Writings and observations

ipad

Our November 2009 Idaho Public Affairs Digest is out, with reports on the changes in dairy country, in Idaho political races (including the local government races coming to a head), congressional actions and much more.

There’s a long list of state rules and regulations just out – October this year turns out to be the big month for publication of those official documents. And the usual rundown of important court decisions, federal actions, calendar of upcoming events and much more.

Interested in subscribing, or seeing a sample copy? (Subscribers also get access to the full archives, a detailed recent history of Idaho month by month, going back to 1999.)

Just send us a mail at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

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Labrador

Raul Labrador

Was the last post a little premature? Maybe, or maybe not . . .

Within a couple of hours after state Representative Ken Roberts said he was out of the Idaho 1st District Republican congressional race, another Republican state Representative, Raul Labrador, said he plans to enter.

According to a just-out Idaho Statesman piece: “Labrador said he expects to make a formal campaign announcement in the next week or so. The two-term lawmaker acknowledged his late start and newcomer Vaughn Ward’s big cash advantage in the race to face Democrat Walt Minnick. ‘Yeah, I think this is a monumental undertaking, but I think there is enough enthusiasm out there among Idaho conservatives that we’re going to be able to match and beat him (Ward) in fund-raising and, more importantly, in energy,’ Labrador said.”

Won’t be easy at this point. It’s not as if Ward is running or could be positioned as a moderate in this race, and it’s hard to see what advantages Labrador, starting quite a few months later than Roberts, would bring that his fellow legislator did not. “Monumental” is a reasonable adjective.

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Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts

When Democrat Walt Minnick was elected to Congress from Idaho’s 1st congressional district about a year ago, one of the scenarios for his re-election campaign went like this: Republicans would be crowding the field to take on this unlikely Democrat in 2010. The large field would mean, as happened in 2006, that the win could go to almost anyone, and maybe not the strongest contender, which is what happened then (which in turn allowed for Minnick’s win). That kind of scenario would help Minnick’s odds for re-election.

But something very different has happened.

Minnick launched his congressional career by building bridges to Republicans – notably, the three in the rest of the Idaho congressional delegation – and voting very much like a House Republican, distinctive even from other Blue Dog Democrats. This had the effect of shielding him from the usual accusation of being “just another liberal Democrat” – such an accusation couldn’t hold. And Republicans took their time jumping into the race.

When they did, the names were not obvious giant-killers: Vaughn Ward, a former Senate staffer who’d been in the military but never run for office, and Ken Roberts, who was in state House leadership. Not overwhelming presences, but they got active early, enough to absorb a lot of the available early money, endorsements and organizational support – enough to discourage anyone else from entering. Then Ward turned out to be a stronger candidate than many had expected, and Roberts, despite strong state legislative connections, didn’t keep pace.

This morning, Roberts (citing health concerns) said he was dropping out. (By e-mail; no direct web link available to his statement yet.) Yesterday, his campaign manager had announced a resignation; change was in the wind and not entirely a shock.

That leaves only Ward, who has been raising money rapidly and picking up endorsements both local and national (like the American Conservative Union’s, today) at a steady clip. As the lone Republican in the field, he now stands to sweep up support, financial included, on the right. There’s little room left at the inn now for another serious Republican challenger – Ward is more or less occupying the field.

If Ward is able to absorb much of Roberts’ original backing, this race will already have turned in practice from primary to general. So the scenario materializing is what Minnick ought not to want: A single, fairly strong, Republican opponent positioned to run against him directly, without serious primary opposition, for what amounts to a full year.

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Is there some reason longshot races in Washington and Oregon seem to be drawing the interest of pro sports figures, as Republican contenders? . . . Albeit two very different candidates.

Didier

Clint Didier

There’s the new report in Washington of – finally, very late in the cycle – a candidate against three-term Senator Patty Murray, not in the usual form of an experienced and established politician (as has usually been the case) but rather a farmer from Connell, and former Washington Redskin football player Clint Didier. He has an exploratory web site up.

According to news reports, he says he will have to have $300,000 by end of year for entry. He might get that; Republicans have to be scrambling to fill the ballot line. But he might have to be able to raise 50 times as much, in the nine months after that, to compete in the arena.

A few quick issues quotes: “I am in strong support of using a Constitutional Amendment to limit Congressional seats to twelve years total (two terms for the Senate and six terms for the House). . . . Health insurance companies should be able to offer their services nationwide. That competition would create a climate that would allow for the offering of better services and premiums while encouraging cost reductions through private industry solutions. . . The Federal Government has reached far beyond its original authority as granted by our Constitution.”

His exploratory web site makes it clear: He seems prepped to appeal to the red meat crowd on the right, but probably not much of the rest. (He could probably run well on his current message east of the Cascades, but . . .)

Dudley

Chris Dudley

In Oregon former Portland Trail Blazer Chris Dudley continues to move ahead. Since a batch of articles a month ago about his prospective candidacy for governor, word we’ve heard is odds of his entry continue to grow. H has been active in sports and non-profit activities in Oregon since, and sports fans recall his name.

Dudley also has an exploratory web site up, but from it he seems a far stretch from Didier – not a red meat kind of guy. You get a sense from the statement on it: “Right now, too many Oregonians have been without work for far too long. And without jobs, families are hit hard and schools and other important services suffer. In order to change this, Oregon needs new ideas and new leadership. By opening the Friends of Chris Dudley committee, I’ve taken the first necessary step toward determining how I can help, whether running for Governor or some other way.”

You get the sense of someone not inclined to throw ideological bombs. And there’s some word out too that he may not be, on a number of fronts, especially conservative, which would be an immediate issue for a lot of Republican primary voters.

Two sports figures as candidates in top races next year? Both probably would be reliant on a big trend toward outsiders and newcomers (of which we did see indications last week). But hopes for success for these two would be reliant on very different kinds of currents.

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wpad

Our November 2009 Washington Public Affairs Digest is out, with rundowns of the conviction of Tacoma judge, pre-election activities, developments in Congress, health issues and much more.

There’s an except on the efforts to pull ballots from younger voters. And the usual rundown of important court decisions, regulatory actions, calendar of upcoming events and much more.

Interested in subscribing, or seeing a sample copy? (Subscribers also get access to the full archives, a detailed recent history of Washington month by month, going back to 1999.)

Just send us a mail at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

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Minnick

Walt Minnick

One more obligatory note, political, on the health care votes last night on the U.S. House floor. It was the occasion of one of Idaho Democratic Representative Walt Minnick‘s tougher votes, and what he did may have some significant political repercussions. The votes may simply have been votes of conscience, in which case he may have done what he felt he had to do. Whatever his motivation, there will be political results.

First, he voted against the main House bill, arguing that it doesn’t adequately cut costs in the system. The vote against the Democratic health bill will cost him with a Democratic base (and yes, even in the Idaho 1st, there is one) increasingly sensing in Minnick a Republican wearing a Democratic label. The health care vote might have been one of the few remaining major opportunities for building bridges back to the base.

Before getting to that vote on the full bill, there were other votes, and the most notably was on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which was aimed at barring use of federal funds for abortion-related payments. The amendment came from and was backed by a number of Blue Dog Democrats as well as Republicans, but Minnick voted against it; in a statement, he said he does “not want a government bureaucrat denying a medical procedure ordered by a woman’s physician.”

Okay, but in casting that vote he handed Republicans the big emotional divisive talking point they need. The Idaho Choose Life site had this devastating formulation: “After standing-up for free abortions as an essential health care right for women, he went on to vote against the broader health care bill. One could understand Mr. Minnick’s priority to be abortion, but not basic health care.”

On Idaho Conservative Blogger: “I think Mr. Minnick just opened a huge winning issue for whoever gets the Republican nomination to challenge Minnick next year.”

If these were votes of conscience, then he did what he had to. But they will come with price tags.

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Among the various major national returns on Tuesday, one of the more notable and less-discussed is the close re-election win by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has been popular (at least according to polls and surveys), widely regarded as competent, setting policies that have been widely acceptable in town. Although polling showed him in a lead of 15 to 20 percentage points, he set up a terrific campaign apparatus and funded it to the level of six figures – unheard of for such a race. And he drew for opposition relative unknowns who didn’t campaign hard or well. Exit polls on election day put his approval rating among voters at about 70%. He was expected to win in double digits, easily – this logically should have been a landslide. Instead, he won by only about four points. But for his extraordinary campaign, he probably would have lost.

New York evidently was no aberration. Incumbents did not have an easy time on Tuesday – and the key point seemed to be, throw out the insiders.

One of the most surprising Northwest results on Tuesday was the ouster of popular (or so was widely thought) Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase, who lost to a challenger who campaigned only lightly and seemed as surprised at his win as everyone else in town. There were more mayoral ousters in Idaho, too. The the Magic Valley, well-known names were turned out in Burley, Buhl and Minidoka. The veteran mayor of fast-growing Ammon was bumped out. A lot of council members lost their seats. Some of this happens every election, but the ratio this time seemed a little high.

In Washington, one of the most consequential mayoral races resulted in popular (yes, again) Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard bounced by Tim Leavitt (a council member, but positioned as an outside). In Seattle, voters first (in the primary) left the incumbent two-term mayor Greg Nickels in third place, then in the general, faced with two newcomers, gave the nod to the contender (Mike McGinn) who was least aligned with Nickels, the downtown power structure, or anything resembling incumbency. Two incumbent council members lost at Spokane.

Incumbents didn’t do badly everywhere, of course. But there’s another side-operative point here. To repeat a slice from the Betsy Russell blog (at the Spokesman-Review): “After the Idaho Republican Party took the unusual step of passing a central committee resolution backing party involvement in non-partisan city races, one county’s GOP central committee endorsed a challenger, Alex Creek, in a city council race in Idaho Falls; some party activists portrayed a Boise City Council race as partisan because one candidate, T.J. Thomson, was a key organizer for Barack Obama’s Idaho campaign; and a non-official GOP group endorsed and campaigned for a city council challenger, Jim Brannon, against councilman Mike Kennedy in Coeur d’Alene. The result: Creek lost 2-1; Thomson won handily; and Kennedy won by five votes.”

The logical conclusion here doesn’t seem to be an anti-Republican pattern; rather, it looks as though endorsement by insiders (even if those endorsed are challengers) didn’t come off well.

The mood seemed to be not ideological, but rebellious. A consideration to think about as the next year, with its mid-term cycle concluding next November, begins to unfold.

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The problem with getting so many tweets on Twitter (hold your comments for a moment, please) can be that you miss a lot of the periodic good stuff for the dross.

Had missed, for example, Representative Earl Blumenauer‘s tweets about this weekend’s health care voting activity.

There was “Trial Lawyers are the only group the Republicans dislike more than immigrants!”

And notably (h/t to Talking Points Memo) this: “I wonder if Michele Bachmann wearing a lei (on the Floor) means she has recognized that Hawaii is a state and President Obama is a citizen?”

The House vote on the House health care bill, by the way, seems to be nearly partisan but not totally. All the Northwest Republicans voted against, and all the Northwest Democrats for, except for two nays: Representatives Brian Baird of Washington and Walt Minnick of Idaho. The latter not at all a surprise, the former a little more so.

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Mike Mcginn

Mike McGinn

Well, now. For a second time, the attorney and environmental activist Mike McGinn has edged past businessman Joe Mallahan in the race for mayor, and this time it seems likely to stick: After several days of leading by only a few hundred votes, with the returns in today (giving him a lead of 2,384), the odds have become very strong that McGinn will be the next mayor of Seattle.

Could be an interesting mayoralty. Or maybe not so much.

The interesting potential comes from that background as a Sierra Club activist, someone schooled in the harder edge of issue advocacy more than the governance universe where compromise and conciliation – either that or ultimately not get far at all – are dominant.

Not only that. Mayors in Seattle, who sometimes have been liberal and sometimes a little less so, have tended to have a fairly close relationship with the downtown business and organizational power structure. The city has not elected many true outsiders as mayor, and when the widespread presumption ran (yes, in this space too) that Mallahan had the edge, that was one less-often stated part of the reason. McGinn came from outside. Put this Times thumbnail of him in your head: a “former Sierra Club leader who quit his job at a downtown law firm two years ago to run the nonprofit he started, Great City. He rode his bike to most campaign events and passed out ‘Mike bikes’ stickers featuring his helmet-clad head.”

So there’s that possibility of an actual boat-rocker taking over in city hall.

Or maybe not so much. Remember his ease-back on the viaduct tunnel deal, how he didn’t vow guerrilla warfare against it after his election (though campaigning consistently against it). There’s also good reason to think he’ll want to take it cautious.

This will be interesting to watch.

Concurrance. A few days ago we made the call here, again, for Washington to adopt the Oregon system of mail-in ballot deadlines – to require that ballots actually reach the courthouse by election day if they’re to be counted. Washington, instead, just requires they be post-marked, which has created no end of problems.

Secretary of State Sam Reed has proposed the change. Now the Seattle Times has joined in: “Voters deserve a more modern and speedy ballot-processing system.” Is the mo building?

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Just a link to a newspaper report on our new book, 50 Meds: for a Sick Health System (more about which, look to the column to the right).

The lead: “In the midst of the national tussle over health care comes a book by a local author who has taken a broader approach to the problem than legislators and analysts typically do.”

And that was the idea.

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