Archive for October, 2008

Oct 21 2008

Minnick at Republican levels?

Published by under Idaho

Two weeks from now we’ll have a much clearer idea of how well the various pollsters did, which will be notable in some races. In the case of the Idaho 1st House District, where Republican incumbent Bill Sali is being pressed by Democrat Walt Minnick, polls are all over the place.

But one out today in that race, from SurveyUSA, has some especially interesting crosstab information – if it pans out. (The poll was conducted last weekend; 4-point margin of error). From the descriptive sheet:

For Sali, the problems are acute, and assailing him from several directions, with the numbers suggesting that the freshman Congressman is his own worst enemy.

Despite the fact that Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) led Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in Idaho’s 1st district, 57 percent to 37 percent, Sali not only trailed Minnick in the horse race, his net favorable rating was the same as Obama’s: minus-14. The survey found Sali’s favorable/unfavorable rating to be 33 percent/47 percent, and revealed Obama’s to be 37 percent/51 percent.

Conversely, Minnick’s net favorable rating was a solid plus-22 — the same as McCain’s. The poll showed Minnick’s favorable/unfavorable rating to be 45 percent/ 23 percent, and McCain’s to be 53 percent/ 31 percent.

Furthering the narrative that Minnick’s position in the lead might be more a function of Sali’s negatives than the Republican Party’s problems nationally, the GOP was still seen as “best equipped to handle the economy” in this poll by a margin of 54 percent to 37 percent.

Among the survey’s additional findings: Bush’s approval rating in the district was 35 percent, with 56 percent disapproving; Congress’ approval rating is an abysmal 9 percent, with 78 disapproving — the lowest in any poll conducted for Roll Call this year.

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Oct 21 2008

Sarah Palin, the College Years

Published by under Idaho

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

We raised the question a while back having to do with vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin‘s main link to Idaho, her time at North Idaho College and the University of Idaho. The question concerned her frequent changes of venue during her college years, involving thoe institutions and others in Alaska and Hawaii.

A piece in the Los Angeles Times today, looking into Palin’s college years, clears up some of that, and some more; it’s a good read for anyone interested in the connection. It isn’t especially either positive or negative, but it does fill in some curious gaps.

Her near-invisibility at the University of Idaho does remain a curiosity, though. Turns out that Jim Fisher, now editorial page editor at the Lewiston Tribune, once taught her in a 15-student upper-level class, but doesn’t recall her at all. Neither does her academic advisor at UI.

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Oct 20 2008

Washington reality check

Published by under Washington

Finally, here’s the picture in Washington state, where as in Oregon the presidential is in no serious doubt, but the next top race – for governor – is genuinely close.

For governor (there being no U.S. Senate race in Washington this year):

And the closest U.S. House race, in District 8, with limited polling but an intriguing trend line:

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Oct 20 2008

Oregon reality check

Published by under Oregon

The presidential race in Oregon seems to be a progressively foregone conclusion, but that Senate race – albeit with a blue tilt – is absolutely a popcorn watch.

Now the more exciting Senate battle:

As in Idaho, there’s not really enough data for a solid chart in the one hot U.S house race (in district 5).

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Oct 20 2008

Idaho reality check

Published by under Idaho

At the Atlantic blog run by Andrew Sullivan, you periodically see posted Pollster.com composites of polling information, showing trend and status. These are usually noted under the heading, “reality check.”

Seems about right. And at two weeks out from election day, seems a fair time to run them out for the Northwest. Major races in Idaho first.

Senate race:

There is a chart for the first U.S. House district race, but the polling it represents is thin for compilation purposes.

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Oct 19 2008

WA Gov: Endorsements, etc.

Published by under Washington

Got an e-mail on Thursday from friends in Kitsap County, where they just voted by mail: “What a great day!” They noted their presidential choice – which in Washington state seems not much in doubt – but not their gubernatorial. And that one is in some doubt.

It will not be as close as the last one, in 2004. 133-vote margins just never happen, except maybe once. We should have a pretty clear idea on election night, or the morning after at least, who will be governor the next four years. But, while we continue to suspect that Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire will narrowly outpace Republican challenger Dino Rossi, it’s not likely to be by much. This isn’t likely to be an early-evening call.

What with ballots out and cast, the newspaper endorsement picture in Washington is wrapped up now.

Gregoire’s corner includes the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Tacoma News Tribune, the Spokane Spokesman-Review (just today), the Vancouver Columbian, the Portland Oregonian, the Everett Herald (today), the Kitsap Sun (today), the Bellingham Herald (today) and the Mount Vernon Skagit Valley Herald. The Tacoma, Everett and Spokane papers are reversals from four years ago, when they backed Rossi.

Rossi got backing from the Seattle Times (today), the Tri-City Herald, the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. The endorsements at the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla are reversals reversal from 2004, when those papers endorsed Gregoire.

The Rossi endorsements generally focused on the budget, noting that Gregoire has increased spending just ahead of dark money days. (The Gregoire arguments tend to be a little more broadly-based.) The Tri-Cities argument, though, is so specific it merits a review here:

And as much as we admire and respect Gregoire — and even understand to some extent why west-side politics may have constrained her giving meaningful support to the Areva project — our first loyalty is to the Tri-Cities, which remains bitterly disappointed over this loss.

Areva represented the possibility of adding a $2 billion uranium enrichment facility and 400 high-paying jobs to the Tri-Cities but is gone now for good.

But instead of growing our nuclear future, we’re worried about Richland losing its existing fuel fabrication plant and its 600 good jobs.

When upgrades are needed in Richland, will Areva spend the money here or just build a plant next to its new uranium enrichment facility in Idaho?

The fact is the Herald’s gubernatorial endorsement probably was Gregoire’s to lose, and lose it she did.

Areva probably will cost her votes in the Tri-Cities, though it may draw a blank elsewhere.

In all of this, you get some feeling of closeness. There’ a little endorsement movement toward Gregoire, but it’s not everwhelming. This thing is tight.

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Oct 19 2008

Endorsements: Backing Obama in Idaho

Published by under Idaho

The Idaho Statesman becomes the first Idaho paper to endorse for president (so far as we’ve seen – if you’ve seen any to the contrary let us know). And in a state that will go for Republican John McCain, but in a city that probably will go for Democrat Barack Obama, it went for Obama.

Highly notable (and useful) was this line toward the end of the end of the editorial: “In what, by comparison, pass for measured moments, McCain and Palin simply insinuate that the Democratic ticket is out of touch and elitist. It’s not only a bogus claim – given Obama’s and Biden’s backgrounds – but it’s a silly form of reverse snobbery. Our nation has to stop equating intellect with elitism and viewing intelligence with scorn and skepticism. Considering the problems at hand, there is no better time than now to change our thinking.”

Some lowest-common-denominatorism is to be expected in political campaigns, but at least we should aspire to better.

Side note: Does this mean Republican Jim Risch will get the nod for U.S. Senate? (See: Oregon, endorsements . . .)

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Oct 18 2008

Endorsements: The Mugwumpy O

Published by under Oregon

Of course this was what the Oregonian was going to do: Never any question about it. It endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president and Republican Gordon Smith for (re-election to) the U.S. Senate.

On the first, this: “In the century and a half that Oregon and The Oregonian have been making presidential choices, there has rarely been a time when the nation so desperately needed a sharp change in direction. To provide that change, The Oregonian strongly urges voters to support Barack Obama.”

On the Senate race: “It is a close, contentious and very negative contest in which both men can make cases for themselves. With his seniority, record of moderation, ear for the concerns of Oregonians and willingness to break with his party when the circumstances call for it, we think Smith makes the better case.”

Maybe the more key reference was this: “The goal of the Democrats at this moment in history is to gain unquestioned control of the legislative process. In the Senate, that means establishing a 60-vote, filibuster-proof supermajority. The generic nature of their efforts in support of Merkley suggest they are more interested in getting their 60 votes than they are in the welfare of the citizens of Oregon. Merkley’s own campaign has focused on his party’s views of national and international issues and, where Oregonians come into the picture, they are often illustrations of those broader topics.”

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Oct 18 2008

Endorsements: Another break

Published by under Oregon

Since the Bladine family in 1928 bought the newspaper at McMinnville (then called the Telephone-Register, now the News-Register) it has listed itself politically as “Independent Republican.” In presidential campaign endorsements, it is has been universally Republican – until now.

Today’s endorsement editorial breaks the pattern of 80 years, backing Democrat Barack Obama. (The paper has mixed its other endorsements, backing Republican incumbent Gordon Smith for the Senate, for example.) It was not a limp endorsement, either: “Only one candidate stands for change in this year’s presidential race — Barack Obama. Obama’s intellect, temperament and ability to inspire are precisely what we need after a disastrous eight years under George W. Bush.”

The owner and publisher, Jeb Bladine, offered a column that offered some explanation for the break: “Others on our editorial board passionately believe that Barack Obama, not John McCain, should become our 44th president. By power of ownership, I could have overturned that vote. But much as I believe in a moderate Republican philosophy, I also see the need for dramatic action seeking to break the deadlock and malice that has marred our political landscape for too long.”

And to his fellow Republicans, this: “The Republican Party needs transformation and resurgence, which just might begin after the national rejection coming in November. Meanwhile, the country needs to unite behind someone who can elicit a national willingness to sacrifice for common goals related to energy, the economy, health care and international diplomacy. I hope Barack Obama is that leader.”

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Oct 17 2008

Endorsements: Precedent shock

Published by under Washington

On a day when the Chicago Tribune endorsed a Democrat for president, for the first time in its 160 years; and when the Los Angeles broke its decades-long precedent of declining to endorse anyone for president – both went for Democrat Barack Obama – the Northwest come up with a startling endorser of its own.

The Vancouver Columbian ordinarily endorses toward the right, and usually Republican on the presidential level – it went for George Bush in 2004. But not this year. From its endorsement editorial today:

“As for judgment, Obama chose a running mate who neither hurt him in the polls nor diverted the spotlight from the main man on the ticket. McCain’s choice has done both. McCain tries to masquerade this recklessness as the virtue of a maverick. Would he use that same recklessness in appointing Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members? Which candidate in recent weeks has shown a presidential demeanor? Which could best restore worldwide respect for the U.S.? Which man has tried to soothe — not stoke — rancor in the homestretch of this campaign? Clearly, that man is Obama. . . . America’s comparison between the upstart reformer and the venerable war hero inexorably returns to the qualities of leadership and judgment. Obama wins that comparison, and his message of partnerships at home and abroad seals the deal for us.”

Watch this space tomorrow, for what we anticipate will be another endorsement stunner . . .

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Oct 17 2008

Feeding a narrative

Published by under Idaho

This seems like a small, minor incident – well, it is that. But because it reflects something larger, maybe a little attention is warranted.

The location was downtown Boise, outside the Grove Hotel, where a few minutes hence a debate would begin between two congressional candidates, Republican incumbent Bill Sali and Democratic challenger Walt Minnick. A reporter from Boise’s KTVB-TV was interviewing Minnick spokesman John Foster. Then, according to KTVB:

“During the interview, someone loudly yelled and was laughing during the interview at the Grove plaza. Bilbao and Foster initially ignored the intrusion, but quickly noticed the source of the heckling – Sali and members of his staff. Foster stopped the interview and noted the commotion. ‘I am sorry I was a little bit distracted,’ Foster said. ‘I think at some point you even have to question his maturity.’ Foster said he saw Sali making faces at him and holding up ‘bunny ears’.”

Asked about this, Sali essentially suggested that the Minnick people needed to lighten up.

This isn’t a big issue, of course. But there is this: One of the key arguments against Sali is that he isn’t serious, that he doesn’t take a solid, mature view to his job. Yes, Sali advocates can counter to that, but the perception at least is widespread, and Sali’s people have to be aware of it. Given that, why would they feed the narrative this way, and at a time when seriousness of purpose actually does seem to be a recognizable virtue among politicians?

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Oct 16 2008

OR: Toward 36

Published by under Oregon

Here’s putting the odds at even or better that Oregon House Democrats reach their much-sought goal of 36 seats – enough to enact almost whatever they choose, given their party’s control also of the Senate and governor’s office. A simple majority, which they barely have now, is enough for many items, but a lot of fiscal decisions require 36 votes, which has meant at least five crossovers from the Republican caucus – hard to get.

Two months ago, thinking here was that Democratic gains of two or three sets seemed strongly probable, four a little bit of a reach, and five conceivable but less than likely. But as with so much else this year, that seems to have changed.

Take a look at the Oregonian‘s Jeff Mapes blog post today on the legislative seats most likely to change parties – his top 10 list. Apart from two odd cases* all the seats mentioned are Republican.

Eight of those most-likely-to-switch seats are House Republicans, and some of those are members – like Scott Bruun, Linda Flores and Chuck Burley – we’d earlier on figured too tough to view as very seriously endangered. But not any more, owing largely to the larger political atmosphere and the changing party registration figures that reflects.

Number 10 on Mapes’ list was the seat we focused on yesterday, the District 24 House seat held by Republican Donna Nelson, a seat until recently considered nearly safe Republican but now teetering on the edge. And we’d have added District 18 to Mapes’ list – making for nine readily identifiable endangered Republicans. (Mapes does list another five apparently competitive races, three of them involving currently Republican seats.)

Not all will lose, but: Five? Very possibly. Maybe probably.

He quotes one Republican: “I think the Democrats have a chance to reach their wildest dreams,” and remarked generally, “I’ve never heard Republicans sound so grim when you can get them talking frankly and off the record.” And he remarks later, “Journalistic fairness would like me to put an R here. But no one I talked to made a credible case for a Republican pickup in the House.”

*The two that really belong in a whole different sort of category . . . The Bend-area Senate seat held by Ben Westlund (now running for state treasurer) is technically Democratic, since Westlund changed parties; but when he was last elected to it, in 2004, he was elected as a Republican, so the change is real for the actual senator (Westlund’s successor likely will be Republican) but not for the district as such. And Portland Senator Avel Gordly, also retiring from the Senate, was last elected as a Democrat, served as an independent during much of the last term but more recently returned to the Democratic fold. She will be replaced, almost certainly, by another Democrat (Jackie Dingfelder); so we’d argue that constitutes no partisan change at all.

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Oct 15 2008

Among the 10 best?

Published by under Idaho

Mike Simpson

Mike Simpson

The magazine Esquire has released its lists of the 10 best and 10 worst members of Congress, and among those top and bottom 20, the Northwest is represented once – on the good side – by Idaho Representative Mike Simpson.

The lists overall, by the way, are balanced by party – half D, half R. (It’s also done a presidential endorsement, for Democrat Barack Obama.)

Here’s what it said about Simpson:

“More than any other representative, Simpson lives by the philosophy that democratic representation is a matter of finding not advantageous positions but common ground; not of manning the ramparts but of parleying to prevent war. Has another member of his party ever joined the ACLU for a fact-finding spell? Has any made a habit of meeting with conservationists to learn their wants and fears? Do any work as he does to temper partisanship in the name of progress? None that we could uncover. His constituents reap the benefits.”

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens did make the list of 10 worst.

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Oct 15 2008

OR H24: Races where there were none

Published by under Oregon

Al Hansen Jim Weidner

Al Hansen (speaking, right); Jim Weidner (left)

Two years ago, one of the hottest and closest (second closest in the state) legislative races in Oregon was in District 24, which takes in McMinnville and most of Yamhill County. It emerged as a close race toward the end. The district was widely considered to be close to a Republican lock the incumbent Republican had won substantially twice before, and no news was expected. Democrat Sal Peralta ran an exceptional race, though, and nearly took out Republican Donna Nelson.

The contest this time has not been looking so close. Al Hansen, a former McMinnville council member (with a long string of community pushups as well), is the Democrat this time, but his campaign has seemed not to match Peralta’s. The contest hasn’t much hit the statewide radar; Republican and Yamhill businessman Jim Weidner, who strongly won a seriously contested primary, has been presumed to hold a strong lead.

But maybe that was a write-off too soon. There has been no public polling in the race, but over the last week word began slipping out about polling by each party (state Democrats only lately apparently were convinced to throw in some money for that), and the results on both sides show the race tied – a much stronger showing for Hansen than most local observers would have expected. There seems to be little dispute about it, either: Wiedner told the McMinnville News-Register, “I’ll go with, ‘It’s a dead heat.'”

What accounts for it?

There’s the larger atmosphere hostile to Republicans, even in swing areas. There are structural factors, such as the year-round Democratic office that’s been open in McMinnville, and the downtown Obama office, both encouraging Democratic organization. In District 24, voter registration at the end of September 2004 was: Democrats 10,942, Republicans 13,370 – Republican advantage of about 2,400. Two years later (when Peralta ran): Democrats 10,825, Republicans 13,461 – little change. But at the end of last month: Democrats 12,852, Republicans 13,423 – a Republican advantage of 571: The old gap cut by more than three-fourths. And finally, there’s the nature of the candidates: Hansen has been a McMinnville civic fixture and activist for many years, with broad contacts, while Weidner is a relative newcomer with a support base more partisan and ideological – not a good cocktail for this year.

Keep watch on this race. It could flow either way.

ALSO To the southeast, but also in the Willamette Valley, keep watch on the House 18 race (generally, a large rural region east of the Salem area). We were earlier skeptical that third-time Democratic candidate (and nursery owner) Jim Gilbert of Molalla would get a lot farther than the last two times. But we’re hearing that a confluence of factors may have put him in the lead over Republican Vic Gilliam, who was appointed to the seat in December 2006. Gilliam ran for the House twice before two, but back in the 80s, probably giving Gilbert a name ID edge. And consider the changes in voter identification: A Republican edge of 3,106 two years ago shrank to 2,320 at the end of last month.

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Oct 14 2008

OR: Senate prospects

Published by under Oregon

Watching and evaluating the outcome of the Oregon Senate has been a matter of ongoing migration. It has always been a close thing – ever since, really, November of 2006, if not earlier. Republican Senator Gordon Smith‘s December 2006 reversal on Iraq, however sincere and policy-driven it may have been, stands as symbol of that.

Still, the most common consensus during most of the time since then has been that Smith probably has a small edge: Small, but still there. Sometime in the summer, the race seemed to become more unpredictable even beyond that. But somewhere in the last few weeks it seems to have hit a new stage: Still close, but with an edge to Democrat Jeff Merkley.

You could see it in analyses coming out just today. From Charles Cook (in his Tuesday email), the veteran national analyst: “Republican nominee Bob Schaffer in the open seat in Colorado and GOP incumbents John Sununu in New Hampshire and Gordon Smith in Oregon all appear to be running behind their Democratic opponents by a handful of points. With just three weeks left, it’s hard to see how they recover, barring an unforeseen event.”

And today in Congressional Quarterly: “Despite attempts to link himself with high-profile Democrats, Republican Gordon H. Smith is facing an increasingly difficult battle for votes in the highly competitive Oregon Senate race.

Due to Smith’s perceived challenges, continued Democratic growth in the state of Oregon and Smith’s failure to gain a strong lead in recent polls, CQ Politics is changing the rating of the race from Leans Republican to No Clear Favorite, our most competitive category.” But bear in mind that CQ is loathe to lean a race which includes an incumbent, toward a challenger: There’s a built-in lean toward incumbents. Calling it “no clear favorite” equates to “leaning Democratic” for most of us.

Cal it partly the atmosphere: Democrats in many places are being boosted. And maybe the negatives in campaigning: Both Smith and Merkley may be absorbing hits for it, but the effect even of that is to equate them. Precious few of the usual advantages of incumbency seem now to be doing Gordon Smith much good.

ALSO A New York Times article out today, focusing on the Oregon Senate race, is worth a read in reviewing some of this.

And this quote from Bill Kennemer, the Republican Clackamas County commissioner running for state representative: “I was going door to door the other day and someone asked, ‘Why don’t you put “Republican” on these fliers?’ I said, ‘Because I don’t want to lose.’ ”

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Oct 12 2008

Endorsement Sunday

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Mid-October Sunday – sounds like time for a slug of newspaper endorsements. And so there are, a batch of them around the region worth consideration.

bullet Salem Statesman Journal: Endorsements toward the top of the ticket are splashier but tend to matter less because people have so many other sources of information about those races. (They can matter most, say, in contests for school district or highway commission.) That said, the Oregon Senate contest still looks so close that any factor could be a decisive tipper.

The Salem paper went for Republican incumbent Gordon Smith, over Democrat Jeff Merkley, partly on a key basis Smith has been urging: “Smith, who is seeking a third term, remains the best choice. He is in tune with Oregonians’ common-sense, middle-of-the-road values. Republican Smith from rural Eastern Oregon makes a good team with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden from liberal Portland. Lots of candidates talk about bipartisanship. Smith delivers on it. He and Wyden collaborate on issues that affect everyday Oregonians: the environment, health care, children’s welfare, veterans’ affairs, immigration and more.” So we now have Eugene and Astoria for Merkley and Salem for Smith (which is where we imagine the Oregonian will go).

bullet Eugene Register-Guard: One of the most interesting races in the Northwest this year is the mayoralty of Eugene, where former Mayor Jim Torrey is trying to unseat his successor, Kitty Piercy. There are lots of layers here. In this non-partisan race, Piercy, more to the left, is a former Democratic legislator, while Torry (now registered as unaffiliated) is a former (2006) Republican candidate for the state Senate. But the more relevant layers have to do with which set of interest groups and which parts of town will dominate.

In endorsing Torrey (who we’re inclined to think will win the election), the RG said that in the May primary election, “Under conditions that should have strongly favored a Democrat, Piercy fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed for an outright victory in the primary. A lot of Democrats and independents must have crossed over to vote for Torrey. That vote was a sign of frustration with what’s happening in Eugene City Hall. The frustration is deepest in north and west Eugene, where city government is seen to be controlled by a faction of the City Council that prevails because of Mayor Piercy’s tie-breaking votes. To many, these votes appear to either serve the interests of the parts of the city represented by the majority, as with some of the votes preceding acquisition of property at the head of the Amazon channel, or to disregard the interests of the parts of the city represented by councilors in the minority, as with the vote to terminate the West Eugene Parkway. Piercy is irretrievably identified with one faction of a split council, and there’s no reason to believe a second term would be different.” Continue Reading »

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Oct 11 2008

OR: Consequential senators

Published by under Oregon

The Daily Astorian endorses in the Senate race for Democrat Jeff Merkley, over Republican incumbent Gordon Smith.

Compellingly argued, with an unusual historical background – with a good grounding in recent Oregon political history. Worth a read for reasons beyond the usual.

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Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here