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Posts published in February 2008

Who replaces Hooley?

Darlene Hooley

Darlene Hooley

Representative Darlene Hooley's surprise announcement this morning that she's not running for re-election gives Oregon something it hasn't had for years: A truly wide open U.S. House contest.

There didn't seem to be any very specific impetus for the announcement. She said her health was good (a consideration at 68). She has won her last few races convincingly - though not overwhelmingly, her last win clocking in at about 54% - and looked in strong shape for this year. Her campaign treasury has an ample $467,540 on hand.

But her departure is a national rarity this year: A Democratic retirement from a seat that credibly could wind up in the hands of either party. But she pointed out specifically, in early news reports, that this year would be a good time politically - for her party - for a change, since 2008 looks like a strong Democratic year. She may be right that the timing tilts the field a bit.

So what's the picture in the Oregon 5th?

Oregon 5th

Look at the map and the first thing that jumps out is its odd shape, what with the two coastal counties (which tend Democratic) and the remote areas to the east in the Cascades (which tend more Republican). But the core of this district is close to Interstate 5, from the southern edge of Portland in the north down the road through and south of Salem. The bulk of the voters are in western Clackmas County, within a few miles of the Lake Oswego-West Linn-Oregon City-Canby/Wilsonville area, and a few miles to the south, clustered around Salem. (more…)

WA: Next up

Now that Super Tuesday is over, you may be wondering (or you may be avoiding wondering) what's coming next. This from the front web page of the Washington state Democrats may help enlighten:

Event update:
- Barack Obama will visit Seattle on Friday
- Bill Clinton will visit Seattle on Thursday, Tacoma on Saturday
- Michelle Obama will visit Spokane on Friday.

One other report has Bill Clinton in Spokane as well. All this is not, obviously, coincidental or random. Washington's party caucuses - both Republicans and Democrats - convene at 1 p.m. on Saturday. These will be precinct caucuses (as in Iowa) rather than county caucuses (as in Idaho), and the results from them will be used to select the presidential nominees. There is a presidential primary on February 19, and state officials are encouraging participation in it, but it will not count toward the Democratic nomination, and only in part toward the Republican.

On the Republican side, Arizona Senator John McCain probably enters the process as the likely winner. He has some military-related base in Washington, and neither of his (still current) opponents, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, have in Washington the demographics that have worked well for them elsewhere.

That said, the Seattle Times suggests this: "On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain — the biggest winner Tuesday — still has no paid staff in Washington and no plans to come here before the GOP caucuses. Instead, his campaign appears more focused on the state's Feb. 19 primary, where he has a better chance of pulling in independent voters. Could that open the door in Washington for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had a surprisingly strong showing Tuesday? Or could this be the state where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney revives his sagging campaign?"

Meaning, might we see a last-minute push from Romney or Huckabee? So far, no indications of Republican candidate campaign stops in Washington this week; but that could yet happen.

On the Democratic side, Obama has been organizing in Washington for some months, and Clinton's efforts have been visible but less deeply organized - a loose parallel to what happened in Idaho and other caucus states where Obama has done well. And they've been at it a while. Almost exactly a year ago today, a nascent Obama organization in Seattle touted a meetup for more than 100 organizers, and said "the Seattle Meetup for Obama has grown to over 150 members and is now the largest chapter of its kind in the country . . ." It has grown considerably since then, and it has an impressively long list of activities and events planned in the next few days. There are also a bunch of county Obama organizations. (Check the Whatcom County site, for example.) And Obama has endorsements from the dailies in Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver.

At Horse's Ass, Goldy's take on this: "The challenge for Obama supporters is not simply to win this Saturday but to win big, which in a caucus scenario requires both turnout and persuasion. "

Clinton has some solid pluses too, including the superior roster of big-name endorsees - Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, former Governor Gary Locke, Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen, Representatives Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee, King County Executive Ron Sims and Snohomish Executive Aaron Reardon. (Most of these, by the way, are superdelegates.) States with a strong and long-evolved Democratic structure have done better for Clinton, and Washington is one of those. And Paul Berendt, a former state Democratic chair newly on the Clinton team, describes in Washington "a profound feminist ethic in our Democratic politics" which could help the New York senator.

The Washington state Democrats did conduct a straw poll from November 29 to December 14, but it's not much help in figuring this out. First place in it went to Dennis Kucinich, now out of the race, with 1,083 votes, and second place to John Edwards, now out, with 1,042. (They did a good organizing job for the straw, you gotta admit.) Obama got 960 and Clinton 761 - so, no results we can really draw to here.

Idaho was a definitive sweep. Washington looks tilted to Obama - the odds seem to be with him - but the state still has the look of something that will be hard-fought, not swept.

The size and the disposition

Some followup on initial thoughts about the Idaho caucuses, mainly expanding on the two obvious points: The Obama unanimity, and the sheer size of the turnout. (Full numbers are at the state Democratic web site.)

bullet The sweep for Illinois Senator Barack Obama was overwhelming. He took 43 of Idaho's 44 counties, and the one lost - Lewis, in the north-central - is one of the smallest. (No obvious answers to that outlier, other than that Lewis is unusual in that it is small, remote, rural and still has a substantial local Democratic core, which may retain some loyalty to the Clinton Administration.)

Among larger counties, the Obama percentages were remarkably consistent, many in the 70-85% range - Ada 84.5% (district 1 at 84%, and 2 at 87%), Canyon 76%, Kootenai 81%, Latah 80%, Nez Perce 71%, Bonneville 78%, Twin Falls 74%. Bannock would have to be considered on the low end, with just 68% in the Obama column.

Apart from Lewis, the best Hillary Clinton numbers came in some of the mid-population or smaller farm counties which have strong Hispanic populations - Lincoln (43%), Jerome (42%), Bear Lake (42%), Franklin (37%), Minidoka (36%), Washington (36%), Camas (36%). And Shoshone County (43% Clinton), which like Lewis has a still-in-place local Democratic establishment.

bullet Stats from 2004 and earlier aren't readily available - we'll try and find some - but it certainly seems as if the more than 21,000 participants in the Tuesday Idaho caucuses blew well past anything the state had seen from Democrats before.

The reasons are less clear. Some of it may have been support for Obama. Some of it may have been a party switch, or increased involvement on the part of independents. Whichever, this will call for some ongoing inquiry.

We fielded a question from D.C. this morning to the effect: Does the high turnout in Idaho caucuses portend a voter shift in November? Our thought is that point shouldn't be pushed too far - while more than 20,000 participants packed the caucuses, the voting population in November may top 650,000, so this still is only a small percentage of that.

But it doesn't feel irrelevant, either.

Early in Idaho

If you're looking for stats from the Idaho Democratic presidential caucuses, the place to go is the state party's results page, nearly done and well broken-out. For liveblogging from the scene, check out the Idaho Statesman's Kevin Richert's blog and expect more at Red State Rebels as well.

But the core point is that the predictions (here among other places) that Obamamania would sweep Idaho have proven out; Barack Obama will take nearly all of Idaho's national convention delegates, with the outside possibility that he gets them all. Early reports are of electricity in the Obama caucuses. Obama is stomping all comers in Idaho, and that's no surprise.

We'll be reviewing that results chart again soon, but for the moment an early indicator we were really struck by: A turnout of 212 Democrats to the caucus in Madison County (of which Obama won 82%). Madison County is Rexburg, folks, it's where contested Republicans oftentimes win 90% of the vote - one of the very reddest counties in one of the very reddest states. 212 people is not a whole lot fewer than Ada County (Boise) Democratic events attracted not so many years ago. And there were 115 in Lemhi County . . . for those of us who've watched Idaho politics over the years, that's breathtaking. And in little Teton County, total population about 7,500, a tightly competitive valley area, Democrats drew 275 caucusgoers - a real sizable chunk of the voting population, a genuinely stunning number.

Those stories from other states about Democrats blowing through old ceilings appear to be matched in Idaho.

Cash on hand leaders

In case the post below left you wondering, here are the dozen top U.S. House candidates in the Northwest (all in Washington and Oregon) in cash on hand as of the start of this year. You may note a pattern here.

WA 3 - Brian Baird, Democratic incumbent - $1,050,449
OR 2 - Greg Walden, Republican incumbent - $891,643
WA 1 - Jay Inslee, Democratic incumbent - $851,027
WA 7 - Jim McDermott, Democratic incumbent - $612,286
WA 8 - Darcy Burner, Democratic challenger - $607,143
OR 1 - David Wu, Democratic incumbent - $592,010
WA 6 - Norm Dicks, Democratic incumbent - $530,639
WA 2 - Rick Larsen, Democratic incumbent - $474,246
OR 5 - Darlene Hooley, Democratic incumbent - $467,540
OR 3 - Earl Blumnauer, Democratic incumbent - $465,453
WA 8 - Dave Reichert, Republican incumbent - $462,828
WA 9 - Adam Smith, Democratic incumbent - $415,841

The unlikely cash-poor

Dave Reichert

Dave Reichert

Bill Sali

Bill Sali

Republican incumbents in Congress are supposed to have fat campaign treasuries. At least, they almost always have. That's why this from the Politico site jumps out:

"The latest fundraising reports are a gut punch for this six-pack of GOP incumbents: Reps. Christopher Shays (Conn.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), John R. Kuhl (N.Y.), Tim Walberg (Mich.), Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and Bill Sali (Idaho). With the exception of Sali, all represent swing districts. But it’s also a blow to a House Republican conference that for years has prided itself on using aggressive fundraising tactics and mandates to make sure all of its incumbents held a significant money edge for their reelection."

You'll notice the two northwesterners here.

According to the newly-filed year-end reports, Sali has raised $297,802 in this cycle, and has $100,023 in cash on hand - a tiny sliver of what his campaign spent in 2006. Comparable numbers for Democratic candidate Walt Minnick are $410,353 and $311,168, and for Larry Grant $65,123 and $40,818. (No filings were listed for the third contender, Rand Lewis.)

In Washington's 8th district, the numbers are a little stronger for Reichert: $1,039,957 raised, $462,828 on hand. But his presumed Democratic challenger, Darcy Burner, isn't far off in cash raised, $874,271, and ahead in cash on hand, $607,143.

The Politico's quote from a Republican aide: “You’re going to see all these members in tough shape. You have all these seats out there that are so expensive because of the money we’ve put in in the past. We might not be able to save some of these guys that we brought back last time.”

Measuring expectations

Oregon SenateIn Idaho, where - as in Oregon - the legislature is launching its activities under strained physical circumstances - expectations for this 2008 session are slight. Ask legislative leaders what they hope this session will accomplish and, once you get past dealing with the budget and money matters, they run dry quickly. And that's not the criticism it may seem. In most specific sessions of any state legislature, the only thing that has to be done is the updating of the state's ledger. When that's done, as legislators almost everywhere know, their obligatory work is done, and they can adjourn.

In the runup to today's launch of the special - with hopes of becoming regular - even-yeared session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, there's been a lot of harrumphing from many quarters about what bar the legislature must meet to justify its annual appearance. That subject will doubtless return in discussion over the rest of the year, whatever lawmaker do or don't. (Vic Gilliam: "Is it a historic event or a sneaky play for a full-time Legislature?" The Oregonian's David Reinhard, who supports annual sessions: 'As The Oregonian's Harry Esteve wrote in last Sunday's Opinion section, it's being called the 'Seinfeld session' - the session about nothing - and legislators 'desperately want to show the public they can act like grown-ups.' That's a political strategy, not a governing strategy.")

Our take is that this attempt to establish an annual legislative session shouldn't be held to a standard higher than any other (or lower either). Minimally, it should get the state properly updated financially. To do better than the minimum, it also ought to address other important developing situations (the housing finance collapse comes to mind, among others) and review progress since the last session.

A good session (and the last one was pretty good) would be worth aspiring to. But it doesn't seem essential to make the point. (more…)

Quite the coincidence

Jim Ellick

Jim Ellick

Was just three weeks or so ago, around January 11, when the new director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, Jim Ellick, had a blunt suggestion delivered to some Idaho legislators, and also to reporters.

It concerned the real-world possibility that Micron Technology's future in Idaho is not an absolute lock. In suggesting that the state consider how it would plan for the alternate possibilities of Micron staying as is or scaling back in Idaho, as he put it to the Idaho Statesman, Micron is "either going to stay and everything's great or they're going to leave and everything's bad."

Sounds utterly sensible. The only problem was that Ellick's boss, Governor C.L. ."Butch" Otter, has declined to include in any of his (public, at least) budget, revenue or economic projections any indication of what would happen if, say, Micron moved a substantial portion of its Idaho manufacturing offshore. That appears to be The Subject Which May Not Be Spoken.

Today comes word from the governor's office that Ellick has taken a leave "for personal reasons" and that his return, if at all, is "open ended."

Purely coincidental, of course.

Just about everybody: Obama/McCain

The presidential rolls on hard, as newspaper endorsements keep rolling in. Last week, the Seattle Times backed Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination. This week, they go with Arizona Senator John McCain for the Republican: "Arizona Sen. John McCain represents the Republican Party's best hope for victory in November, and the best opportunity for the country to have an informed, constructive presidential election."

The often-distinctive Post-Intelligencer isn't, this time: It too backs Obama and McCain. It's overal conclusions: "In this history-making race, Sen. Barack Obama is the better choice over his worthy rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, because of the real prospects he offers for change in domestic policy, the tone of government in Washington, D.C., and the conduct of foreign affairs. We are less enamored of the Republicans. Undisturbed by a wrongly launched war of aggression, the leading contenders have competed to show who would be best at standing by the Bush-Cheney legacy of arrogant intervention. Despite his embrace of a particularly dangerous stance on Iraq, Sen. John McCain stands out on the basis of his forceful climate change position, his independence and his distinguished record of public service."

Then there's the Tacoma News Tribune, which also did the Obama and McCain thing: "Obama and McCain are principled, yet possess open minds. Neither carries grudges into policymaking; neither maintains the equivalent of Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.” Both are comfortable dealing with ideological opponents – with anybody, really – and appear capable of being persuaded by good arguments from the other side."

And the Vancouver Columbian, same story: "One is a war hero, the other an icon of diversity. What could a 71-year-old maverick from Arizona possibly have in common with a 46-year-old uniter from Chicago?"

The Portland Oregonian, meantime, does the same pair of endorsements - Obama and McCain. So far as we can tell, its the only Oregon paper to specifically endorse in the presidential so far (though the Albany Democrat-Herald has opined that "it is heartening" that Obama and McCain have so far beat expectations).

Which also are the same as the largest paper in California (the Los Angeles Times) - a sweep of the coast for those two.

Over in Idaho, the Idaho Statesman hasn't endorsed (though it has some kind words for Obama's visit to Boise yesterday.) But the endorsements out so far are striking in their singularity. What will the voters say Tuesday?

Obama in Boise

Obama Boise

The crowd at the Obama event, 360 view/Obama campaign

The crowd estimate for the Barack Obama event in Boise today was just under 15,000, making it one of the largest political events ever in Idaho.

One commenter (from Vermont) on the Obama campaign blog remarked, "Wow, I didn't know there were that many people in Idaho much less Democrats. The stage has more people on it than attended Larry Craig's last press conference." (Be it noted that Idaho has a substantially larger population than Vermont.)

One e-mailer to us suggested the reason for the Obama visit to Boise, at a moment when California swings in the balance and other, bigger states are calling, is the visual: The mass crowd Obama is able to draw in Idaho, the heartland of the reds. It's an impressive message, all right; with what effect, we'll all find out on Tuesday.

Mosman ruling: Two tracks

Two topics are worth following in the wake of today's federal court decision on the new Oregon domestic partnership law, a decision allowing it to go into effect more or less immediately.

It had been on hold (though scheduled for implementation January 2) because Federal Judge Michael Mosman had questions about the signatures gathered in an attempt to block the law. If enough valid signatures were properly gathered, the law would have been put on the November ballot as a referendum, to be voted up or down, and in the meantime would be suspended. The signatures gathered were approximated the necessary legal requirement, but after elections officials threw out those deemed invalid, the effort fell 96 signatures short. The referendum advocates went to court, and Mosman on December 28 ordered enjoined the law from taking effect until the signature issue was sorted out.

The sorting was what he did in court today, over about five hours. He concluded that the referendum backers indeed fell short, and the law should go into effect.

Two pieces of fallout.

One is that the political battle isn't yet over, though once the law is actually in force and in effect it will be increasingly hard to overturn. The court issue may go on, and could be appealed, though appellate courts usually are loathe to overturn lower court rules on matters of fact - which was key here - as opposed to matters of law interpretation. Or there could be legal challenges on the substance, and you never know what might happen there, The law's critics can try other avenues, such as an initiative, but odds of that succeeding aren't good; if there's not enough push to easily generate more than enough petition signatures, then odds of electoral success are less than even. Odds are that domestic partnerships are here to stay in Oregon.

The other aspect of this, a little troubling, is the variable and uneasily subjective standards that seem to be used in deciding the veracity of signatures. One report noted that "Mosman called out the SoS [secretary of state] for the not-very-well-articulated standards when it comes to signature verification." That would be well worth a closer look, since the battle over signature verification is likely far from over, and may go on longer than the political contest over the substance.

Metsger’s version

Rick Metsger

Rick Metsger

The run for Oregon secretary of state may slow just a bit next week with the opening of the Oregon Legislature, seeing as how all four of the candidates (all Democrats; no Republican yet) are state senators. But some of the contours of the race are coming clearer, thanks to talks we've had with two of the candidates so far, Vicki Walker early in January, and this week with Rick Metsger. (At some point we hope to chat as well with the other two contenders, Kate Brown and Brad Avakian.)

Metsger, deep-snowed out of his mountainside house at Welches, was in Salem on campaign and Senate activities, and waxing intense on his view of what the secretary of state's office ought to be. Walker had, too, but Metsger's approach was distinct from hers. Among these four candidates who aren't radically different in political ideology, those takes on how the office should be shaped may be some of the most useful defining differences between them.

Hadn't seen Metsger's tack on this coming, based on what we knew of his background and saw on his web site. The web centerpiece is Metsger's endorsement by Bill Walton, the Trailblazer of years back, who met Metsger back when Metsger was the sports anchor for Portland KOIN-TV. That media background and the big initial endorsement might suggest slick and light on substance, but Metsger's take on what the office should be and what he'd like to do with it takes his candidacy in a whole different direction.

It starts with something fairly ordinary for candidates - "as I listen to people about where Oregon is going, people want leadership" - but Metsger seems to have something specific in mind: "Confidence in government: Confidence by the electorate that the government is doing what it is supposed to do." (more…)