It may be that former Governor John Kitzhaber winds up running away with the 2010 governor’s race, primary and general, but stray indicators have been floating by suggesting the contrary – maybe that Kitzhaber very much still has to make his case.

One of the most interesting emerges this weekend from the annual Democratic summit at Sunriver, where a straw poll was conducted among the Democratic activists, politicians and supporters: Who’s you’re choice for governor?

Kitzhaber came in first, with 39.7%, but former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (who was in the race earlier) came in a close second at 36.4%. (The vote was 83-76.) Bradbury’s people were cheering the results, understandably.

Jesse Cornett, who was a poll organizer, noted at Blue Oregon that “supporters were out in full force and with bright blue shirts, hard to miss. While Bill Bradbury’s supporters were less ubiquitous, Bradbury himself took the entire weekend to be in Sunriver, likely helping his vote count.”

Side note: Representative Peter DeFazio, who has mentioned interest in the race, took 2.8%, best interpreted not of popularity but as an indicator of how likely DeFazio is to enter.

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Susan Hutchinson

Dial back a couple of months to the August primary election for King County executive, and the results carried a clear portent – noted here – for the way things were likely to go in the November general.

The first place winner was former local news anchor Susan Hutchinson, a familiar face but new in local politics (never having held a public office), and a little more subtly the candidate from the right – the conservative; she got 33.1% of the vote. Second place, at 27%, was Dow Constantine, a liberal/moderate Democrat and a veteran on the county council. The next three vote-getters, whose percentages total to 35.2%, were all (speaking roughly) near-clones of Constantine politically: liberal/moderate Democrats with substantial elective experience in the county. The logical conclusion, assumed here, was that in rough terms Constantine’s support would merge with theirs, yielding enough for a win in the head-to-head with Hutchinson; none of the other minor candidates were close reflections of Hutchinson. That’s the way these kind of races ordinarily, structurally, work.

That conclusion, though, was built on an assumption: That in relatively liberal King County, in this non-partisan race, voters would draw the distinction in viewpoint and types of support between Constantine and Hutchinson. Two months on, with polling results showing Hutchinson in a lead, its unclear they have. Around the northwest in nonpartisan races, for such reasons, a number of jurisdictions elect Republicans in Democratic jurisdictions and Democrats in Republicans ones. King County just might do it this fall.

The campaigns are one reason for this. Constantine has only lately begun making the clear distinctions between himself and Hutchinson. And the telegenic Hutchinson has been doing a good job of fuzzing over the differences, sounding during this runoff campaign more like a moderate Democrat than anything else. And that may be working.

One real indicator of that is the endorsement today by the one general daily newspaper left in King County, the Seattle Times, for Hutchinson. It concludes: “But this election is about change. King County government must change the way it operates. The days of big-ticket projects and budgets are finished. The time is perfect for a political outsider to shake things up.”

Veteran readers of Times endorsements will find missing the paper’s usual reliance on experience and depth of knowledge as key bases for endorsement; good reason, since this case those assets aren’t there. And the history she does have should have had enough red flags to warn them off – if she wins, they may have a lot of ‘splaining to do in the next few years. (Take another look at that August post, and project the personality in the job of King County executive. You can see the train wreck coming.)

Comment from Horse’s Ass ran this way: “I actually thought the Seattle Times wouldn’t endorse Susan Hutchison because whatever the ideological affinity, even they couldn’t bring themselves to endorse a candidate who is so spectacularly unprepared and unqualified to serve in such an important office. I was wrong. I often speak of the Times ed board as a single entity, but I know this decision wasn’t unanimous, so if those ed board members who opposed Hutchison’s endorsement retain at least a shred of self-respect, they will make public who voted for whom, or whether the decision ultimately came mandated from union-busting publisher Frank Blethen himself. But institutionally, they should be ashamed of themselves.”

It may be another indicator, though, of the direction this race is going. It’s all about definition, and so far Hutchinson has done a fine job of keeping it fuzzy. Constantine has only a little time left to sharpen the focus.

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Washington

A concise summary of Idaho’s present governmental financial woes, on Betsy Russell’s blog:

“One in five Idaho school districts has declared a financial emergency. State prisons are managing 500 more offenders than a year ago, with $28 million less in funding. Part-time state employees already hit with furloughs and other cutbacks will face sharp increases in their health insurance premiums. And Idaho’s Medicaid program could see a shortfall so extreme it’d have to eliminate 23 percent of the health benefits it provides to the state’s poor and disabled.”

Tax increases are of course off the table.

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Idaho

That may sound simply ideological, but Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat has one of the best rundowns yet of the impact of Initiative 1033, the Tim Eyman special that’s been sold as restraint on government but does oh so much else.

Westneat delivers lots of specifics. They come down to this: “He could have targeted his tax relief, to help those who most need it. But he didn’t. This is the rotten core of his initiative. Forget all the caterwauling about spending cuts. At its heart this is a massive giveaway to the rich that does little to nothing for the poor.”

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Washington

The long-term move of consumers from trading in small towns toward the mega-commercial centers in urban areas long has been one of the most serious problems small towns face (in the Northwest and elsewhere).

Here’s one approach for encouraging buying local, from an article on the city of Emmett (about 20 miles from Boise) in the Idaho Statesman:

“Last summer, a local non profit group called the Shadow Butte Development Corp. used an unusual approach to induce shoppers to buy locally. For every $100 they spent in local stores, the corporation gave them a $20 gift certificate. The result: $75,000 worth of gift certificates in July alone. ‘People found local mechanics and laundromats and other businesses they hadn’t even known about,’ said Wisti Rosenthal of the Gem County Chamber of Commerce. ‘For that $75,000, $2 million was spent in local businesses.'”

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Dave Reichert

The only Northwest Republican left representing an area west of the Cascades, Dave Reichert of the district located roughly east and southeast of Seattle but west of the mountains, has been through the political wringer.

He was elected in 2004, in a fairly tight race, then re-elected more closely in the Democratic year of 2006. Through this decade, his one-Republican district has been trending firmly Democratic in legislative and other races. And then, in 2008, the opposition to Reichert looked as if it had jumped the shark. His Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner, in her second race against him, did not quite as well as she had the election previous, in an election year even better nationally for Democrats. 2010 seems unlikely to be a comparable sweep year for Democrats. And the historical norm is that once a member of the U.S. House has passed the first re-elect, or maybe two, they generally settle in to easy returns.

And maybe that happens with Reichert. But our attention was snagged today by a Tacoma News Tribune article on Reichert (and Representative Doc Hastings of central Washington, a different situation since his is a very strongly Republican district) and his response to the health care debate. In Congress, Republicans have been hanging in very solidly on health issues, absolutely opposed to public options and other key elements of Democratic proposals. Operating in a politically marginal district, Reichert has been hanging in with his caucus.

The story notes, for example, “Reichert said, ‘it’s exaggerated to say it will put a federal bureaucrat in every doctor’s office, but the government will have a role.’ Both are also absolutely convinced the Democratic proposals to rein in Medicare spending by more than $500 billion over 10 years will result in cuts in care for the elderly, an allegation Democrat’s dismiss as an outright lie.”

Not only many superhot issues where the partisan divide has been so deep have found Reichert so firmly planted with his caucus; in some other cases, he seemed to try to have at least toe in both camps. But not so in this one.

When he draws an opponent next year, as he will, what role will this play? And will there be cost exacted?

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Washington

Sid Leiken

Sid Leiken

You remember the case of Sid Leiken, the Springfield mayor who said he planned to run for the 4th U.S. House seat presumably against incumbent Democrat Peter DeFazio. In the month since candidate filing has opened Leiken hasn’t, maybe because of the August 21 tearful press conference announcement of an “error in judgment.” That concerned a $2,000 payment his campaign made to his own consulting firm, a payment that ordinarily wouldn’t be legal; Leiken said it was actually just a reimbursement to an outside contractor who conducted a poll. The outside contractor was his mother.

Which sounded a little odd, but also seemed to end the story, partly since Leiken’s campaign seems to have ground to a halt since. But state investigators from the Secretary of State’s office have kept poking at it. And this tidbit from the blog by David Steves, of the Eugene Register-Guard, posted a few days ago, seems to call out for more attention. It refers to a response letter from Leiken’s mother to the state officials:

Most recently, investigators have requested evidence that there really was a poll. That’s where the letter put out today comes in. In it, Glenda Leiken explains that, beyond a memo summarizing the poll’s results and methodology, which she submitted this summer, “no other documentation exists.” She doesn’t have any notes or computer spreadsheets used to track the results. She doesn’t have phone records, either, Leiken says.

“I used a disposable/single use phone to retain my privacy, as my cell phone is my only personal phone line,” she wrote. “The cell phone account was closed over 5 months ago and the phone company does not retain phone records for closed accounts, therefore phone records are not available.”

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On R-71

Say you’re pushing a socially conservative concept is a state where the population is, as a majority, socially liberal or moderate at most. How do you do it? You might try a pivot to a non-morals-based argument, something relating to finance, legal complications or some other area.

What you don’t do, as the group Protect Marriage Washington has done, is something like this: A video that comes out of Sunday School and never leaves there, guaranteed to turn off all those people unlikely to support your view in the first place. (There’s no embed code for the video, hence the link to the home site.) The video’s view being that marriage itself is being violated by Senate Bill 5688, the measure that famously gave same-sex couples most of the rights of married couples but not the formality of marriage.

The guess here has been that Referendum 71, which seeks to repeal that legislature-passed law, won’t collect the votes it needs for repeal. Videos like this one do nothing to alter that sense.

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Washington

If you’re a plitician, best to assume you’re never off-camera – and that goes well beyond the range of traditionally scandalous stuff, down to what kind of car you drive.

Oregon Representative David Wu, who has a generally green voting record, also drives an SUV, as a Republican video which has made its way to Politico demonstrates.

His staff argued that Wu and his family do a number of other green things (recycling and so forth). And Wu, who does have a challenge but to all appearances so far, not a strong one, doesn’t seem in particular risk.

Pictures are, nonetheless, powerful things.

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Oregon

John Kitzhaber, the former Democratic Oregon governor who’s seeking a third term, tried something a little different this afternoon: A Facebook discussion on health care. People would post and comment, and Kitzhaber would weigh in with comments and some answers to questions. It may be a useful direction for his and other campaigns to come.

The results in this case? So-so. The participants around the spectrum (and they were decidedly not all from the left) generally gave him praise for the effort, and the half-hour session did yield quite a few viewpoints. Kitzhaber’s own comments were intermittent and brief (some of that owing to the format), and often suggestive of bullet points.

Scanning through the comments overall, so many cry out for more explication. Bullet-points seem to be the mode of political and policy thought these days; facts are ammunition to fire at the other side. Some of the participants didn’t seem to have an interest in putting the pieces together, though a minority did. And some of it wandered off into the mists of political philosophy, where such matters as solving problems based on facts-on-the-ground often get left behind.

Consider this exchange (in which Kitzhaber doesn’t appear):

Jeff Reynolds: Gov. Kitzhaber, with all due respect, have you ever studied the effects of government intervention into private health care, and whether the extensive proposals of free market based plans would be of more or less efficacy than simply increasing governmental involvement?

Jeffrey D Sher: This seems less like a question and more like an opinion dressed as a question.

Jeff Reynolds: Actually, it’s a question. You can tell by the question mark. There are LOTS of other plans besides the public option, you know.

Andrew Plambeck: Isn’t “with all due respect” a euphemism for “I have absolutely no respect for your opinions and will express that in the following?”

Andrew Plambeck: And there is no one in either the state or national health care reform debate pushing for “simply increasing governmental involvement.” To characterize it as such is ludicrous.

Rob Rollinger@ Jeffrey: This seems more like an accusation than a comment

Larry McDonald: No Andrew, that would be your side that has that opinion. You know, “We won, so what you think dosent matter.” Private markets always do better than government. Think USPS and UPS.

Jeff Reynolds: Andrew, you can feel free to interpret my words however you wish, but my question is for the former Governor, not you.

T.A Hope Barnhart: i’m sorry, when was the “free market” removed from the health care/insurance system? did someone shut down Cigna & BlueCross when i wasn’t looking this morning? the “free market” has had a little over 200 years to get this right, and they’ve made a fracking mess of things. i trust my govt more than “their” corporations.

Klari Crabtree: Why is government intervention into healthcare defined exclusively as the only option being a public one? That’s like saying that intelligent design and evolution are mutally exclusive ideas. Government can intervene in healthcare while keeping private entities from profiting on the little guy who is just trying to make it. Look at the Swiss system for gosh sakes.

Leisha Wharfield: I think any question expressed in a civil manner, whether or not it reveals an opinion, should be respected and considered.

Larry McDonald: The Swiss system? They are the size of Oregon?

T.A Hope Barnhart: Klari, intelligent design & evolution are mutually exclusive. i.d. is proposed specifically to deep-six evolution. i have yet to hear anyone propose how leaving profits in the system will lower costs. if the govt runs the system, and providers are paid fairly, and there is no profit built-in — the entire system comes out ahead. or did i miss something during my years in retail when we added our mark-ups?

Larry McDonald: T.A., open the windows. The paint fumes are getting to you.

T.A Hope Barnhart: thanks, Larry. you ask people to be civil and then make a comment like that? and you wonder why people get snarked off?

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Oregon

At just over a year to the next general election – close to the midway point – seemed a useful point to review the party voter registrations in Oregon.

A note: Ind refers to the Independent Party; non-af is nonaffiliated. None that the drops in the interim (which are across the board) are generally explained because of standard records purging.

Month Dem Rep Ind non-af
Aug 909,414 679,934 47,563 423,711
May 907,700 679,624 44,752 419,486
Feb 930,649 692,610 45,358 429,858
Nov 08 931,318 694,589 43,030 429,758

.

Very stable.

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Those of us not much into guns – that majority of us for whom guns aren’t, maybe apart from a hunting expedition or such, a part of ordinary daily life – have one kind of mindset when it comes to firearms. Even in these western states where guns certainly aren’t rare.

But there’s also the “open carry” culture. A perceptive Boise Weekly piece on a group of “open carry” (guns) advocates, by Scott Weaver, points out the view this way:

“The question is this: How do you reintroduce firearms into a culture that, as Ludlow and Carter have admitted, has rejected them as a part of everyday life? How do you push people toward the open-carry advocate’s ideal society, one in which everyone who is permitted to do so openly carries a gun. It’s often the first question you’re asked when you inquire as to why they’re carrying guns: Why aren’t you?”

Possible answers might include the potential for deadly accidents, the improbability of needing a gun (speaking personally, your scribe never has felt the need for one in more than half a century of American living and travel across 49 states) and the possibility of getting into a conflict with someone else also carrying; and that this century is the 21st, not the 19th. But that’s just one way of thinking.

Presumably the majority way, though, Idaho’s reputation notwithstanding. The Weekly story is spun around an Idaho Open Carry group’s plans to hold a dinner (at which carrying but not shooting was expected) at the Meridian Fuddruckers, which which evidently became uneasy at the idea, then at an Idaho Pizza Company, which asked them to leave their weapons outside, before finally getting a dinner with carry at a Shari’s.

An Idaho Pizza Company employee remarked, “This is supposed to be a family atmosphere. We got no problem with them coming in. We just don’t want them carrying guns. I mean, we don’t live in the Wild West, man.”

Well, evidently he doesn’t . . .

But be it noted that the Idaho diners are far from alone in their enthusiasm. Check out the website OpenCarry.org for more on the national perspective and relevant state laws.

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