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Posts published in April 2010

Ramparts in the beer wars


This weekend we watched the new - or, fairly newly available - documentary Beer Wars, which though shooting widely around the country managed to miss the Pacific Northwest, which is a major hotbed of craft beer activity. In unlikely places. On an obscure mountain road a couple of miles from our small rural town is a guy with a shack brewing and selling some pretty good craft beer. It's not just in Portland, which may have claim to being the most craft-beer-intensive metro area in the country.

The movie made the point that, because of the way the laws work and the distribution structure is rigged, smaller craft brewers have a tough road trying to get their beers to market - that they do it at all being a minor miracle. They're visible enough around the Northwest that the question arises of whether the system isn't quite so rigged here against the small guys as it is elsewhere.

It's tough nonetheless, which is why the lastest twist in the never-ending Washington state tax negotiations catches some attention, and may have more merit than it seems.

From the Tacoma News Tribune politics blog: Senate Democratic leaders' "latest offer to their House colleagues includes a 50-cents-per-gallon tax increase on beer that would exempt microbrews, a new proposal that was in neither the House nor the Senate budget."

It would be a substantial increase. But the micro exception could go some distance to affecting the marketplace.

Keep a watch on this. And have a sip.

Wu-Cornilles in OR 1?


Rob Cornilles


Stephan Brodhead

Not many true second-tier Northwest congressional races this time: Races where there's a clear edge to one candidate but involving substantial, significant races not totally locked up. The clearest example, at the moment, looks to be Oregon 1, which has had a fuzzy aspect because of the large number of candidates.

It begins to clarify, though: This looks like a November contest of incumbent Democrat David Wu against Republican Rob Cornilles.

It's a second-tier race to begin with because there's an entrenched incumbent in a district where his party is in the majority, and there's no real scandal or crosswise-with-the-district issue that looks anywhere close to a career-killer. He hasn't had a close call since his first election in 1998, and in 2008 (when he pulled 71%) didn't even have a Republican opponent.

The Oregon 1st is anchored by Washington County (west of Portland, and including Beaverton and Hillsboro), which a decade ago leaned Republican but now leans Democratic. It also includes western Portland, Yamhill County (which leans Republican but less than it once did) and the St. Helens-Astoria area (strongly Democratic). This is, at present, a Democratic district.

That doesn't mean there's nothing for a challenger to work with: The 2004 college scandal, the 2005 t-shirt issue, the 2008 Klingon speech. Wu's town hall meetings from last year were a part of the contentious Tea Party summer, and though our take was that Wu handled them pretty well, opinions varied. And as a usually loyal member of the Democratic House caucus on matters from health care to finance and beyond, how you think about Wu will related to how you think about what Congress has been doing.

And Wu has a primary challenge from David Robinson of Beaverton. Robinson's appearances and statements suggest a calm, centrist Democrat interested most strongly on economic development and defense. But based on what we've seen, he's subtle at best about why he should oust Wu in the Democratic primary. With little evidence of strong funding or organization, Wu doesn't seem much threatened in in the May primary.

Four candidates filed on the Republican side: Cornilles, Stephan Andrew Brodhead, John Kuzmanich and Douglas Fitzgerald Keller - none terribly well known. Keller has raised little money; Kuzmanich has raised some more (and angled for some visibility at Dorchester). But the contest looks as of it may come down to Cornilles and Brodhead.

We first spotted Brodhead last summer passing out cool drinks at summer town hall events - winning a little gratitude right there. He has self-funded to a considerable degree - $298,300 according to reports as of the end of last year, and apparently more since. One problem is that he doesn't seem to have attracted a lot of other contributors, and doesn't seem to have a lot of organization. His website suggests inexperience in running and a quirky smattering of issues, some of it matching up with general Republican views and some outside the box. (He may be one of the few candidates to emphatically say, "Update Air Traffic Control grid to latest computer and moving map display technology" - not to criticize the idea, which certainly makes sense.)

He has some money to spend, but Cornilles (whose signs have been more visible around the 1st than anyone else's) has the overall range of assets that suggest the nomination is his to lose. His funding seems to be not far off Brodhead's, and it's contributions rather than self-funding. He has an experienced campaign core, and he has been making himself visible and fitting into the national political discussion, making regular responses to Wu's statements and stands. He seems too to be the one Republican of the four to attract some national Republican attention; the House Republican committee gave his campaign status as a "contender" back in February.

Odds in the first is that after the May dust clears, it'll be Wu and Cornilles.

The session that’s barely there

There's not a lot good most casual observers of the Washington Legislature would have to say at this point - a session not wrapped up (as it originally was supposed to be) in the middle of last month, but instead dragging on interminably in special session.

But the best you can say is, most legislators aren't even there. Most of them have gone back to their day jobs; only some of the members of leadership are consistently around the statehouse.

This week, the Washington House mostly didn't meet at all except just enough to meet the constitutional minimums. They met on Friday to pass some bills, but probably won't be back until next Friday.

In between, as the Spokesman-Review's Jim Camden wrote, "Speaker Frank Chopp, Majority Leader Lisa Brown and the two chambers’ Democratic revenue leaders will continue to seek agreement, or at least less disagreement, on a tax package that can get 25 votes in the Senate and 50 votes in the House."

In theory, as long as the governor sees fit to call additional special sessions, this could go on for months. But at some point, an embarrassment factor will have to kick in. You would think. Other than for for the legislature's Republicans, who must be enjoying the heck out of it.

Got your census?

We keep seeing the "full out your census form and send it in" comments in a range of places, but with a glitch: We haven't seen our form yet.

Tried calling a census office to find out what the situation is, and got referred to another office, where all we got was a telephone answering machine.

Have other people been getting their census forms? Or not?

UPDATE A friend from Roseburg writes to say that he hasn't gotten his form either - and gives an indication as to what we may have in common: The post office doesn't deliver to our houses, only to our post office boxes. It's a mail system that works perfectly well (for us in Carlton at least) but might be confounding the census bureau, might may be sending a lot of people to addresses that could be reached via box.

Health care, stateside

A great deal of what happens next on moving ahead with the federal health care project will occur not on the federal but on the state level. The states most forcefully opposing the new law, which include Idaho, may not be on the front line of this. But others, including Oregon and Washington, are hitting the case at a run.

In Washington, Governor Chris Gregoire held a press conference today to announce a new "health care cabinet" to consider what the state could do next. This could sound like another study group, except that it has specific assignments: to "write and implement the policies and rules necessary to carry out health care reform statewide for all affected state agencies, including consolidating duties, functions and powers related to the state’s overall health care purchasing."

Things are moving along faster in Oregon, where state Senator Alan Bates, D-Ashland, who was one of the prime movers behind the state's health reform law a few years back, is developing legislation to create a state-run health insurance public option that could work within the context of the rest of the state and federal effort. Ulness the Oregon Legislature changes dramatically in November, you'd probably be unwise to bet against its passage.

Maybe even then, because at least one key Republican, Representative Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point (and not a caucus moderate), is quoted as saying he's open to the idea, even if concerned about some of the possible provisions.

And indications of more coming soon.