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Posts published in July 2008

One empty chair of three (not two)

If you're a major party candidate and you want to debate your opponent, and your opponent seems less than eager to show up - all of which probably means you're behind and he's ahead - you're mostly out of luck. You can do the old traditional "debate the empty chair" - show up and do your pitch, basically - but that seldom has any significant impact.

What's happening in the Idaho U.S. Senate race is a little more interesting, for the reason that a third candidate is entering the equation.

The poll leader in the Idaho race is Republican nominee (and current Lieutenant Governor) Jim Risch, whose history in general election campaigns (in which he'd always been a front runner) has included the logical strategic move of limiting joint appearances with the opposition. (A note here: This is no absolute; Risch has appeared in debates in the past, including three in 2002 when your writer did work for an opposing campaign). Democratic nominee Larry La Rocco, who would like to debate Risch early and often, seems likely to get the bare minimum out of him (which seems to be an unusual pre-recorded appearance).

Enter one of the non-major-party candidates in the race, independent Rex Rammell (earlier on, a Republican). It was Rammell, evidently, who came up with the shrewd idea that a series of debates didn't necessarily have to include Risch - he and La Rocco could engage in debates all by themselves. Today he and La Rocco held a joint press conference to announce their plans to do just that, a group of about 10 debates around the state in October. Risch would be invited to participate, though the other two candidates indicated they weren't holding their breaths.

This is a smart move. The political/philosophical differences between La Rocco and Rammell are as great (we'd guess greater) than between La Rocco and Risch, which means that a debate between the two would offer a real contrast. Partly because of that, it's highly likely to draw media and other visibility.

Could it have an effect on the outcome? This is more problematic, since debates rarely do have much effect. But let's throw out a scenario . . . Nationally, a Democratic wave builds, and Idaho (with a newly strong Obama organization working internally, in tandem with the La Rocco campaign) pulls out a bunch of new voters. This, with La Rocco's highly energetic campaign (which it has been for more than a year now), raises La Rocco's vote a few points above the norm. Risch, who throughout his long career has been the utterly, totally loyal party man, hits some gravel as some of the independents-who-vote-Republican have second thoughts, and maybe pay attention to Rammell, who seems to be the ideologically-committed conservative guy who's seriously engaging the Democratic candidate. Risch's vote slips down a bit partly from Republican turnoff and partly because Rammell takes some of it away. Add in the crew of remaining candidates in the general election, most of which pull sliver-votes from the rights, and the outcome could move seriously into doubt . . .

No, that's not necessarily a prediction. But who knows? But Risch, smart strategist that he is, probably will be keeping a close watch on the La Rocco-Rammell show. You never know how the bank shots might go.

McDermott from the left

Jim McDermott

Jim McDermott

The member of Congress from the Northwest who probably trods the most hard-core line to the left would be Seattle's own Jim McDermott, who periodically gets the description "congressman for life" from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. On blogs to the right, he's usually "Baghdad Jim" (after his anti-war comments made in Iraq in 2002), though a whole lot of what we does would draw understandable aggravation from that side.

His sheer seeming political invulnerability, though, has from time to time drawn some sharp comments from the left too. And Crosscut today has a thorough rundown of the case against McDermott from the left; writer Don Glickstein has put together here a bill of goods that could generate a lot of talk among Seattle Democrats over the next little while.

KOIN center, nickel and dimed

KOIN Center

KOIN Center

The KOIN Tower - as you usually hear it called, though it seems properly to be the KOIN Center - is not only one of Portland's most distinctive big-building landmarks, but among then Northwest's. At 35 stories, its very specific shape and brick coloration make it a standout, architecturally. But it is also a standout for another reason: Its name harkens to a very specific local institution, most specifically television station KOIN (Channel 6), which has operated from there since the building's opening 23 years ago.

KOIN has been going through some sad days, with cutback not just to but through the bone. Now, the relationship between the station and the building is undergoing some change. From Oregon Media Insiders:

"At a staff meeting this week, GM Chris Sehring announced that architects were coming to re-evaluate the station's space needs and that up to an entire floor might be vacated and sold back to the building for a one-time cash payment. The KOIN lease is something like $1 a year for 99 years currently; once that space is given up, it'd be hell to get it back. But hey! What's a little more strip-mining of an already-stripped out station?"

The lines of 29

Jeff Duyck

Jeff Duyck

Only a few quick notes on the Oregon House 29 debacle . . . in which Jeff Duyck, who has lived in his house for at least three election cycles, received ballots and voted for House 29 candidates in the past, and this year has filed to run as a Republican challenger to Democratic Representative Chuck Riley, and his candidacy was accepted officially as valid (he has the Republican nomination), until a few days ago. But he may be legally unable to run or serve because he legally is a nonresident. He lives on the very edge of the district, and while most of his residential property does lie within 29, his actual house, it turns out, does not. (A Democratic activist found this out after some map checking.) There has been, understandably, uproar.

bullet There is word out now (most directly via NW Republican) that Duyck will drop out of the race. Realistically, that's what he has to do. With the facts on the table, even if some way were found to keep him on the ballot, he couldn't - constitutionally - serve in the House. One of the two logical things for Republicans to do right now is find the best replacement they can. And consider Duyck, who so far is developing (merited) sympathy over all this and even getting some statewide attention, a bankable asset for the future.

As very much a side point, this was shaping up as a respectably competitive but probably not a nail-biter contest. Riley racked up 61.7% last time against a mayor in the district, which has been trending blue the last few cycles, and the time before that ousted a Republican incumbent. In a Democratic year, this does not look like a seat on the edge, even allowing that Duyck brought strong assets to the table.

bullet More significantly here: What a screwup on the part of elections personnel (and the finger here has mainly to be pointed to Washington County Elections). How many other misplaced people around the area, around the state, might there be? We'd suspect some county clerks already have been running their own quiet checks in the last few days to try to find any.

Consider the pure legal implications: Because of misinformation provided by elections personnel, citizens were led to cast illegal votes, which weakened the voting pool in one district and deprived a citizen of his proper vote in another. Even if the number of voters is involved, the offense is significant.

There may not be many such cases, but let the inquiry begin. Meantime, Republicans have a righteous beef on this.

A Tamarack national view

Was only three or four years ago, or was it even that far back?, that the Tamarack Resort near Donnelly was the next Big Thing. President Bush stayed there, on invitation of then-Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne. But that kind of dates matters now, doesn't it?

Today's twist in the troubles at Tamarack is a substantial piece in the Wall Street Journal: "In Idaho, ski resort's promise fades." The piece has its flaws. Some of the description of the immediate economic fallout in Vally feels a little off (some of the employment comparisons aren't really good apples-to-apples). And the description of what went wrong and how is certainly incomplete. The whole story will make a great piece of writing for someone one of these days.

A sample graf from the story (which makes not independent analysis but use of court documents): "A resort's success was often staked to real-estate sales: As a Tamarack lender recounted in recent court filings, the resort had a business model in which 'operating expenses would exceed revenue and the primary source of profit would be generated by the sale of real estate'."

Valley County is now in the position of having to pick itself up and ask, What next? There is no simple answer after something like this.

Back up and running . . . gradually

Aquick note here that the hiatus over the last week-plus is over, and we'll be resuming something at least resembling a normal posting regimen hereout. The hospital stay is over.

Those two little words (pulmonary embolism) that delivered such a wallop and afforded such intimate exposure to hospital procedures, 9-1-1 realities (those guys and gals really are life-savers), drugs and tests and so much more, have also had this upside: PEs (at least in this case), as life-threatening as they are, also can be straightforward to deal with and (at least in this case) involve no massive surgeries or anything especially invasive or even very life-changing. As medical crises go, this one has worked out benignly. So far at least. Though we'll likely be taking it easy for a while.

Many thanks to everyone who sent in a comment, e-mail, card or otherwise got in touch. Your thoughts were, are, deeply appreciated.

And back to the news . . .

Why We’ve Been Away

Since last Sunday, RP has been getting an up-close and personal experience with health care delivery in Oregon. Our conclusion: From the 911 call, to the EMTs, the ambulance service, emergency room staff, and the ICU personnel, we've experienced efficiency, courtesy, professionalism, and knowledge that goes way beyond just competence.

We've also learned a lot about the inner workings of our lungs as the doctors searched for the blood clots that caused a pulmonary embolism. So until the clots are dissolved and we're back home -- which we anticipate will be in a few days -- they don't have online connections in the hospital for patients (maybe not such a bad thing...) and posting will be a little bit slow.

Best wishes to all of our readers; we look forward to returning shortly.

-rs