ann Aiken at Portland seems not to have been widely linked directly; but it has strong merit and should be read, if only as a set of reminders in basic civics.

The decision aims to strike down parts of the Patriot Act having to do with search and seizure – basically, the sections that ignore constitutional restrictions on search and seizure. A sample passage:

Finally and perhaps most significantly, In re Sealed Case ignores congressional concern with the appropriate balance between intelligence gathering and criminal law enforcement. It is notable that our Founding Fathers anticipated this very conflict as evidenced by the discussion in the Federalist Papers.

Their concern regarding unrestrained government resulted in the separation of powers, checks and balances, and ultimately, the Bill of Rights. Where these important objectives merge, it is critical that we, as a democratic Nation, pay close attention to traditional Fourth Amendment principles. The Fourth Amendment has served this Nation well for 220 years, through many other perils. Title III, like the Supreme Court’s pronouncements in Katz and Berger, recognizes that wiretaps are searches requiring fidelity to the Fourth Amendment.

Moreover, the constitutionally required interplay between Executive action, Judicial decision, and Congressional enactment, has been eliminated by the FISA amendments. Prior to the amendments, the three branches of government operated with thoughtful and deliberate checks and balances – a principle upon
which our Nation was founded. These constitutional checks and balances effectively curtail overzealous executive, legislative, or judicial activity regardless of the catalyst for overzealousness. The Constitution contains bedrock principles that the framers believed essential. Those principles should not be easily altered by the expediencies of the moment.

Despite this, the FISCR holds that the Constitution need not control the conduct of criminal surveillance in the United States. In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the Executive Branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate. The defendant here is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.

We’ll see whether common sense continues to prevail on appeal.

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This candidate-in-action but not in announcement thing has worn pretty thin. Republicans no less than Democrats seemed irritated by it in the case of now-presidential candidate Fred Thompson. In the case of the Washington governorship, it seems no less peculiar.

Dave Postman of the Seattle Times took that on in a post (“My skepticism on the slippery slope to cynicism” – wow, a new verbal word game?) taking on the two prospective candidates for governor next year, Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire and Republican challenger (?) Dino Rossi:

“Incumbent Gov. Christine Gregoire has nearly $3 million in her re-election account but says she’s not a candidate. She won’t announce, she says, because that would politicize her work with the 2008 Legislature. . . . Meanwhile, Republican Dino Rossi has resigned as president of his non-profit but is taking a lump sum payment as severance that will give him what he would earn through the end of October. That’s just about the time he says he’ll decide whether or not to run.”

Both of them say they’re not announced candidates. Yet, at least.

They aren’t entirely equivalent cases (we’ll make that point, even if Postman left it hanging). Gregoire’s stated intent to run (and it’s obviously more than a Larry Craig “intent”) is evident; she draws the line at a “formal” announcement of candidacy. Rossi’s line is further back. For public consumption, at least, he says he honestly hasn’t decided whether he will run, though for weeks and months Republicans around Washington high and low have maintained there’s no doubt that he will, and the state party would be shocked into cycle-long coma if he didn’t.

It’s silliness, yes. So we’ll cut the knot.

By recognizing this: Both Gregoire and Rossi are already registered as candidates for governor in 2008 in the records of the Public Disclosure Commission.

And wise they both were in doing that, because the PDC is stringent in its requirements about when a candidate has to file with them:

A person becomes a candidate for PDC purposes when he or she


does any of the following:
• receives contributions, makes expenditures, or reserves space or facilities with intent to promote his or her candidacy;
• purchases commercial advertising space or broadcast time to promote his or her candidacy;
• authorizes another person to take one of these above actions on his or her behalf;
• announces publicly that he or she is seeking office; or
• files a declaration of candidacy with the appropriate elections official.

That “first” is bold-faced and underlined in the PDC instructions. Both Gregoire and Rossi doubtless are listed with the PDC because either one or more of those actions have been taken, or might have been taken – and why risk the legal issues? (There are also, by the way, two little-known filers for governor as well: Republican Javier Lopez and Democrat James White.)

The PDC says they’re candidates. Henceforth, and until we see reason to do otherwise, so will we.

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This is a story that just refuses to tamp down. That September 30 deadline by which time Idaho Senator Larry Craig said he “intended” to resign seems – seems – to have been blown away, with no new deadline in sight.

He may be there a while.

Craig’s effort to overturn his plea and conviction in his Minneapolis disorderly conduct case went before a Minnesota judge today; the judge heard arguments and said he would take several days to consider them before ruling.

Craig’s response: “Today was a major step in the legal effort to clear my name. The court has not issued a ruling on my motion to withdraw my guilty plea. For now, I will continue my work in the United States Senate for Idaho.”

For now and for how long? A thought: Every additional day Craig stays in office, and continues voting and otherwise working, is a slight improvement on the odds that Craig decides he won’t resign after all.

A maybe significant response, from Representative Mike Simpson: “I believe he can still be an effective lawmaker for Idaho should he decide to continue serving in the U.S. Senate.”

Craig just might be sticking.

ALSO And some similar comment from Senator Mike Crapo, though a little less explicit.

AND Bear in mind Craig’s reported comments to CNN, that he’s staying put until “legal determinations” are concluded. Any decision next week (if it appears then) by the Minnesota judge could result in an appeal, either by Craig or by Minnesota prosecutors. Adjudication of that appeal could take months, even many months . . .

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