Archive for April, 2008

Apr 30 2008

The yard sign metric

Published by under Oregon

No, not so much the number of yard signs in front of houses or on property (though there is that, too). Rather, in this case, the ease with which a supporter can actually go get a yard sign.

That’s often not as simple as you might think. While campaigns may aggressively seek out some prime spots for signage, what seems like a diminishing number of campaigns actually make it easy for an interested supporter to simply get one.

So check this out from the Steve Novick (U.S. Senate in Oregon) campaign: Detailed instructions on where exactly to get signs, and lists and maps of 25 places around the state (spottier in the east, but then most human organization is) where they can be had. Many pointed to supporters, who in turn will help build the organization.

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Apr 30 2008

Robo-Oregon, too

Published by under Oregon

The current dustup over robo-calls – effectively a kind of push polling without the poll – in North Carolina (where state officials have started an investigation) apparently extends much further. As in, to the Northwest.

The same group apparently has sent out a bunch of mailers in Oregon, asking recipients to register to vote. (They screwed up, though: By the time it reached their targets, the registration deadline had passed.) An example has been posted on the Talking Points Memo web site.

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Apr 29 2008

Fort Hall’s big casino

Published by under Idaho

Tribal casinos around the Northwest are a varied lot. Some of them are large scale operations, smaller than a large Vegas casino but still big enough to support large hotels (the Grand Ronde, the Coeur d’Alene, among others). But some of them are small-scale operations, like the little (and barely remembered) casino at Burns.

Fort Hall in eastern Idaho, between Pocatello and Idaho Falls (close to 200,000 people live within 50 miles or so), is on the smaller side, its casino near the reservation’s main community focusing principally on bingo. You have to figure tribal leaders have been thinking expansion for some time. Apart from the nearby population base, there’s solid road transport (it’s near the merger of Interstates 86 and 15), and the nearest sizable casinos are about 150 miles away, at Jackpot, Nevada. If it became more of a destination point, it could draw strong Utah traffic.

The tribe said today that it plans a major expansion of just that sort – an 80-acre resort including a hotel with 200 rooms (which will make it one of the largest in eastern Idaho), a golf course, a water park (out in the desert) and more. Work on it is expected to begin in a few months. (Since this is all happening on reservation land, regulatory hurdles should be minor.)

This may be on the short list of big stories of the year for eastern Idaho. It could change the dynamic of the reservation and its relationship with the communities in the area.

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Apr 29 2008

The McDermott money

Published by under Washington

Jim McDermott

Jim McDermott

The Jim McDermott legal case is done, with McDermott’s payment of a $1 million court judgment to John Boehner, the House minority leader. (The suit had to do with Washington Representative McDermott’s release of a recording of an overheard phone conversation.) The case was a civil lawsuit between two private parties, meaning that Boehner legitimately could have pocketed the money. Instead, he said he will donate it to Republican candidates – which would seem to sting McDermott.

A Boehner spokesman was quoted, “I wouldn’t expect he’ll receive a lot of thank-yous come November.”

Maybe not, considering how appreciated an extra million will be to the various Republican campaign funds running hard-up this year.

Although and unless: McDermott, who has had a legal expense trust fund in place for the case (part of the money for the settlement came from it, the rest from his campaign treasury), could do a make-good by setting up another fund: One to counter the money he just game Boehner.

Just a thought.

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Apr 28 2008

Registration: A year’s comparatives

Published by under Oregon

The recent raft of stories about shifts and increases in voter registration in Oregon – especially the pickup in Democratic numbers – have tended to look at the short run of the last three or four months. Which has generated some interesting stats, but we thought we’d take a little longer look – the numbers from March 2007 compared to March 2008.

The Oregonian reported a couple of days ago, for example, that “Oregon Democrats, who began the year with about 70,000 more registered voters than Republicans, have doubled that advantage, which stood Friday at 826,984 Democrats to 685,344 Republicans.”

So what over the course of a year?

In March 2007, Democratic registrants in Oregon totaled 767,214, and Republicans 703,564 – a gap of somewhat over 63,000. In March 2008: Democrats, 803,042 (a gain of around 35,000), and Republicans 685,469 – a loss of about 18,000. Two points: A Democratic gain has been underway for an extended period, throughout the last year; but about 22,000 voters of it – a big portion – has emerged in just the last few weeks. (But might some of those be primary election switchers? The March-March count comparison does control for that to a degree.)

As of the Secretary of State’s March reports, Democrats are in the majority in Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Multnomah (approaching 3-1 there), Tillamook, Wasco, and Washington. In March 2007, Clackamas and Washington were majority Republican.

Even in the smaller counties, you see some fallout. Baker County Democrats went from 3,009 to 3,013, and Republicans fell from 4,809 to 4,749 – down 60, in a county with fewer than 8,000 voters and very little Democratic official presence. (In Multnomah County, Republicans lost about 4,000 registrants.)

Another point worth making: The number of non-affiliateds dropped from March to March, from 441,491 to 431,773 – about 10,000.

One more thing. Oregon’s most heated major contest this year looks to be the U.S. House race in District 5, and the party registration shifts may have something to say about that. Not much noted so far has been the shift in registration in the 5th, which usually has been described as a very close or maybe Republican-leaning district (and understandably, when you see that most of the legislators there are Republican).

However. In March 2007, Democrats there numbered 143,301, and Republicans 149,474. Last month, Democrats totaled 149,377 and Republicans 145,692 – a gain of about 6,000 and a loss of about 4,000, respectively, and a switch in preference. (Non-affiliated lost about 5,000 in the 5th.) That could be enough to make a difference in an otherwise close race, as this one prospectively could be.

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Apr 28 2008

A liquidity quotient

Published by under Idaho,Washington

The metric shouldn’t be overstated – we say here over and over that while money is important in political campaigns, it isn’t all, and candidates outspent by their opponents win more often than you would think.

Still, a chart of House races – races involving an incumbent seeking re-election, not an open seat – comparing candidates’ cash on hand (according to the most recent reports), got our attention. (It was compiled at the website Swing State Project.) That’s partly because of the race at the very top of the list nationally, the number one race for a challenger with much more cash on hand than the incumbent:

Idaho’s 1st District, where Democrat Walt Minnick has $327,909 on hand, to incumbent Republican Bill Sali‘s $124,191 – 264% more. Only one other race in the country (in a Texas district) has nearly so large a challenger advantage.

However, in fourth place on the list, we do find another Northwest race: Democrat Darcy Burner, with $921,615 on hand, to incumbent Republican Dave Reichert‘s $698,035, in the Washington 8th.

There are just 10 races in the country featuring an challenger who has more money banked than does the incumbent; those are the only two in the Northwest.

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Apr 27 2008

Ammons from elsewhere

Published by under Washington

We wrote a bit last week about the departure of Dave Ammons, the dean (is that still proper terminology?) of the Washington statehouse press corps, from his perch as head of that Associated Press office. But another remark seems worth note here too.

That comes from David Goldstein of Horse’s Ass, who reflects on his interactions with Ammons over the years. A view from the inside – an inside – worthy of a look. And an indicator, buried within, of the power of the AP.

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Apr 27 2008

The Paul factor

Published by under Oregon

There’s a temptation to just sort of forget about the Republican presidential primary in Oregon. All the main party organizational backing has either coalesced behind Arizona Senator John McCain, or at least isn’t standing in the way. McCain has, among other things, the newspaper endorsements and something more powerful: Enough delegate votes to essentially ensure his nomination for president. He will sweep the Republican primary in Oregon; that is not in doubt.

All a given. But.

Traveling around the Willamette Valley last Friday, we noticed just two presidential candidates with signage along the highways and some of the far-flung residential areas we saw. We spotted some signs for Democrat Barack Obama. But those were heavily outnumbered by the front-running sign-placer in the region: Republican Ron Paul.

Paul’s supporters seem not to be giving up, even if their guy obviously isn’t going to be the nominee. You ee the indications all over; a news story from Nevada today, for example, led with this: “Outmaneuvered by raucous Ron Paul supporters, Nevada Republican Party leaders abruptly shut down their state convention and now must resume the event to complete a list of 31 delegates to the GOP national convention.”

So, what of Oregon . . .

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Apr 25 2008

Don’t watch this at work

Published by under Oregon

Hadn’t watched the Ron Wyden health plan video; just didn’t quite seem to make it to the top of the stack. An e-mail this morning from Wyden’s office included a number of reviews of it, suggesting there might be some entertainment value there. Call us dubious – an entertaining video on a senator’s health care plan.

Well, it is. We’ll give it a thumbs up. But as the e-mail points out, you might want to watch this somewhere other than in an easily observed computer at your workplace. This video actually has a subversive edge: The theme that Wyden’s health plan upholds “the fundamental right of every American to take this job and shove it.”

And, from Idaho, where Paul just delivered a talk at Caldwell: “The self-professed reluctant candidate packed the house Friday as more than 900 people filled the College of Idaho’s Jewett Auditorium to capacity to see Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.”

This thing could win some converts.

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Apr 24 2008

OR Pres: The delegate split

Published by under Oregon

Among the various reforms of the presidential nomination process the parties – this applies especially to the Democrats – might consider for 2012, high up on the list ought to be simplifying delegate selection and apportionment. It ought to be simple enough that a lay audience can grasp it. Really isn’t right now.

Having said that, a few words on what’s at stake: The delegates Oregon will select. As we understand it. (If anyone spots a flaw in what follows, please notice it in the comments. Thanks.)

It’s becoming, rapidly, very hot out here. Former President Bill Clinton will be back this weekend, even visiting a high school (at McMinnville) about five miles from our home base, among other places ranging from North Bend to Portland. We expect the Obama crew will be back soon too before long.

According to the records of the Democratic National Committee, Oregon’s convention delegation will total 74 people. Of those, nine will be alternates, so that leaves 65 delegates as such. 12 will be “superdelegates” (top elected officials and party officers). The convention will select additional six of delegates who are elected officials or party leaders, and an “unpledged add-on”, who likely will be former Governor Barbara Roberts.

The remaining delegates – meaning, their presidential preferences – will be selected in the May 20 primary, in two different ways. A dozen will be “at large” – selected based on the statewide vote. The other 34 will be selected by congressional district, split among the five House districts in the state; the districts get more or fewer delegates based on the Democratic vote there. So District 2, the eastern Oregon district that runs very heavily Republican, gets just five delegates; District 3, the central Portland district which is as strongly Democratic, gets nine. District 5 gets six, and 1 and 4 get seven apiece.

So how many delegates might Obama and Clinton get? Because of the proportionality rules, neither will likely pull any massive advantage out of Oregon. If Obama wins with a clear margin, he will probably pad his lead over Clinton by five or six delegates, but probably not more than that. (Everyone may be wondering the day after: Is this all that sound and fury was about? Well, maybe that and bragging rights.)

There’s a thorough analysis up in a diary on Daily Kos, breaking down the likely outcome by category and district. Because a massive statewide win would be needed to do better than tie in the at-large delegate counts, diarist Skaje figures Obama may take those 7-5, though a tie is nearly as likely. But figures Obama takes one-delegate leads in four of the congressional districts, and ties in District 5 (actually, he figures a win there but not enough to split the delegates 6-4, which would require a landslide). The net result would be 29-23 if Obama wins much more than 10%, and 28-24 if by less.

A lot of fuss over very few votes.

UPDATE As e’ve half suspected, a couple of the procedural details were wrong: A state Democratic official (involved with writing the rules) got in touch with the straight data. The post has been updated to reflect that.

His take on the Kos post was that the analysis was less than thorough, considering as it did just one poll result and some questionable congressional district outcomes. But the feeling was that the diarist’s end result – a very small number of delegates realistically at stake – was about right.

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Apr 24 2008

The local paper, 2.0

Published by under Idaho,Washington

The newly newspaper-less counties in Idaho who just got word their weeklies in Shoshone and Rupert will be closed, might have another option. Over in western Washington, the same thing just happened to the small community of Orting. There, the locals didn’t just sit still for it: They up and created their own new online newspaper, with contributions from the editor of the old print version.

Via Olympia Time, we were interested to read an early edition of the new effort, the Orting News. Some Idahoans might want to swing by as well.

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Apr 24 2008

OR: Primary preview/the majors

Published by under Oregon

T-minus a week to two (there’s some flexiblity) for the mailing, and then the marking, of primary election ballots in Oregon. (Deadline, and counting day, is May 20.) Time to take stock. Herewith, a short overview of the main races on the ballot, in this post those for major office, and upcoming a rundown of the most notable legislative contests. They’re listed more or less in order of significance (as we work it out) . . .

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

bullet President/Democratic. Has to go first – who ever would have figured three months ago that the Oregon contest might have had real national significance? And yet it could, ironically because it is so late in the season. Only one Democratic primary election date, June 3, will follow the concurrent Oregon/Kentucky contests, and both of those small states are probably gimmes for Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and Kentucky is widely considered a slam for New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Oregon is as close as it gets to a genuine end-game contest between the two. (Although be it noted: We’re in that large crowd of analysts who’ve concluded – in our case ever since the Wisconsin primary – that the only way Clint wins the nomination is through some wildly unforeseen earth-shaking event; the odds against her at this point are overwhelming.)

Not that the point should be pressed too far: We’d bet on Obama winning Oregon, albeit we’re less sure of the margins. Both campaigns are digging in deep and hard, Bill Clinton is already scheduled for a return visit, and Oregon could become scorched political country over the next month. Right now, the May 6 Indiana and North Carolina primaries necessarily get top billing and attention, but after that (assuming the race is still on) Oregon logically rises to the top of the field. Question: What impact might this have on in-state races? Continue Reading »

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Apr 24 2008

Boise: Local radio?

Published by under Idaho

Remember local, home-grown radio? It wasn’t all that long ago such a thing was commonly accepted; nowadays, it’s almost forgotten.

But now it could happen. The Boise Community Radio Project has just passed a major hurdle, getting radio transmission permission from the Federal Communications Commission, on FM frequency 89.9. They’re not on air yet, but the main obstacles remaining are mechanical and financial, and really of a smaller scale than what they just surmounted.

A local option for Boise listeners. In recent years, that qualifies as news.

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Apr 23 2008

Newspaper for sale (two for closure)

Published by under Idaho

Two parts to this: The sale and the closures. The first probably is (on balance) more improvement than wash; the second is simply sad.

The paper sold is the Wood River Journal, the weekly at prosperous Hailey (though it competes with another substantial paper, the Idaho Mountain Express, just a few miles away at Ketchum). For many years locally owned, the Journal was sold in 2004 to Lee Enterprises, which also owns the dailies in Twin Falls and Burley and most of the other newspapers in the Magic Valley. The new deal sells it to a group of several owners, but the lead participant and manager will be the Post Company, whose best-known property is the Post-Register daily at Idaho Falls.

Newspapering in Idaho east of Boise has been slipping into ever fewer hands. Once highly diverse – just a generation ago the bulk of these papers were in separate ownerships – now nearly all are in the hands of Lee, Post or Pioneer Newspapers (which have the papers at Pocatello, Rexburg, Nampa, and Logan, Utah, among others). In one sense, the new Journal deal just moves the Hailey property from one big owner to another. But locals will be among the owners, and Post still is based in Idaho, at Idaho Falls. So that probably qualifies as a net plus. (Plus there’s the point that Post generally puts more resources into its news operations.)

The sad news is Lee’s announcement at about the same time of the shutdown of two of its weekly papers, the Lincoln County Journal at Shoshone and the Minidoka County News at Rupert, adding two to the Idaho counties unserved by a local paper. Minidoka County has a population of about 20,000. (As a technical matter, we should note that a slice of the city of Burley, the county seat of Cassia County, is located in Minidoka; but the daily there is based in Cassia.)

The closures were attributed to weak circulation and advertising bases.

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Apr 23 2008

Another one goes away

Published by under Washington

So the Northwest loses another of its major businesses: SafeCo, apparently about to be bought out by Liberty Mutual Group of Boston. SafeCo has been a major regional player; to the point that a former top executive of it, Mike McGavick, was a U.S. Senate candidate from Washington last cycle.

The SafeCo name is supposed to remain the same, and the cutbacks could be smaller than in some other cases because its major segments of business within the insurance do seem more to complement than overlap with Liberty’s. (There will almost certainly be some cutbacks around Seattle, of course.) Still. If it feels like a cut to the Northwest, that’s because, most likely it is.

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