Writings and observations

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.

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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 . . .

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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.

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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.

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Rand Lewis

Rand Lewis

The Democratic race for Idaho’s 1st House seat has simplified, with the withdrawal of Rand Lewis and his endorsement of fellow candidate Larry Grant.

Lewis had some assets as a candidate, and we didn’t dismiss the possibility he might win the primary, campaigns depending. How much his endorsement of Grant, who ran in 2006 and lost to Republican Bill Sali, is less clear.

The third – now second – candidate in the race, Walt Minnick, has gotten off to a strong and energetic start, well funded and strongly organized.

Grant will draw on residual loyalty from last time, and the real campaign skills he did demonstrate. Minnick will have a good deal of party organization support and plenty of cash – more, now, than Sali. This contest will develop a sharp edge over the next few months.

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Port Townsend

Port Tonsend city logo

We first visited Port Townsend about four years ago, and on riding up from the south it first had the appearance of a working port town, with an industrial sector and even substantial boat storage and repair businesses. Then proceeded north, into the heart of town, and saw something else.

There we saw what friends had touted for some time, one of the best small0city tourist destinations in the Northwest. Port Townsend once had ambitions to be a large city indeed – it once put in a serious bid for Washington’s state capitol – and you can see that in the downtown business district, where you find one of the best collections of grand old buildings in any city (even many much larger) in the region. Not to mention the restaurants, bed and breakfasts, galleries and other artsy places you’d expect. It’s not all regentrified yet, but the developers there are on their way.

Politically, you can see in the combination of industrial and resort/tourist the kind of voting base that gives Democrats a strong edge, and they do; this is one of Washington’s most Democratic smaller cities.

So what happens now, socially and politically, as that tourist and resort side increasingly looks askance at the industrial/port side of town, the side that was Port Townsend’s reason for existence through most of its history?

A useful piece today in the Seattle Times gets into some of this. It starts with suggestions (and notes there apparently isn’t any solid evidence) that vapors from the big Port Townsend Paper mill, the largest single employer in town, may have made some people physically ill. From there, you get the clear question: Even if that allegation isn’t true, how well does the odor and general environment of the plant mesh with the town as it is seeking to reinvent itself?

Thr regulatory environment has become complex: “Even complaining about the mill is complicated. Some complaints are directed to the mill, while others are recorded by a hotline in Ecology’s Olympia office. Those complaints show that Port Townsend Paper ranks second — with 38 complaints since 2001 — among the 11 pulp and paper mills regulated by the state. The complaints are vivid, with people describing smells that made them vomit, turn to inhalers and pull their children indoors.”

There’s already some discord in town, hearings and discussions, and as the Times notes, “But the mere fact that the mill’s environmental cost is being debated — in local coffee shops and in the local newspaper — reflects a new day for an old mill town.”

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Maybe the Northwest political blog news today out of Rasmussen Reports will emerge from its new poll of the Oregon Senate race, in which Republican incumbent Gordon Smith takes 48% of the vote against either of the two Democrats, Jeff Merkley (who gets 30%) and Steve Novick (35%). And maybe that’s worthy of note, largely as an indicator of ongoing softness in Smith support.

And, as in a good many other states, Democrat Barack Obama would be projected to defeat Republican John McCain in Oregon, but McCain would be projected to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

But we spent more time with Rasmussen’s markets, a sort of futures market – guesses on who will win. A number of national political markets have sprung up in recent years, with focus on the presidential level. Rasmussen’s are more numerous and detailed. In addition to markets for how each state will vote in the November presidential (the ongoing primary and caucus states too well of course), there are also markets for U.S. Senate and governor races around the country. You can read the “buy contract” numbers almost, loosely, like percentages, since they add up to around 100, not as percentages of votes, but in terms of probability of a win.

In the Oregon Senate race, for example, the bid is 75 if you want to buy a contract on the proposition that the Republican nominee will win the general election, and 24 if you think the winner will be a Democrat. You can read it as what those (anonymous) participants thought were the odds of a victory by each side.

In the Idaho Senate race, the Republican contract is bid at 87.1, and the Democratic at 13.1.

For governor of Washington, the bidding is a little closer: 62.2 for the Democrat, 20 for the Republican.

For the general election for president? In Idaho, it’s Republican 90 to Democrat 2.5; Oregon Democrat 80 and no current Republican bid; Washington Democrat 80 and Republican 10.

Nothing definitive or scientific here, but something worth tracking current and often-changing lines of thought.

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Afine post in the Slog (of the Seattle Stranger) about the historic area at Columbia City, and the perversity of applying rigid standards in the face of contrary facts.

The site may be historic, but what’s being preserved from development – in the present case – is a very ordinary small strip center; the proposed new development would have a shot at a genuine improvement for the neighborhood. From the Slog:

“While I’m sympathetic to concerns about preserving the historic district (as my coworkers know, I even think they should preserve the Ballard Denny’s), that isn’t what’s at stake here. What is at stake is an ugly plastics warehouse and an uglier parking lot that fronts on a small mall selling hip-hop clothes and cigarettes—both of which are available at many other places in the neighborhood. Both sites are underutilized (Columbia Plaza turns its back on a park that’s a crime hot spot for the area) and would benefit tremendously from new housing. What’s more, the teams associated with both the projects have a history of making developments fit in with the neighborhoods where they’re located.”

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Been a while since we’ve seen Cecil Andrus, the former four-term Idaho governor, stride very deeply into highly visible partisan politics. But today, he jumped up on the national stage, letting loose a strong blast at the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Andrus has never been a stong Clinton supporter, so his decision last month to announce for Illinois Senator Barack Obama was no shock. But you get the sense that he’s genuinely ticked at one of the latest argument lines out of the Clinton campaign, that many of the red states (like Idaho mostly won by Obama) are somehow less important than larger blue states. From an Obama campaign email:

Today, former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus called on the Clinton campaign to apologize for remarks made by Joel Ferguson, the Co-Chairman of the Clinton Campaign in Michigan for calling delegates in red states “second-class.” Ferguson said, “Superdelegates are not second-class delegates. The real second-class delegates are the delegates that are picked in red-state caucuses that are never going to vote Democratic.”

This is the latest in a string of attempts by the Clinton campaign to discount the votes of Democrats in the red states. In an effort to spin their losses, the Clinton campaign has repeatedly criticized Senator Obama’s wins in red states.
Governor Andrus said, “Today, a Clinton campaign surrogate took it to another level and said flat out the Democrats in Red States are second-class citizens. This is a step too far. Senator Clinton’s surrogates are telling Democrats in almost half the states in the country that they don’t matter, and that they are second class. Senator Clinton needs to immediately denounce these comments and tell her campaign surrogates to stop taking cheap pot-shots at committed Democrats across the country.”

Andrus added, “We have a senate race and a congressional race that we are going to win. I have been elected four times so don’t tell me a Democrat can’t win. If we tell people that their votes don’t matter, of course they aren’t going to consider voting for Democrats in the general election. This attitude doesn’t just hurt us in the Presidential campaign, but it also hurts down-ballot candidates and our efforts to build the party. We can’t have another polarizing election that starts with a candidate If you tell telling people living in smaller states that their voices don’t matter. Obama has been successful in earning support from voters of all races, genders, in red states and blue states. We need to continue those efforts and not stifle them before the election even begins.”

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Kevin Mannix

Kevin Mannix

Brian Boquist

Brian Boquist

Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson

Vicki Berger

Vicki Berger

There’s excitement among quite a few Oregon Republicans, something few probably were expecting at this point in what mostly looks like a dismal GOP season west of the Cascades. Partly connected with that, there’s some push and some excitement among a number of visible Republicans, at this point anyway, for one particular prospect for the newly-opened U.S. House seat, a man who has lost four statewide races in a row without ever winning an election above the state legislative level, and then mostly as a Democrat.

That would be Salem attorney Kevin Mannix, who after his last loss – for governor in 2006, coming in second in the Republican primary – seemed to be out of major office politics. But more interest seems to be centering around him than the two other most likely prospects (with the distinct possibility of more to come). Those other two are former and unsuccessful candidates for the 5th district seat: Mike Erickson, who ran against retiring Democratic Representative Darlene Hooley in 2006, and Brian Boquist, who ran in 2000 and 2002. A fourth prospect is state Representative Vicki Berger. That all of these would be (for different reasons) serious, substantial candidates says something about the residual Republican strength in the 5th.

Which of them might be strongest in the general election is an imponderable for the moment, since we have no clear idea who the Democratic nominee – or even the Democratic contestants – may be. (Could include one of the Schraders, or maybe Labor Commissioner Dan Gardner, or any of a half-dozen other prospects. We don’t know yet.) But, albeit as a preliminary thing, we can start thinking about how these Republicans may fare facing off against each other.

Of the Republicans, Erickson seems to be the definitely into the congressional race. He had been a live prospect for the race for months, even when it would have meant a rematch with Hooley, so the idea of shooting for an open seat probably would be irresistible now. His campaign web site remains up, he has some money, and the state of play prior to Hooley’s announcement might be indicated by this September report from the Associated Press: “Republican businessman Mike Erickson of Lake Oswego, who spent more than $1 million of his own money opposing her in 2006, is setting up for another try. Erickson is assembling a team of policy and finance advisers and has hired Cary Evans as his general political consultant. The Oregon Republican Party is backing Erickson, which could bring national Republican funds for his campaign even before the primary.” (About that money: His end-of-year for 2007 shows him raising $175,988 with $130,898 cash on hand.)

That would seem to set him up as the man to beat. But.

After Boquist’s unsuccessful runs, he was elected to the Oregon House with stronger percentages (in a very rural west-central Willamette Valley district), and has indicated plans to run for a state Senate seat this year, a race in which he’d be favored. He has gotten some good reviews as a legislator, seems to be well regarded in his caucus, and would surely have developed some strong networks of support. If he runs, you certainly couldn’t dismiss him. Erickson might have the head start, but Boquist could probably win more hearts among the 5th’s Republicans – he’s more tied in.

And Mannix maybe more so than either. He did come close to election as governor 2002, and his philosophical stance probably hits close to the bullseye among the area’s Republican activists. And he has some real residual emotional support, too. You could feel it in today’s valentine from Oregonian conservative columnist Dave Reinhart: “Republicans who’ve been down in the dumps about their prospects in Oregon should be excited about a Mannix candidacy. They have a tested, top-notch candidate who can win this open seat in November. Opportunities like this don’t come along all that often.”

You see it also, and the core of the case for Mannix, in this from NW Republican’s Coyote: “One [argument for Mannix] is that this particular race is uniquely suited to him. He has run in this district (or major portions of it) before and always been successful there. Second is that, for all his faults, he is a good legislator and works well in a legislative environment.”

A key argument both make is that Mannix has long run well in what’s now the 5th district. Our sense is that this is iffy argument. True, he was elected to the legislature (House and Senate) from Marion County, but most recently in 1998 – a full decade ago. He’s fared respectably in Marion in races since, but usually running against candidates with bases elsewhere – Marion is his home turf. In the 2006 gubernatorial primary, he lost the 5th to Portlander Kevin Mannix – in the six counties of the 5th – Benton and Clackamas unbroken by precinct, admittedly – Mannix took 24,997 primary votes to Ron Saxton’s 31,141; the only county of the six he won was Marion, his home base; he lost faster-growing Clackamas decisively.

Meantime, Boquist and – yes – Berger have been winning election steadily in the area covered by the 5th. Which isn’t to suggest that Mannix doesn’t have very real strengths (he’s certainly a highly skilled, highly energetic, knowledgeable and experienced candidate), just a caution against overrating them. Is this a year when voters will seize on a familiar name from the past? Will Republicans take a chance on Mannix the fifth time around for major office?

And Berger? She won’t be the favorite of the party’s activists; she is among the shrinking number of Republican legislative moderates. At the same time, her roots are deep, very deep, and running against three (or more?) more “conservative” candidates, might she wind up with a winning slice? The odds would seem against, at this point; but then, we don’t yet know how the field will shake out.

No immediate conclusions here, then. But some great subjects for further study.

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