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Posts published in December 2009

Grant and the percentages


Larry Grant

Larry Grant was the Democratic nominee for the 1st district U.S. House seat in 2006 and wanted to be again in 2008, but agreed to step aside in favor of Walt Minnick. On one hand, Minnick won; on the other, Grant could be (based on what he had to say in 2006) one of those Democrats less than pleased with him, who consider him a Republican House member in every way but officially. (Please note here: That's speculation, albeit with some basis.)

A Rocky Barker (of the Idaho Statesman) blog item today brings Grant up to date. Yes, he said, he's been getting requests from other Democrats to challenge Minnick in the primary. He's been turning those down.

Then he told Barker, “I said I was going to run for Congress as a Republican.” He figures the conservatives among the Republicans will split deeply between candidates Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador, and might split deeper yet if another gets in. Grant figures: "All I need is 35%."

The party picture in Idaho could hardly get much more fuzzed at this point. The Democrats are likely to nominate for their standard bearer for governor, and their de facto state partisan leader, a man who has spent the last six years as Mr. Nonpartisan, the lets-work-with-everyone mediator, who has yet to express any interest in advocating for Democratic ideas as such. Adding that to Minnick, the top Democrat on the ballot next year, and Idaho Democrats seem to have quit the idea of forming anything like an actual opposition to the majority Republicans. If you want to do that, Grant seems to be suggesting, you need to run as a Republican.

The numbers don't suggest that's likely to work either. The strategy Grant is suggesting is the same one pursued in 2006 by an actual Republican (from somewhere around the moderate-conservative divide) named Sheila Sorensen; running against five avowed staunch conservatives, she theoretically only needed 21% to win. She came in third with 18.3%.

FOLLOWUP ON GRANT Grant may not be - probably isn't - serious about actually running as a Republican. Congressional Quarter reports that "Grant laughed it off as 'pretty much tongue-in-cheek.' 'I did say that to a person as a joke,' Grant said, adding that his point is that 'the moderate Republicans in this state have no place to go in their primary.'" Still doesn't change the quite serious point he was making.

AND, ALSO What you just read may have come off as a little snarky about the Allred candidacy, and it isn't entirely meant so. Allred and Common Interest have generated a good deal of praise, from a range of quarters (from his future opponent, Republican Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter among others), and this isn't to take away from that or from his and its accomplishments.

But running for partisan office under a partisan banner means that you're a partisan, and if you're not, then you're not doing the job, and that's especially true of a candidate for governor, because that person is the party's top spokesman. By running for governor, Allred is committing to being a spokesman for Idaho Democrats. But will he take on that role? Or will the party have no spokesman for itself as a partisan entity? Certainly the Republicans do.

Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review summarized Allred's letter to the CI members "saying the Democratic Party had convinced him it would adopt his Common Interest approach rather than expect him to be partisan." Does that mean Idaho Democrats have decided to quit being partisan - that is, to quit being a political party? Quit opposing Republicans?

From the letter: Democratic recruiter Betty Richardson "assured us that her expectation was that I would campaign and govern just as I had led The Common Interest. She said that it was that work that attracted the party to me as a candidate and that they didn't want me to change that. Rather, she said, the party wanted to embrace that approach. Honestly, this was a surprise to me. When Dan Popkey was doing his piece on us for the Idaho Statesman in 2006, he asked me if I had any interest in running for office. I told him that the core motivation that drives me is the independent-minded pursuit of putting practical solutions ahead special interest and partisan politics. I explained to Dan that I could see no way that either party would embrace such a candidacy and that I saw no realistic way to run as an independent. If there were a way to run and win with my approach, I said, I would certainly be interested."

Evidently a number of Democratic leaders don't see the conflict here. But you have to suspect that a goodly number of party members around the state, already irked by Minnick, will be raising questions about what their party is going to be expected to become next year, and whether as a consequence they want to participate in a non-partisan or partisan political organization.

Allred’s entry


Keith Allred

With word out about the entry of Keith Allred, founder and leader of the Common Interest group, into the race for governor as the first substantial Democratic candidate, some scattered thoughts come to mind. (More collected thoughts will follow, later.)

bullet It may go without saying but should be noted that Allred is the nominee-in-waiting. All the major eminences of the state Democratic party (Cecil Andrus, Bethine Church, legislative leadership, others) already are lined up behind him. His announcement grows out of a specific search for a candidate by the party. Allred will be the nominee barring some unusual or unexpected development. He will be trying to unseat a governor, Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter, something not done in Idaho since 1970.

bullet He will be the fourth Democratic nominee in a row who doesn't currently hold public office, and third in a row who's never run for any office before. Businessman Jerry Brady, nominee in 2006 and 2002, had never run for office before. Attorney Robert Huntley (1998) had been a Supreme Court justice and legislator, some years before.

bullet Name ID will be a factor: Allred is well-enough known in political circles, but not much outside of them. That available blank slate is both advantage and liability, depending on who takes best advantage.

bullet He will need a bumper-sticker message to complement his existing messages. And there are existing messages via Common Interest; Allred will be tightly associated with them, and even seems to encourage identification with them in a letter to Common Interest members (as: wouldn't it be great to have a governor who can get all this done?). How the Republican members of CI respond will be worth watching. So also the picking-apart of CI's long and wonkish white papers on various issues; they are thoughtful and interesting and few Idahoans probably will read them.

A quote from Kevin Richert's Idaho Statesman blog: "If Otter is a populist's populist, then Allred is a wonk's wonk." That may be what Otter is counting on.

bullet Allred's background does not grow out of any rooted connection to Idaho Democrats. Will the base be wary, in an election when many in the base will be struggling with what to do about the one Democrat they did elect to major office, Walt Minnick. And how will Allred relate to Minnick? From day one, this will amount to walking a thin line.

More to follow.

Defining unsupportable

Each December, the governor of Washington has to release a proposed state budget. (Earlier there than in Oregon or Idaho, and probably a better schedule.) Those budgets have to work within expected state revenues. Usually, that's not much of an issue, even if the governor is proposing a tax increase. This year . . .

Governor Chris Gregoire's proposed budget (supplemental, for the latter part of the 09-11 biennium) reflects the $2.6 billion spread between the money available and the money which has been expected for spending, through huge cuts:

"Among the programs targeted for elimination are the state Basic Health Plan, which provides health care coverage to nearly 65,000 individuals ($160 million); Apple Health for children, which provides health care coverage to 16,000 low-income children ($11 million); and the General Assistance Unemployable program, which provides cash grants for 23,000 adults and medical services to nearly 17,000 adults ($188 million). In education, funding would be eliminated for 1,500 3-year-olds participating in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program; the kindergarten-through-4th grade staffing enhancement that reduces class size in the early grades; and levy equalization, which provides extra support to districts with a lower than average property tax base."

Gregoire is expected to propose tax increases of some sort, but the idea appears to be that she wants the effect of the cuts to start to sink into public consciousness first. That could change the feel of the either-or decision.

Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News-Tribune writes today: "If that was the plan, it worked. Within 90 minutes of the press conference I’d already heard from the Friends of Basic Health Care Coalition, the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, the Washington State Hospital Association, the state nurses union, AARP and University of Washington President Mark Emmert."

The battle is on.

Baird out; competition in the 3rd?

3rd district

Brian Baird

To this point, just one Northwest U.S. House district has had the look of being seriously competitive next year - the Idaho 1st. Add one more as of today: The Washington 3rd.

That is because Democrat Brian Baird, who has held the seat for six terms, says he won't run again. Baird has developed into an entrenched officeholder, even when he seriously ticked off his base over Iraq and was threatened with a strong primary contest (which didn't really materialize). He has held more than 300 town hall meetings and has worked the district hard. He probably could have won re-election easily. But, with him out, you can't say the same about Democratic chances for holding it.

Not that they can't; but that it's by no means a given, a win that should be taken for granted. Baird's own wins have masked the reality of the 3rd, which is that it is as it has been, a competitive area. Baird's last four wins have been landslides, over 60%, but he won the seat in 1998 with 55%, and narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Linda Smith in a close race the election before. Smith held the seat two terms, and before that Democrat Jolene Unsoeld held it for three.

There are solidly Democratic bases here, in central Vancouver, in Olympia and in the old union areas along the Pacific coast. But the Vancouver suburbs, which hold a lot of the population, are mixed or lean Republican, and many of the rural districts are very Republican. Cowlitz County in the middle of the district leans Democratic slightly but can go either way. The region's state legislative delegation is a real mix, from fairly liberal members to some quite conservative.

There's a real conservative streak in many of the nominally Democratic areas. For example, all of the counties in the 3rd except for Thurston County (that would be Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Skamania, Wahkiakum and Pacific) voted in favor of Initiative 1033, the Tim Eyman tax/budget measure on the ballot last month, while it got only 42% of the vote statewide. And that same group of counties, six of the 3rd's seven, voted to reject Referendum 71 - taking the conservative side on the "everything but marriage" domestic partnership measure, while it passed the state with 53.2%. Yes, a Republican could win here.

Expect some candidates in both parties to materialize soon. With the better mousetrap, either party could take this district.

This seat ought to jump toward the top on the priority list for both parties.

Pick a party


Wilson's logo

The Oregon governor's race now has six contenders officially filed, though one (Democrat Steve Shields) has dropped. There are also Democrats John Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury, and Republicans Chris Dudley and Allen Alley.

And there's Jerry Wilson.

Wilson, of Hillsboro, launched the Soloflex exercise business and evidently made a pile. Yesterday, he set up a web site and sent a press release announcing his campaign for governor of Oregon as a Republican. Whatever else, the guy sounds lively and probably has a fine sense of humor - by all means take a moment and read. His press release take on political parties, for example: "If elected I will ban them from the state. Should any agents of this criminal enterprise show up to do their dirty work here I’ll have them tarred and feathered."

Still, he decided to run for for a major party nomination because "he decided against running in a minor party because he didn't think that gave him enough of a platform." His press release said he flipped a coin and it came up Republican. So.

Except . . . Wilson turns out to be a registered Democrat, and to run in the May primary you have to a member of the party whose nomination you seek for 180 days, and that deadline has passed.

When the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes pointed this out to him, he said, "I guess I'll just run as a Democrat."

Okay . . . except that's not the end of it either. A check today shows the secretary of state's database lists him as a candidate of the Progressive Party. (Yes, a minor party, of the sort that hadn't seemed to interest him.)

Minor parties nominate through party conventions in June, not in the May primary. The Oregon Progressive Party didn't offer much comment other than to offer a link to Wilson's web site.

Three parties in a little over a day may be a record.

Labrador’s announcement, interrupted


Raul Labrador

Campaign opening day announcements are usually cheerful points of non-controversy, a positive opening to the campaign, unless the candidate screws up and makes it controversial. In this case, Raul Labrador, running now for the U.S. House in Idaho's 1st district, didn't screw up, but controversy poked in anyway.

That came from state Senator Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden, who "called on Raul Labrador to withdraw from the 1st Congressional race" - on the day Labrador entered it! (That would undoubtedly have been a first.)

His cause: "Raul Labrador is an immigration attorney and admits to defending illegal immigrants in his law practice. He has been on retainer as an immigration attorney to the Idaho industries that support a 'free flow of labor across America's sovereign borders' while at the same time serving as an Idaho State Representative. Labrador has defended individuals who have smuggled illegal immigrants into the United States and who have committed document fraud. He voted to give illegal immigrants Idaho taxpayer funded benefits, supported several Congressional bills that would grant the precious gift of citizenship to people who are residing in our country illegally and has fought to keep illegal immigrants in Idaho by refusing to support a bill with mandatory employment verification . . . His pro–illegal immigrant stances are wrong for Idaho taxpayers and Idaho’s unemployed . . . In this economy Idaho families can’t afford Labrador’s liberal plans."

Liberal! You know this is getting hot when that accusation gets thrown around an Idaho Republican primary.

Calling Labrador "liberal" is beyond a stretch; fellow Republicans regard him as among the more conservative state legislators, which is saying something. You can tell in part from Labrador's tart response: "You know, Sen. Jorgenson is usually a person who doesn’t have a lot of friends . . . So I wouldn’t worry too much about what Sen. Jorgenson has to say.” Zing!

Labrador's take on immigration seems to be pretty centrist: (paraphrased) enforce the laws and the borders, and work out some form of guest worker program that works for the nation's economy and society and protects U.S. workers.

Centrist and totally defensible, yes, but not red meat in a Republican primary. Jorgenson or no, could this create a problem for him. Voters in that primary may be interested more in protest and culture war than in governance, a reality and a conflict Labrador may have touched off on Day 1 of the campaign.

Sali in?


Bill Sali

Our presumption - as readers of past posts will note - has been that former Idaho Representative Bill Sali, the Republican who lost his seat to Democrat Walt Minnick in 2008, is unlikely to run again next year. So a post suggesting to the contrary brought us up short today.

That post is on the blog of Dennis Mansfield, who has been close to and supporter of Sali. While saying he has nothing against either of two major current contenders, Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador, he says this:

"Here's the 'bomb-drop': It's my call that Bill Sali will throw his hat in the ring in due season and easily crush both of these fine gentlemen. Bill and I are long-time friends...AND we have not...I repeat HAVE NOT talked about a 2010 candidacy run for the Sali Machine. I just sense it in the air ... And when he does announce, visit this site (and another fine site that I will point out at the time.) I know that Bill has a high calling of honor in his life and he sees his service in Congress as time that was providentially directed. Both "in and out" ... And it's my belief that he'll be sensitive to that "call" again for another "in" opportunity. And May 2010 will be his."

Meaning that he figures Sali would win a primary, however contested, next year. Basic rationale: "Sali's got decades of elected service, Labrador has served well in the Idaho House, as well, for a much shorter period. Ward? He served us in the military, and we are thankful, but he decided to leap-frog local service as an elected official, a volunteer, a lobbyist or even a community leader to run for the "big one". Politics is all local...especially in Idaho."

It's a fascinating post, a recommended read.

Of course, any decision by Sali to re-enter would be his and his alone - he has the option to do as he wants. He can file if he chooses; there's certainly no legal reason he can't.

There are other reasons not to, though. His last campaign ended in the red, and such fundraising as he's done this year has barely reached $9,000 (Compare that with Ward's $300,000 or so) and his campaign debt, at most recent report, stood at $112,725. As an incumbent, he lost a seat a Republican should have held easily, and a large swath of Republicans, in jumping on other campaigns (mostly Ward's, but Labrador will no doubt have substantial supporters too), seem to see the need for another standard-bearer. The time for Sali to enter for 2010 would have been early this year; the money and organization he would need to put together a front-running campaign has largely been channeled elsewhere. And remember the Club for Growth, the primary engine of Sali's 2006 primary and general election wins; it has shown no interest in backing him again. Either Ward or Labrador probably would suit them as well, if they chose to become involved.

Either way, we should soon see. If Sali really does intend to get back in, he surely can't hold back much longer.

Commission cut

There's periodic talk of this, of getting rid of any number of state boards and commissions. It gets mentioned a lot more than it happens.

It's begun to happen in Washington state, where Governor Chris Gregoire has now ordered an end to 17 state boards and commissions. She also asked for legislation to end 78 more (those are set up by state law).

The 17 out now: Aviation Advisory Committee, Cedar Creek Corrections Center Community Advisory Committee, Clallam Bay Corrections Center Community Advisory Committee, Connell Citizens Advisory Committee, Corrections Center for Women Community Advisory Committee, Family Planning and Reproductive Health Statewide Advisory Committee, Marysville Community Citizens Violation Board, McNeil Island Correction Center Community Advisory Committee, Olympic Corrections Center Community Advisory Committee, Peninsula Work Release Community Advisory Board, Penitentiary Community Advisory Committee, Public Health Improvement Plan Steering Committee, Religious Advisory Board, Special Commitment Center Advisory Board, Stafford Creek Liaison Committee, State Capacity for Disabilities Prevention Projects Consultants, State Genetics Advisory Committee.

Many of them, as you see, local or regional - not really statewide. And some of the others - you do wonder what some do.

But the larger question here: How many state boards and commissions are there overall? What's the total number (as in, 95 panels out of how many)? That number might be more stunning than the number for elimination.

From journalism to . . .

Meant to post on this a while back (and thanks to the correspondent who sent the link) - it's a microcosm that ought to be more widely noted.

It's a useful microcosm in that the number of newspaper journalists has dropped by the tens of thousands over the last couple of years (around 25,000 this year alone), and tracking what has become of all those former journalists is tough on a national level. What they were doing was journalism: Watching and passing on useful information about the world around them in cases watchdogging and providing necessary oversight.

So what are they doing now?

The blog Safety Net, run by former journalists of the print Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has some answers locally. It surveyed the 140 who lost their jobs, and got 71 responses.

Of the 71, it found "Only 15 percent have found fulltime paid work in journalism. Another 25 percent are blogging, freelancing or working on journalism start-ups like Post-Globe or InvestigateWest for little or no money."

More are working in PR or other corporate jobs, but in all only a third have found full-time paid work of any sort.

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.