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Posts published in October 2007

Marquis of the county

Josh Marquis

Josh Marquis

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis periodically has come to political notice recent years whenever a substantial major-office set comes open, or Democrats are hunting for a challenger (as, earlier this year, for the U.S. Senate): His name winds up, a little mysteriously, on the list of possibilities. Which tends to generate questions, such as, who is this small-county prosecutor who keeps getting these mentions?

Turns out that this election is giving us some unexpected answers to that question.

Marquis has been DA since 1994, when he was appointed; in the way of many smaller-county DAs who've wanted to keep the post, he's been routinely re-elected (four times) since. He has some knack for visibility, making a name as a death-penalty advocate (and quoted on the subject by the U.S. Supreme Court).

There's also, however, some contention surrounding him at home in Astoria. Base pay for prosecutors is paid by the state government in Oregon, but counties have the option to add to that base, and many of them do. When they don't, the main reason is severe financial hardship (as in Coos County, where the DS has taken a pay cut). In Clatsop County, the commissioners this year have withheld the local add-on, mainly at the doing of Commission Chair Richard Lee. Lee and Marquis have a hard-core battle going on.

The underlying reasons may have to do with decisions about which and how many cases Marquis files, or to do with Marquis' wife's 2006 campaign against Lee (which almost unseated the commissioner), or a dog-licensure case Marquis filed against Lee, or maybe something else. Its latest manifestation is a local ballot issue (Measure 4-123) whose sole purpose, if it passes, would be restoring the county bonus to Marquis' pay. (It has a heck of campaign, and a heck of a multi-media web site too.)

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The previous Sam Adams

Sam Adams

Sam Adams

The very ugly community of trademark barracudas strike again, and maybe in a really bad place this time: They're trying to tell a candidate for office he can't use his own name in the process of campaigning!

Maybe this will be one of the cases that helps break the back of a really foul trend in our legal system.

What happened in this case is that Portland City Council member Sam Adams has said he plans to run for mayor. His advocates include KEX radio hosts Mark and Dave, who obtained two web domain names for the candidate, samadamsformayor.com, for use in the campaign, and mayorsamadams.com if/after he's elected.

If you click on those links you'll see a notice that "Due to pending legal action these pages are now unavailable." The reason for that is a cease-and-desist letter from Helen Bornemann, intellectual property manager for the Boston Beer Company. "We believe that the sale of any services or products under this name will cause confusion as to the source, sponsorship or affiliation of such services or products and/or dilute the distinctiveness of our famous trademarks and trade name."

It is true that Adams himself didn't file for the domains. But this action is aimed at barring him from using them anyway, and beyond that, if those two domains were a problem, presumably any domain in which Adams uses his own name would be a problem. And, as one commenter at Willamette Week asks, "Will historians have to use the little TM symbol every time they mention the real [historical] Samuel Adams now?"

The Portland Adams, no slouch at a retort: “They say they’ve been using this trademark since 1984. I’ve been using it since 1963.” Ah, but he didn't get a lawyer to file a trademark action at the time, did he? Maybe the lesson is that we all need to, if we want to be able to use our own names without having lawyers sicced on us.

Boston Beer may wise up and withdraw; we sort of suspect they will. But we sort of hope they don't. May the intellectual property crowd break their picks on this one.

LATER They may be backing down, in part. At a Wall Street Journal legal affairs blog: "A spokeswoman for Boston Beer called the Law Blog and said they never had an issue with the mayoral candidate using his name but they do have an issue with the radio station using Sam Adams for its own business purposes." That's an allegation of something that wasn't happening to begin with.

Smith in the mix

How does Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's race for re-election next year fit into the national picture of Senate races? Clearly, this is not a seat as at-risk for the Republicans as those up next year in Virginia or Colorado (or probably for the Democrats in Louisiana), but it's definitely on the watch list.

Chris Cillizza, of the Washington Post's Fix report, took on just that question (if not exactly the one he was asked) in a Q&A released today. Here's that part of it:

Arlington, Va: Collins, Smith, and Coleman: Tough incumbents. Collins is in the more liberal state facing a pretty tough opponent, but is the most liked among the three. Smith is still somewhat popular, but facing only a second-tier opponent. Coleman isn't well-liked, but likely is facing a polarizing opponent with high negatives. If you had to guess, how many of these seats do Democrats pick up? You don't even have to guess which ones!

Chris Cillizza: Great question.
I would throw New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu (R) into that mix as well. All four GOP incumbents sit in states carried by the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 which makes them ripe targets.
Sununu is clearly the most vulnerable of the group as he faces former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
Judging from the body language of national Democratic strategists I would probably out Smith as the next most vulnerable; polling shows voters don't have a firm view on the incumbent and are more than willing to consider and laternative [sic].
Collins and Coleman are tougher nuts to crack. Both are quite savvy politicians who understand the challenge before them. But, if 2006 tauight me anything, it's that a national environment that strongly favors one party can overrwhlem even the most capable of incumbent campaigners.

Uproar in the NIA

This is hindsight now - we didn't see it coming either, so none of this is we-told-you-so - but, in hindsight, you can understand why there's such uproar and outrage about the North Idaho Adjudication, to the point that bagging it is a consideration on the table.

Our view has been and is that the NIA would be a real asset to the Panhandle, as over time the Snake River Basin Adjudication will be for most of the rest of the state. The Panhandle legislators who got the NIA pushed through - partly in return for their regional support for late-running issues in SRBA - understood that. Now the whole effort could come undone, but if it does, it will be a loss for the area and a distinct failure for the Panhandle's local political leaders.

But you can see why it's happened. On this issue of water, the North simply isn't as sophisticated as the South.

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Revolutionizing Boardman

the raceway at Boardman

Raceway at Boardman/Pacific NW Motorsports Park

We motor through Boardman (Oregon, that is, in case you're unfamiliar) periodically, and ordinarily it has not been among the high points of those trips. Nothing against the city or the people there, it's just that . . . there's a lot of flat, scenically empty miles on any side of Boardman, and we've found the area most notable for the dust storms which, to the area's credit, are duly warned about in area traffic signs.

People do live and work there, mainly in crop process and port activities, but for most of us the Boardman area isn't a destination. Or hasn't been. But that may change, because of something that happened at 2 p.m. today.

Boardman now seems poised for a long-awaited development as a racetrack destination point. From the management of the Pacific Northwest Motorsports Park: "Boardman's motorsports speedway development will officially make the leap from dream to reality on Thursday, October 25th at 2:00 PM, when state, regional and local officials join the developers of Oregon International Speedway to break ground for Pacific Northwest Motorsports Park at the Tower Road site just off I-84, exit 158. The first motorsports country club in the Pacific Northwest is expected to open to members and enthusiasts in the fall 2008."

They're talking about a massive development, including hotel space, other entertainment options, condos, golf and more.

Very ambitious. You have to keep your fingers crossed on this one, because what's needed is a large response - a substantial customer base - which would have to come from a considerable distance away. Boardman is quite a distance from a large population center - close to halfway between Portland and Boise, which in total is a full day's drive.

But it's worth crossing fingers. If it works as a business proposition, it could establish a real gem in a part of the Northwest that could use it. And in this kind of area, this kind of development really doesn't have any obvious downside.

It also could give the region's racing community something to cheer for, after their double rejections in the last few years around the Puget Sound. NASCAR may not have gotten very interested yet, but if the early economic signs look good, that could change.

and Rossi’s in

Dino Rossi family

Dino Rossi family

In today's long-awaited announcement that he will run again against Democrat Christine Gregoire for governor, Republican Dino Rossi met the first two bars any challenger of an incumbent - for that is their respective roles now - has to do. But look through what he has to say, and you're left with the simultaneous impressions of, "is that all there is?" and, "we're drowning in data, what's your point?"

What we're left looking for for is this: The one or two really compelling arguments for why you gotta fire the incumbent and hire this guy. Rossi's statement was loaded with critiques of the Gregoire Administration, and included a list of his own proposals. But will voters find any of them strong enough to reverse the direction they've taken the last four years?

We're not easily finding the political version of the "killer app," instead reading through a list of arguments that can too easily bog down in details - stuff that doesn't seem very likely to grab voters by the throat, rivet them enough to get their attention.

Here are is the Rossi brief against Gregoire, from his descriptive press release on te announcement:

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The daily crises

At the New West Boise blog, Jill Kuraitis has a nice first-person piece up about what happened after she heard a report suggesting that her in-uniform son might have been hurt, or worse, and how she got help and information (and, finally, word that her son was okay) from the office of Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.

She concludes, "In an election year, it’s often overlooked that winning political campaigns turn into government offices which serve the people. A lot of what a senators field staff does resembles my story, although most are not so easy. They may try to help a farmer whose crop has failed, or track down a scholarship for a deserving kid, or help a widow collect her social security or pension. All Congressbeings have staff who do nothing but constituent service, and they don’t ask if you voted for their boss."

Where Rossi might go

Tomorrow Dino Rossi, the Republican once and presumably about-to-be (we try never to say that something will happen - you never can tell for sure) candidate for governor of Washington, is scheduled to make his big announcement, once in east King County and then in Spokane. (All right, the dual announcement is itself indicative of entry into the race.) At that point, with a formally announced candidate running, the games begin.

So what is Rossi's strategy? The Seattle Times' David Postman has been mulling just that, and poses the question for readers: "What would you tell Rossi to say Thursday when he announces his second campaign for governor? For example, I've been wondering how much time he'll spend in his announcement talking about 2004 and his drawn out battle against Gov. Christine Gregoire. Does it help to make this about a rematch and Rossi's attempt to claim — or reclaim as he'd say — what Republicans think is rightfully his?"

There'd be temptation for Rossi to do that, coming so achingly close only to see his opponent do a whole bunch of stuff, acting very ambitiously, as though she had a landslide mandate (somewhat like a president of our acquaintance). Our thought is that, aside from maybe a quick reference or two, a wink/nod to the faithful who remain convinced he was robbed, he'd be much wiser to move quickly past it. Focus on his loss in 2004 would cast him as a sour-grapes loser, locked in with the might've-beens, stuck in the past, someone out for revenge - not the image of someone you'd want as governor. Besides, those who thought he was robbed already are in his camp; he won't add to their numbers by emphasizing that bit of history.

How would Rossi be better advised to handle his rematch? By recognizing the political changes the state has been through (such as the overwhelming Democratic control of the legislature), and using them. He could say: "Look at what this all-Democratic state government has been doing - but most important, look at the trend line. I have plenty of concerns with the emphasis on tax increases over the last four years. But that's not why I'm running again; that's history. This election is about who will be governor for the next four years. My concern is: Where will four more years of unchecked Democratic control leave us? Do you really want four more years of government so completely in the control of one party, with no one to cry foul or be able to check the bad ideas that come up? Do you want only one set of ideas on the table - or would we be better off having a broader set of ideas in play? Like these that I want to put on the table . . ."

A cautionary note, but without hard-core attack; a call (implicitly, not so explicitly as to put off his partisans) for big-picture moderation; an indication of dealing with a range of ideas, rather than hard-core ideology; a look ahead rather than to the past; a call again (but with a fresh angle) for a partisan break in the governor's office. (Note to Postman: Here's your answer from this corner.)

As to what Rossi actually says, we'll all find out tomorrow.

FLIP SIDE For a sense of the message problems Rossi does face, though, check out the crafty Democratic video about "Rossi's rationale."

Spokesman downsize

An estimated 40 jobs will be going away, 30 of them through layoffs, at the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Tough times which had been earlier foreshadowed.

Publisher Stacey Cowles said the paper is going through a transition, but "we're unsure where it is to."