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Posts published in May 2010

A revised state Senate

In Oregon's primary last week not a single incumbent legislator lost. Not so this week in Idaho - a number are biting the dust, all on the Republican side.

Notably in the Senate (though some House members are losing too). In District 3, three-term Republican Mike Jorgenson, Hayden Lake, well-known for his activism on illegal immigration, is losing decisively. In District 8, Lee Heinrich of Cascade.

But the two that may have the most impact in the chamber are Senators Gary Schroeder of Moscow and Charles Coiner of Twin Falls - probably the two key players in what was once a substantial moderate group among Republican senators. Schroeder is behind Gresham Dale Bouma by about 300 votes with more than two-thirds of the vote counted; Coiner clearly has lost to Lee Heider. Both of these primaries were challenges from the right.

In the case of the Twin Falls district (24) that will mean the seat, for decades held by relatively moderate Republicans, will move decisively rightward. In the education-dominated Moscow-area District 5, this is an opportunity for the Democrats and their new nominee Dan Schmidt. However November goes, though, the Idaho Senate has changed.

The insurgency

Remember last week's Republican chart? Here's an early run at filling in some of the gaps, this time with Idaho results as of 90 minutes after polls closing (262 of 936 precincts, still, obviously, far from complete):

District Establishment % Insurgent %
US House OR 1 Cornilles 39% Kuzmanich
US House OR 5 Bruun 64% Thompson 36%
US House ID 1 Ward 42.2% Labrador 44.4%
US House ID 2 Simpson 57.8% Heileman
OR House 58 Jenson* 53% Mathisen* 47%
OR House 57 Smith* 62% MacLeod* 38%
OR House 17 Sprenger* 68% Cuff* 32%
OR Senate 19 Griffith* 49% Kremer* 51%

Early take: Put these two Idaho House races together with insurgent concerns with Senator Mike Crapo (winning with 80%), Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter (winning with 55.2% in a field of six, the nearest competitor getting half the votes he is) and you have to think that the insurgency - call it the Tea Party or whatever - isn't an enormous factor.

The 1st District race is still too close to call, and Labrador, supported by many of the insurgents, is doing well and could win it. But a large part of the reason for that, if it happens, would be the implosion of the Ward campaign over the last couple of months.

Primary night, early on

At this post, 175 of Idaho's 936 precincts are in, and some races are coming a little clearer.

Not the hottest of them though: In Idaho's 1st District Republican, it's Raul Labrador at 44.7% and Vaughn Ward at 42.3%. No calls on this one yet, and or maybe for a while.

We'll make a call on the Supreme Court race, though: incumbent Roger Burdick is hanging in sell over 60%.

Primary ahead

We'll be blogging this evening as the Idaho primary election results come in.

Recognizing that there are only so many primaries many people will watch closely. Of much the highest interest: The 1st District U.S. House Republican primary between Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador will be fascinating - and it is from predictable.

And the Supreme Court contest between incumbent Roger Burdick and challenger John Bradbury has some real interest. (Such contests have periodically been close; Bradbury only barely lost his last run for the high court.)

Beyond that . . . well, there's not much going on in the U.S. Senate contests, even if technically there are contests for both sides. (Though we'll watch to see how well an Idaho resident does against a non-resident on the Democratic side.) The 2nd District Republican race will almost certainly be swept by incumbent Mike Simpson, though the percentages might be instructive. A handful of legislative races . . . and the Ada County Commission, where a comeback attempt by two former commissioners has turned into an ideological squabble and more.

Okay, there'll be some stuff to watch. See you shortly.

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 Oregon, and a look at Idaho politics just before the Gem State primary.

And as always there's plenty more. In Idaho, there's a new proposals for reviewing sales tax exemptions; in Oregon long-range looks at state finances and the Boardman plant; and in Washington significant Puget Sound cleanup contracting problems.

This is our third 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.

VanderSloot’s underwriting

Is there these days an unelected Idahoan - one person - who has more impact in Idaho than Frank VanderSloot? And one - much more than most big influencers of the past - who seems to go to great lengths to keep that influence on the downlow?

VanderSloot, of Idaho Falls, is CEO of Melaleuca, Inc., a provider of nutritional, cosmetic and related products, based at Idaho Falls. Since 1985 he has built the firm into a large operation, and he has been willing to spend money to advance his views, which are quite conservative. People in Idaho Falls have seen that in direct ways for some years, and politically-oriented people around the state have understood his impact for quite some time. Probably only a sliver percentage of Idahoans overall do.

So consider the reports out today about funding in the state Supreme Court race between incumbent Roger Burdick and challenger John Bradbury - or more precisely, two groups outside of those campaigns which have injected money and message into it, the Idaho Citizens for Justice and the Citizens for Common Sense Solutions. Both have gone after Bradbury. The former group sent out substantial full-color direct mail pieces and newspaper ads.

Like other political action groups they were supposed to file campaign finance reports well before now, so that Idaho voters would know who was behind the ads they see and hear. Instead, the last of the reports - overdue - got in this afternoon and, as reporter Betsy Russell notes in her review of the filings, there was really just one "citizen" behind both groups: VanderSloot, who underwrote both.

Politics does have its unseen forces. Here is one of them. Ask now, why isn't this one more visible?

Scouting the scouts

Put this in the category of a story unfolding very slowly, but with clear acceleration: The Boy Scouts and the child abuse in their midst.

The lid was on for many years; even more than (for a long time) the Catholic Church, little public notice got out about the organization's cases of sexual abuse. But that is changing. A couple of recent trial have unearthed document evidence that could soon blast this story much wider.

Check out the Oregonian article today (the first of two), with its story looking behind the recent Portland Scouts trial. What the paper is running now, following up on the door cracked open during the trial, is new.

The key source, the paper said: "The confidential Boy Scout files used in reporting this story were first seen outside the Scouts' inner circle in 1991, when California attorney Michael Rothschild won access to them as part of a civil suit. Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff later obtained the records and scanned them to create a database, which he shared with The Oregonian."

But that may not be all: "A similar set of files, from 1965 to 1985, was entered into evidence in the recent Multnomah County civil case brought by a sex-abuse victim of former Scout leader Timur Dykes. Those files have been sealed, but The Oregonian, The Associated Press and The New York Times, among others, have filed a motion to make them public."

Since the precedent for release has been set, there's a good chance some or all of these records will be unearthed. A big Portland earthquake could be coming, in the months ahead.

Expansion in Emmett

Some very good news for the small city of Emmett, about 20 miles northwest of Boise, which has become a bedroom community for its larger neighbor but some years ago lost much of the key business base that for decades strengthened it. That base was in timber production, and for many years Boise-Cascade Corporation ran a massive timber processing plant there. Along with a lot of other mills, it closed in 2001.

Now, the good news: A new mill, operated by a company, Emerald Forest Products, which has had a small presence in Emmett for most of a decade. It is expected to result in 47 solidly-paying jobs. The customer base is established, too, including contracts with Home Depot.

Plenty of Idaho political people understandably were happy to join in the celebration. In these tight economic times, though, they might want to pay some attention to a sentence in the press release (sorry, no link available) from the Gem County Commission about one of the key pieces to getting this done:

"Along with the $4 million dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) grant Vinson has spent over $6 million on equipment and labor to finish the mill." ARRA funds are the much-maligned federal stimulus money. A Forest Service story has the details on the business project (which looks to have a number of spinoff benefits) and the role federal funding played.

Yeah, once again: Federal funding.