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Posts published in August 2009

It’ll be awhile

The 10 o'clock (uh, 9:52) King primary vote update didn't add a tremendous number of votes to the picture, so not much changes from the picture reported earlier.

This will stretch out for a number of days.

Primary, first run


Greg Nickels

The first-run King County results are up (released at 8:15; the next round is supposed to come at 10) and they follow a certain pattern: Most races are unsurprising, but there's usually a joker somewhere. About 16.6% of the ballots are counted, but some points can be clearly made.

The Seattle bag tax was expected to fail, and the early results look definitive enough to say: It will. Other west-coast entities considering similar measures (as quite a few have), take note.

The King County executive race is so far running about the way it was widely expected to, with former TV news anchor Susan Hutchison running decisively in the lead with 37.4%, and County Council member Dow Constantine in a clear far ahead of the six other contenders with 22.4%. (Third place is legislator Fred Jarrett at 12%.) Barring some strange trend in the ballots remaining, the fall contest looks like Hutchison-Constantine.

Initial take is that, for the general, Constantine starts with the edge. Among the major candidates, Hutchison was considered the more conservative Republican in the race - the only one - while Constantine was running as one of four moderate/liberal Democrats (all veteran local elected officials) who split up that portion of the vote. If a revote were held instantly, Hutchison might add somewhat to her 37.4%, but Constantine logically should pull most of the support from voters for Jarrett, Ross Hunter (10.9%) and Larry Phillips (11.7%) - a total of 57%. Hutchison needed a vote much closer to the 50% mark to put her in a front-runner position.

That's a starting-gate estimate, of course; the campaign has yet to be run, and much can change. And we have get to see how the percentages shift as more ballots come in.

Most interest - and this is the surprise in the group - is Seattle mayor, in which incumbent Greg Nickels, who because of his incumbency logically should be running a clear first in this primary just because the opposition is split among seven others including a veteran council member . . . well, isn't running first, or second either. At the moment three candidates are all running very close for first place: Nickels (25.1%), Mike McGinn (26.6%) and Joe Mallahan (25.8%). In present counting, fewer than a thousand votes separate third-place Nickels from first-place McGinn, so this contest is way too close to call, and probably will be for several days out.

But there is a takeaway, and it is this: Even if Nickels survives the primary, his chances in the general are, as the lawyers would say, de minimis. An incumbent in a primary like this should get, or at least approach, half of the total vote if his position is decently strong at all. An incumbent getting a quarter of the vote in a field of modest candidates (no insult intended, but the group isn't a collection of established local political superstars) is extraordinarily weak. In the primary, the anti-incumbent vote was splintered among a bunch of candidates; the mayor won't have that luxury next time. Nickels will need either an amazing campaign or astounding luck to survive the next contest in November. If he gets there.

Update after 10 . . .

An Idaho spending database

Just a quick recommend and thumbs up for a new site,, which compiles information about government spending (including salaries), and makes that available through a searchable database. Its face is Wayne Hoffman, founder of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Haven't yet had a lot of time to play around with it. How complete it is isn't obvious through a quick examination. But we'll be coming back to it.

This could be highly useful - and this sort of transparency is never a bad thing. Check it out.

Election Day: Setting the predictions

Primary election day in Washington, and tonight everyone will have the attitude that of course it was all going to turn out that way.

So this morning, hours ahead of any numbers release, let's take a look at a set of predictions.

The Seattle Times has a poll up asking readers who they think will win (not necessarily their preferences) in three contests, for Seattle mayor, King County executive, and the 20-cent bag tax.

Results have not been massive (only 41 to 45 votes), but -

For executive, 50% figure Susan Hutchinson will clear the runoff, and 19% figure Council member Dow Constantine will be the other finalist. The rest of the votes were deeply split.

For mayor, another clear consensus about who makes the runoff: incumbent Greg Nickels and businessman Joe Mallahan, each with 39%. No one else breaks 12%.

And 71% figure the bag tax will fail.

These all seem like reasonable consensus assessments, the results that would have to be marked down as "unsurprising." It's easy to say after the fact that a result was expected; here we have a benchmark.

See you tonight.

R-71 clears the bar

The advocates for Washington's Referendum 71 didn't do a spectacular job of getting petition signatures. They got enough to teeter, for day after day, on the thin edge between winning and losing ballot status in November.

The final decision on that isn't in yet. But Darryl at the Horse' Ass site, which has done some fine statistical work on political matters in recent years, has been closely following the review of petition signatures. In all petition events, some signatures are ruled invalid for various reasons and thrown out. If all of the R-71 signatures were valid, the proposal would get to the ballot; but if too many were tossed, it would fail. The question has ridden on the failure rate.

Figuring it has been dodgy, but today Darryl was able to put together statistical analyses that seem to nail the results: "The V2 estimator projects the number of valid signatures to be 121,648 giving an excess of 1,071 signatures over the 120,577 needed for the referendum to qualify for the ballot. The projected (duplicate-corrected) rejection rate is 11.65%."

In other words, the referendum is highly likely to just barely make the ballot.

The vanishing Elk, and Lions, and . . .

Barrett Rainey, whose posts appear in another section of this site, has up a nice reflective piece on a disappearing part of the community landscape: The civic club hall. And all that goes with it.

From his post:

In Bend, my parents were lifelong members of Elks, Masons, Eastern Star and Amaranth. In high school, I was a DeMolay. No choice. That’s how you were brought up. That was expected. I went. I resisted. I was wrong!
Traditionally, when you walked into a lodge hall or a club room, you immediately, and without introduction, were in “community.” Whether you personally knew anyone else there was not important. Whoever was there would likely share many of your values, have about the same level of volunteer and civic participation as you and would know others of similar interests locally and in surrounding towns.
You probably knew their kids, saw these folks in church, helped build the new bleachers at the high school together, gave blood, pulled the float in the homecoming parade, shared vegetable garden excess, cut and stacked wood for someone who needed help, went fishing or hunting together, chopped and dug out stumps to clear land for the new church wing.

Part of what we're losing in our increasingly hostile politics is that sense of community.

Obama out west

A good on the ground report about Barack Obama's visit and town hall at Bozeman, Montana, by a veteran reporter - Ray Ring - who lives there.

Ring: "Obama tells several of the skeptics, 'That's a legitimate question.' He tells one guy, Randy Rathie, a proud National Rifle Association member worried about costs of health-care reform, 'I appreciate your question and the respect with which you ask it.' He keeps using one of his own downhome words - 'folks' - to refer to just about anyone. He completely abandons his Harvard and Columbia degrees to intentionally misuse the language for a moment - 'got to be careful of them cable network shows.' He points to another woman who's wearing a cowboy hat and says, 'If I'm in Montana, I've got to call on someone with a cowboy hat.'"

A decline in courtesy, backcountry version


/Boise National Forest

We've gotten the sense over the last generation or so of a decline in common courtesy, a rise in rudeness - a growing lack of concern, even unawareness, about impinging on other people. We probably see this emerge in other places in some of the uglier sides of our politics.

Read the first letter to Idaho Statesman outdoors writer Pete Zimowsky in this Q&A column, and see if it doesn't ring a bell.

Wyden at Seaside via Twitter

Didn't make it (did consider it) to Seaside for Oregon Senator Ron Wyden's town hall there. Wyden has done a mass of town halls (more than 500), is very experienced at handling them, and watching his approach to it would have been of interest by itself.

As it happens, Wyden's staff chief, Josh Kardon, was there and live-tweeted the preceedings, question by question and answer by answer. Even bearing in mind that this was done by an advocate and not a neutral, the results are worth reading.

Overall impression is that this was not a raucous event; the impression comes in part because health care and federal spending weren't the only topics discussed; liquid natural gas and forest policy came up too. But here's what some of the health discussion looked like, according to Kardon's tweets (and the quality of the conversation is a lot better than the more typical promoting of/debunking of outright lies): (more…)