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Posts published in December 2009

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.

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."

Starrett’s return

One of the more naturally skillful minor party candidates the Northwest has seen in the last few cycles is Mary Starrett, who ran for governor in 2006 as nominee of the Constitution Party, which takes a conservative view. She was crisp, articulate and highly mediagenic - fitting, since she had years of professional work in Portland broadcasting.

She hasn't been especially visible politically since (she does have a Facebook page), but now she's announcing a run for the Yamhill County Commission. The commission is officially non-partisan, but as in so many places the sides are aligned. Two of the commissioners are Republicans (one is a former Republican legislator, and the other the mother of a Republican state senator). The third, Mary Stern, is considered the commission's Democrat, and she will be Starrett's target. Stern is broadly thought to be highly popular, and not at all an easy target. At the same time, Starrett may be helped by having to deal with no partisan labels. (Of course, Stern may as well.)

On the county level true, with mostly parochial issues under discussion. But this could be a hot race.

ADDITION Inadvertently not linked to in the original text here, but absolutely should have been - the story on Starrett's expected entrance showed up first in the McMinnville News-Register.

Shades of Seattle

mayor map

from Publicola's map

There are no absolute political monoliths; all places have their shades of support. Not even, for Republicans, places like Meridian, Idaho. Nor even, for Democrats, Seattle. Solidly lined-up as those places may be, overall.

Publicola has out a map showing the vote split in the close Seattle mayoral race between Mike McGinn, who won, and Joe Mallahan. Pulling implications here is a little dicey, since both are Democrats and not wildly different in their stands. But there is this: In very rough terms, McGinn was the candidate of the Democratic activists and outsiders, especially those most interested in environmental and labor issues, and Mallahan was the business candidate, backed by many of the downtown and moneyed interests and the political establishment.

With that in mind, consider the map, wherein McGinn's highest numbers are marked by reds and oranges and Mallahan's by blues and greens. McGinn territory seems marked by the downtown area, parts of southern Seattle (especially Columbia City) and some of the neighborhoods (looks like Ballard may be one) in the northwest, as well as the university district. A map to conjure with for a while.

The unreal

The manila envelope arrived with a Salem, Oregon, return address, but no personal or organizational name. Look up the address (3421 Del Webb Ave. NE, Salem) and turns up as a BedMart Mattress Superstore. The simple, one-page letter inside has the letterhead of "Leuthold Dairy Farm." So we have a little dissonance before we even get to the letter.

And a little more when you look up the BedMart corporate site and find out there's no current BedMart at that location. It turns out to be an empty building, being used by . . . a political campaign.

Which one is indicated by what the letter says at the bottom: "I worked with Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes to share my thoughts with you in this letter." Ah! So this isn't really a letter from a dairy farmer who's so up against the wall that a small percentage increase in state taxes would threaten to put he out of business (which is what the tenor of the letter suggests, but which it never comes out to say). It comes from a PAC. Which doesn't really want to advertise its presence.

The letter (ours arrived today) is one of the shots being fired in the battle over Oregon Measures 66 and 67, which concern increases in personal (at higher levels) and corporate (depending on legal structure) income taxes.

The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes has out two pieces about the letter, one about its intentionally nondescript appearance (nothing fancy, and no logos anywhere) and very soft-pedaled approach to acknowledged what's going on here.

Advertising gurus have for some time called this the "age of skepticism," that people need stronger convincers and fewer discordant notes if they're to be persuaded. The letter contains a number of economically questionable (at best) assertions (the main subject of Mapes' other piece out today). Letters like this one go back a long way; but you'd think people would start questioning some of this before they even get that far.