Writings and observations

So far as we can see, there’s one big shocker in Idaho elections today: Two-term Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase ousted by newcomer Brian Blad. The margin was around 53%-47% – not large, but enough to decide.

That we didn’t see coming. On a recent visit to Pocatello, the word from local political people was consistent: It’s a quiet nothing of a race, Chase will cruise to a third term. So much for assumptions. So also, add Pocatello to the collection of Northwest cities (Seattle, Vancouver) where multi-term, established mayors who seemed a lock this year . . . weren’t.

As to why: Generalized dissatisfaction, maybe? Turnout was very small, and the critics often are disproportionately represented in such elections, and that may have been critical. More to come on this.

But fewer surprises elsewhere.

We’d figured that in some of the hottest race of the day in Idaho – that for the Boise city council, which tells you something – the de facto incumbent slate (including newcomer T.J. Thomson, who’s aligned with the mayor and the incumbents) would prevail. And they pretty clearly have.

Holding true to the frustrating tradition of slow vote counting (voters in Washington state don’t even have to mail their ballots till election day, and counting doesn’t start for an hour later, but Ada County is still way behind them), barely a third of Boise city’s votes are yet counted at close to midnight Mountain time.

But the results so far are decisive enough that the winners seem clear. With those partials in hand, incumbent Vern Bisterfeldt is at 77.5% (against two challengers), incumbent Maryanne Jordan is at 63.1% (also against two) and Thomson is ahead 60.3%-39.7% over attorney David Litster. The main opposition slate was positioned as a conservative/Republican group (the state party ED even posted on Facebook today his plans to vote for the three), so you could loosely take this result as a further indication that Boise is now a majority Democratic city. Not a point to be pushed too far (and not applicable to the non-Boise parts of Ada County), but there nonetheless.

One more note: With 15% of the vote in, Nampa Mayor Tom Dale had 71% of the vote. The most distinctive of his opponents, Melissa Robinson, was at 2%.

UPDATE The Boise results were completed somewhat past midnight. The winners were indeed Bisterfeldt (71.4%), Jordan (61.1%) and Thomson (57.4%).

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Idaho

We’ll make that recurring pitch again: Washington, do what Oregon does and require that ballots be at the courthouse on election day, not merely postmarked. You’d save a lot of blood pressure that way, among other things.

Indications so far are that Washington voters (1) decisively are rejecting the severe tax and budget restrictions in Tim Eyman‘s Initiative 1033, and (2) narrowly are upholding the legislature’s “everything but marriage” law (Referendum 71) on same-sex domestic partnerships.

If the second one holds – and the results at about 51%-49% thus far, with lots of ballots still out, are not certain – it makes for a pretty clear benchmark on the whole subject of gay marriage. Maine voters appear to have, fairly narrowly, rejected gay marriage there. In 2009, “everything but marriage” is about where that subject has migrated to in terms of electoral acceptability, quite a shift from just a few cycles ago. (The Oregonians looking to put gay marriage on the ballot in 2012 may be calling it just about right for a 52% or so win that year, if the trends of the last decade continue.)

r71

green yes, yellow no

That said, whatever the upshot, R-71 does look to be on the social cutting edge. Look at the map (from the secretary of state’s office): R-71 won only around the Puget Sound, and not everywhere even there (the late Pierce County votes, where the measure was losing, could be the element that yet defeats it). If it wins, a huge margin in King County will be the reason.

Tim Eyman, on the other hand, will need some creative spin to explain the loss of Initiative 1033, the latest of his tax/budget measures to crash and burn. The loss was not overwhelming; at present it was losing 44.5%-55.5%. But it seems decisive enough. Compare the I-1033 map below to the R-71 map above (remembering that to track the conservative/liberal sides, you need to reverse the yellows and greens).

i1033

green yes, yellow no

Admitting here to a little puzzlement over some of the conservative Republican eastern counties voting no – Yakima? Columbia? Whitman? The explanations from those places should be fascinating – the overall picture nonetheless looks a lot different from R-71. Eyman pointed out tonight that he was outspent; but so what? The point of the initiative was clear enough, and it wasn’t accepted.

How long will Eyman keep on doing this? Is the point coming when his initiatives start getting commonly regarded simply as exercises in futility?

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For a while, conservative-under-wraps Susan Hutchison seemed to be pulling off enough of a play-to-the-middle campaign to hang on to enough votes to win as King County executive. But in liberal King County, it was always a tall order, and in the end the task was too much, and the Democratic organization – which was under no illusions about her – too strong.

So we get to the second paragraph here before mentioning the newly-elected (or so it looks, with 57% of the vote this far and most ballots counted) executive, Dow Constantine. His campaign was not especially decisive, though it did seem to become more clarifying as the race went on. The guess here, though, is that the range of outside organizations made ever clearer the nature of who was what – the Democratic organization, labor and others on Constantine’s side, and the building owners and other Republican-based groups on Hutchison’s. The alliances may have mattered a lot in this case.

In the other Washington candidate races of note . . .

bullet In Vancouver, a lot of people (not only there, but in Portland as well) are holding their breath: Council member Tim Leavitt is at current count 1,750 ahead of incumbent Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, with 7,000 votes out – giving Leavitt a good probability of winning. It would be a stunning end to Pollard’s run as mayor; only months ago, he still looked all but unbeatable. And it raises questions at least about the Columbia River Crossing bridge. (And that’s true even if, as the point has been made, many of the key decisions are made at the state level – local jurisdictions can still throw in big roadblocks if they’re so inclined.) There’ll be some scrambling and frantic phone calls on Wednesday morning if the numbers hold.

bullet The Seattle mayoral is too close to call tonight; attorney Mike McGinn has a slight edge just over 50%, but not enough for anything resembling a safe call over businessman Joe Mallahan. This one could be up for grabs for a few days.

bullet There were three legislative races today, all in eastern Washington, and they resulted in lowering the Democratic count in the House by one. Bill Grant, who represented the Walla Walla area for more than 20 years and was the last rural Democrat in the Washington legislature from east of the Cascades, died earlier this year. His appointed replacement was his daughter, Laura Grant, but she couldn’t hold the seat in the very Republican territory: She is losing in a 58%-42% contest to Republican Terry Nealey, who had lost to Bill Grant in 2008. A quiet race generally, but a landmark.

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