Just a pointer here to a fascinating precinct map of Spokane County on the Spokesman-Review web site. In last week’s Washington primary election (which was for Democrats, remember, a beauty contest only and not contested by the candidates), Spokane County split closely between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama apparently gained a thin lead in the most recent counting, but thin enough it could easily switch back.

The map shows where Obama and Clinton led. In Spokane itself, Obama did best on the south side (south of I-90, generally) and Clinton best to the north. Obama did well in most but not all of the rural areas. Clinton did well in many of the developing suburban communities such as Airway Heights, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. Have a look.

Share on Facebook

Washington

Not so very many years ago, a dozen maybe, Idaho had a state library, a solidly-staffed agency which managed a lot of books, documents and other resources. It served a while range of missions, from serving as a check-out and research library for the general public to providing information and reports for state agencies to serving as a repository for a official records from state agencies. And, on top of that, it served as a coordinating and assistance service for public libraries around the state.

Then, over a period of years, the Idaho State Library was gradually dismantled, and virtually destroyed. Comparatively little of it – mainly the library-assistance function and a few other things – is left. And so too has gone much of the reference and state recordkeeping function: Just gone. Poof.

We’ve made a few notes of this over the years. Today, a Betsy Russell article in the Spokesman-Review takes a more thorough look at some of the impacts. The eventual up side may be that agencies moving toward digital documentation may be able to easily develop storage in large databases; and that could resolve some of the ongoing problem. But the issue is too complicated for that as a simple resolution.

Share on Facebook

Idaho

Not too often do you see a single donation that realistically could become a significant political game changer. But the Seattle Times has a story today about one such that could have real impact over time.

The background to that is the heated political battles over gay rights issues, from anti-discrimination to same-sex marriage to other matters – a hot political topic.

The news is a donation from Ric Weiland, who was one of the first five employees at Microsoft and consequently, wound up with a lot of money. After his suicide in 2006, most of his estate, $160 million, went to charities. (Most of the time since has been spent in sifting through the many legal details.) More than $19 million is going to a group based in Seattle called the Pride Foundation.

The Pride Foundation works in the Pacific Northwest, based around Washington, Oregon and Idaho (and somewhat beyond); its website says it “connects, inspires and strengthens the Pacific Northwest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in pursuit of equality. We accomplish this in rural and urban areas by awarding grants and scholarships and cultivating leaders.” It has done this actively, apparently, but on midest scale; it operates in part off a $3 million endowment. Up to now, that has made it not so different from a range of many other social interest organizations.

Weiland’s donation increases that endowment to $22 million – an order of magnitude at least. As for how the money will be used, the Times summarizes, “The money will support anti-discrimination campaigns and programs to help youths, develop future leaders and provide scholarships.”

This not a small deal. And it will have an effect on politics, gradually but clearly over time, all over the region.

Share on Facebook

Washington

Al Hanson

Al Hanson

In mid-2006 we suggested some attention be paid to Oregon House District 24, a Republican-leaning area where the seat was held by apparently entrenched Republican Donna Nelson. Turned out she wasn’t quite so entrenched: In November she won, but only barely, her usual margin trimmed to a sliver.

Next cycle on, we’ll suggest again that attention be paid to this district: It looks to be up for grabs, though for reasons somewhat different. This time, Nelson apparently is not running for re-election. (She’s been less that completely conclusive on that, but her own caucus is presuming she’s out.) Instead, two little-known candidates have emerged on the Republican side: Ed Glad, a carpenter who has done some statehouse lobbying, and Jim Weidner, a restauranteur and software developer. Both come from the small community of Yamhill; neither is a local household name. Since their announcements of plan to run, neither has been especially visible. But either, presumably, would have a significant boost from their party’s nomination, since this central Yamhill County district is more Republican than Democratic.

However, the just-announced Democratic candidate could have the assets to counter that. He is Al Hanson, an attorney and an eight-year member of the city council at McMinnville, which is the district’s population center; people in about half of the district, in other words, have been voting for him. He also has a long list of civic activities, and in this tightly-connected community Hanson has the local establishment (including at least some of the local Republican business establishment) behind him.

That’s a significant factor, and it partly mirrors what allowed the 2006 Democratic candidate, Sal Peralta, to do so well against the personally well-liked Nelson. The mirror gets a little sharper when you see Peralta’s involvement and help with his campaign, just a bit in the background.

None of which is a prediction that the seat will flip parties this year – the odds of that will develop in the months ahead, as all three candidates (and there could be more) define themselves in the primary and beyond.

Just a suggestion that the prospect of a close contest here, again, isn’t at all unrealistic.

Share on Facebook

Oregon

Oregon statehouse Reading yesterday a few hours before the Oregon Legislature adjourned – late on Friday night – about what the session did and didn’t accomplish, a blunt assessment jumped out: “As the February session winds down, there is an emerging consensus that a month-long supplemental session doesn’t work.”

That showed up at the Conkling Fiskum & McCormick Insider blog, and carried the weight of opinions from some skeptical legislators about their experimental session. The second paragraph added, “To the relief of Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and others who championed the experiment with annual sessions, the February session hasn’t been a disaster. But virtually no one thinks it has been very productive, either.”

Hmm. That would depend on your perspective, and if the perspective lies in comparing a session that ran 19 days – just two-thirds of the shortest month in the year – with the traditional half-year model, then no, it wasn’t very productive. But that’s not much of a comparison.

The suggestion in the Insider piece, and in blogging by the Oregonian‘s Jeff Mapes, is not so much that the annual session idea is bad but that the experimental session may have been too short. There’s something to that. Washington state has a regular truncated election-year session but gives it about two months to do its work, and a tight series of deadlines are imposed through the process to help guide lawmakers to getting things done. Part of the problem with the one-month – pardons, three-week – Oregon session is that the time frame wasn’t institutionalized, so lawmakers and others probably weren’t well set up to handle the specific requirements of it. But two months, or maybe three, might be a better option. Mapes reports that he’s heard just this sort of things from legislators and others: “But I have been struck by how out-of-sorts many legislators and lobbyists feel. They’re used to certain rhythms and it’s hard for them to figure out something that is neither fish nor fowl. This is not a one- or two-day special session with a rigid agenda, nor is it a wide-open regular session where you have months to develop ideas.”

So some tinkering probably would be helpful. But before calling the experimental session a failure, it might be helpful to look at what Oregonians did get out of it.

Our view is that the best argument for annual sessions is to allow for course corrections on budget and fiscal matters. That was a relatively low-key matter this time, since economic slowdowns in Oregon are essentially resulting in a reigning-in of what was already on the table. But legislators did make a number of adjustments that should help budgeting and planning run more smoothly than under the biennial regime. (Washington and Idaho are in the same boat.) It was little noted, but worth bringing legislators to town nonetheless; in other years, the course correction may be more substantial.

The prevailing view as to the most significant thing the legislators did – and we’ll agree – was in sending to the ballot an alternative (an additional option) to the Kevin Mannix crime initiative. This could be useful work for many a future election-year session: Not shutting down initiatives that have made the ballot, but offering options which might work better. The voters will decide later on which (if either) they like, but at least now they’ll have a choice, and it won’t be (as the rhetoric inevitably would have it) the false choice of cracking down on crime v. soft on crime.

And there were sundry other things. Added state cops for the highways (something both parties had clamored for), energy tax credits, some legislative aimed at the home finance mess (not all those proposals passed but some did), crackdown on dog fighting, help for the Oregon State Hospital and other items.

The Oregonian seemed to get it about right in its editorial concluding, “The Oregon Legislature’s February experiment, a perilous first-of-its-kind special assembly now speeding toward adjournment [written, obviously, pre-sine die], produced several substantive accomplishments and successfully demonstrated the value of annual sessions.”

Not perfect, but something to be adjusted and improved upon, rather than trashed.

Share on Facebook

Oregon

Drive in Eugene from the University of Oregon area directly east over the Willamette River and you’ll soon land in the city of Springfield. But before you get there you will have passed over, and probably not even noticed, another community, called Glenwood.

Not often would a local daily newspaper call one of its home communities “problematic,” but the Eugene Register-Guard is using the word to describe the unincorporated Glenwood area, and it makes some of the case for the city of Springfield’s plan to annex the area. There are a number of reasons, but one of them is visible for those who take the look: A growing homeless community along the riverfront.

Just down the hill from the popular panhandling spot sit about 10 more men, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and drinking beer at the base of the north bridge.

These are the men who pester passers-by for money. Who sometimes fight and go to jail after downing one too many underneath the bridge. And who have long posed a dilemma to local officials stymied over how to deal with the Eugene-Springfield area’s most visible homeless camp.

Springfield officials responsible for planning Glenwood’s future say the situation has dragged on long enough. Following years of watching county and state agencies struggle to keep the bridge area safe and clean, the city is now ready to take the lead.

That isn’t a fair description of all or most of Glenwood. Some of it is a long-running, traditional blue collar community with real traditions of its own. But as the article suggests, it may need some help.

Share on Facebook

Oregon

The argument that Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith changes his voting pattern as re-election time approaches will find some support in a new round of online stats released by the League of Conservation Voters, which charts congressional environmental voting.

In the first two years of his current term, Smith pulled a 28% grade from the LCV, and 37% in the next two. For environmental votes last year, that jumped through the roof to 73%.

That wasn’t because of the issues on the table or ome other fluky factor. Oregon’s other senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, actually scored lower last year (87%) than in the four years previous, though his ratings throughout were quite close. Idaho’s two Republican senators (who scored low in in the LCV ratings) and Washington’s two Democrats (who scored high) all, like Wyden, stayed fairly consistent throughout that period in their ratings.

Share on Facebook

Oregon

If the news stories you’ve seen so far about the bankruptcy filing by the owners of the Tamarack Resort near Donnelly have seemed a little . . . vague, you’re not alone. But if the subject is of interest and you want at least a framework for thinking about, help is available.

The Boise Guardian web site asked for some perspective from a bankruptcy attorney, Randy French, and wound up with a solid overview. You won’t find definitive answers about what the filing means, but that’s largely because too many pieces of the puzzle are not visible. But French does provide the legal and business framework that’ll help you make sense of whatever does come next.

Share on Facebook

Idaho

Kevin Mannix

Kevin Mannix

Sounding definitive, Jason Williams reports on Oregon Catalyst that former legislator and multi-office candidate Kevin Mannix will go after the Republican nomination for the U.S. House, for the seat being vacated by Democrat Darlene Hooley. The probability has been noted before; this suggests an announcement is imminent. Which would make sense, since the field is yet to fully emerge, and early announcements can sometimes cut off opposition before it develops.

We were more struck, though, by the strategic rationale behind the candidacy: “This has been the result of a long career of activities as a lawmaker, state party chair, statewide candidate for various offices, and promoting many ballot measures for nearly 20 years. It has been speculated that Hooley’s surprise late announcement would handicap a Republican challenger. Mannix’s early name ID and ability to fundraise negates this handicap.”

Of course, this being a federal race, the looser Oregon state campaign finance rules aren’t applicable, which may mean Mannix’ past fundraising approaches may need some adjustment.

Share on Facebook

Oregon

With the recent mass rally for Barack Obama still in Boiseans’ minds, the archives at Boise State University tracked down some pertinent exhibits and has now placed them on line: Photos of the one political rally in Idaho history even larger than Obama’s. Timely stuff.

The circumstances are worth recollection. That was an outdoor rally at the Idaho Statehouse, for the Republican presidential nominee, Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was drawn in part because Idaho’s governor then, Republican Len Jordan, was one of his most vocal backers among upper-level elected officials. Also, maybe, the fact that Idaho then was a state up for grabs in presidential politics. Idaho had voted solidly for Franklin Roosevelt and also for Democrat Harry Truman in 1948, but it had veered strongly Republican in the 1950 elections. A substantial visit was more than a ceremonial visit.

Eisenhower’s win in 1952 in Idaho (as well as nationally) started a Gem State trend, lasting to this day. With the sole exception of 1964, when Lyndon Johnson barely squeaked past Republican Barry Goldwater, Idaho has voted Republican for president ever since.

Could it be that another rally comparable in size launches . . . nah . . .

Share on Facebook

Idaho

The vote count in Washington is still a long way from finished, so some of the county notions on the map below cold jump back and forth. But the questions are likely to remain.

Remember that Washington voters, some of them anyway, got the chance to vote twice for president in their nomination process – caucuses a week and a half ago, and primary on Tuesday. The rules were different, though, for each party. For Republicans, both contests counted, since delegates would be selected based partly on the caucuses and partly on the primary. For the Democrats, the primary had no practical effect – all delegates were assigned based on the caucus.

Still, in each case, we had two bites of the apple, and for both parties the bites looked different.

For the Republicans, the situation was straightforward. The really passionate activists around still-active candidates have grouped around former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Representative Ron Paul, and they made their presence felt at the caucuses. Huckabee drew essentially even with presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, and Paul wasn’t far behind.

But that’s the difference between activists and the larger population. In the primary, McCain won decisively – and won every county, so far as we can tell at this point – in a show of Republicans uniting behind their nominee. The largest share of Republicans, at least. Huckabee still drew a sizable vote, just a smaller percentage than in the caucus.

The Democratic case is more complex. There, Illinois Senator Barack Obama won a runaway at the caucuses, and that was where both sides campaigned, because that is where all the delegates would be awarded. So the question: What happens in the beauty contest, the primary that indicates some preference but has no practical effect?

Obama seems to have won that too, but the primary margins are close enough – at this writing, around 50%-47% – that you can’t be totally sure. This was nothing like the caucus runaway.

primary map

green counties Obama, blue Clinton

Most of the county margins were fairly close, too; few counties in this primary gave either candidate a margin of 10 points or more. Only a handful jump out, like liberal Democratic San Juan (66.7% so far) for Obama or working clas Cowlitz (58.2%) for Clinton.

The overall picture, though, defies any easy analysis. You can bunch some of the counties together – Chelan, Grant and Okanogan, for example, backing Obama partly in reaction to Clinton – but then what of the Clinton wins in Adams, Franklin and Yakima? What of the close Clinton wins in Snohomish and Pierce, but not Kitsap or Thurston? (King, which seems to be going for Obama decisively but not overwhelmingly, is obviously sui generis.)

We’ve spent a while looking at the map. And still don’t entirely get it.

Share on Facebook

Washington

So what’s the matter with King County election reporting this time? As of this writing – about 10 p.m. – returns in Washington’s largest county have been stuck at a little over two percent of precincts reporting. Slow, slow . . .

The statewide core story, nonetheless, seems to be clear enough. Among Republicans, Arizona senator John McCain is getting the strong, decisive him he doubtless hoped for in the caucuses, when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee held him to a near draw. That matters, since about half of the Washington national convention delegates get picked on the basis of this primary. And among Democrats, Illinois Senator Barack Obama was defeating New York Senator Hillary Clinton, though by a much slimmer margin that he did in the caucuses. Unfortunately for Clinton, only the caucuses matter in the Democratic contest.

There look to be some highly interesting variations in the county breakdowns. Which we’ll post on soon, King County returns willing.

Share on Facebook

Washington