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Posts published in June 2009

ID 1: Clearing the field, or not

Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts

Vaughn Ward

Vaughn Ward

In announcing as he did today in Canyon County that he will run for the U.S. House, state Representative Ken Roberts has to be hoping he'll be the next Ron Crane.

Crane, the state treasurer, was an earlier Republican prospect for the first district congressional seat now improbably held by Democrat Walt Minnick. But he was also more than that; he was the Republican strategic approach to a difficult problem.

The problem is that, to consider the district's core leanings, it should be about as close as any in the country to a Republican slam dunk, except that it isn't. Depending on how you count, Democrats hold around four to seven of the 50 or so state legislative seats here - a useful indicator; the courthouses reflect margins not far from that. It was a very strong McCain district last year. It was lost to Republicans last time in large part because of the weak candidacy of incumbent Bill Sali.

And yet, the Idaho Republicans we've talked with aren't exactly overwhelmed with confidence about winning it back: Possible, they argue, but not easy. Credit that in largest part to Minnick, who's made no self-destructive moves (and quite a few that work neatly strategically) while in office, routinely is described as conservative even by Republicans (!) and has managed to develop a strong and highly visible cooperative relationship with the three Republicans in the delegation. Those three Republicans will ultimately line up behind the Republican nominee, of course, but they may be restrained in how hard they go after the guy who has been working with them so closely.

On the Republican side, there's also this: For all the many Republicans in the first district, nailing down the logical candidate to run against Minnick isn't easy: There's no self-evidently obvious heir. That in itself creates a problem, which you might call the 2006 Problem: A potential primary with a bunch of candidates, each getting a sliver of the vote, with the possibility one of the weaker contenders winning.

Crane was supposed to be the solution to all that. A statewide elected official, well-liked in Republican circles, source of hardly any negative headlines over his years (at least, his years as treasurer) and linked to all of the key constituencies without coming across as as an extreme member of any of them - Crane seemed to hit the sweet spot.

And he seemed interested, and apparently had the whole upper-end Republican hierarchy ready to sign on for him the way they did last round for Jim Risch for the U.S Senate. Until Crane pulled the plug - he seems to like being treasurer, and the office is up for election next year and he'd have to give it up - and the establishment plan went to pieces. And hasn't been replaced by anything else since.

One candidate is already in the field: Vaughn Ward, a Marine and former staffer for Senator Dirk Kempthorne, who (because of being little-known) seemed at first a splinter candidate, but has begun to pick up support around the Republican organization, and a decent treasury as well. He's not exactly the establishment's great hope, though. Ward has never run for office before, and taking out Minnick will be a tough task even for an experienced hand. And the experienced hands haven't been clamoring for the opportunity. Two such - Sali and 2006 House candidate Robert Vasquez - might still enter, but they would hardly be establishment picks, either.

Roberts, the state House majority caucus chair, is the closest to such an experienced hand to emerge so far. Only but so close, though, which will lead the state Republican establishment to consider with some care: Is this the guy who can clear the rest of the Republican field and take out Minnick? (more…)

A Seattle blogstorm

The Democrats who run the Washington Legislature gave Republican exceedingly little to work with in the next campaign: No tax increases, very little that could even be campaigned against as "anti-business." (The Oregon legislative Democrats, on the other hand, are providing some material.) That, anyway, is one way of looking at it.

David Goldstein of Horse's Ass, a left-of-center blog, is taking another approach: Going after the legislative leadership for being Republican-lite. As in his most recent post, "Who wants a primary challenge?"

The irony is, we all know there’s a fair share of deadwood in the Seattle delegation, along with a handful legislators who simply aren’t as progressive as their constituents on a number of important issues, such as pay day lending, the homebuyers bill of rights, tax restructuring, and more. Indeed, start this conversation at nearly any political gathering, and the same names keep popping up again and again, the usual suspects of Democratic incumbents who deserve a serious, well-financed primary challenge, and who just might not survive should they face one.

So why don’t I name names, as some in the comment threads have challenged me to do? Oh God, I’m tempted, but coming from a lowly blogger like me it would only come off as a personal hit list, and do little more than earn me animosity from those legislators on it, some of whom I personally like, even if I think it past time for them to move on and give somebody else a chance at getting stuff done before Republican Rob McKenna seizes the line-item veto pen.

There will be more of this.

In the Klamath, a baby step


A dam on the Klamath River

When the sponsor of Senate Bill 76 stood up in the Oregon House today, an obvious question arose immediately. The sponsor was Representative Ben Cannon, a Portland Democrat. The bill has to do with removal of four dams on the Klamath River, about 300 miles south from Portland. So why Cannon and not someone more local?

After all, the bill was described as (this is from the official House Democratic description) "the product of a negotiated agreement between Oregon, Washington, California, the federal government and PacifiCorp. It is supported by over two dozen groups including agriculture interests, conservation groups, utility companies, Native American tribes and other affected participants who developed the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement."

Sounds pretty sweeping. And Cannon was a capable floor sponsor. But the rest of the story emerged right after, as the representative from the Klamath Falls area (his district covers the river basin area in question) stood to speak against the bill. That was Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, who offered an impassioned argument against the bill.

There's a long history here, as anyone who's followed the Klamath debate knows, ranging from water shutoffs to full flows, variously helping and hurting fish, farmers and other interests. There have been high-profile protests and much more.

The recent settlement, from last year, appeared to bring an end of much of this - at least put an end in sight, with proposed demolition (years from now, probably after 2020) of four dams and a string of concessions to various parties. On the surface, it looked like a deal (somewhat resembling in construct the Nez Perce/Snake River deal in Idaho a few years back). However. (more…)

The cartoonist population

Hadn't fully appreciated this aspect on the newspaper troubles. From the Editor & Publisher web site:

David Horsey, who won Pulitzers for cartooning in 1999 and again in 2003, lost his job when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased print publication. Though he stayed on as the newspaper went online-only, he now draws for all Hearst papers, but not as a local cartoonist. Following the layoff of Eric Devericks at The Seattle Times last December, there is no major-metro local editorial cartoonist in Seattle.

There is still Jack Ohman at the Oregonian.

Restarting the music


Mark Hass

On Wednesday, Oregon Senator Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, ground the budget/tax express to a screech halt with his vote aligning with Senate Republicans on the first of two major tax bills - a vote just enough to defeat the House-passed first bill (and by implication, the second) on the Senate floor.

This morning, reversal. "I believe it's okay to say, 'stop the music,'" he said of his Wednesday vote - but today he opted to restart it, rejoining the other Senate Democrats on two key bills (3405 and 2649) which fill in the last of the budget pieces. Things had changed, he said, including some legislation proceeding in the House, including some changes in the rainy day fund and elsewhere. He made allusion, though, to intensive discussions with other legislators "over the last 12 hours," and no doubt they were intensive. Would've been a great fly-on-the-wall situation.

The Republicans knew it was coming: Wednesday, there was little Republican debate on the bills, but today, there was plenty - most of the Senate Republicans (all in opposition to the bills) had their say on the floor. There were some unusually passionate debates, on both sides (Larry George and Brian Boquist standing out among the Republicans, and Vicki Walker among the Democrats). Hass spoke but relatively briefly.

The upshot this morning is that the Senate did pass both both bills, with just the 18 votes needed.

Just before the debate began, Majority Leader Richard Devlin made a passing reference to the speedy approach of sine die adjournment. After this morning's action, it surely got a little closer than it seemed yesterday afternoon.

Would a temp tax work?

Well, so much for the remarkably smooth Oregon session of '09. Owing to a single flipped vote - that of Beaverton Democratic Senator Mark Hass - the Senate declined to pass a business tax package approved the day before by the Oregon House. Because of that, a second tax bill was table (alongside that first one). And because of that, the whole question of how to balance the state budget has been thrown wide open.

This wasn't entirely a surprise (one reason, presumably, the vote was held until late afternoon). The debate wasn't long (there was some but not a lot of Republican argument against), and during it, Senator Alan Bates, D-Ashland, warned that people were "teetering" and "I implore you, to vote for this bill tofay and the one following it. The state will go into chaos without these bills."

Now, presumably, we start to find out what that entails.

It could mean, as senators got some indication, that the budgets are reopened and mass cuts ensure. Or maybe not. On Blue Oregon, a commenter remarked, "Hass just said he wants to send the corporate minimum back to senate revenue for a fix- they MAY not have the votes on the floor and might have to come back another day."

Overall, the legislature may be here a few days longer than they had thought. But what direction this goes next looks up for grabs.

First big glitch in what had been a remarkably smooth-running machine.

WA: 867,000, no insurance for you


Mike Kreidler

Only a number, maybe, but what ought to be a big number: 876,000, the number of people in the state of Washington who by year's end are expected to have no health insurance.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler talked (timely, given the health talk going on in the other Washington) about how his office came up with the estimate. After that, there was a piece of sort-of good news from the state Health Care Authority, that earlier reports about tens of thousands of residents being dropped from the state basic health plan will not materialize. None of that affects the 876,000 estimate, though.


Kreidler chart

What this will establish immediately beyond more hand-wringing isn't clear. But maybe it provides a little more impetus to the state's congressional delegation as it considers where to land in the emerging health care policy battle. The commissioner himself seemed to acknowledge as much in his statement - some reliance on solutions coming from a couple time zones away.

From Kriedler's release: (more…)

A right to not be indoctrinated

A good many of the arguments against Oregon's Senate Bill 519, which has passed the Senate (and now goes to the House) and has turned into a real business-labor flashpoint, seem to revolve around something the bill doesn't do.

One news report, for example, noted that "Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said unions were trying to curtail the ability of employers to sit down with their employees to talk over issues that might affect the company. Ferrioli and others said the bill could be a particular hardship for companies that offer such secular services as house painting but make religious faith a central part of their mission."

In considering that, take a look at what the bill does. Here's the most central section:

An employer or the employer's agent, representative or designee may not discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or threaten to discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or take any adverse employment action against an employee:
(a) Who declines to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting or communication with the employer or the agent, representative or designee of the employer if the primary purpose of the meeting or communication is to communicate the opinion of the employer about religious or political matters;
(b) As a means of requiring an employee to attend a meeting or participate in communications described in paragraph (a) of this subsection . . .

The bill's effect, in other words, isn't to stop an employer from talking about whatever he chooses, or to block any kind of meetings or other one-on-one communications. What the bill does say is that if an employer-backed meeting is about politics or religion, the employee has the option of not attending, without risk of job loss or other disciplinary action. If it's a one-on-one communication, an employee could walk away from it. Or not, at the employee's option; employees can choose to attend (as many probably will continue to).

There is more to the bill, of course, mainly fleshing out that core point. But the essence is that people who rely on a paycheck shouldn't have that dependence used as a force for religious or political indoctrination. Which, if considered in that light - as it only intermittently has till now - might throw a little different spin on a debate in the House.

Marriage age as a political indicator

Amid a National Public Radio feature story this morning about "hooking up", a point was made about the rising average age of marriage. A sub-point also emerged: Idaho was listed as having, on average, the youngest married couples in the country.

When we pulled the census stats on this and averaged marriage age for men and women, Idaho appeared to rank second (behind Utah) rather than first. (The average age at marriage in Idaho was 24.6 years for men and 22.8 for women, compared with the national average of 26.7 and 25.1.)

The rundown of states by marriage age, though, does match up remarkably well against red-blue measures. After Utah and Idaho, two of the reddest states, is Oklahoma, also among the most crimson. The red of the low-age top 10: Arkansas, Kentucky, Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, Alabama and Tennessee. All were McCain states in 2008.

At the other end of the list, oldest at marriage: the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Maryland, all blue states and (except Pennsylvania and maybe New Jersey) among the bluest. All went for Obama in 2008.

Oregon and Washington are close to the national average on marriage age.