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Posts published in June 2008

Some quick snark

The Tri-City Herald's Olympia reporter/political blogger Chris Mulick has started a new feature, "setting the record straighter," offering a bit of snark at spin he encounters. Herewith a recommend to keep an eye on it, and an excerpt from the first edition:

— The state Republican Party last month issued a press release referring to 8th Congressional District Democrat Darcy Burner, who is taking her second shot at unseating U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, as a “chronic candidate for Congress.” So I guess that makes Dino Rossi a “chronic candidate for governor.” And I don’t know what that makes Reichert, who has run for Congress one more time than Burner.

— The state Democratic Party has increasingly been trying to demonize the Building Industry Association of Washington and its support for Rossi. This week it issued a press release titled “What Olympia’s most powerful special interest lobbyists want Washington to ignore: Rossi’s abysmal transportation record.” That’s funny. I doubt all those labor lobbyists would mind if you heard that message.

WA: It’s filing time

More to come later, but for a now a few notes on the candidate filings in Washington, noting that a few more party additions could yet emerge . . . though probably not many . . .

bullet Overriding impression. No great surprises, which can emerge at the end of the process, but didn't seem to here. Did notice a few more primary contests in places where they might not have been expected. Could this be in part out of a strategy (by either party, in various places) to lock up a given office in the primary by running two candidates? After all, this is a top-two primary - so if, for example, two Republicans can each outpoll a Democrat for an office, they've foreclosed a Democrat from winning the office at all.

bullet Contested. All nine U.S. House seats have major-party contests shaping up. At this point, the only one that looks really serious is in the 8th district. All of the state offices are contested too (we'd be looking at - in this order - governor, attorney general and public lands as developing the most interest). But the simple presence of candidates (a pretty substantial number, overall) offers the possibility at least for more.

bullet Ten candidates for governor. Of course, it comes down to Democrat Chris Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi. But how can you completely ignore Will Baker? Remember him? At least this time the Republicans can count their blessings that he's allying himself instead with the Reform Party . . .

bullet McDermott. Of all major Washington officeholders, one who could prospectively be strongly affected by top-two could be Representative Jim McDermott, who in his central Seattle district just ain't gonna be beaten by a Republican, but could possibly lose to a fellow Democrat in a November top two. That would still take a strong candidate, of course, and there seem not to be such this time around, though there are two other Democrats running in the district this year and two others with no party preference (and, oh, one Republican). One of them, though, does have a memorable candidate name: Goodspaceguy Nelson. Describes himself as a Democrat.

bullet Legislative. On the other hand, legislative seats overwhelmingly look to play out as they normally would; relatively few feature primaries involving incumbents, and a lot of the contested seats have the traditional one-D/one-R lineup. But some of them could play out in unexpected ways. We'll keep an eye on the District 8 House seat being vacated by Shirley Hankins, a strongly Republican area where the candidate roster runs: 4 Republicans, 1 Democrat. Who clears the primary: The top R plus the D, or the two top Rs?

bullet Creative party time. You're supposed to put in the proper party name in the "prefers" category; but not everyone does. Some Republican candidates write in "G.O.P.", and in District 11 House candidate David M. Morris wrote, "Cut Taxes G.O.P. Party". (Note: the P in GOP stands for "party.") And there are some parties . . . have you ever heard of the party selected by Senate 40 candidate Timothy "Cleaver" Stoddard, the Salmon-Yoga Party?

Top two

Today's Joel Connelly Post-Intelligencer column has a string of thoughts worth considering as Washington prepares for its entry into a redefinition of a primary election - one designed not to choose party nominees but simply to winnow the field to no more than two. A couple of the quotes he include seem to hit close to center of the issue.

That make clear that what you think of the new top-two approach depends a great deal on what you think of the proper role of political parties in our politics.

The new primary approach - the result after court decisions threw out the old "blanket" primary, in which (in the primary) voters could choose one candidate for each office, jumping back and forth among parties if they chose. The parties argued in court this meant their party members were being deprived of the ability to select their own nominees.

Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro: "To me, it's much better than party preferences: The new system means interesting contests in places that haven't seen a real race in a long time. . . OK, it means two Republicans running in some places, two Democrats in others. We have too many safe seats in this state. Safe seats make for lazy people."

Ivan Weiss, Democratic chair of the 34th Legislative District: "They're out to destroy the influence of the political parties."

Our guess here is that, once the initial inevitable confusion passes, most voters will be okay with top-two, partly because it will give them a choice in November between the two most-preferred choices, whoever they are - which is more than many voters have now. (more…)

Timber money

Peter De Fazio

Peter De Fazio

This was a set-up deal - or a pretty good facsimile thereof. The timber payment bill has all the indicators of a partisan ambush, skillfully designed by the House Democrats. (Who knew they were as good at this?) It looks designed to put House Republicans on the spot. Which it did.

They'd have been better off to take the bait and vote to approve the Democratic proposal. What they've done instead is close to indefensible back home.

The immediate issue is timber money, the funds the federal government has been providing to rural counties that have a lot of non-property-tax-paying federal lands (especially forest lands) in their boundaries. Authorization for those payments has run out, and a lot of counties, most strongly in southwest Oregon but elsewhere too, are hurting. Congressional delegations through the region, including just about everyone and of both parties - Republicans no less than Democrats - have been trying to get the spigot turned on again.

One question has been, where will the money come from? House Democrats have come up with an answer: Reimposed - they had lapsed some years ago - royalties on offshore oil and gas leases. Republicans in the House have fought reimposition of those royalties for years.

Today the bill, sponsored by Oregon Representative Peter De Fazio, came to a House floor vote and lost, 218-192 (it needed two thirds). The region's Democrats voted in favor, the Republicans (including Representative Greg Walden, who has pushed hard for timber payments) against, and President George W. Bush had threatened a veto.

You can ask the question, If top priority was getting a funding bill passed, why would De Fazio and his allies run one that was so likely to draw Republican fire and therefore likely doom it? (Of course, finding the money hasn't been an easy thing regardless - Walden and other Republicans haven't yet found a winning formula either.) But we suspect that will be superseded by another question: When the choice came to a decision between taxes paid by oil companies and desperately needy counties in the Northwest, why did those Northwest representatives vote on the side of the oil companies? That could be a deadly question. (more…)

WA 8: Even odds

We have needed some convincing on the Round 2 challenge, in Washington's 8th House district, of Democrat Darcy Burner to Republican incumbent Dave Reichert. Re-run races usually look better on paper than they often are in practice; what's gained in better planning and experience is usually lost in freshness and voter appeal.

But exceptions happen, and this year we've gradually changed our minds about Burner's rematch. Her fundraising and organization has been extraordinary. And what had looked like a year that might at best match the strong Democratic year of 2006 now begins to look as if it may sweep past it.

So we've come to the same point the Cook Report, one of the best-respective DC analysts, says today it has. The Report has just moved a pile of House races from "lean Republican" (Republican slightly favored) to "toss up" - even odds. (Of all the 27 "toss up" contests nationwide, 21 involve currently Republican seats.) One of those is Washington 8 (eastern King and northeastern Pierce). At this point, it looks like the only truly even-odds major race in the Northwest.

The Poobahs strike back

You know the Idaho Republicans - Ada County division, at least - are in serious conflict, when the party leadership is getting the dreaded E-word attached:

"Party elites want another term for the current chairman, Kirk Sullivan, and want to undo the party rule which closes primary elections to all but registered Republicans."

That comes from a post from Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance, which is looking ever-more like a faction with the Idaho Republican Party than anything else. He posted what he said was "an advance list of the pre-approved Ada County delegates to the state convention;" Ada County gets 59 delegates.

Here's the keynote of Fischer's commentary: "In many ways, the Idaho GOP is right now engaged in a battle for its soul, over whether it will be a party of genuine conservatism or become, as it has in many ways at the national level, a big government party with little genuine allegiance to social or fiscal conservative principles. What is noteworthy about the pre-approved list is how many lobbyists are on it and how few ordinary grassroots Republicans are. It appears as if the party poobahs are systematically squeezing precinct committeemen in particular out of the delegate process, in an apparent attempt to stack the deck in favor of the Republican establishment."

He is right that the list does include a bunch of downtown Boise types, from lobbyists to state and congressional staffers; it is largely an insider group. Which doesn't necessarily conflict (actually meshes with) the explanation from county party leadership (this from Kevin Reichert's Idaho Statesman blog, from which we twisted the title of this post):

"Marcel Bujarski, Ada GOP chairman, says there was nothing cloak-and-dagger about the list. The slate was compiled on a first-come, first-served basis, as potential delegates let the county party know they were interested in attending the state convention in Sandpoint. 'Bryan Fischer doesn't know what he's talking about,' Bujarski told our Dan Popkey. 'It's no big secret.'"

Either way, what's more significant here is the depth of emotion involved. The Wednesday night party gathering is likely to be quite a spitfire event.

Around the west

Some general political Monday reading: An overview of Idaho's locus in western politics, especially in Democratic presidential politics, as it's evolving this year, in the Boise Weekly.

The focus is on the Obama-Clinton contest, which may go through a shutdown this week. But points made here about western attitudes and preferences are likely to outlive it.

WA: Simpson case dropped

Geoff Simpson

Geoff Simpson

Just as a quick followup - there's been some resolution evidently in the case of state Representative Geoff Simpson, D-Covington, who had been accused of charges related to allegation of domestic violence. The city of Covington has filed to dismiss the charges, saying that "based on all of the information obtained in the present matter, the city no longer believe it has a sufficient evidence to go forward with the charges herein." (Our earlier post on this.)

David Postman's Seattle Times blog has more details. Some political fallout had occurred previously - including Simpson's giving up a House chairmanship - and Simpson evidently is looking to reverse that, though saying that "I am certain the Republican machine is gearing up with negative attacks . . ."

First impression is that, politically, Simpson has dodged a bullet. This doesn't feel smoothly over, though; our guess is that we'll be hearing more about this in the campaigns ahead.