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Posts published in August 2008

WA: What changes top 2 have wrought, pt 1

Next week's Washington state primary election has, in truth, drawn only limited interest for its politics - much more for its new procedure, which effectively puts party lines to the back of the bus and lets voters send their two favorite candidates, of whatever persuasion, on to November.

The wide-open feel to the thing, though, is expected to draw a solid electorate - Secretary of State Sam Reed has estimated as high as 46%. And if the primary-level contests are not, for the most part, cliffhangers, a number of them will be of interest.

The statewide executive offices probably will not be among them, at least all that much. Probably a lot will be made out of the percentages in the governor's race - the vote received by Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire against Republican challenger Dino Rossi. But there's no meaningful doubt those two will advance to November. Most of the other state executive races also should resolve into conventional Republican/Democratic contests for November.

Some races are more interesting, though, and could evolve in directions different than would have been possible, or at least likely, under a system other than top two. Here are some of them. (more…)

Press relations

The latest shot in the press wars involving Representative Bill Sali - or should that be spokesman Wayne Hoffman? His current guest-op to the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune (largely in response to this, which was in response to earlier writings), a paper for which he once worked and which over the years has backed numerous conservative causes and candidates, closes with this:

". . . the Press-Tribune has, regrettably, joined the chorus of shrill news lemmings all marching willingly to a sea of liberalism, filth and innuendo."

Talk about a quote ready to go viral. The IPT's new editors blog is getting off to a highly readable start . . .

OTHER REACTION The Spokesman-Review's Dave Oliveria gets into the point referenced by our post's title: "I'm beginning to wonder if aide Wayne Hoffman is becoming a bigger liability than asset to Congressman Sali. I've been at the receiving end of one of these diatribes, when Hoffman felt I was incorrect in my criticism of Sali's vote against Craig-Wyden bill reauthorization. He also lectured me via e-mail re: how newspapermen collected facts in his day. Which was sometime way after I began my career. He's also sent at least one blistering e-mail to Jill Kuraitis/New West Boise. So my question is: How effective are you if you have thin skin as a communications director and burn the ones you're supposed to be communicating with?" Worth noting that Oliveria long has been self-described (and by others) as a conservative; his is not a "liberal response".

Recall sufficiency

Pat Davis

Pat Davis

Politics watchers will want to keep a lookout for the just-out Washington Supreme Court case in re Recall of Davis, in which the court does a careful parsing of the standard of "sufficiency" for recalling Seattle Port Commissioner Pat Davis.

Washington's approach to recall strikes us as far superior to most states, and to those in Oregon and Idaho. Beyond the usual petition gathering, Washington law requires specific charges be brought and that a court review them for sufficiency; as the Supreme Court said, "The recall process is governed by statute, RCW 29A.56.110, which provides the charges must: (1) set forth the name of the officer subject to recall and the title of his or her office; (2) recite that the officer subject to recall has committed an act or acts of malfeasance while in office or that such person has violated on oath of office; (3) state the act or acts complained of in concise language; and (4) give a detailed description of each act. Recall petitions must be both legally and factually sufficient, and courts must ensure that persons submitting the charges "have some knowledge of the facts underlying the charges." Some serious legal offense needs to have occurred, and the bringer of the charges actually has to know what they're talking about - two conditions that alone would wipe out most recall elections in Oregon and Idaho.

The Davis case grew (most directly) out of a memo: "On October 10, 2006, Comm. Davis signed a memorandum discussing the 'transition away from the organization' of M.R. Dinsmore, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Seattle. The memorandum appears to assure Dinsmore up to a full year's pay upon his resignation from the Port. No dispute exists as to the existence of this memorandum and that Comm. Davis signed it." From there, it's a matter of interpretation. According to the petition: (more…)


The Seattle-based blog Horse's Ass has an unusual biographical distinction: It was prompted by a specific person. The blog's founder, David Goldstein, had pursued a satirical effort to declare, via ballot issue, that initiative developer Tim Eyman was a horse's ass. After that effort failed, he founded the blog, and named it, in effect, for Eyman. So far as we know, this has been the only political blog in the Northwest so inspired.

Until now. The editors at the Nampa Idaho Press Tribune have launched an editors' blog - nothing unusual in these days of widespread newspaper blogging - with an unusual distinction:

"Wayne Hoffman, the man behind today's launch . . . If you haven't read the Idaho Press-Tribune's editorial in Sunday's paper, read it now. In short, it took Rep. Bill Sali's office and his spokesman Wayne Hoffman to task on several issues. It's created a bit of a firestorm. Bloggers seem surprised that this 'rightwing' newspaper would speak up on this. . . ."

Hoffman is the press spokesman for Representative Sali, and he was quoted in part as responding, "They took the entire matter out of context in my mind, and I worked for the Press-Tribune for four years. It borders on libel."

Response to that = new blog. Evidently, the editors at Nampa will have more to say on the subject of Sali and Hoffman. (Then too, Goldstein still gets in his digs at Eyman now and then . . .)

Multiple parties

1946 ballot

1946 ballot

You could look at this way: What's more important, the candidate or the party under whose banner they run? If like us you're of some independent streak, that would lead to the conclusion that a ballot should foremost list the candidates, and then any political party backing them. If parties are more significant, then you give each party a ballot line (wherever they have a candidate) and then just fill in the name in the slot.

The latter approach is what you've most commonly seen in recent years in the Northwest. But some states, such as New York, allow candidates to run under the banner of two or even more parties. Could they legally do that in Oregon?


The Oregon Secretary of State's office says no. But the Independent Party of Oregon, which has endorsed candidates running mainly under Republican and Democratic banners, points out that multiple-party candidates have appeared on Oregon ballots in the past (see above) and argues they could again, and now has filed a suit.

Most directly, this affects three candidates - Senate candidate Jeff Merkley (a Democrat), treasurer candidate Ben Westlund (also a Democrat) and U.S. House candidate Joel Haugen (a Republican). Westlund, for one, said that "The statute seems to indicate that both nominations should be printed in this case."

Going dark, then viral

Having the legal right to do something isn't the same as displaying sense in doing it. Washington Democrats may have found a soft spot in the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, and we'd be surprised if they just let it go now.

A political campaign holding an event on private property has the legal ability to include or exclude whoever it wishes. Want to include just supporters? You can. Just supporters plus certain media representatives? You can. And, at an endorsement event last week by the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the Rossi campaign elected to do just that. When a video recorder named Kelly Akers showed up and started recording, he was asked, and then made, to leave the premises, by three off-duty police officers.

The Seattle Times noted that Akers has been asked to leave other Rossi events, and that the Rossi campaign specifically discourages video tracking. And this Rashomon-type recounting of the situation:

Sgt. Ty Elster, vice president of the guild, said three members "escorted" Akers out the door. Elster was not at the event but spoke to staff members who were there. He said he didn't know the names of the off-duty officers involved.

"I've heard various sources describe it as being manhandled," he said. "Our folks tell me it wasn't anything of the sort. They merely placed a hand on his arm and escorted him out the door. There was no force involved. There was no struggle."

A Democratic spokesman says that's not true. Kelly Steele, Akers' supervisor, accused the guild members of "violence" and said Akers was "drug outside from behind."

As Akers was evicted from the office, his camera recorded him saying, in an increasingly loud and alarmed voice, "Sir, could you please take your hands off me? Sir, could you please take your hands off of me?"

A guild member told him, "You were advised not to come into the building. This is private property. If you come back in the building you will be arrested for trespassing. Do you understand that? Do you understand?"

Sooner or later, someone on the Democratic side will probably spin out the video of Akers being thrown out of Rossi events - the "could you please take your hands off me" piece will no doubt be prominent - and when it does, it probably will go viral, and talk about it will swamp any minor glitch Akers' camera might otherwise have recorded at the events.

Point here is that Rossi's response to the video collection is distinctive from many other political figures. In 2006, Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick watched himself being taped by the opposition at stop after stop, and joked about it. (He got some praise, from this quarter among others, for his handling of the situation.) Rossi's opponent this year (as in 2004), Democrat Chris Gregoire, doesn't try to stop the video collection. Increasingly, it's simply becoming part of the landscape for anyone running for high office.

Rossi's campaign is trying to push back the tide on this one. That's not likely to go too well.

Plastic or paper in Pullman?

We've remarked before that proposals to put fees on grocery bags (variable, paper or plastic or both) is likely to be something of a definer - How do you really feel about recycling and related matters? It hits pretty close to everyday activities.

It's of interest in the big cities which have moved in that direction (Seattle, Portland). But maybe more so in the smaller ones.

The blog Palousitics has been tracking (from its from-the-right standpoint) the development of the issue in Pullman, Washington. In June, about 80 residents asked the city council to place a tax on plastic bags, and the council is expected to act on the idea on August 27 (or 26 according to one report). An opposition group, Pullman Consumers for Choice, has been formed to oppose the tax. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News has weighed in on the opposition side.

The lines forming and the weight of opinion will be worth watching.

ALSO Catch this Peter Callaghan column out of Tacoma.

OR: Back up?

The Oregon Senate race is showing some signs of real interest: Thi could be highly unpredictable a long way down the road.

Following the May primary up until the last month or so, polling showed Republican Senator Gordon Smith leading Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley. Then, two polls showed Merkley ahead, one barely, the other substantially.

Now, two polls show Smith retaking the lead. Today's from Rasmussen Reports shows Smith ahead 4% to 39% for Merkley. Is it the large ad campaign Smith has unleashed (despite a raft of criticism of several of those ads)?

Or are these shifts really significant shifts at all? Our sense is that the safest conclusion to draw from any of them, and from other evidence, is simply that the race is fairly close and nowhere near resolved yet. This could turn into an October nailbiter.

The “Seven Sorry Sisters”

We know of diploma mills, those places that churn out piece of paper that look a lot like academic degrees but, like counterfeit money, are useful only if you don't get caught while using them. As the price of higher education roars higher, the demand for lower-cost higher ed increases, and so have the number of "colleges" that aren't accredited, whose credits won't transfer and whose degrees aren't generally considered academically valid.

The Idaho Statesman today has a piece focusing on one such, the Canyon College based in Carmichael, California, but offering online courses to places including Idaho. After describing the case of a woman who spent four years and $5,500 obtaining what she thought was a master's degree in nursing, only to find out no one else seemed to accept it that way, the story hits the core point: "How can something like this happen? The Idaho State Board of Education, which oversees for-profit colleges like Canyon, hasn't had the staff to enforce state rules that require schools like Canyon to be registered with the state before handing out diplomas."

Washington and Oregon are relatively strict on this. But the story quotes Alan Contreras, who runs the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, as citing Idaho as being one of "Seven Sorry Sisters, the states with the worst regulation of private colleges" - alongside Hawaii, California, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Colorado.

Idaho does have some classy local private colleges (the College of Idaho and Brigham Young University-Idaho come to mind among others), and long has had. But the marketplace is bringing in some more questionable players too. Maybe the story today will generate some renewed review. And that $5,500 won't have been spent entirely in vain.