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Posts published in November 2007

The church page

Drawing your attention to our latest page, "At the churches," a list of major churches around the Pacific Northwest - primarily those called megachurches.

The idea is not that they're politically active (though some do have roles that relate to politics in various ways). More, the idea is that these churches are major contributors of ideas in our society, developers of world views that in turn come to influence voting patterns and political activity, even if only very indirectly. We've been quietly watching activity in this area for a while; in the weeks and months to come, you'll see somewhat more posts here on this subject. Consider this page an opening of marking of territory of interest.

Why Idaho Ds like Obama

Sometimes the reason partisans in a given area support a particular presidential candidate are clear enough, sometimes a little less obvious. Of the three Northwest states, Idaho offers the most educational instances of both with the evidently really decisive levels of support within each party for a particular candidate: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney among Republicans, and Illinois Senator Barack Obama among Democrats.

The Romney connection is clear enough for several reasons, starting with the Mormon connection but moving on to other factors. The Obama support level, which seems very high among Idaho Democrats, has been a little less obvious.

But read a post on Red State Rebels and at least part of the reason comes clearer: "Many people support Senator Hillary Clinton for President because they believe she is strong, smart, and capable. I agree. Would she make a good President? I believe she would. Can she win? Maybe. But is the 2008 election strictly about taking back the White House? I humbly decry that it is not. The 2008 election is also about restoring hope to our nation and scoring victories here at home, in Idaho. I have been approached by scores of Democratic Party leaders across our state for nearly 8 months with increasing concerns, who are not scared of a Hillary Presidency, but of a Hillary candidacy and what a successful nomination would mean for our local and state-wide candidates running for office."

The post goes on to talk about Obama's positive qualities as well. But certainly not many Idaho Democrats are looking forward to the idea of running down-ballot from Hillary Clinton.

Ron Paul country

Ron Paul

Ron Paul

The Ron Paul campaign continues to surprise and do well in the Northwest. We've spotted no lack of Paul signage all over the region in recent weeks; could it be his fiscal conservatism combined with his anti-war stance? Both of those things would sell reasonably in the Northwest, to some extent, anyway. Whatever it is, Paul is going very well in this corner of the country.

There's a striking map on the Paul campaign well site (hat tip to Oregon Catalyst for the pointer) showing the number of fourth-quarter donors per capita, by state. Excepting New Hampshire, where he also does well, Paul's support seems heavily weighed to the western states (excepting California). Of those western states, Montana and Nevada are in the top tier, and Idaho and Washington are just behind, with Oregon also doing well for Paul in the next rank.

Oregon Catalyst has a fine - and intense - discussion about this.

A three-way

The entry this week of Boise businessman Walt Minnick into what's now a three-way Democratic primary for the 1st U.S. House seat raises some issues - most immediately: Who winds up taking the primary?

And there we have no obvious answer - less obvious than some advocates probably think. Leaving aside the matter of the general election (any Democratic nominee will, as matters stand, be looking at a steep uphill against incumbent Republican Bill Sali), the primary is shaping as a seriously contested three-way contest that realistically could go in any direction.

Early presumption, months ago, was that 2006 Democratic nominee Larry Grant would have the nomination for the asking. And Grant is asking: He has announced his 2008 campaign. The arguments for a clear enough. Grant came across fairly well as a candidate last time (go back and read the at-the-time descriptions if you doubt that; a lot of revisionism has been underway this year). His campaign had faults, as all do, but it ran energetically, and Grant displayed substantial campaign skills. For '08, he can draw on experience and much of his existing organization, and build on his mostly positive name ID.

The counter is that he's never won a race, either, and the vocal criticisms of last year's candidacy which have emerged this year from within his own party have sapped some Democratic confidence (and helped lead to the other candidacies). He's not a new face this time. And his campaign hasn't been super-visible since his announcement in July. (The most current press release on his web site is dated September 27.) Some Democrats will back him out of loyalty; others may question whether he pulled his weight last time.

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Another one gone

Washington Group International

Washington Group International

The roster of big home-grown Boise businesses slims down again, as stockholders at Washington Group International - formerly and long known to Boiseans as Morrison-Knudsen Corporation - on Thursday agreed to sell the company to URS Corporation of San Francisco.

M-K was a pride of Boise for many years, whose origins run back to the construction in 1905 of an irrigation canal in the Boise area. It long has been a major international building contractor and a big player in the city and state and the politics of both.

It ought to register with Idahoans as a major event - and it is - but it may not. At this point, a lot of Boise's history has begun to recede. We talked this morning with one long-time Boisean who said he nearly ran off the road when he heard on his car radio an announcer talk about "Morrison-Nutson" corporation . . .

City Hall at Chavez

This sounds supernally clever: How can you possibly say Portland Latinos would be dissed by the failure to rename Interstate Avenue for Cesar Chavez, when the street to be named for him instead would be SW 4th - the street that runs right in front of City Hall?

It might well be an easy street to rename compared to many. There's no "name" identification to redo with a numbered street, and mail sent to SW 4th would still no doubt make its way to destination. At the same time, a renaming for the street on which City Hall sits can hardly be considered minor.

A neat solution. One would think. One will see.

Bulletin board

One of the things political blogs can do is to serve as a kind of community bulletin board. Mostly, blogs that do this - in Oregon, Blue Oregon and Oregon Catalyst both sort of do - are partisan, home for posts from one side of the fence. But there are other ways you can approach this, including throwing open the doors entirely.

Newspaper website logically can do this. The Pocatello Idaho State Journal has loosely done this with its politics blog, which includes material from the paper itself (including some of its editorials) but also opinion posts from far and wide. (Material from super-veteran Idahoan Perry Swisher often are found there.)

In a little more formalized format, the Boise Idaho Statesman is setting out to do that too, with announcement today (via Kevin Riechert's blog) of Talking Points, which will provide bulletin-board space for guest ops. The first batch up are posts from the state's congressional delegation, but we'll be interested to see how it's used in weeks to come.

Semi-popular

Josh Marquis

Josh Marquis

When we wrote on October 27 about the ballot issue to provide a salary supplement to the Clatsop County prosecutor, we suggested that the fairly well-known attorney - Josh Marquis - might get a pretty good reading from this vote of his real popularity in the county. After all, district attorneys are not often defeated for re-election absent some hot controversy, and Marquis' professional capability doesn't seem in question. Astoria has, after all, only so many attorneys.

The results are in. (Quick background: Many of Oregon's smaller counties provided supplements to the state-provided pay for their DAs; Marquis' was pulled because of a squabble with the county commission. The campaign over the ballot issue was heated.) But it's hard to know what to make of it.

Measure 4-123 appears to have gotten 6,596 favorable votes and 6,666 against: Losing by 70 votes.

Hmm. Not an overwhelming endorsement, but certainly no great rejection either. Marquis may be mulling on this for a while.

And in Florence

Just off the phone with a radio talk show on KCST-AM at Florence, Oregon, which is going through a mayoral recall election - another case of a group foisting the recall but unwilling to join in the conversation about it (in this case, declining entreaties to join the talk show about the recall).

The host noted this was the third recall election in the immediate area in recent years - not a good sign.

Their ballot deadline is in a few weeks. We'll see how this one does.

It’s a good idea anyway

We've long liked the idea - tried in a number of times and a number of places - of "Capitol for a Day," where top state leaders, usually including the governor, descend on some distant community. It lets the local people meet their state leaders and say their piece to them. And it exposes state people to constituents who don't wear suits and aren't being paid to get something. It's nice symbolism on top of that.

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's revival of the idea stands as sound, a point that ought to be re-emphasized in the wake of this in the Spokane Spokesman-Review: "Shoshone County wasn’t too captivated by Gov. Butch Otter’s visit Tuesday, with only a mother and her home-schooled son showing up for the 'Capitol for a Day' session. But that didn’t mean Kingston resident Dawn Hauff and her 10-year-old son Dan were alone with the governor in the Wallace Senior Drop-in Center. About 40 people crammed into the room, but they didn’t exactly count as 'average citizens.' All were elected or held some type of government job."

Note to the governor: The fact that you didn't have an automatic flash mob at Wallace doesn't mean you're doing something wrong. The fact that the results weren't entirely under control may mean you were doing something right.

OR: Broadening in the primary

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

Steve Novick

Steve Novick

The two Oregon Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick, each held informational sessions in the last week for small groups of bloggers (Merkley last Wednesday, Novick on teleconference this morning). Both offered some useful background and some insight into the candidacies. (Hint to Republican Senator Gordon Smith.)

The meets were not exactly the same. Merkley's was a session aimed at getting to know the guy; in a small group (and apparently he's been doing a bunch of those), he comes across as easy-going and neighborly, if also energetic and smart. He made no particulary pointed remarks about Novick. Novick's teleconference was aimed more at campaign analysis and featured poll number crunching; as in other formats, he comes across as also edgy and witty, as well as energetic and smart. He did speak of Merkley (of which, keep reading).

Merkley is not a household name but he is the state House speaker and he has the larger share of establishment support within the party, giving him a sort of default role as frontrunner. The hazard to Novick is that he could move into the role of the outsider also-ran; but there is a counter-hazard if he go after Merkley hard, which is that he could be blamed in future if Merkley wins the primary and loses the general to Republican Smith. Novick has taken some heat for that already, for remarks which were not really very barbed (certainly nowhere near as sharp as Novick is capable of). And yet, some differentiation, and a case that he can win both primary and general, is essential for a Novick campaign. (Obviously, neither Democrat is holding back, or has any reason to, in unleashing their arrows at Smith.)

At the same time, Merkley won't be able - or probably shouldn't - act as if Novick's isn't a serious candidacy. Novick was quick to point out that in recent polling, he and Merkley scored similarly in matchups against Smith, possibly an indicator that their actual starting positions as candidates aren't far apart. Both candidates have real political skills and solid staffs, and may not be especially far apart on money or organization, either.

Some of that will shake out over time. Meanwhile, the two Democrats have appeared on the same stage several times already, including last weekend in eastern Oregon, and how they relate to each other. And there may be some evolution there. Novick's first take on why him-not-Merkley had to do with Merkley's vote for an Iraq resolution in the Oregon House in 2003. In his analysis today of the head to head with Merkley, including the polling and other factors, Novick didn't much get into Iraq, instead suggesting more generally that Merkley's campaign is more cautious and less bold (than his) on issues. That could be described almost as a stylistic differentiation which could have meaning in the Democratic primary but not so much in the general, and so might not hurt the party's nominee. (Does that sound like something Novick would think of? May be.)

The campaign evolution is beginning, half a year out from the primary and a year from the general.

Will be interesting when Smith weighs in. As, one of these days, he will eventually have to.

Who can write what

Ahot debate has emerged around and about the Spokane Spokesman-Review in the last few days not so much about the paper's recent layoffs - cutbacks which, especially in the Idaho part of the operation, we consider tragic - as a news report about them. The debate has to do not with the accuracy or general approach in the piece, but rather with who wrote it.

"Leaning Tower," about the cutbacks, appeared in the Spokane alternative Inlander, and was written by Kevin Taylor. The tag line at the end notes that the writer is "a former Spokesman-Review employee," and he was. He worked in the paper's Idaho bureau, and was fired from his reporting job there, before linking up with the Inlander.

You can read the article from the link; our quick take on it is that it seems generally neutral and fair.

Which made for an unusual post from Steve Smith, the Spokesman's editor. Smith's blogging (he does a good deal of it, and commenting too) ordinarily runs toward the thoughtful and well reasoned. But he sounded scattered in his post about the Inlander article:

"I have no specific complaints about the report except for its superficiality. What is happening to this newspaper and the industry overall is complicated and important and worthy of in-depth outside review. Of course, that isn't The Inlander's goal when they report on the SR. My biggest complaint involves Taylor's assignment to this or any story about the SR. The note at the bottom of his story describes him as a former SR reporter. Well, that is like calling Jayson Blair a former New York Times reporter. It's true, but highly inaccurate."

Running through . . . Most news reports, notably most in most newspapers (daily and weekly both), necessarily, are superficial: They are produced fast, and only limited space is alloted for them. Would a book length have met Smith's standards? (Not that the subject of what's happening to newspapers wouldn't be worth that treatment.) He gets into mind-reading when he prescribes a "goal" for the Inlander, which seems unfair since the only available evidence, the article itself, read like a straight news report. And in fact, "calling Jayson Blair a former New York Times reporter" would be accurate - a description insufficient for fair understanding of the situation, but accurate nonetheless.

Our interest here, though, is in his suggestion (generally in the post) that certain reporters shouldn't write about certain things - that Taylor shouldn't have been allowed (or assigned - we evidently don't know which) to write about the Spokesman because of the blowup involving him and it.

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