"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)
Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski screwed up earlier this week when he stalked out of a press conference rather than answer a TV reporter’s question about what he knew, and when he knew it, about Neil Goldschmidt‘s sexual involvement with his 14-year-old babysitter. (Oregon saw his walk-off – it was caught, on tape.) He seems to have recognized that, offering a little more response yesterday – essentially to say that arguments that he knew about the case but wrongly did nothing, were meritless. He says he didn’t know.

That is of course not ending the situation, notably since Portland talk show host Lars Larson has filed a formal complaint with the Oregon State Bar. Larson said Kulongoski had learned about it around 1991, by say of former Goldschmidt speechwriter Fred Leonhardt, who had been told by Bernie Giusto, once a driver for Goldschmidt and currently sheriff of Multnomah County. Giusto is under inquiry himself, in part for the same cause: withholding the knowledge.

The core point is put finely at Northwest Republican: “Why would you believe Fred Leonhardt over Kulongoski? Well a couple of reasons. First see the video from KGW. Second Leanhardt has taken and passed a polygraph backing up his story. And finally Kulongoski is a politician and closely tied with the child molester Goldschmidt. Remember folks, this is not just about Kulongoski hearing some rumor of a former governer. No he had heard about it and still… still decided he would appoint a child molester to the state board of education.”

And the Oregonian‘s Steve Duin blasted, “It is Ted Kulongoski’s good fortune, apparently, that ‘moral fitness’ and ‘honesty’ are standards for police officers, not governors.”

All of this certainly has a sleazy ring to it. But, leaving aside the issues of who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, it looks a little different when you untangle the pieces and put them in perspective. And it raises the question of what were Kulongoski’s – and our – obligations.

Goldschmidt was mayor of Portland in the mid-70s when he and his 14-year-old babysitter had a series of sexual encounters over about three years. (He might have been charged then for statutory rape, but the period allowable for charging has long expired.)

For 29 years this remained concealed from the public; only a few people knew. Willamette Week, which won a Pulitzer for its investigation of the case, wrote that “although many friends of the victim knew about the crime, few of Goldschmidt’s aides, as mayor or as governor, did.” One such, the article said, was a private investigator named Robert K. Burtchaell, who became involved and learned about the situation when Goldschmidt asked him to “handle” the young woman’s complaints, evidently at some point in the early 80s. (Goldschmidt’s involvement with Burtchaell was a whole other matter.)

Willamette’s story didn’t mention either Giusto or Leonhardt, but the Oregonian picked up the thread with its report. It reported that Giusto, who as an Oregon State Police officer served for a time as Goldschmidt’s driver (this would have been in the 1988-90 period), “was aware of a potential legal settlement between Goldschmidt and his victim around 1994 and that he may have talked with Leonhardt about it.” Earlier (the paper reported), as early as 1989, he said he “may have discussed vague rumors” with Leonhardt.

Considering that neither Goldschmidt nor others directly involved would seem to have much reason to confide the mass of gory details to a driver, who also happened to be a cop, you get the sense here that Giusto may have been putting together bits and scraps. He did (according to Leonhardt) tell Leonhardt some details, but Leonhardt “didn’t ask how Giusto learned about this” – so never got a sense of whether the information was solid or gaseous. At the time, it was unsubstantiated; Leonhardt acknowledged that he was then highly skeptical of any of it. Giusto said “he did not remember the breakfast but acknowledged it was possible that the two drove together to Salem and discussed rumors about Goldschmidt and extramarital relationships.” (Note again the use of the word “rumors.”) Leonhardt said he talked about it with other staffers in the governor’s office, and “Finally, we convinced ourselves that it wasn’t true.” The Oregonian said it had substantiation that Leonhardt was talking with other people about this subject toward the end of Goldschmidt’s term, which ended at the beginning of 1991.

The case took a turn in 1989 and early 1990, when for a time a seal court record in Washington state that described the 1970’s child abuse threatened to become unsealed; Goldschmidt, evidently in response (and also following up on a divorce), announced he would not run for a second term as governor.

Remember that by this point, more than a dozen years had passed since the abuse. Rumors were floating, but no evidence. The woman had made no public allegations, and neither were there any confessions, publicly or privately.

Blogger Kari Chisholm recalls the scene from 1990, when Goldschmidt delivered his stunning won’t-run announcement: “There were LOTS of rumors going around. I was a high school senior – interested in politics, doing a little volunteering here and there – and even I heard lots of rumors. Crazy, ridiculous rumors. There was the one about how Neil had a gay lover. There was the one about how Neil had an illegitimate African-American child. There was the one about a hooker in Canada. And there were a dozen variations on the plain ol’ he-had-an-affair rumor. There were so many damn rumors that it was just plain absurd. It seemed, at the time, like everyone had an explanation why the good-looking governor got divorced and gave up his political career. After all, it seemed pretty obvious that it had something to do with infidelity.”

Indeed: A powerhouse governor’s rapid-fire divorce, no second term and dropping out of visible public life, all at once – it meant something, all right, but no satisfying explanations were available. What did it mean? Everyone had a theory; few had facts. Much of what people thought they knew, conflicted.

There was a lot of talk, and the pieces of information Leonhardt had developed probably circled around in upper levels of Democratic politics. Is it credible that some of it made its way to Kulongoski around 1991 (which would be after Goldschmidt had left office and moved to private life)? Credible, yes. Leonhardt says it did – though he described the whole thing at the time as “rumor” not as “fact” (and we should bear in mind that Leonhardt has some personal animus against Kulongoski). The governor says no, it didn’t, at all.

One obvious question is, how can the truth of that matter ever be conclusively established now? Realistically, unless someone produces a tape recording, it probably can’t.

But the other question is, if we assume for the moment that Kulongoski did hear what Leonhardt says he had to say, what exactly was he supposed to do?

According to Willamette Week and Oregonian research, presumably somewhere around two dozen or more people had heard the abuse stories by the time Kulongoski is supposed to have; why did none of them move on it? Some had self-interest at stake, but for others, the simple absence of hard evidence was likely a problem (and as an attorney, Kulongoski would have well understood that). Where was the hard evidence of these events that by then were more than a dozen years old? Moreover – though not exculpatory of what happened in the 70s – there seemed to be no current risk to anyone, no rumor or any other indication that Goldschmidt’s babysitter proclivities had survived disco. Against all that weigh the problem of making a false accusation, in this case one of the most awful accusations a person can make. If you know it’s true, it should be made; but if you’ve got no evidence, nothing more than third-hand rumor, and the (now adult) victim involved isn’t stepping forward or apparently willing to say word one about it . . .

Then what exactly should be the responsibility, the obligation, of a person who, circa 1991, hears unsubstantiated rumors about a sex abuse case more than a decade old?

What standard do you think you should be held to?

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We haven’t gotten particularly interested in the new revisions of public statements on just how much money the ’08 campaign of Representative Dave Reichert has. His spokesman’s explanation that it was an honest error – albeit one that mistakenly resulted in his campaign seeming to out-raise Democratic challenger Darcy Burner – may hold up.

But Daniel Kirkdorffer, a blogger who has been tracking 8th district campaign funding in some detail, has a larger picture that suggests some change in the contours of the congressional race:

We have a year to go, but unlike in 2005, when Reichert held a 10 to 1 money advantage at this point, this time both candidates are heading into the next 12 months essentially neck and neck in the fundraising race, with an edge to Burner due to her having more cash on hand, far less disbursements by not having any left over debt from the last election cycle to retire, and a greater upside in small donors that can be tapped further over the coming months. Reichert has 25% less cash on hand as he did at this point in 2005 despite Bush’s help, while Darcy Burner has 842% more than she did at the same point in the last race.

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Evidently – according to a post in the Slog, admitted anecdotal but still interesting – Portland is becoming the talk of the Big Apple. But what reason exactly, doesn’t seem clear. But nonetheless.

Conclusion: “It felt like when I first went to New York, in the late 1990s, when talking about the Northwest inevitably meant talking about a certain hip new city. Back then it was my city, Seattle. Now it seems to be our southern neighbor.”

But see also the comments.

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Why do incumbents, especially those in higher offices, start with such advantages? One reason is that many of them have staff who, if they’re good, look out carefully for their bosses, and seek out opportunities. Like this, from the Silverton Appeal:

Josh Thomas, a Silverton 12-year-old, had won a writing contest held by Inc. magazine, the Best Lemonade Stand in America Contest; Thomas wrote in about his own lemonade stand (Josh’s Old Fashioned Lemonade Stand, which seems to have grown into a small cottage industry). The award landed him on a Portland radio talk show. Then:

“While he answered questions and shared laughs with the radio hosts, he got a second surprise as Senator Gordon Smith, R-Ore., came on the line and offered his own congratulations and offered Josh the best of luck with his future business ventures.”

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There are some – a growing number – of candidates for office who turn to blogging as part of their campaigns (or, at least, hire it done). But so far there haven’t been a lot of consistent bloggers who have taken the plunge and filed the papers to run for office.

Jim McCabe at Richland, of the often interesting McCranium blog, has done just that – filed (as a write-in) for city council. “Butterflies in my stomach and all. Needless to say I didn’t sleep well last night,” he writes. It was prompted, apparently, by the surprise resignation of Richland Mayor Rob Welch; Welch will go to work for an organization working on combating child sexual abuse.

A campaign evidently is going to ensue, and here’s hoping McCabe records his experiences at McCranium. We’ll read with interest.

POSTSCRIPT Yeah, that’s right – your scribe did “run,” last year, for the Carlton (Oregon) Fire District board of directors, wherein he proceeded to get stomped. That filing occurred, however, only because there appeared to be dramatically more openings for the new board than there were candidates, a situation that changed just before filing deadline; and it did not involve campaigning of any sort. McCabe’s situation promises to be more lively.

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Ahighly recommended read and a treat: A thoughtful wrestling with Oregon’s Measure 50, up for election in the next few weeks, which would raise tobacco taxes to pay (mostly) for health care insurance for children.

Blogger Patrick Emerson at the Oregon Economics Blog arrives at the issue conflicted. He eventually concludes he will vote for Measure 50, but not very happily.

Much of the post consists of an economist’s take on the measure. He estimates that the measure will, as a matter of dollars and cents, mostly do what its proponents suggest it will. Toward the end, through, he wraps with this:

Finally, the last issue is a population without adequate health insurance. This is not really related to smoking and is probably the reason I have so much trouble with this bill. Perhaps I am hopelessly naïve, but this bill is pure populism: let’s tax smokers (boo) and give kids health insurance (yeay). If smoking and its affects are the point of concern than create policy that deals with this. Use tax revenues to support health care for uninsured sufferers of emphysema and lung cancer. If uninsured children are a concern than create a new plan that is funded from general revenues. This creating and ear marking of specific taxes is troubling to me. I don’t like the ends-justify-the-means arguments and I don’t like it in policy either. ‘Sin’ taxes are a political expedient, but are not necessarily good policy (see the beer tax debate from the last legislative session).

But in the end I’ll probably vote for it. What the hell? I don’t smoke!

Next up: A look at Measure 49.

(Hat tip to Blue Oregon for the find.)

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Larry Craig

Larry Craig

This, the Larry and Suzanne Craig interview on NBC by Matt Lauer, came a month after Craig hired heavy crisis control guns, and so it had a carefully defined purpose. It was the same purpose as the famous early 1992 interview on 60 Minutes with Bill and Hillary Clinton: Rehabilitation on a personal level.

It may have worked to a point. To a point.

That point is that the hour-long program gave exposure to not a punchline, not a caricature, but an actual human being. He strikes as humble; his typically strident speaking style is muted, he seems calmer and more reflective, and he comes off as more likable for it.

Did Craig’s claims of innocence convince? Probably not. Most minds long since have been made up about that – too many weeks have passed – and the string of what Craig argues are fluke coincidences surrounding the Minneapolis incident are just too many.

But it may soften some attitudes, especially among people who would like to feel better about Craig. It could make some difference in D.C.; it may help Craig a bit when he travels around Idaho. Somewhat the way the Clintons interview did them. (That interview didn’t, after all, convince many people that Clinton hadn’t philandered.) And Craig did pretty well in the interview; he is naturally articulate, and doubtless extremely thoroughly prepped on top of that.

One other thing, can’t help it. Matt Lauer and Steve Carrell: Separated at birth, right?

VIEWS Probably the program didn’t change many views of people who had strongly-held views beforehand. The Idaho Statesman followed up with an editorial reiterating its call for Craig’s resignation. At New West/Boise, Jill Kuraitis wrote, “The stunning miscalculation that more exposure for Craig would ‘set the record straight’ defies common sense. It’s that when-you’re-in-a-hole-stop-digging thing. The predictable over-rehearsed impression made by the skillful politician put Craig’s unctuous speaking style on display for a whole hour. It was two hours for those of us in Boise who first watched an hour of KTVB’s anchor Mark Johnson interview Craig with mostly softball questions, which also didn’t help Craig. Obvious is obvious.”

That sounds about right, in part at least, but consider also the response from Talking Point Memo’s Josh Marshall: “I watched a portion of Larry Craig’s chat with Matt Lauer. And his denial was so thorough and complete that I had moments where I was almost lulled into the thought that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding.”

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The Northwest’s congressional delegation has run strongly in favor of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. On the crucial House side, just three of the region’s 16 House members seem to be against it: Bill Sali and Greg Walden.

Sali is easy to figure, is an opponent generally of social services spending: “This bill is very harmful. It takes money from hardworking Americans while opening the door to provide health insurance to undocumented foreign nationals, including gang members, drug cartel operatives and terrorists. Further, it taxes Idahoans to provide health insurance to people already covered by private insurance or can afford to get it.” (The other Idaho representative, Mike Simpson, who had been a dentist in private life, went the other way on SCHIP.) Washington’s Doc Hastings has similarly anti-spending views.

But Oregon’s Greg Walden is a more complex case. A post on Blue Oregon had this useful background:

In 1993, after Oregon received federal approval to implement the Oregon Health Plan, then-House Majority Leader Greg Walden negotiated the political deal to jumpstart the plan with a 10-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes. Through these negotiations, Walden demonstrated that he was not an ideologue. To the contrary, Walden was a skillful pragmatist. The deal served his interests since, as commentators at the time noted, Walden had his eye on a future Governor’s race.

Fast forward to 2007 and the present debate between Congress and the Bush Administration about extending and funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Walden began the year lending his name to a letter to the House budget committee arguing for more money for CHIP in the budget. But something happened to Walden by the time the reauthorization and appropriations bill came up for a vote in the House – he backed the President and opposed the CHIP measure. When the compromise conference committee version came back to the House floor, he voted against kids’ health insurance, again.

The next key House vote on SCHIP, veto override vote, comes on Thursday.

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We were sort of noting, repeatedly, back when Idaho Senator Larry Craig was supposed to have been planning to resign, that if he didn’t, he would be in the unusual position of being able to say what he really thinks about people and politics, including many of those at the highest levels.

He has some reasons of loyalty for not bashing some of those Idaho Republicans, such as the other members of the state’s congressional delegation, who haven’t turned on him. But a whole lot of other Republicans may have to watch out.

That was our thought today when we saw Craig’s quote, to NBC, about presidential candidate Mitt Romney: “I’d worked hard for him here in the state. I was a co-chair of his campaign on Capitol Hill. And he not only threw me under his campaign bus, he backed up and ran over me again.”

Having established some cred with that quote – because what that metaphoric depiction is what happened – you wonder what observations are next.

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Can’t recommend holding your breath in waiting for this, but the political stars in favor of the Pioneer line just might be calling into place for the first time in a lot of years. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo is on board with it again, as he has been in years past, as are the two Oregon senators, but perhaps in the next few years the political environment will be less daunting than it was.

A new Senate billS. 294, Amtrak reauthorization – which, among other things, would do a preliminary Pioneer evaluation, moved out of Senate Commerce in May, and now may be getting some of the floor push it needs – the list of co-sponsors is approaching 50 names. An evaluation might or might not pass this year. But if the Senate moves increasingly Democratic after the next election, as seems likely, public transit ideas already in the pipeline may get considerable push. And there’s excellent prospective support in the House, where Oregon’s Peter deFazio is the go-to guy on transportation funding these days.

A lot of this has to do with the standards used to maintain transit lines. Pioneer, which once carried passengers (your scribe, periodically) on a line that included a run from Ogden to Pocatello to Boise across Oregon to Portland, shut down 10 years ago; it was reported to have lost $20 million in its last year. But, of course, that depends in part on how you count.

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Idaho Oregon

Last year while running for governor of Oregon – he would take second place in the Republican primary – Kevin Mannix made a history-based argument to those in his party worried about whether he was electable. Mannix had, after all, lost not only the race for governor the election before in 2002, but also two runs for attorney general against a less-than-charismatic opponent (Hardy Myers, who’s retiring this year).

Mannix’ counter was this: You don’t get to be governor of Oregon without losing a race or two before getting there.

The point’s barb doesn’t hold perfectly – you have to overlook John Kitzhaber, Barbara Roberts and Neil Goldschmidt, who (so far as we can recall) never lost a race – but it does have a point. Oregon’s current governor, Ted Kulongoski, lost a run for the job in 1982, which followed by two years a failed run for the U.S. Senate. The three governors pre-Goldschmidt – Victor Atiyeh, Robert Straub, and Tom McCall – all lost bids for major office before winning the governorship. (Their predecessor, Mark Hatfield, was lossless, but it may be worth noting that he became governor by defeating incumbent Democrat Robert Holmes, who in turn won the job by defeating his Republican predecessor, Elmo Smith.) No binding rule, but some precedent is available.

The argument didn’t work for Mannix; he lost the Republican primary in 2006 to a man he’d defeated in it four years earlier. But the idea at hand – building a winning campaign on the rising ground of earlier defeats – has some pertinence in next year’s Northwest major office races.

As noted here yesterday, the region’s sole governor’s race likely will rematch Democrat Chris Gregoire, now the incumbent, and Republican Dino Rossi. The two Senate races in the region would not be reruns, though in Idaho the probable Republican and Democratic nominees for a presumably (presumably) open seat, Jim Risch and Larry LaRocco, have run against each other twice before.

Moreover: Early energy in U.S. House races have focused so far on three districts in the region, one in each state – and each one featuring, evidently, a rematch from 2006. In the Washington 8th, Republican Dave Reichert likely will re-face Democrat Darcy Burner; in the Idaho 1st, Republican Bill Sali probably will again be challenged by Democrat Larry Grant; and (although this is less settled) in the Oregon 5th, Democrat Darlene Hooley may again face Republican Mike Erickson.

Yesterday we looked at the recent history of taking out incumbents (spotty at best). Today: How do candidates do when they run again? Do reruns often work?

Examine the regional results over the last generation, and you find an answer: Sometimes, but usually when something important enough changes about the race from one election to another, usually something that has to do with the incumbent more than it does the challenger.

There are a number of instances around the Northwest of losing a run for an office before winning it.

Governor’s offices are rich with these cases. Like Oregon, Idaho has plenty of precedent. The Gem State’s governor now, C.L. “Butch” Otter, placed third in the 1978 Republican primary for governor, before he ran for lieutenant governor in 1986 and launching a since-unbroken string of wins. His immediate predecessor, Jim Risch, hasn’t lost for major office but was bounced out of his state Senate seat in 1988 and lost another state Senate race after that, before his comeback in the 90s. Phil Batt, governor from 1995-99, lost a run for the job in 1982. Cecil Andrus, the state’s only four-term governor (1971-77, 1987-95) and one of its most popular, managed to lose two runs for governor in the same year – 1966, once in the primary and then, weirdly, in the general too – before his eventual election. (Andrus has maintained he’s the only person ever to lose a governorship twice at the polls as a ballot-named candidate in the same year; he may be right.)

But because of the four-year gap between elections for governor, or six-year for U.S. Senate, these tend to be fluky cases – and because of the passage of time, many things can change. What about the two-year U.S. House cycles?

On that level, here are the cases we can spot of those who win after losing for the same office:

bullet Brian Baird, Democrat, Washington 3rd. Baird ran a close race, photo-finish, against incumbent Republican Linda Smith in 1996. Two years later, Smith ran for the U.S. Senate instead, and Baird won in his second race, as an organized and known quantity for an open seat.

bullet Jack Metcalf, Republican, Washington 2nd. Lost in 1992 to incumbent Democrat Al Swift. In 1994, Swift retired, Metcalf launched well-organized in a very Republican year, and won. (He retired after 2000.)

bullet Doc Hastings, Republican, Washington 4th. Ran against Democrat Jay Inslee, a strong campaigner, for an open seat in 1992, then beat him in the Republican tide of 1994, after Inslee had become tightly linked to Clinton Administration policies in a very Republican district. Hastings is still there.

bullet Mike Kopetski, Democrat, Oregon 5th. In 1988 Kopetski ran against incumbent Republican Denny Smith, holding him to a virtual draw. In 1990, Smith ran for governor (unsuccessfully), and Kopetski had the campaign and visibility to win the House seat. (This is the Baird scenario precisely, eight years earlier; Kopetski retired in 1994.)

bullet Richard Stallings, Democrat, Idaho 2nd. Stallings launched a seeming long-shot bid against Republican incumbent George Hansen in 1982, losing but with a respectable percentage. Two years later, they rematched, and this time Stallings narrowly (this is super-fine photo-finish) won. What changed? Mostly, that a few months before the 1984 elections, Hansen had been convicted of four felony counts related to finance recordkeeping.

Those five are all the cases we know of in the last generation where a candidate runs for the House the second time in a row, and wins the second time. In three of those cases, the win happened in large part because the incumbent opted out, and the returning challenger was well-set-up to go after the opening. In one other (Stallings) the incumbent had extraordinary legal problems.

And in one (Hastings) case, the challenger was able to take advantage of newly-developed – developed during the term in Congress – changes in issues and political environment, to oust an incumbent. Hastings (in a race that both parties might do well to study this year) is the only recent classic example of defeating a House incumbent on the basis of track record and district political compatibility.

It’s a rarity. Election after election it’s tried, but rarely succeeds. Up against the success stories, consider these:

bullet Jim Feldkamp, Republican, candidate for U.S. House (Oregon 5th), 2004, 2006. His percentage of 37.6% against Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio was almost precisely the same both times, despite a much earlier and more organized start in 2006.

bullet Doug Cloud, Republican, candidate for U.S. House (Washington 6th), 2004, 2006. After take all of 31% against the super-established Democratic incumbent Norm Dicks, he returned to take 29.4% the second time.

bullet Jerry Brady, Democrat, candidate for governor (Idaho), 2002, 2006. Defeated both times, first against incumbent Dirk Kempthorne, then for an open seat by Republican Otter (though, following the norm rule, his percentage improved slightly the second time when the seat opened).

bullet Carol Cassady, Republican, candidate for U.S. House (Washington 7th), 2002, 2004. Talk about a thankless job, running as a Republican in the heart of Seattle, and she did it twice, going from 21.9% the first time to 19.3% the second.

bullet Brian Boquist, Republican, candidate for U.S. House (Oregon 5th), 2000, 2002. Improved his percentage by two points to 45.1% the second time, but still didn’t come close.

bullet Robert Lawrence, Republican, candidate U.S. House (Washington 6th), 1998, 2000, 2002. Co-winner of the regional “glutton for punishment” award: Ran three times against the impregnable Norm Dicks, and his percentages (in order): 31.6%, 31.1%, 31.3%.

bullet Heidi Behrens-Benedict, Democrat, candidate U.S. House (Washington 8th), 1998, 2000, 2002. The other glutton for punishment winner (and maybe she gets the edge because she actually sought the nomination a fourth time). Her percentages against the immovable Jennifer Dunn (in order): 40.3%, 35.6%, 37.3%.

bullet Dan Williams, Democrat, candidate U.S. House (Idaho 1st), 1996, 1998. Running against Republican Helen Chenoweth, his percentage dropped from 47.5% in the first election to 44.7% in the second.

Our conclusion, as suggested earlier: Something very significant, usually involving the winner of the previous election and generally outside control of the challenger, has to change if the results in the second election are to significantly change.

We’d also suggest this, as an opening salvo in election analysis. The question such 2008 prospective challengers as Burner, Grant and Erickson have to ask is: Has enough changed (in the right way) in connection with Reichert, Sali and Hooley to render them drastically more vulnerable in 2008 than in 2006? And if so, what is that?

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Idaho Oregon Washington

Drive around downtown Medford, as we did a few weeks ago, and there’s a tendency to smell stagnation – not a downtown of death or decay, as so many have had, but one that doesn’t seem to be forging ahead. (Much smaller Ashland’s downtown seems more energized.)

This seems to have been recognized locally, and efforts toward ignition seem to have been made with new commercial centers. But the new building could become the spark plug the downtown needs.

It will be anchored by the new corporate offices for Lithia Motors, the large auto seller which is based at Medford; the corporate building will rise 10 stories, the tallest in the city.

And, the Medford Mail Tribune reports, “The headquarters building will anchor The Commons, a nine-block redevelopment project that will fill the blocks roughly between Central and Riverside avenues and Third and Sixth streets. In addition to the 10-story building, The Commons will include residential buildings, retail stores and restaurants, a parking garage and three urban park blocks. Lithia, the city of Medford and the Medford Urban Renewal Agency formed a partnership to create The Commons.”

Medford could have a different sense of itself five years from now.

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