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Posts published in “Day: May 8, 2008”

Both of them, all of a sudden

Obama office

Obama office

Clinton office

Clinton office

The comedian Lewis Black has a great bit about how he discovered the end of the universe, and it came to mind today.

He said that the end of the universe has a specific location on this planet - in Houston, Texas, on a street corner in its downtown. There, one day, he paused on a walk and noticed that he was standing in front of a Starbucks. Then he looked up and saw that directly across the street, on the same block, directly facing the Starbucks, there was another Starbucks! [Pause to catch breath.] And that, he told the audience, is the end of the universe.

Prowling around the political websites today, we saw the startling news that the Barack Obama campaign was opening a campaign office in McMinnville, Oregon, one of 19 (at last count) offices around the state. This was actual news; presidential campaign offices often have appeared in Portland, but not in the smaller communities. McMinnville is a city of 30,000 people, and only 45 minutes from either Portland or Salem. So far as a number of long-time residents we've talked to know, McMinnville has never had a presidential campaign office. This assertion had to be verified.

A stroll downtown, on the city's attractive Third Street, confirmed it. Hand-crafted Obama signage was out on the sidewalk and on the doorway, and on the stairway that led upstairs to an office suite where a clutch of Obama backers (most or all volunteers) were at work, and other volunteers came and went. The square footage there was generous, and the space was donated. It was not especially fancy, but it was quite functional, and more important, busy.

The Obama list of Oregon offices includes some unlikely places - St. Helens, Tillamook (a third the size of McMinnville), Pendleton, North Bend, Oregon City. (And, two in Portland, and Beaverton, Hood River, Corvallis, Salem, Roseburg, Forest Grove, Eugene, Medford, Astoria, Bend, Gresham.)

The Hillary Clinton Oregon office list is a roster that would be mind-boggling impressive under any other comparison: Portland, Asotoria, Beaverton, Corvallis, Bend, Gresham, Medford, Salem, Springfield. No McMinnville.

But on exiting the Obama office and glancing to the left, a familiar-looking sign appeared off the sidewalk. And there it was: Just down Third Street, barely 100 yards, just a block away, on the same side of the street - a Hillary Clinton headquarters, just being opened this very afternoon, boxes being unpacked and signs being posted.

We'll not call this the end of the universe. But something significant is going on.

Evidence for judgment

One of the places where political contests traditionally have been influenced by individual judgments, community by community, has been the relatively low-key judicial race. If a contest - whether local or for a state supreme court - becomes a cause celebre, it tends to run on normal political tracks. But the low-key ones: How can most people realistically tell whether a judge is doing a good job or not, or whether a challenger might be better?

The traditional rule there is, a lot of people seek out or pay attention to what an attorney they know thinks about it.

That principle may just have gotten a big expansion. The Idaho State Bar has taken an unusual step into a judicial race, which judge may or may not like but which has some real public benefit: They polled attorneys to find out what they think about two contenders for the Idaho Supreme Court this year incumbent Joel Horton and challenger (and 2nd District Judge) John Bradbury.

That race has been quiet, though there are elements of interest: Bradbury, for example, would like to see a prohibition on judges who are appointed to the office - which is most of them - from running for a full term from the position of incumbency. (Bradbury's web site includes a fine YouTube clip in which he simply explains his reasons for running.) But few voters probably know enough about either candidate to have a basis for judging.

The Bar survey, which is available on line, doesn't come with analysis: The Bar (wisely) withheld an assessment. It did note that 4,130 surveys were sent and 437 came back from attorneys.

And what did they conclude? The difference between the two was not drastic, but Horton's numbers were generally better, almost across all categories and regions of the state.

As the incumbent, he probably has an edge anyway. But the survey may give Idaho voters at least some basis for making a decision - some basis that has something to do with the work a judge does.