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Posts published in October 2007

Risch’s entry

Jim Risch

Jim Risch

Talk many years ago about Jim Risch, a couple of decades or so back when the subject came up about what the then-state senator might one day run for, didn't center on governor. The word was that the job he'd really be interested in above other things was a seat in the U.S. Senate.

He may become one of the few Idahoans ever to do both. With his announcement today for the Senate, Risch becomes the presumptive Republican nominee and the immediate frontrunner for the job.

Idaho politics having recently gone through such a, ah, peculiar time this last month and a half, it's worth stepping back and taking stock here of what's not been upended (yet, at least) as well as what has.

The path to Risch's announcement was most immediately cleared by Senator Larry Craig's announcement, alongside his declaration of sticking in the Senate, that he would not run for re-election in 2008. Risch months ago had said he likely would run for the seat if Craig didn't, so his announcement is in line with that. But it also had two other effects, which he must realize. The state Republican establishment must realize it too, which helps explain the high-level on-site support Risch got today (from Senator Mike Crapo, former Governor Phil Batt and even the theoretically impartial state GOP Chair Kirk Sullivan). One is that it puts a big obstacle in the way of any decision-changing by Craig on the subject of running again. The other is that it may foreclose candidacies from other major figures in the party - the establishment has closed ranks and made its decision, and it will be hard to buck.

There'll probably be something in the way of small-scale candidacies, like that of elk farm owner Rex Rammell (who has indicated some delight at the idea of running against Risch). But we're guessing there won't be one; Sullivan's support for Risch seems a real indicator. Absent a major figure such as Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, the nomination likely will go to Risch without much difficulty.

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And Buri departs . . .

David Buri

David Buri

And the steady stream of legislative departures in Washington and Oregon continues, with the coming resignation of Washinton Representative David Buri, R-Colfax. He will be director of governmental relations (i.e., lobbyist) for Eastern Washington University. (Buri's geographically large district also includes another, larger, university - Washington State University at Pullman.)

Richard Roesler of the Spokane Spokesman-Review points out on his blog that "Buri's departure leaves a leadership hole for House Republicans. Elected just in 2004, the former legislative assistant quickly proved that he knew his way around, rising to minority floor leader this year. In that job, Buri was essentially the air-traffic-controller for Republican debate on the House floor, working closely with House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, as well as Republican leadership."

Republicans at least shouldn't have much trouble retaining his House seat; aside from Pullman and a handful of precincts in Asotin, this district is solidly Republican. Buri was unopposed last year, and in 2004 won with 61.5%, and decisively in all six counties. The other Republican representatives here did about as well, chalking 61.4% in 2006 and 66.7% in 2004, each of them (Steve Hailey last year, Don Cox before him) clearing all six counties.

Yeah, but around here –

National political news is abuzz with Senator Hillary Clinton pulling away from her two main Democratic presidential rivals, Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards of North Carolina - in some national polls opening a lead of 22 points or more.

Couldn't prove it by the Northwest.

Washington Edwards and Obama supporters seem to have been far outdistancing Clinton's. Over in Idaho, Obama seems to have a huge organizational advantage among Democrats. And in Oregon?

The Oregon Democrats' retreat at Sunriver has featured a straw poll for presidentials, and Obama came in first, with 49 votes, barely ahead of Edwards' 47. Clinton trailed with 36. Fourth-placed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson had a dozen.

Yeah, it's just the Northwest: We're unconvinced this nomination battle is over, or even especially close to over.

Milepost

If you spend a good deal of time traveling around the region (or beyond), you may enjoy this short explanatory piece in the Medford Mail Tribune about a puzzling mile marker.

A bit of history usually helps put the puzzling into focus.

King Co 6: On filling, solidly

Jane Hague

Jane Hague

Richard Pope

Richard Pope

There's ever a debate among political strategists, on how much to concentrate one's efforts on the best shots at a win, as opposed to spreading resources more widely, to cover all bases. There's no perfect answer. But we lean toward the second view - doing the best you can to fill all your ballot slots - because so often, well, things happen, and wild cards flip up.

Today's case in point is the race for the King County Council District 6 seat, which wasn't supposed to be much of a contest.

District 6 is directly east of Seattle, anchored by Bellevue, and taking in a clutch of cities around it: Mercer Island to the southwest, Medina, Clyde Hill and Hunt Point to the west, Kirkland and a small piece of Redmond to the north - an area which over the course of several decades has voted mostly Republican. This seat has had long-running political stability, and its council member, Republican Jane Hague, has held the seat (formerly seat 11) since 1993. She was unopposed for it in 2001 and 2005. In 2004 she launched a run for the U.S. House against Democrat Jay Inslee, and newspaper reports at the time described her as the strongest Republican congressional challenger in the state that year, until she unexpectedly pulled out. Seeking re-election this year, this would seem to be a contest Democratic strategists might pass over.

And they mostly did, and you can bet there's some knashing of teeth and rending of garments in those quarters now.

One reason for that was predictable, because the District 6 area, so strongly Republican for so long, has been trending Democratic in the last few elections, and it will be a U.S. House hotspot next year. This is competitive turf which Democrats could make more competitive by running hard here in advance of next year.

The other reason was unexpected.

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Such nice guys

Two of the region's significant ballot issues coming up next month - Oregon's Measure 50 and Washington's R-67 - ought to be watched closely by marketing professionals. The point: Can sheer weight of money, Niagras of dollars, do the job of winning the public over to the side of two of the least-liked institutions in the country over to their side of an issue?

(Are you watching AMC's excellent new cable series Mad Men? Have you seen the movie Thank You for Smoking? If not, you should.)

Target point for Measure 50 is tobacco companies, and for R-67 insurance companies - who better if you could choose your opposition in a popularity contest? That doesn't mean either will necessarily pass; the outcome of both is in some doubt. The biggest reason for that is that these fat-pocketed targets aren't sitting still. They're throwing major bucks into these campaigns.

Their strategies are somewhat different, befitting the availability of their targets.

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In a name

Biggest issue in Portland right now is a proposal to change the name of a street. And it's not a small thing.

The place is Interstate Boulevard, which doesn't seem a likely spot for social controversy. It is a road in northeast Portland running (very) roughly parallel to Interstate 5, mainly north of the downtown area. Because of hills and freeway ramps and bridges, we got stuck on it a time or two navigating around the area, and it's mostly not an especially memorable stretch. Much of it is industrial, and most of the rest fronts a range of businesses. Residential areas are nearby and peek through here and there. It's not one of the gentrified areas of Portland, but along with the rest of north Portland, it's moving gradually upscale.

Mayor Tom Potter has gotten behind the plan to rename Interstate Boulevard - a pretty generic name, to be sure - as Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Evidently recognizing that not everyone was going to agree, he noted on his web site, "I urge all Portlanders to learn more about this project and what it means the Latino community. Take the time to listen – and I mean really listen – before making a fearful reaction to the idea of change. More importantly in this debate, let’s respect one another. For when we do this, we are really saying to one another 'I respect your right to be here.'”

Fair enough, though respect has to run in all directions, and there are quite a few directions on this. So many, in fact, that we've gotten e-mail inquiries about the subject from as far away as Idaho.

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In the hall of fame

Idaho Senator Larry Craig will be inducted on October 13 into the Idaho Hall of Fame. He apparently is scheduled to attend the ceremony.

The selection, along with others who will be inducted, was made in March, before Craig became so well-known nationally. But there's certainly less doubt now than there may have been before that the senator is among the most famous of Idahoans.

The final arbiter

Washington courts The core sentence in today's Washington Supreme Court decision in Marilou Rickert v. Washington seems unassailable, and it is: "The notion that the government, rather than the people, may be the final arbiter of truth in political debate is fundamentally at odds with the First Amendment. Because RCW 42.17.530(1)(a) rests on the validity of this erroneous assumption, it must be struck down."

Here's the background:

In 2002, Ms. Rickert challenged incumbent Senator Tim Sheldon in the election for state senator from Washington's 35th Legislative District. During the campaign, Ms. Rickert sponsored a mailing that included a brochure comparing her positions to those of Senator Sheldon. In part, the brochure stated that Ms. Rickert "[s]upports social services for the most vulnerable of the state's citizens." Admin. Record (AR) at 10. By way of comparison, the brochure stated that Senator Sheldon "voted to close a facility for the developmentally challenged in his district." Id. In response to the latter statement, Senator Sheldon filed a complaint with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), alleging a violation of RCW 42.17.530(1)(a). RCW 42.17.530(1) provides, in relevant part:

It is a violation of this chapter for a person to sponsor with
actual malice:
(a) Political advertising or an electioneering
communication that contains a false statement of material fact
about a candidate for public office. However, this subsection
(1)(a) does not apply to statements made by a candidate or the
candidate's agent about the candidate himself or herself.

The law put a state agency, the PDC, in the position of deciding which candidates are telling the truth and which aren't. At best, that might logically be a job for a court; but more logically still, it ought to be a job for informed voters to discern. The strike-down of this law, on conceptual as opposed to technical grounds, is significant.