Archive for October, 2007

Oct 16 2007

Re-viewing Craig

Published by under Idaho

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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Oct 16 2007

Walden’s SCHIP spot

Published by under Oregon

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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Oct 15 2007

Back atcha

Published by under Idaho

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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Oct 14 2007

Train, train

Published by under Idaho,Oregon

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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Oct 14 2007

Part 2: The second time around

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

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.

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Oct 13 2007

Towering above

Published by under Oregon

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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Oct 13 2007

Part 1: The second time around

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Only but so many seriously-contested major-office races – we’re defining “major office” here as congressional and gubernatorial – are in the offing in the Northwest for 2008, as matters sit, and that makes sense considering how few incumbents are losing these days. Also striking: The number of candidates in these particular races who, having lost once, are determined to give it a second shot.

Second runs by losing candidates of course aren’t unprecedented – and we’ll get to some of that history shortly – but this time, many of the key races seem to be dominated by reruns.

The one governor’ race in the region appears likely to be rematch between Democrat Chris Gregoire, now the incumbent, and Republican Dino Rossi (though Rossi could still shock us all and drop out). 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. Rumors and sighs about actual battles for U.S. House seats so far have focused on three districts in the region, one in each state – and each one featuring, odds appear, a rematch from 2006.

Prompting us to take a quick two-part look at, first, the record in recent times of beating incumbents and, second (in a post tomorrow) the track record of candidates who run a second time.

Actually, we can dispose of the incumbent-beating track record pretty quickly. Simply, it doesn’t happen a lot.

Over the last 20 years, no governor has been defeated for re-election in Idaho, Oregon or Washington: The last was Washington Republican John Spellman in 1984. You have to go back to 1970 in Idaho and to 1978 in Oregon to find a gubernatorial incumbent loss (though at least a couple of other governors, in Oregon in 1994 and in Washington in 1996, were at severe risk of loss and retired instead).

During this same time, just one U.S. senator was defeated for re-election – Washington’s Slade Gorton, in 2000 (who also happened to be the last one in the region defeated for re-election prior to that, in 1986). The last senator ousted by the voters in Idaho was Democrat Frank Church in 1980, and in Oregon Democrat Wayne Morse in 1968 – nearly four decades ago. Senatorial losses are not commonplace in the region, either.

There are a few more in the U.S. House, but the overall record there still isn’t a lot more challenger-inviting.

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Oct 12 2007

Something for everybody

Published by under Washington

You gotta love this about a two-newspaper town: endorsements for everyone. Not that this is unusual for the Seattle Times, where endorsements lean Republican, or Post-Intelligencer, where they tend Democratic. But fun anyway.

So who you gonna vote for in the King County prosecutor race, in a choice between two candidates – Republican incumbent (recent appointee) Dan Satterberg and Democratic challenger Bill Sherman – each considered at least capable and adeuate choices?

PI endorsement: “A clearer desire for change sets Sherman slightly but promisingly apart.”

Times endorsement: Sherman “is up against a wall of experience, and he does not make enough of a case to knock it down. . . . Satterberg, interim King County prosecutor, deserves election to the remaining three years of the term of the late prosecuting attorney, Norm Maleng. His experience in the office gives him the edge . . .”

The Times‘ David Postman, who interviewed both candidates Wednesday, has posted the audio and his short comments on the encounter. His thought: “The Cliff Notes version of that would be: Satterberg: Norm; Sherman: Democrat.”

And that seems to be what underlies this, in a case where two reasonably qualified attorneys are up against each other: Regard for long-time Prosecutor Norm Maleng against the county’s Democratic tilt. (Although, consider as well this rundown by the PI‘s Joel Connelly.)

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Oct 11 2007

He would have been pleased, now

Published by under Idaho

College of Idaho

College of Idaho

The private College of Idaho at Caldwell, founded in 1881, achieved some renown over the years as a liberal arts institution, helped along to a considerable degree by substantial donations from an alum, supermarket founder Joe Albertson (and his wife Kathryn). He gave those gifts quietly, usually anonymously, partly because he was not a man who insisted on public applause for every good thing he did, but maybe also for some cannier reasons, too.

In 1991 the institution’s name was changed, to the Albertson College of Idaho. Quite a few people – we were among them – disliked the change. Not, certainly, because of anything against Albertson, who really had helped the college and may have forestalled closure once or twice. Rather, because it just sounded tacky. It sounded as if the college was another department in a supermarket. It had a crass we’re-for-sale feel to it. And because we were convinced that if Albertson were still alive – he had died a few years before – he would have vetoed the idea. Sharply.

Today, college President Bob Hoover said the college is changing its name again – back to College of Idaho.

It stems partly from the corporate selloff of the Albertson’s company to Supervalu; but that sounds like the lesser part of it. It follows on the heels of another Albertsons donation – this one $50 million from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, one of the largest private college donations ever; there’s certainly no Albertson repudiation here.

Instead, as the Idaho Press Tribune described the rationale: “The decision was made partly because some College of Idaho alumni didn’t feel connected to the school after the name change, officials said, and partly because some people believed the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation was fully supporting the college. That made it difficult to raise money, officials said.”

And this: “The private school has long been the subject of jokes referring to its shared name with a grocery store, including zingers such as, ‘What’s your degree in — paper, or plastic?’ . . . Current students and alumni cheered when Hoover announced the name change. ‘I think it will put us a little higher in the college rankings, because it just sounds more prestigous,’ said Joelle Cote, a 20-year-old junior majoring in health sciences and nursing at the school.”

Joe Albertson was a shrewd guy. He may have understood all this long ago.

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Oct 11 2007

The Craig poll

Published by under Idaho

There’s probably not a lot to say about the KIVI-TV poll (by Greg Smith & Associates) released this morning on Senator Larry Craig, saying a majority (51%) of his Idaho constituents would like to see him . . . elsewhere. And 21% thought he should hang in.

Our basic thoughts ran much like those of the Spokesman-Review‘s Betsy Russell, who among other things concluded: “Anyone who’s been reading letters to the editor pages in Idaho might have expected a much larger number wanting Craig to quit… And as far as the 6 percent the poll found unaware of the situation, wow! How do they do that? Is it possible to completely avoid hearing about this?”

(Commenters noted that the 6% is nearly within the poll’s 5.6% margin of error. On the other hand, consider the number of Americans who couldn’t tell you who the president is . . .)

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Oct 10 2007

Smith at $6.1 million

Published by under Oregon

We were hazarding a guess that Oregon Senator Gordon Smith‘s fundraising for this cycle would run to about $5 million, or a little more; his actual reporting of $6.1 million probably exceeds most expectations.

The Oregonian‘s Jeff Mapes quotes on his blog from a Smith press release (why aren’t they putting these things on their web site?): “The campaign has raised approximately $6.1 million during the current election cycle and has $4.035 million cash on hand.”

With a year of fundraising yet to go. Any guesses how high this number will go by then? $12 million? $16 million?

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Oct 10 2007

McIver’s case

Published by under Washington

Richard McIver

Richard McIver

No immediate guesses on what the fallout may be for Seattle Council member Richard McIver, arrested early this morning, jailed for invesitgation of misdemeanor domestic violence assault.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, “McIver’s wife, Marlaina Kiner-McIver, had called 911. She told responding officers he was drunk and grabbed her throat and arm during an argument. She says that’s the first time that’s happened in their 33-year marriage.”

McIver has been on the council for a decade, often one of the less-controversial members. The council member he replaced, John Manning, a former police officer, resigned in 1997 following his guilty plea to fourth-degree misdemeanor domestic-violence; attempts at a council comeback in 2003 and this year failed. Too soon to be say, especially since the case is in early stages, but will bear watching.

Does that presage what may happen in McIver’s case?

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Oct 10 2007

Division point?

Published by under Oregon

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

Steve Novick

Steve Novick

The back to back talks by Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley and Portland activist Steve Novick, both running for the U.S. Senate, at this week’s labor conference at Seaside, may have shown off the coming state of the Oregon Democratic Party in microcosm. They certainly ought to have given the party’s leaders something to think about.

Merkley and Novick were cordial and focused their fire on Republican Gordon Smith; and their line of argument against him, and their descriptions of their own philosophies of governing, were similar in content. Theirs was not a “left vs. moderate” sort of thing: Wherever they are on such a scale, they’re not far apart ideologically.

But there was a difference, and it wasn’t subtle.

Merkley made only one quick, glancing reference to Novick, simply acknowleding their joint appearances, nothing substantive. (His speaking, by the ways, seems to have gained in smoothness and strength since last we saw him.) He seemed to take little notice of him.

Novick, while focused on Smith (coupled, of course, with the Bush Administration) and his own views, did carve out a couple of minutes to discuss Merkley, planting one substantial barb along the way.

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Oct 09 2007

Spokane smackdowns

Published by under Washington

Dennis Hession

Dennis Hession

Mary Verner

Mary Verner

The Spokane mayoral race has become increasingly heated, but it seemed to take a distinctly new, and fierce, turn on Monday. That came during one in a lengthy series of debates (another was scheduled for tonight) when Mayor Dennis Hession said that Council member Mary Verner, who is running against him, proposed establishing an Indian casino in a downtown building. (Verner, we should note, is staff director for a regional inter-tribe organization.)

The exchange (audio is available online) was launched with a question from Hession to Verner: Last year, “you approached me on behalf of one of the gaming native tribes about purchasing the Rookery block for the purpose of developing the area as a gaming site. What is your position about gaming in the downtown area and the city of Spokane?”

Verner: “First, I unequivocally deny that I ever approached you on behalf of any of the tribes regarding a gaming facility in downtown Spokane, and I defy you to produce any evidence that I did so.” She said that so far as she knew, none of the tribes she works with has ever approached the city with such an idea. (Hession acknowledged that he had no concrete record of the conversation.)

Here we have some high drama, of a sort you only occasionally see (less often than many people would say) in political campaigns. This isn’t a difference of opinion of a matter of interpretation: Only one of these candidates can be telling the truth.

They’ve got some interesting debates ahead of them, don’t they?

Spokane voters may wish they’d been issued a lie detector along with their ballots.

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Oct 09 2007

Careful what you propose . . .

Published by under Oregon

There’s a sensible political idea among some Democrats that they might be well advised to enter into the ballot issue arena, turf where so many of the Northwest’s recent issues have been right-originated. That can make some sense for either side.

Assuming, of course, one chooses one’s issues wisely. On that front, Democrats might want to take a deep breath before they choose what they want to be identified with.

Ted Blaszak of Democracy Resources posted the general idea at Blue Oregon, along with responses to a question his group posed at the recent Democratic gathering at Sunriver: “Do you have a good idea for a progressive ballot measure?” He got responses. Some of them may be fairly unobjectionable: “Increase tax incentives for homebuilders who use sustainable methods”. Or just intriguing: “Fusion voting.”

But there are some others here – and to be clear, these were only suggestions from individuals, not endorsements from any Democratic group – but worth noting here since Blaszak went quit public with them at Blue Oregon – that Democrats might want to think about carefully before aligning with:

bullet “Abolish the kicker”

bullet “Fine adults who don’t vote”

bullet “Increase the gas tax to pay for local public transportation”

bullet “A progressive sales tax”

bullet “Require a supermajority for tax cuts in the legislature”

You can just see the counter-storm clouds forming . . .

THAT SAID Check out the Blue Oregon post linked above, and read through the comments. you will be find a slew of fascinating ideas and useful policy discussion. Useful ballot issues could easily come out of this kind of back-and-forth.

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