Writings and observations

Following up on a post from few days back about local government recalls, we noted that a recall election had been set for November 20 in our home base community of Carlton, Oregon. The target was the veteran mayor, Kathy Oriet.

Results (most, with a few additional ballots likely to be added0 just in: The recall failed, 191-243.

AURORA UPDATE But – looks as if the mayor in Aurora will be ousted. The ballot count as of midday Wednesday showed the mayor losing by five votes (181-176). We haven’t heard yet what was the crisis so overwhelming in the town of fewer than 1,000 people so serious that the voters couldn’t just wait until the next election.

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Steven Thayne

Steven Thayne

We were not among those who jumped on Senator Larry Craig’s case on grounds of pushing for one policy while (apparently) doing just the opposite in his personal life: Craig’s leadership issues have had to do with natural resources, balanced budgets and the like, more than with social issues.

But Idaho state Representative Steven Thayne, R-Sweet, has made himself the point man for the state’s setters of policy – the Idaho Legislature – both by his positions and comments and formally as chair of the interim Family Task Force, set up “To study the magnitude of the decline of the family since 1950; the effects the decline has had on state social policies; the reasons for the decline, and ways to strengthen the family.”

Moscow Republican Senator Gary Schroeder remarked of the group, “Basically, they are people who think women ought to stay home and take care of the kids.” And the Idaho Statesman added, “Thayn does not shy from this view, calling pre-kindergarten education a ‘free babysitting service’ and suggesting that early childhood education, day-care and Head Start may hurt families by keeping mothers away from home.”

Thayne’s own approach to family values, noted distinctly in his campaigns, has cropped up occasionally. Back in February we quoted from an email by Thayne concerning the Idaho Summit on Hunger: ‘Hunger is not always a negative as the report indicates. Without hunger or the threat of hunger probably half of humanity would not get up in the morning and go to work. Hunger is one of the great motivators of humanity. It is one of the tools that I used as a parent to encourage my children to do their choirs [sic] as young children. When used properly, hunger can motivate people so they can experience the joy of work and accomplishment.’” Hunger, in other words, can be a family value.

And apparently the picture fills in further with a post on Mountain Goat Report, about the April 4 arrest of Thayne’s son on charges of domestic battery against his newlywed wife. (That post has a thorough rundown of the situation.)

So the policy question logically presents itself: If, as Thayne suggests, it is the breakdown of the traditional family structure that causes such problems as domestic violence, what was the cause in the case of his own family? Might not his proposed view of women have something to do with it? And should not the Task Force address that?

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Irresistable news story lead of the day, from a report ut of Central Point by the Medford Mail-Tribune:

“Attempting to remedy what city officials say has been an ongoing code violation, former Mayor Rusty McGrath was cited for accumulation of junk on his Freeman Road property last week.”

Write your own commentary on that one . . .

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We’ll cop to having long ago had a bellyful of presidential come-to-town events: They are neither informative nor fun. Increasingly as campaigns have gone on, they have become wrapped in security and conditions and determination from candidates and campaigns to say absolutely nothing that might be in any way be damaging, which usually means saying nothing of any interest.

With that attitude firmly in hand, a piece in the Slog today came as refreshing. Posted by Ryan Jackson, it describes a Seattle Stranger reporter’s first exposure to the presidential candidate come-to-town scene. Conclusion: “It was a weird kind of fun.”

Okay. It seems that way. For a while.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Former Governor Cecil Andrus, still the most key figure among Idaho Democrats, backed Grant last time but now is supporting Minnick, who launched his campaign just last week and is starting nearly from scratch. Not, to be sure, in terms of his standing in the state and among Democrats. He ran a high-toned campaign in 1996 for the U.S. Senate against Republican Larry Craig and took 40% of the vote – not a close loss. But Minnick, who has background as CEO of at least a couple of substantial corporations (TJ International years ago, and SummerWind nurseries in the last decade) is a well-liked figure among Democrats. Like Grant (former counsel for Micron Technology) he has strong business background and is smart and articulate, and comes across as maybe more personable and easygoing. As much as Grant, and maybe more, he should be able to raise substantial campaign money. There’s some line of thought that, at this point, Minnick has become the presumptive front-runner.

But like Grant, his federal office track record is 0-1. And while active Democrats know him, Idahoans generally haven’t much heard of him since his 1996 campaign; he will be starting over in that regard. And, as much as Grant and maybe more so, there’s nothing of the bomb-thrower about him; crafting the powerfully emotional case needed to oust a conservative Republican in today’s Idaho will be hard, and harder for those without sharp elbows.

The third candidate in the field, Rand Lewis, has been – relatively – been dismissed by some of the Democratic activist field. But he shouldn’t be. Over coffee with Lewis and his wife Jan during a swing south to Boise, the Moscow instructor and career Army officer emerged as a plausible alternative.

He has never run for office before; first-timers who start with The Game tend not to know quite what they’ve gotten into until the campaign is well underway. (Grant and Minnick have both been there already.) His background – 29 years in the military (Air Force and Army) and more recently as a director of the University of Idaho’s Martin Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution – don’t suggest the kind of casual backslapper Democrats would need to win over Republican-leaning voters.

His personal manner, though, suggests little either of military or academic careers; small-town neighborly (even while just as articulate as the other two) seems to fit a little more. Meanwhile, his background has afforded him a wealth of stories, from work on troop deployment into the 90s (he retired from the Army in 1996) to involvement in research on al-Qaeda in those years as well. He is comfortable and conversant in talking about international affairs in a way few Idahoans are, which may be an edge. (His background in a number of other areas is thinner, which could be a debility.) His willingness to use somewhat tougher language may appeal to a number of Democrats looking for a harder edge. Active in the race since early this year, he described a surprisingly large campaign network already in place, with a series of town hall meetings to begin in a few weeks. And, he would be a fresh face.

Three options. And, depending on how the campaigns develop, any of them might manage that nomination, for whatever it may prove to be worth.

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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 Corporationon 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 . . .

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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.

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