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Posts published in “Day: December 3, 2009”

3 non-races

2010 ought to have the potential to be one of those hot years in Northwest politics: All three states have U.S. Senate seats up, and not only that, all three are held by the states' senior senators.

And here we are with 11 months to go, and no serious contests have developed in any of them.

Part of it is that the three senators - Democrat Patty Murray in Washington, Democrat Ron Wyden in Oregon and Republican Mike Crapo in Idaho - are all fairly well liked and have established strong voting track records. In 2004, Murray pulled a landslide against Republican George Nethercutt, a solid candidate with serious assets and substantial funding. That same year, though, Wyden was only marginally challenged by the quiet campaign of Al King, a barely-known rancher. And Crapo had no Democratic challenge at all - a first for either major party in a Senate race in Idaho history; but that came after a landslide win in 1998.

There's still no Idaho Democrat announcing against Crapo, though one or two little-known figures are talking about it, quietly. The same situation obtains, more or less, in Oregon. The probability is that the opposition parties will fill their ballot slots in both states, but that's probably as far as they get.

And in Washington? Joni Balter's Seattle Times column today scans the Murray situation and finds not much by way of realistic prospects for the Republicans. This race would be problematic for all the major names. Possibly the best Republican contender would be Attorney General Rob McKenna, but he'd need to be out raising money, hard and fast. His odds of beating Murray still wouldn't be good, not as good as winning the governorship in 2012 (which is what he seems to have in mind, and which may be a realistic goal).

So far looks like three strikes, and three easy re-elects, in the Northwest Senate picture.

EDITED Names in the 2004 Washington races corrected.

Nose to nose


Washington state law (RCW 46.63.030) allowed police to issue a ticket for a traffic infraction that they don't actually see, but have good reason to think occurred. There's some gray area here, and a Washington Supreme Court decision out today in Washington v. Andrew Magee shows how it can play out.

The time was April 2005 and the place State Route 512, a four-lane divided highway between Lakewood and Puyallup. State police fielded calls that someone was driving the wrong way on the highway. The court decision describes what happened then:

When the trooper arrived, she found Magee parked facing the wrong direction on the shoulder of the SR 512 on-ramp, nose to nose with another vehicle. Magee explained that he had been called by a friend whose car had broken down and that he was there to help jump-start the car. In order to more easily facilitate the jump-start, Magee told the trooper that he had turned his car around and pulled in front of his friend's car on the shoulder. There is some dispute, and the record is unclear, as to exactly how Magee maneuvered his car and whether he backed it down the on-ramp or turned it around on the shoulder. But
Magee contends he never traveled the wrong direction on the traveled portion of the road. Although the trooper never actually saw Magee driving, she concluded that Magee must have driven against traffic in order to reach his position and issued him a notice of infraction for negligent driving in the second degree.

Lower courts said that the trooper's issuing the citation was correct, or at least within the law. The Supreme Court threw it out: "the State argues that the trooper actually witnessed the citable offense because the negligent behavior was 'ongoing.' But negligent driving in the second degree is a moving violation. For the infraction to be valid, the movement must have been made in the officer's presence. Magee's driving occurred before the trooper arrived, the trooper never saw Magee operating his vehicle negligently, and none of the other circumstances outlined in RCW 46.63.030 were present. The trooper did not have authority to issue the notice of infraction."