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Posts published in “Day: March 20, 2008”

The legal tab in Washington

Rob McKenna

Rob McKenna

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna is making a notable suggestion: That Washington's tort laws cost its state government far more than neighbors Oregon and Idaho. That is to say, in relative terms, not just "more than it should . . ."

In a lengthy interview with LegalNewsLine, the Republican attorney general said his state annually pays out ten-times as much in tort settlements than in Idaho, and six-times more than Oregon does.

"There are basically no boundaries or limits on claims that are brought against state taxpayers by a tort claimant," said McKenna, adding that the state has paid out about $500 million in tort claims over the last 25 years.

"That is money that is not available to improve services such as foster care and transportation," he said.

Additional financial strain, he said, is placed on the state by Washington's doctrine of joint and several liability, where even if a co-defendant is found to be as little as 1 percent at fault, a co-defendant can nonetheless be held 100 percent liable for an award if the other co-defendant is found to be an empty pocket.

We're not in the rank of those blaming tort laws for the full range of social ills, but if the laws vary widely state to state, it doesn't take much imagination to see where that will lead an inventor litigator.

Obama/Clinton in Oregon

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

And they said the Oregon presidential primary wasn't gonna matter. Well, who knows: It still might not, being about a couple of months away yet. But no presidential candidate in this year's race has been damaged by thinking ahead and presuming nothing.

So of a sudden, the invasion begins. Friday and into Saturday morning Obamamania hits, with candidate events in Portland, Salem, Eugene and (Saturday morning) in Medford. And we are told that will not be all. And if this contest still is seriously on in late May, there will be much more. On May 13, West Virginia holds a primary and Nebraska an advisory-only event; the next event will be the May 20 primaries in Oregon and Kentucky. That would put those two states alone in the spotlight for a full week.

Clinton will be in Oregon too, of course, though those appearances haven't been announced. The campaign did however name an Oregon state coordinator today, Clay Haynes, who has been a deputy national field director. (In the e-mail announcement, there was reiteration of support from Governor Ted Kulongoski and Representative Darlene Hooley.) And Kulongoski made a reference to an upcoming visit: "I look forward to traveling with her across the state . . ."

Oregon may wind up doing just fine with its May 20 primary date.

PROJECTIONS Okay, so who wins Oregon? As matters sit now, Obama, clearly. As in a good many other states, he has had a large and really grass-roots network pulling for him for many months, and now it will be activated. Looking at the race in Oregon today, it doesn't seem likely to be close. (You might also consider that its two main neighbors, Washington and Idaho, also were home to decisive Obama wins.)

Famous last words, of course . . .

On the Rammell run

We at Ridenbaugh Press are registered (in Oregon you do register by preference) as independents, and we have a soft spot for independent, non-aligned candidates. And some frustration, because almost never do these candidacies amount to much more than spots on a ballot and time-absorbers at the occasional debates where they're allowed to participate. Nearly all end with vote percentages in the one to two percent range. Few of these candidates seem to take their races much more seriously, for that matter, than most of the voters do.

Rex Rammell, by opting out of the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate from Idaho and running as an independent instead - as he announced this week - has thrown himself into that category. It is true that he was almost certainly headed for a big loss in the Republican primary to Jim Risch, the lieutenant governor who is overwhelmingly the best known, most organized and best finances of the Republicans running for Senate. And it is true that by running as an independent, Rammell's candidacy stays alive until November. But his chances of ultimate election are no better. As an independent, he will lack the built-in organization, support and finance networks political parties provide, and those are no small advantages.

Reports on his announcement press conference say he offers three lines of argument for why he can win: "Jim Risch is too old to become a U.S. senator. You don't become a U.S. senator in the sunset of your career . . . I am a member of the LDS church, which is a significant portion of the electorate." And his (now former) ownership of an elk hunting ranch in eastern Idaho, which has been the subject of much of his involvement in politics so far and over which he and Risch came to battle while Risch was serving as governor in 2006.

Let's take these in reverse order. (more…)

A top-two how-to

Today's Peter Callaghan (Tacoma News Tribune) column has much the clearest, plainest description of the new Washington primary system - which we've called "Cajun" but is here referred to, as it probably should be, as "top two" - we've seen. Which will go into effect this year.

He likes it, by the way.