Those mega-dairies have impacts way beyond what you might expect. This is from a letter in the Twin Falls Times News:

I live in Filer. We have only one public Laundromat. In the last two years, I have noticed two white-beige older vans sitting outside this Laundromat filled to the ceiling with duffel bags filled with towels and rags used on local dairies.

My concern, you ask? Simple. Why should our only public Laundromat in Filer be used for the dairies? When my own private washer and dryer went out of service to me, I tried to use the washers and dryers. They were in use from dawn to dusk. Then, from a sanitary point of view, they are not being sanitized or disinfected after each use.

My suggestion, you ask? Simple. With the cost of the washers and dryers at our coin Laundromat, why don’t the dairies purchase this Laundromat and have another Laundromat built for the human residents of Filer and/or build their own on their property and give us back our Laundromat but only after a total sanitizing and disinfecting of the Laundromat we now have.

So let’s hear again how the owners of dairy property have no impact on other people . . .

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We’re likely going to see more of this on a national scale. But we’ll note here David Postman’s recent post that it’s turning up in the Northwest at present.

There are presidential campaigns, and then there are campaigns in support of (or opposition to) presidential campaigns. This fact is significant in the case of all, maybe most significant in the case of Democratic candidate John Edwards, who is taking federal matching money and thereby limiting his campaign funds. But what about other organizations that run their own ads and messages?

This is a sticky and uncertain area, legally and ethically – there’s supposed to be no coordination between the ins and outs, but what that means can be unclear. Postman is noting that one of Washington’s biggest and most influential unions, S.E.I.U. local 775, has been organizing support for Edwards. (The national organization has not endorsed in the Democratic contest.) One local leader told Postman, “At that point no one is really making any strategic decisions. It was just listing a number of things that are obvious that the union could do for Edwards. That includes things you could coordinate and things you couldn’t coordinate.”

As noted, there will be more of this.

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There’s something symbolic, maybe, about the whole idea: Mike Fancher, the been-there-forever editor at the Seattle Times, writer for 16 years of the “Inside the Times” column . . . ending the column and turning blogger.

Sign of the Times.

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So we’ve run through our three lists of races to watch in the legislatures of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, 10 races each; today, a quick overview of the top races in the region. Nothing especially obscure here, but a tad of perspective might be helpful in seeing how the year shapes up.

The numbering logic in similar to the legislative rundown: These are the contests which, from this viewpoint, seem to have the most significance or analytical interest as we look to where Northwest politics goes from here. It isn’t a list of which seats are most likely change parties (though we think there’s a good shot some may) or which incumbents are most endangered. Rather: Which contests stand to say the most about local and Northwest politics? Some of these races tell us something apart from what the partisan balance will be: They tell us something about how people see their community and their state.

One other highly cautionary note: Candidate filing deadlines are quite a ways off, in March for Oregon and Idaho and not until the first half of June for Washington, meaning that surprises in personnel doubtless will continue to unfold. What looks of interest may well change; but this is how it looks at the moment.

(The list is below the fold.)

1 Oregon Senate: Incumbent, Gordon Smith, Republican. Idaho is overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans, and Washington just a little less dominated by Democrats. Oregon is the closest of the three to a two-party state, though the last few elections have kicked it well off center, what with both houses of the legislature and all partisan statewide state government offices, and five of the seven members of Congress, in Democratic hands. What makes it the closest to two-party, more than anything else, is one person: Smith, the one remaining statewide Republican; oust him and Democratic dominance becomes overwhelming. And the odds on his ouster are not terribly far from even; our sense is that his chances for a third term are maybe a hair better than not, but no more than that. The attitude of the voters and the intelligence and organization of the races (more than the money as such) will determine this contest, and it will be hard fought out all year.

2 Washington governor: Incumbent, Chris Gregoire, Democrat. Given the astonishing closeness here last time, between the same two candidates (there seems no significant primary opposition to either Gregoire or Republican Dino Rossi), this has to rise near the top of a major contest list. Our guess at this point is that Gregoire has a very real edge here, and while Rossi retains great good will among his partisans, and at the least will not be blown out, odds are against him crossing the line. But the broad assumption that this is a serious and prospectively close contest will help move it that way, and Gregoire doesn’t have a lot of room for mistakes. On the other hand, neither does Rossi. This may be more a meticulous contest than a field of fireworks.

3 Washington House 8: Incumbent, Dave Reichert, Republican. Our sense of rematches is that more often than not, a second challenge involving the same two candidates leads to a better and stronger campaign by the challenger, and a greater losing margin. But not always – there are ample exceptions to the rule – and so far Democratic second-runner Darcy Burner has been putting together a heckuva campaign, exceedingly well funded and structured, in some ways apparently (we’ll know more with the next campaign finance reports) outstripping Reichert. More important, the east side of King County has been shifting left, hard, in the last few years, and Reichert is having to scramble to keep up. When Reichert was elected in 2004, the legislative delegation here was split and still mostly Republican; now it’s nearly all Democratic, and no part of the state (or Northwest, for that matter) has changed so much so fast. This one bears a microscopic watch.

4 Oregon Secretary of State: Incumbent, Bill Bradbury, Democrat. Bradbury is term-limited and out with this term, and there’s a big field of candidates out there to replace him – all Democrats, so far. Based on that and on recent history, the odds presently favor Democratic retention of the office. But the four Democrats in the race now (and who’s to say there won’t be more?), all of them state senators, are all strong, distinctive and varied personalities with very different kinds of support. There’s Kate Brown, the top fundraiser so far and the first in, former majority leader with a strong Portland base of support. Vicki Walker of Eugene has some statewide reputation as a boat-rocker and has some of the most interesting geographical options for mining backing. Brad Avakian of Washington County could generate a strong suburban base, and Rick Metsger has visiblity from Portland newscasting and some of the strongest campaigning skills. This could be lots of fun for the political scientists.

5 Idaho Senate: Incumbent, Larry Craig, Republican. An open Senate seat, no incumbent running (as we all well know in this case) – sounds like loads of fun and games, right? This is, however, Idaho, and the Republicans seem to have settled on their candidate, Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, who will have a primary contest (against never-elected Rex Rammell) but not one in significant doubt. His presumed Democratic nominee, Larry LaRocco, is both hardworking (in the field more than half a year) and experienced (having won elections to the U.S. House himself in 1990 and 1992); but Risch has faced LaRocco twice on the ballot before, and beat him both times. The outcome – this being Idaho – seems clear enough here, with a caveat or two, principally this: What if the attitudes about national politics sweeping around the country, and dominating politics in Washington and Oregon, actually start having an effect in Idaho? We have yet to see much evidence that it has. But we’ll be watching.

6 Idaho House 1: Incumbent, Bill Sali, Republican. We have to say that Sali hasn’t done himself the political damage in Congress that we half suspected he might; such controversies as he has had haven’t been of the kind to riotously upset his Idaho 1st constituencies. And yet when the national Democratic congressional stragetists put this race on their list of 40 targets (Reichert’s seat was the other in the Northwest), they weren’t being unreasonable, either. And the Democrats may be sniffing something in the wind, what with three contenders crowding their primary. We’re not seeing a shift of ground here, but it could yet happen.

7 Washington House 3: Incumbent, Brian Baird, Democrat. Was a time a few months back when a serious primary contest for Baird, who had just shifted gears on Iraq, looked not just possible but likely. At this point, that should be geared back to “possible”. Some prospective contenders have been approached and backed off; lower-keyed headlines from the Middle East may have helped Baird too. But Iraq is still apt to resurface in this race.

8 Oregon Attorney Genral: Incumbent, Hardy Myers, Democrat. Another of the three Oregon statewides opening this next year, this one too is presently featuring a strong Democratic primary and no Republican in clear sight (though things could be highly entertaining if Kevin Mannix‘ campaign jones gets the better of him again and he again runs for this office Myers beat him for years ago). The two Democrats are very different types, the smoother and lower-key state Representative Greg Macpherson and the more strongly boat-rocking former prosecutor John Kroger. This will be a sharp clash of styles, and approaches.

9 Washington Secretary of State: Incumbent, Sam Reed, Republican. Just how strong is vengeance? On most bases, this shouldn’t be much a contest at all, and it may not be. Reed is generally well liked and regarded, has done a sound job and this Republican in a Democratic state would likely win another general election without breaking a sweat. We’d just throw in here a couple of cautions: Reed is a self-defined moderate in a generally strongly conservative Republican Party; and he was a loyalist to his best intepretation of the law, not necessarily to his party’s nominee, in the 2004 governor’s election, when some members of his own party briefly toyed with a recall effort. We’ve heard nothing so far of a primary challenge to Reed. But we wouldn’t be shocked if it happened.

10 Washington Commissioner of Public Lands: Incumbent, Doug Sutherland, Republican. Sutherland, somewhat like Reed, wouldn’t seem to be especially targeted. But he is. Peter Goldmark, a Democratic Okanogan rancher who ran against U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris last year, is already in the field. West Seattle Senator Erik Poulsen has expressed some interest too. This may be one of the liveliest races around the state this year.

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Campaign finance reports for 2007 won’t be out for a while yet (the end of the year is, of course, generally a significant deadline not for filing but for end-of-period). An interesting note via e-mail from Steve Novick, one of the Oregon Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate: He says he’s at about the half-million-dollar mark. Will be interesting to see where his main primary competitor, House Speaker Jeff Merkley, lands on the end of year report.

From Novick’s mail: “We’ve now passed the $500,000 threshold for the history of the campaign, but to meet our target for midnight December 31 we’re counting on you to send us a few dollars more. In perspective, that’s more than Bill Bradbury had at this point in 2001 (almost more than he had in April right before the primary). More than Jon Tester had at this point in 2005, more than Ted Kulongoski had at this point in 2001 and way, way more than Paul Wellstone had at the end of 1989. We’re really in a great position to make our case to the voters next year.”

PROMO Novick picked up a favorable review/interview in an online Harper’s Magazine piece, “Watch Out for Left Hook: Six Questions for Oregon Senatorial Candidate Steve Novick.” It mentions, naturally, that he’s running to oust Republican Gordon Smith, but curiously fails to notice at all that Smith isn’t his current opposition: That would be fellow primary contenders Merkley and Eugene real estate broker Candy Neville.

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Washington statehouse

The generic look for Washington legislative politics seems to be, will the Democrats solidify gains which in the last couple of cycles have put them in decisive and almost overwhelming control? An early look suggests that if on one hand they’ve pretty much picked off not only the low-hanging but even most of the reasonably accessible fruit, they’re still not necessarily done. And for all the Democratic targets out there, not a lot of them look especially vulnerable.

So. What we have here is the third of three lists covering the legislatures of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, with one covering major offices for the three states coming tomorrow; 10 races each. The numbering logic in similar for all: These are the contests which, from this viewpoint, seem to have the most significance or analytical interest as we look to where Northwest politics goes from here. It isn’t a list of which seats will change parties (though we think there’s a good shot some of them will) or which incumbents are most endangered (among other things, some of these are open seats). Rather: Which contests stand to say the most about local and Northwest politics?

There’s little chance, to be sure, that Republicans will be able to retake the Senate in 08, and odds are less than even (though closer than remote) for a recapture of the House. But the House margins are still close, and every one of those 60 contests will have some significance. And, as is often so, some of these races tell us something apart from what the partisan balance will be: They tell us something about how people see their community and their state.

One other highly cautionary note: Candidate filing doesn’t happen until early June, meaning that surprises in personnel doubtless will continue to unfold. However, we do have early filings with the Public Disclosure Commission to work with, and though those are mainly pro forma filings by incumbents, they are in some cases early indicators.

(The list is below the fold.)

1 House 41-1: Incumbent, Fred Jarrett, D(officially?)-Mercer Island. Last cycle, probably the premier legislative race in Washington pitted incumbent Republican Senator Luke Esser against Representative Rodney Tom – Tom being a newly-minted Democrat who had last been elected as a Republican. Tom won (53.4%), in one of the races that left Democrats with control of the bulk of seats on King County’s east side. In November, one of the few Republicans left in the area, Jarrett, said he would switch parties, and run for the Senate in his district. That Senate race may be of interest, but the general take (which seems about right) is that Jarrett’s personal popularity together with the shifting sands in his district (the seat now is held by a retiring Democrat) likely will result in a decisive win for him. (Jarrett’s win last time, 53.3%, was relatively low for him, especially compared to the other House member there, Judy Clibborn, at 64.7%.) What happens to his current House seat may be of more interest, because Republicans have made clear they’re not going to just let it go, and both parties already have candidates in: Mercer Island City Councilman Steve Litzow, for the Republicans, and Renton School Board member Marcie Maxwell for the Democrats.

2 House 10-1: Incumbent, Chris Strow (departing), R-Freeland. One of a bunch of House Republicans to opt out this year, Strow will be departed by the time the ’08 session starts in mid-January. His replacement isn’t certain, though an edge seems to go to Norma Smith of Clinton. Smith has experience – she has run as a Republican for Congress and for the state Senate, but lost both times – though she has won only for the nonpartisan school board. She may be a solid enough candidate, but in partisan terms this is an iffy district, maybe the iffiest in the state: Its Democratic state senator (Mary Margaret Haugen) and two representatives (Strow and Barbara Bailey) all won their last contested elections with less than 52% of the vote. This is a setup for a hot contest for Whidbey Island and west Skagit.

3 House 6-2: Incumbent, John Ahern, R-Spokane. You might ask, what gives?, since Ahern won his last election in ’06 with 60% of the vote. Answer is that as the last of the Republican central-Spokane district legislators, he’s an obvious heavy target for area Democrats. (We’d guess that’s the moreso since they’re unlikely to get as excited about a U.S. House race in the area as they were the last couple of times.) As widely noted, you have to go back to 1938 for the last time this area sent a Democrat to Olympia – and then in 2006, it sent two, in the other two seats here. And John Driscoll, a health care activist highly visible in the Spokane business community, is already in the race. There are Spokane-area consequences in this one.

4 House 30: Incumbent, Shirley Hankins, R-Richland. Hankins has been a kind of legislative outrider for some time; though a Republican, for years she declined to join in caucus meetings. Now she’s hit a rough patch, fined $4,174 by the Legislative Ethics Board on charges of using her office to help a tire company owned by members of her family. The case has gotten plenty of attention in the Tri-Cities, and it may be that fellow Republicans may be less likely to jump to her defense than to that of some other Republicans. (Which may not be all that much anyway, as Jim Dunn and Richard Curtis could attest.) Hankins has been in the legislature nearly a quarter-century at this point; does she opt out? A fascinating primary could result if she does – or if she doesn’t.

5 House 26-2: Incumbent, Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor. A bunch of new Democrats were elected to the Washington Legislature in 2006, and all of them logically are apt to be targeted by Republicans – you never know where the soft spots may be. Our guess is that Seaquist may be among the most-targeted. First elected last year (with a moderate 55%), he became a somewhat controversial figure during the speedway ruckus during the last session. The other House member here, Patricia Lantz (57% in 2006) is a decade-long veteran. And there’s some talk that Republican Pierce County Council Chairman Terry Lee, who’s not seeking re-election, may run for one of the House seats, and it’s not hard to figure which he might choose. The Gig Harbor-southern Kitsap area is politically marginal, and this contest could be worth watching.

6 House 17-1: Incumbent, Jim Dunn, R-Vancouver. 2007 was a year when Washington Republicans just couldn’t catch a break, and not because of what the Democrats did. Days after the Richard Curtis fiasco came reports about Dunn’s inappropriate comments to a female legislative staffer; what they were isn’t completely clear but evidently serious enough that his own caucus leaders gave him a serious smackdown, with punishment including loss of committee assignments. So what happens when he comes up for re-election in 08 (and he is currently filed with the PDC)? If he stays in the race, a haymaker could emerge in the primary or general or both.

7 Senate 25: Incumbent, Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup. No scandal here, just a district that’s a tougher hold than most for a Democrat – eastern Pierce County. If Republicans are going to launch a counteroffensive this cycle, their logical starting point would be districts like this one. And Kastama’s numbers haven’t been spectacular – 54.3% in 2004, 49.1% in 2000 – though about as good as a Democrat probably can get here.

8 House 18-1: Incumbent, Jaime Herrera, R-Ridgefield. Herrera is the newest legislator, though neither her personal qualities (she has background as a legislative assistant, so won’t be coming in completely cold) nor her newness are the reason this seat – in a so-far solidly Republican district – is here. It has to do with her internationally-known predecessor, Richard Curtis of La Center, whose midnight sexual adventures in Spokane briefly made him the big tabloid story in the state a couple of months ago. Odds are that Herrera gains some points for picking up the pieces in an uncomfortable situation, and glides to election. But also possible that the district, which is definably but not overwhelmingly Republican, has been shaken up a bit too. There is a Democrat running, VaNessa Duplessie, and she has been in the race for months and has campaign events already scheduled for January. A notable race easily could ensue here.

9 House 24-1: Incumbent, Kevin Van De Wege, R-Sequim. Van De Wege was something of a surprise winner in 2006, upsetting long-time Republican Jim Buck. His win virtually shut out Republicans on the Olympic peninsula, in some rural territory that might logically seem to be theirs; this is prospective pushback territory. Buck apparently isn’t interested in a rematch. But Republicans do apparently already have a candidate in Tom Thomas, from Joyce. (He may not necessarily be the only one.) Republicans probably recognize that, in an area like this, the brest opportunity for recapture may be ’08 – or else see Van De Wege solidify his hold.

10 Senate 28: Incumbent, Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood. Pierce County generally seems to be shaping up as a substantial ’08 battleground, and Carrell’s seat easily could be part of that. The reasons are simply statistical. Both House members here are Democrats (albeit that both won with slim margins in ’06), and Carrell’s winning mark in 2004 was 52.3%. No opposition seems to have surfaced yet (Carrell is filed with the PDC), but Democrats scouting for additional Republican targets this year are likely to light on Carrell sooner or later.

CORRECTION The Democrat running for the seat at 18-1 (8th on the list) was inadvertently omitted originally, and has been added.

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The Seattle Times is reporting, but is not commenting on – did you get that? – a memo from Publisher Frank Blethen that next year will see the paper’s “most difficult and painful downsizing” ever.

That is in line with what other papers around the region have been doing. But it has to give the newsroom a bad case of the jitters.

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Oregon statehouse

Oregon statehouse

Or Oregon Legislative Assembly, if you prefer, in the second of four lists for the end of the year, of what now look like some of the most noteworthy and watchable political contests to come: Three lists covering the legislatures of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, then one covering major offices for the three states, with 10 races each. The numbering logic in similar for all: These are the contests which, from this viewpoint, seem to have the most significance or analytical interest as we look to where Northwest politics goes from here. It isn’t a list of which seats will change parties (though we think there’s a good shot some of them will) or which incumbents are most endangered (among other things, some of these are open seats). Rather: Which contests stand to say the most about local and Northwest politics?

There’s little chance, to be sure, that Republicans will be able to retake the Senate in 08, and odds are less than even (though closer than remote) for a recapture of the House. But the House margins are still close, and every one of those 60 contests will have some significance. And, as is often so, some of these races tell us something apart from what the partisan balance will be: They tell us something about how people see their community and their state.

One other highly cautionary note: Candidate filing is open until March 11. Surprises in personnel doubtless will continue to unfold. (Consider, for example, the recent presumed legislature departure of Brian Boquist from the House, except that he then opted into a race for the Senate, for a seat he likely will win.)

(The list is below the fold.)

1 House 49: Incumbent, Karen Minnis, R-Fairview. This lonely Republican Multnomah seat has remained so over the last decade partly because of the couple who held it, husband and wife team John and (at present) Karen Minnis, who a year ago was speaker of the House. And yet she got a scare in 2004 and was pressed so hard in 2006 she had to spend more than a million dollars to hold this state House seat, and then by not much (52.2%). This east-of-Portland suburban area seems to be trending the way of nearly all other Portland suburbs, and Democrats have fair reason to think they can take this seat in 08, and two filed: Nick Kahl, a Lewis & Clark teacher assistant, and real estate broker Barbara Kyle. Republicans are not giving up without a battle, though, and have an apparently strong candidate in school board member John Nelsen. Could be that for the third election in a row, this will be the marquee House race in Oregon.

2 House 6: Incumbent, Sal Esquivel, R-Medford. In some ways an unlikely add to this list; Esquivel has been around a while and hasn’t aroused any particular animus; Democrats would much rather do in, say, neighboring Representative Dennis Richardson. But Richardson would be a hard get, and the ground under Esquivel’s district – the local Medford area – may be subtly changing. That isn’t just guesswork: Esquivel (who isn’t among the House members who have yet filed for re-election) was held to 51.9% last year.

3 House 11A: Incumbent, John Huffman, R-The Dalles. Suppress the gag reflex for a moment before dismissing this, and consider a few items. 1. It is true that 59 has been a solidly Republican area for a long time, and includes some of Oregon’s most solidly Republican counties (e.g., Grant, Jefferson, Wheeler, etc.). However, the biggest chunk of population is in Wasco, and The Dalles shows clear signs of following in Hood River’s footsteps – leftward. 2. In 06, likable Republican incumbent John Dallum, who’d done nothing (that we’re aware of) to upset his district, won with just 50.6% over Democrat Jim Gilbertson, a result that should have gotten more statewide attention than it did. 3. Dallum has resigned and been replaced by Huffman, who will have to restart the sales process. This is worth a watch.

4 House 60: Incumbent, Tom Butler, R-Ontario. Not an incumbent for long: He is resigning, and will be replaced soon. This is on the list not because of any question of partisan leaning – there’s no evidence to suggest it won’t remain solidly Republican – but the primary in such a geographically massive district could be fascinating.

5 House 30: Incumbent, David Edwards, D-Hillsboro. Republicans have been losing ground steadily in Washington County for a dozen years and counting; Edwards’ seat would seem to be a logical place to launch a counteroffensive. it is on the edge of Democratic territory – still very much no man’s land – and Edward’s initial win (last year) was hard fought, with some bitter residue. This territory is the rural area north of central Hillsboro, out toward the Sunset Highway; this ain’t the Beaverton suburbs. Another rough contest here is not hard to imagine.

6 House 39: Incumbent, Wayne Scott, R-Canby. Any effort to oust Scott would have likely fallen into the long-shot category (we thought last year’s effort might come closer than it ultimately did). But Scott is retiring, and in this district – its senator is the almost-impregnable Democrat Kurt Schrader – there’s been some rising Democratic undercurrent. Maybe more than the more spotlighted 49, this may be the Democrats’ best 08 pickup opportunity.

7 House 38: Incumbent, Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego. Flip side of the Wayne Scott story, almost. When Macpherson first won this LO-centric district, Democrats simply weren’t supposed to win there, and his family background may have helped matters along. Now he’d be very tough to take out. But he’s leaving to run for attorney general, raising the issue: Will the lake town, much changed from even a decade ago, support a new Republican? Both parties may want to be very careful who they nominate here.

8 Senate 23: Incumbent, Avel Gordly, I-Portland. Look as we might, serious partisan-contested Oregon Senate seats look scarce this cycle. And this isn’t one. Though Gordly is an I at present, that doesn’t change matters. She was last elected as a Democrat (and still mostly votes with Democrats), is retiring in 08, and her replacement almost certainly will be a Democrat; Democrats run here about as Republicans do in Preston, Idaho. What’s of note here is the primary campaign ahead. The frontrunner would seem to be Representative Jackie Dingfelder; but Gordly’s chief staffer, Sean Cruz, is a highly energetic and passionate candidate and also well connected. (Both of them have filed for the office.) This will be a real clash of styles and even of world views, albeit that both are relatively liberal Portland Democrats.

9 House 24: Incumbent, Donna Nelson, R-McMinnville. And we can’t even say definitively that she’s out, though she appears to be. The open seat aspect makes this of some interest, but so does her slim win last time (48.9%) and some shifting ground in Yamhill County. Ed Glad and Jim Weidner are the two Republicans who have filed so far, and another is probably entering soon. No Democrats yet. But writing from a home-turf perspective: Keep this on your dark horse list.

10 Senate 27: Incumbent, Ben Westlund, D-Tumalo. The progression looks pretty likely here. Westlund, last elected in 2004 as a Republican, turned Independent, then Democratic, which he now is, and now is filing to run for state treasurer. (The race for this seat would have been a real watcher had he tried to keep it.) All indicators are that this should be an easy Republican pickup, or in a sense, retention from the last election. Republican Chris Telfer, a member of the Bend City Council, looks to have the inside track and is the sole candidate who has filed so far. And yet . . . we’re hesitant to write it off entirely, what with some political ferment in Bend (yes, there is some) and whatever influence may have rubbed off from Westlund. This may be a snoozer, but there’s an outside chance it might be more than that.

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ULI report

ULI report

Salem gets discounted too much: It’s a good small city, with a stronger-than-usually-given-credit-for downtown and a bunch of other assets apart from its state capitol role. It has a number of parks too, but one aspect of the city that jumps out as unrealized potential is its Willamette River waterfront, the bisector (toward the west side) of the city.

There’s parkland there, sure, but not a great deal of it. (Boiseans would look at the river frontage and act superior.) What’s there is good, but there are key blockages. And one of the most important of those, just southwest of downtown and across the street from city hall and the main library, is an old industrial plant, the Boise Cascade (now Boise) wood factory. Very old – BC and the companies that preceded it have owned the property and used it for wood production since 1862. The buildings that occupy 13 acres of its property most recently have been used for packaging and distribution; about 100 people work there. It’s not wasteland, but it is something of an eyesore, and it diminishes the surrounding downtown core area.

Turns out, we learn in an announcement today, a win-win is possible here: A change in location for the Boise company (with the company evidently working very cooperatively on it) and a new redevelopment of the area to bring out some of its underlying potential. An important chunk of Salem may be transformed as a result.

The city and Boise (the company) started discussions about this in 2005, and the next year the Urban Land Institute conducted a study on possible and the best uses for the industrial land. That seems to have formed a basis for talks between the city, the Boise company, developers and others. Today, the groups announced a plan for the Boise company to move elsewhere in the city and sell the land to a development firm, which will turn the riverfront property into something resembling what was proposed by the Urban Land Institute.

Mayor Janet Taylor described “possibilities for new housing, retail, commercial spaces and public areas along the waterfront.” A stream called Pringle Creek, which flows into the Willamette at the site, has been doing that underground for many decades; it will be brought into the sunlight. New paths and trails will be developed.

Probably some celebration in Salem today. And reasonably so.

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Idaho legislative building

Idaho legislative building

It being that season again – yes, it’s the time of Lists – we have a few to close out the year. (Then we’ll have more lists next year. Gee.) Our point (excuse, if you insist) is that this is a reasonable point to pause and take stock of where we are or seem to be in Northwest politics – what it looks like as 07 slides into 08.

This is the first of four lists for the days upcoming, of what now look like some of the most noteworthy and watchable political contests to come: Three lists covering the legislatures of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, then one covering major offices for the three states, with 10 races each. The numbering logic in similar for all: These are the contests which, from this viewpoint, seem to have the most significance or analytical interest as we look to where Northwest politics goes from here. It isn’t a list of which seats will change parties (though we think there’s a good shot some of them will) or which incumbents are most endangered (among other things, some of these are open seats). Rather, it’s: Which contests stand to say the most about local and Northwest politics?

You may wonder if there are as many as 10 potentially significant Idaho legislative races for ’08; after all, aren’t Republicans essentially a lock to maintain a solid grip on the Legislature regardless? Well, yeah, probably. But there are places of potential or actual change, and places where politics is getting redefined. These races could matter even if the overall partisan balance in the Statehouse doesn’t greatly change.

One other highly cautionary note: There’s no candidate filing until March 10 (deadline March 21), so we don’t yet know for sure who’s running for any legislative seat. Could be that some of the reasons for interest in some of these races goes away by then. Just sayin’.

(The list is below the fold.)

1 House 14A: Incumbent, Mike Moyle, R-Star. This seat will not flip to the Democrats (you try coming up with the scenario doing that), but it may do a lot by way of defining what Ada County Republicans are about, and what motivates the people of western Ada – the fasted-growing and most population-adding corner of the state. Moyle has been a traditional rural-based hard-core anti-tax guy, opposed to such efforts as new regional mass transit planning and the new community college district, which are supported by much of the business and corporate community. Looks like he will have primary opposition from former Eagle Mayor Nancy Merrill, a well-known figure in the area, who seems to have solid enough Republican cred but takes the opposing view on regional planning and infrastructure type issues. The recent loud talk in Eagle (which makes up a lot of this district) about growth will play heavily in this. Moyle was unopposed int he last two elections and won the 2002 general with 65.4%, but this sort of challenge for the House majority leader would be a new thing. Opinions vary about who would have the upper hand (we lean toward Moyle, but it’s a very debatable proposition). If Moyle-Merrill materializes, it would almost certainly be the key primary season contest in Idaho.

2 House 18A: Incumbent, Branden Durst, D-Boise. The biggest partisan political shift of 2006 in Idaho was in the city of Boise, when Democrats won a raft of state House seats in the city but beyond the areas immediately around the city’s core – in the southeast, on the bench, one in northwest Boise/Garden City. The partisan margins in those districts (16, 17, 18) has been close for most of the last two decades, with Democrats winning a few of these in the mid-80s or since, but mostly losing to Republicans. In 2006 Democrats ran the table with these seats, wiping out a bunch of Republican incumbents; next year, Republicans will be massing to try to take back as many as possible. Bullseye Number 1 for them will be the seat held now by Durst, and for several reasons. One is that his win was the closest (he beat Republican Debbie Field by 175 votes). He probably ruffled more Republican feathers last session than the others; and he’s the youngest of them by far. And he was the least expected of the ’06 winners. So this seat will be ground zero. But expect a big Republican push on all of these newly Democratic seats. Republicans are seeing Idaho’s largest city turn measurably Democratic, and they’re not going to want to allow that to lock in place.

3 House 11A: Incumbent, Steven Thayne, R-Sweet. There’s always one, at least one, Idaho legislator who is particularly and notably, well, controversial – just seems to be out there on the fringe. At the moment, that would be Thayne, who pops up in statewide headlines from time to time. (Remember his family study of a couple of months back?) He’s a lightning rod, to put it another way – and a bellwether. Last time around he ousted incumbent Republican Kathy Skippen in the primary on grounds she wasn’t socially conservative enough (the sides in the race certainly were honestly drawn). Don’t be surprised if another similar contest emerges this time, with who knows what results. (And will Democrats file someone for this seat? Didn’t last time, probably in part because of thinking that Skippen was a relatively “acceptable” Republican.)

4 Senate 8: Incumbent, Lee Heinrich, R-Cascade. For decades and decades, Valley County has been a strongly Republican place where Democrats almost never gained any purchase (and when they did – we’re going back to the mid-60s and earlier here – they tended to be more conservative than most Republicans of the day). In just the last few years that has begun to change, both in local elections and up the ballot, as the population mix in the McCall-Cascade corridor has changed, what with Tamarack and all the other developments there. District 8 includes Valley, and in the other major population base, Idaho County, local Democrats are better organized than in a quarter-century and surprisingly competitive. In 2006 Heinrich, a long-time Valley County clerk, was elected to the Senate with 51.6% – a race that would have been a slam dunk eight or 10 years ago. And Representative Ken Roberts, an ambitious Republican who has scored strong votes here in the past, got 53% that same year. This is a district to watch, and if Democrats recruit well some real alchemy may be possible in this rural area.

5 House 33A: Incumbent, Jerry Shively, D-Idaho Falls. This was one of the regional surprises of ’06. The Idaho Falls area hadn’t sent a Democrat to the legislature in almost three decades, had seldom even come close. But 33, the district lodged in the center of Idaho Falls, has been trending increasingly competitive; the urban feel of that area increasingly has been matching up with urban sensibilities elsewhere. To some extent, this race making Shively the lone Democratic legislator north of Pocatello and east of Sun Valley was a fluke: Veteran incumbent Jack Barraclough was slowing down and the subject of some irritation, and Shively was a well-liked long-time teacher locally. The race was close (Shively took 51.2%). But the other House race here was close too (Russ Matthews got just 53.4% over Democrat John McGimpsey). You can expect next year a real battle over the soul of this district, as both parties try to take out a House incumbent (while Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, the senator here, watches uneasily).

6 Senate 4: Incumbent, John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene. The geographically small Coeur d’Alene urban district, a little like District 33 to the far southeast, has turned competitive the last few cycles, and the Democratic House member here, George Sayler, has become relatively secure. (Relatively.) The close race here last time involved the long-secure Republican senator, Goedde, who nearly lost his general election to Democrat Steven Foxx: Goedde won by 192 votes and maybe the good graces of two minor candidate wildcards. This district, and notably Goedde, seems an obvious Democratic target for 08.

7 House 15A: Incumbent, Lynn Luker, R-Boise. Assuming for the moment that Boise really is shifting and that the Democrats really are beginning to secure it, a question: Where do they go from there? There are no obvious answers, because Democrats have so far hit a wall when they leave city limits. But District 15, neighboring Boise and an older, more established suburban area which has routinely elected relatively moderate Republicans, seems a likely place to start. Newcomer Luker won his seat last year with just 55.2% over Democrat Jerry Peterson, a less than wow percentage for this area. He would be a logical expansion target for Democrats, although if veteran Senator John Andreason or Representative Max Black opt out next year, those open seats would be maybe more inviting.

8 Senate 7: Incumbent, Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston. When Stegner won this Senate seat last decade, Nez Perce Republicans were in expansion mode, having already secured two House seats. This decade, they have been in retreat as Democrats have rebounded and Republican organization is (we’ve been repeatedly told) in shambles. Stegner has been the lone Republican here now for a couple of cycles, and just hanging on – he won with 52.7% in 2002, 51.5% in 2004, 51.2% in 2006 (not a good trend line). This remains a seat at risk, the extent of which may depend on Democratic recruiting and organization.

9 House 29A: Incumbent, Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs. At the other end of the state, a somewhat comparable situation. In a Bannock delegation mostly made up of Democrats, Andrus won both the last two elections with less than 52% of the vote. Call it competitive.

10 House 1A: Incumbent, Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake. And here’s an incumbent who was held to less than 51% in both of the last two elections, by the same Democratic opponent, Steve Elgar (who, to be sure, ran a particularly energetic and well-funded campaign both times). Could be that Anderson has by now weathered the storm; and that would be our guess. But attention should be paid to two results in a row that close.

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Idaho

There’s dialup, DSL, cable, microwave, wifi, satellite – what Internet connection mechanisms does that miss? At least one: Clearwire, which sounds to be among the most interesting and maybe broadly useful.

Clearwire is a company based at Kirkland. An Associated Press review describes: “Instead of driving back to the office or hunting for a Wi-Fi hotspot, I booted up my laptop, plugged in a PC card, connected to the Internet and updated my story — all from a bench near the water, with a dreamy view of snowcapped mountains. Such a feat is no surprise to anyone with a wireless card from a cellular carrier, but I wasn’t connected to the networks of Verizon Wireless, Sprint or AT&T. Instead, I used an early version of the relatively new technology WiMax, which is being offered in Seattle by Clearwire Corp.”

Will Clearwire become an another major regional tech player? We may find out in 2008.

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Washington

There’s gang activity spread out far from the metro areas – there are reliable reports of it in smaller communities far flung across the Northwest. Getting a handle on how large the problem is, though, is a little more difficult.

A swipe at this from Moses Lake turns up; there’s evidence of increasing gang activity in the Columbia Basin region, enough to prompt calls for hiring a couple of new prosecutors specifically to deal with it.

How major is it? There’s also this in a news story today: “Moses Lake School Superintendent Steven Chestnut disagreed, saying gang activity was not that big an issue. Wearing gang-associated colors and displaying gang symbols in schools is prohibited, and only 3 percent of the 171 suspensions and expulsions in the first quarter of the school year were gang-related, Chestnut said.”

Doesn’t mean there isn’t any, though.

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Washington