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Posts published in May 2010

Blowback in the 1st

To the outsider there wasn't really a significant difference between the views of Republican congressional candidates Raul Labrador and Vaughn Ward - the idea of one as more "conservative" than the other seems to make little sense. But they did seem to represent sides of a divide, and that divide seems as real now, post primary, as it did before.

Some evidence of this shows up in a post - anonymous, but not unrelated to other signed pieces - circulating, called "Downfall of Ward signals downfall of GOP in Idaho." It is, as one one e-mailer suggested, worth a look, and worth some pondering.

In the weekly digests

weekly Digest

This week's Oregon, Idaho and Washington Public Affairs Digests are out, for a big week in politics in at least two of the states. We include a rundown of primary election returns in Idaho (and a followup rundown in Oregon), and a look at Washington politics with the entry in the Senate race of Republican Dino Rossi.

There are also reviews of the high cost of not sending transuranic waste to the Idaho National Laboratory; the impact statement for the Seattle seawall; drought relief in the Klamath Basin; and the ground breaking of a new law school in Boise.

As a reminder: We're now publishing weekly editions of the Public Affairs Digests - for Idaho, Washington and Oregon - moving from a monthly to a weekly rundown of what's happening. And we're taking it all-electronic: The print edition will be moving to e-mail.

That means we can include more information, and get it out a lot faster: The weekly Digests will be in your in-box first thing Monday morning. If you subscribe, of course: That's $59 a year, for 50 issues and the yearbook. Yes, including the yearbook. The Idaho Yearbook, which we published for years up to 2002, will return early in 2011 - in printed book form - and Digest subscribers get it for free with their subscription. And the Oregon and Washington yearbooks will be coming out at the same time.

If you'd like to take a look at one of the new weekly Digests, here's a link to the Idaho edition, to the Oregon edition and to the Washington edition. If you'd like to subscribe, here are the links (through to PayPal) for Idaho, for Oregon and for Washington.

Changing the words

There's plenty of food for thought in last week's Washington Poll, from the outright political (the Murray-Rossi race was polled, and it was found to be close) to much else.

But some of the most interesting stuff in it was relatively subtle.

In his column today, Peter Callaghan points some of it out. A couple of years ago the descriptor "GOP" polled better than "Republican" (though they mean the same thing). This year, there's some reversal, but mainly just among Republicans; independents still like "GOP" better.

Then there's this: On "The immigration law in Arizona which requires police to question people they suspect are illegal immigrants," there's a 52% to 42% approval. But on "State and local police should have the right to profile or stop someone on account of race or ethnicity," approval drops to 15% and disapproval rises to 82%.

Four votes


Mary Stern


Mary Starrett

Until this weekend, there seemed no right time to weigh into this year's Yamhill County Commission races, or especially, race - one of which has turned stunningly close and won't be resolved for months yet. But given that it won't now (almost certainly) be settled until November, some thoughts about the unexpectedly razor close Mary Stern-Mary Starrett contest seem in order. It can be and sometimes has been easily misunderstood, so considering that this was a situation we've watched closely, living (and voting) in Yamhill County.

From the beginning, then.

Yamhill County is historically quite Republican; it will vote for Democrats winning big for major offices (a Ron Wyden, say) but in closer races tends Republican, and elects mostly Republicans locally. some of the base here is rural and resource-industry oriented, meaning that there's some reaction to the social and economic liberalism close in to Portland. But Yamhill also has been changing. The largest city and seat, McMinnville, leans Democratic, partly because of college influence (at Linfield College) and partly other factors, including some labor union activity. There is also this: McMinnville particularly is a very community oriented city, where local civic activism is simply more active than it is in a lot of places.

And there's the underground subject d'controversy which only seldom dares be mentioned in polite company: The wine industry, which is rapidly becoming the economic Big Deal of the county; a good many of the people involved with it lean left. (Democratic legislative candidate Susan Sokol Blosser would be a good personal exemplar.) Probably most people in the county are delighted it's here, but not everyone is. In our small town of Carlton, for example, where wine is a dominant matter, there are some people overjoyed with it (partly for business reasons), and others furious with the changes it is bringing to what they always thought of as a timber town. Wine has been a real catalyst on several levels in Yamhill County, which is less Republican overall than it was four or eight years ago, still leans toward the red, but isn't terrible far from being centrist. (more…)

A gamble?

You don't - or at least you're not really supposed to - lobby a court to take an action you want: You file a brief, make an oral argument.

But there's also freedom of speech, and a group of pro-poker guys saw fit to exercise it when the question of Internet poker went before the Washington Supreme Court.

So what're the odds it helps?

Idaho vid of the year

UPDATE Some takeback on what follows in this post. The video may have been well-crafted, but it turns out there's a problem acknowledged by Lucas Baumbach, who put it together: "No, it wasn't accurate . . . I admit that there was a lot of editing that went on there." So factor that in . . . but also the fact that the power of the vid is such that we're likely to see more of this ahead.

Is it too soon to call the Idaho political video of the year? Maybe not.

This one actually made Leno and went solidly viral around the country. And deservedly so: It was brilliantly put together. It'll take something really amazing to top this.

It had an agenda, of course. Lucas Baumbach, who is the new Republican nominee for the state Senate (District 17) and a Tea Party-oriented activist, had made clear elsewhere that he much preferred, in the 1st District U.S. House Republican race, Raul Labrador over Vaughn Ward. But it was his stunning back-and-forth construction of this one that just wiped out Ward - the more so because its point was just as powerful whether you like Barack Obama or not.

Not everyone approved, of course. an email to the Idaho Conservative Blogger remarked, "Lucas Baumbach should be ashamed of himself for what amounted to political dirty tricks against Ward with his video." Dirty tricks? There's been no indication that Baumbach made up or somehow created the video. The words were what they were; the compare-and-contrast was totally fair.

Be it noted that this isn't the only significant video wreaking damage on Ward in recent weeks. Another, by Colin Mansfield, consisting of raw footage (of a debate in which the candidates talked about Puerto Rico statehood), captured Ward gaffes in a way the more davastating because it was so plainly shown without elaboration.

TV commercials? Fugeddaboudit. Vids like these are far more powerful.

ID: Two districts’ tales

Taking a quick look at the county breakout of the Republican primary vote in Idaho's two U.S. House districts . . .

The hot contest was in the 1st, mainly between Raul Labrador (who won) and Vaughn Ward (who was the clear frontrunner for most of the campaign). It wasn't especially close: 47.6% to 38.9%. If the polling and the sense of local comment are reasonable guides, this probably was a race that broke pretty hard toward the end, as the storm of bad news descended on Ward.

There's some support for this in the county breakdown, where you'd expect more voter response to the news items to come in the larger, and more media-centered, counties. Labrador's strongest county (57.9%), of the district's 19, was Ada County (Boise). That could have been helped along, though not explained entirely, by Labrador's many years of work in the county Republican organization. But the hard-breaking news had to be a factor. Next-door and second-largest Canyon County, at 53.9% (and where Labrador had no comparable personal history), was Labrador's third-best.

The third largest county in the district, Kootenai, went for Ward (46.7% to 37.1%). Could the changing media environment in that area have mattered in that? The Spokane Spokesman-Review, which covered the 1st district race intensively and broke some major stories, was once the dominant newspaper presence there, but has largely pulled out, and the remaining local papers appeared to have less coverage of the quirks in the race. Did that matter?

Labrador's best five counties, in order: Ada, Payette, Canyon, Gem, Washington. His weakest: Shoshone, Nez Perce, Adams, Latah, Lewis - generally, the least Republican areas of the district. One conclusion from that might be that Labrador has an excellent shot at solidifying his base. Which, in an Idaho 1st general election, could be enough.

The 2nd district was nowhere near as suspenseful; there, incumbent Republican Mike Simpson won decisively as he had been broadly expected to. Simpson has won easy big re-elections for years. There, the question is different: What percentage of Republicans are insurgent enough to vote against this widely-liked and clearly-conservative incumbent?

Well, Simpson got 58.2% of the vote - which suggests that a pretty significant slice of the voters turn thumbs down.

The more interesting element of the vote is that won by Chick Heileson (24.2% overall), the ideological absolutist fire-breather whose every third word is "constitution" and every other third is his interpretation of it. Heileson came in second of the four candidates (one of whom was a state legislator) and won one county, Jefferson (47.9% to 37.3%) over Simpson, and decisively. His approach clearly struck a note in eastern Idaho, which is where his best results were: After Jefferson, Heileson's best were Bonneville, Bannock, Butte, Oneida, Madison, Fremont, Bingham, Caribou, Clark - all radiating outward from the Idaho Falls-Rigby area. Ada County was one of his weakest (8.9%), and he scored just so-so in the Magic Valley.

There's an increasing edginess in Idaho politics.

Rossi’s entry

Shorter Dino Rossi: If you're among those worried about what Washington (the east coast one) is doing, Dino feels your pain.

It was a campaign announcement and Rossi is in, and maybe this is the kind of announcement - streamed on the net - candidates will be using routinely in years to come. There's nothing holy about making the pronouncement standing in front of some public building with a gaggle of reporters looking on. This one was controlled and precise (even if he did trip over a couple of words). In five minutes Rossi conveyed a campaign message that, improbably, finally got him into the race.

A curious thing: No reference at all to either the people he's running against right now - meaning the crowd of other Republicans who have been actively campaigning for months - or to his prospective general election opponent, incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray. Not really any specific reference to Washington state, either. The talk opened with a series of questions, some of them so general (do you feel like . . .) they could belong in a poll, or on Oprah. It had in fact such a generic feel that this could have been a campaign speech for any Republican running for any seat in Congress anywhere in the country. Its generic feel, coming from a guy who actually does know Washington well after intensively running for governor twice, seems a little odd.

It was a feel-good speech; after hearing it, you're clearly meant to be comfortable with this guy. And it works on that level. But Rossi is going to need much more than that. He is starting extremely late in the game for a major candidate for a major office, a contrast to the way he ran his earlier campaigns. However much national money may be poured in, and however many past supporters may line up to help, the problem is that the number of days between here and the primary (which he still has to get through, without alienating his crowd of opposition and their supporters), and the general election, which means he will have to take campaign efficiencies to whole new levels.

To be sure, we had suspected that by the time Rossi got to May and still hadn't entered, he wasn't going to. He did. But the reasons why you wouldn't think he would remain compelling. Rossi has a remarkable challenge on his hands.

Blow up

For the better part of the year or so Vaughn Ward has been running for the U.S. House, he has been the front runner - much of that time, a seemingly prohibitive front runner. One other candidate, legislator Ken Roberts (who this evening won his own contested primary for his current seat), dropped out because there seemed no way to beat him. When another legislator, Raul Labrador, entered the race, there seemed to be no realistic prospect he could beat him either.

What has happened over the last couple of months culminating in tonight's primary win by Labrador over Ward, and this ought to be remembered, is that Ward chiefly defeated himself. A few months ago he had or seemed to have absolutely everything you need to succeed at this. He had good presence, articulated well, lots of money, lots of party connections, full-time and intensive, campaigning, strong organization - pretty much everything. He raised money far behind what Labrador did. Most of the big names in Idaho Republican politics who were doing endorsements, did them for Ward.

But Ward blew up, in a series of goofs and gaffes so rapid-fire that they finally attracted national attention.

This isn't to slight Labrador, who ran a solid campaign and had positioned himself well enough to take advantage of the situation when his opposition fell apart. But it also means he will have to develop, starting from a much more basic level, a national-caliber campaign, something Ward seemed to have done already. We'll come back to this in a future post.

For the moment . . . just goes to show how, even in Idaho, politics is never entirely predictable.