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.

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Idaho

The headline in the Kitsap Sun is almost sure to get your attention:
Bainbridge Wants to Charge Permit Fees to Volunteers Who Clean Up Road Ends.” It refers to Bainbridge Island, which is an incorporated city, and which is seeking to charge fees and require permits for people doing the civic help of cleaning up roadways.

The mind boggles.

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Washington

digest
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.

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Digests

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?

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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.

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Oregon

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.

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Idaho

This primary season is a point when many political aspirations are chopped off or get renewed, so it may be a useful point to pause and reflect on building impact in politics. There’s usually a little innate doubt in this quarter about people who run for high office without having served, or at least run, for lower. It almost suggests, in some cases anyway, a disrespect and disregard for an important and complex line of endeavor. Sometimes people do run for higher office out of the box and do well; but those seem the exception, not the rule.

With that in mind, some comments from an open letter to Idaho congressional candidate Vaughn Ward from state Representative Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian. In it, Hagedorn recalled some comments he made to Ward when Ward was initially seeking support and gathering idea:

I clearly recall our conversations and when you asked for my advice and provided you 3 recommendations:
1) Join the Ada County Republican Party: This would have allowed you to better know the people that you would be working with, their thoughts and ideas that are needed to properly represent them and other Republicans like them throughout the state.
2) Run for a local office: This would have enabled you to learn how to manage communications that must happen between you and your constituents, the media and also the parliamentary procedures and rules that go along with working with the other elected members.
3) Don’t overplay your military service: Almost 1/2 of Idahoans have worn a military uniform and are as proud of their service as you are. They know what their service taught them as well as what it did not prepare them for. Overplaying your service, no matter how honorable, risks belittling other’s service contributions which is never appropriate. We all entered and served with the same desires of serving our country, the people of Idaho and our nation.

The points Hagedorn makes there, extended out to both parties and backgrounds in addition to the military, are excellent. (Ward, it has to be noted, basically ran afoul of all three, and has been paying for it; that payment may or may not include loss of a primary election he easily could have won.) When the next political cycle starts to crank in – and yes, that will be no so far away – political people of all stripes could give some heed to Hagedorn’s advice.

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The news site Publicola reports that the wait is nearly over: Republican Dino Rossi plans to announce his entry into the U.S. Senate race, prospectively against Democrat Patty Murray, next week. The reason for the delay, it says, was that Rossi is “finicky” about choosing a campaign manager. (His old one is otherwise occupied.)

Publicola will be proven either right or wrong next week on Rossi’s entry, but the explanation offered here seems thin. It might have more resonance if this were 2009, but this is almost-summer 2010. Delays of single days matter at this when you’re talking about entering a race, and that would be true for a small-town city council, much less a U.S. Senate seat occupied by an entrenched, well-funded, well-organized incumbent. And in which you’re entering a primary already filled with a small platoon of seriously pissed-off opponents, as some of them have made clear they would be if Rossi declares.

If Rossi does declare (we’ll accept it as fact when it happens) and his sole reason for the delay is the search for a proper campaign manager, we’d write him off as a political incompetent. Far more likely – again, if he does enter – something else is going on.

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Washington

A few more scattered thoughts about the Oregon numbers . . .

bullet As of this morning (with a few votes still out, but only a few) voter turnout was low: 35.9% according to the Secretary of State’s office. it was lowest (21.4%) among those not affiliated with the two major parties; in primaries, their ballot is relatively short and don’t include the higher-profile contests, so that’s normal, but their numbers will rise in the general. Republicans got more of their registrants out to vote than Democrats, but only by a thin margin (42.2% to 39.9%) although they had more closely contested primaries than the Democrats did.

But this too shouldn’t be forgotten for the general: Despite slightly higher turnout, Republicans cast significantly fewer votes than the Democrats did – 277,319 Republicans to 345,671, which splits at 44.5% to 55.5%.

bullet In the Democratic gubernatorial, John Kitzhaber won every county (all those as yet counted: Grant County still wasn’t in). The places where Bill Bradbury came closest, holding Kitzhaber to barely over half, were small and remote counties almost sure to go Republican in the fall regardless: Curry, Harney, Klamath (the largest of the group, but very Republican), Lake, Morrow. Kitzhaber was well over 60% in all of the larger counties, suggesting a large and unified base to begin with.

Republican primary winner Chris Dudley topped 50% of the vote (in a somewhat more splintered field) in just two counties, small Sherman and Gilliam. The grace note for Dudley is that his third-best county was Washington (48.2%), the second-biggest in the state and often decisive statewide; and third-ranking Clackamas County (47.6%) was nearly as strong. And where he did less well? He lost to Allen Alley in Douglas, Curry, Malheur, Klamath, Josephine, Coos, Lane (which the only county where Alley cracked 40%), Union and Benton.

What interesting about those counties is that many of them are the same counties where conservative Bill Sizemore cracked 10%. Sizemore’s best counties were Curry (18.3%), Lake (17.4%), Malheur (16.1%), Josephine (14.1%), Douglas (12.5%), Harney (12.1%), Umatilla (11.7%), Jackson (11.7%), Wheeler (10.9%). Otherwise known as the central heart of the Oregon Republican base. Hoe accepting of Dudley will they all be? Therein lies a question for his campaign to ponder in the weeks ahead.

bullet It’s been noted elsewhere, but again: Incumbents in Oregon did pretty well. A number of congressional and legislative incumbents were primary-challenged; none lost. The state leadership challenge to Republican Representative Bob Jenson came close but failed.

bullet Let this be noted too: The two state constitutional ballot measures won big. They were not controversial, there was no organized opposition – but an electorate in the fury so often described by pundits might still have given them more of a contest than they get.

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Oregon

Conventional wisdom seems pretty much to be holding in the early returns around Oregon. For governor it’ll be Democrat John Kitzhaber (who won very big) against Republican Chris Dudley (who won over Allen Alley, but much more narrowly). For Senate, incumbent Democrat Ron Wyden (who had only sliver opposition in the primary) against Republican Jim Huffman (a 41% – at present – plurality win, decisive but far from overwhelming – some of his backers may be surprised the number isn’t larger).

Of note: In the last results we saw, Bill Sizemore, he of the legal troubles but also a solidly conservative philosophical view, was flirting with about 10% of the vote – more than the conventional wisdom expected. There may be some significance in this; we get into that later.

A close race: Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo holds a small lead over challenger (and Republican legislator) Ron Maurer. We suggested here that this nonpartisan race was a missed opportunity for Republicans, a potential win with enough resources and visibility; the numbers seem to be bearing that out.

To the Republican chart, with numbers as they were at about 45 minutes past closing time:

District Establishment % Insurgent %
US House OR 1 Cornilles 39% Kuzmanich
Keller
28%
30%
US House OR 5 Bruun 64% Thompson 36%
US House ID 1 Ward % Labrador %
US House ID 2 Simpson % Heileman
Mathews
%
%
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: The insurgency seems to be falling short.

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Oregon

Here’s a little chart we’ll be running, and gradually filling in, over the next week-plus as the Oregon and Idaho primaries unfold. It may give us some numbers to analyze with, when it comes to getting an insight into the percentages associated with the various components of Republican conservatism in the Northwest. (For that reason, Washington readers may want to pay attention too.)

District Establishment % Insurgent %
US House OR 1 Cornilles % Kuzmanich
Keller
%
%
US House OR 5 Bruun % Thompson %
US House ID 1 Ward % Labrador %
US House ID 2 Simpson % Heileman
Mathews
%
%
OR House 58 Jenson* % Mathisen* %
OR House 57 Smith* % MacLeod* %
OR Senate 19 Sprenger* % Cuff* %
OR Senate 19 Griffith* % Kremer* %


The point here is that, on the Republican side (and there really aren’t any notable Democratic counterparts in the Northwest races) there’s a discernible conflict between “establishment” conservative candidates – generally defined as those who declare themselves conservative and have strong endorsement and party organization support – as opposed to the “insurgent” candidates, who may be more reliant on grass roots and in most cases may be closer to the Tea Party and similar organizations.

This isn’t a perfect chart, of course. In the Idaho 1st, Vaughn Ward has been beset with an enormous number of late-breaking campaign problems unassociated with his views on issues. In the 2nd, Mike Simpson is an incumbent (unlike the other congressional candidates here), and has two major opponents. And the Oregon legislative races (*) are an inversion of sorts. There, two Republican incumbents (Bob Jenson and Greg Smith), who are mostly conservative, have been targeted by a number of state party leaders and allied organizations for going south on recent critical tax votes. Incumbent Sherrie Sprenger is being challenged from the right, sort of, though the actual philosophical differences seem harder to parse than the challenger’s proclamations that he’s more conservative. Steve Griffith is a moderate attorney and the kind of Republican who might win in a Portland suburban district, and so has some support among party pragmatists; but how will he do against the conservative activist organization-backed Mary Kremer, who also has a good deal of party organization support?

These are among the top-line questions we’ll be watching on this and next week’s Tuesday nights. Will patterns emerge? Stay tuned.

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At least it feels as if there’s safety in numbers. The Oregon Punditology survey – predictions by watchers of politics around the state, done for fun and bragging rights – for the primary election just filed in yesterday, and today the numbers are in. This is worth some little attention because it constitutes the closest thing anyone will have to a comprehensive survey of what is the “conventional wisdom” about what will happen.

A blog post with many of the details is up at Blue Oregon. Your scribe was among the participants, and in all but a few cases sided with the majority (or plurality). Read the BO post; comments on it follow below.

The governor’s race bifurcates: The Democratic primary has the look of a slam dunk for John Kitzhaber, while the Republican is a little more uneasy. I was with the majority marking down a Chris Dudley win but by less than a landslide, and with the majority figuring Bill Sizemore will not hit a double digit percentage. The odds seem to favor both results. But Sizemore could still surprise with a Republican base searching for a straight-conservative contender; you can make a reasonable argument for him passing 10%. And the reaction of voters, Republican voters, in large numbers to either Dudley or Allen Alley remains as much guesswork as anything else. This race will be a true object of scrutiny.

Almost everyone figures primary wins by incumbent Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Representative David Wu (other major incumbents didn’t have a strong enough opponent to merit the survey question), and primary wins by Rob Cornilles, Art Robinson and Scott Bruun. I was with the majority on all, the only one giving me pause being Bruun’s contest with the insurgent (sort of Tea Party) candidate Fred Thompson (not the former presidential candidate, although who knows how many voters may be confused?); if the activists on the right are strong enough, Thompson might have a shot. If that upset happens, expect a lot of chatter about it on Wednesday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo was an overwhelming expectation for re-election, but this is a race that merits some thought. In this nonpartisan contest, Castillo (who has served in the legislature as a Democrat) was running against Ron Maurer, currently a Republican legislator. This is a place where, as matters stood a while back, a Republican seemed to have a solid statewide shot. No party labels will appear on the ballot. Maurer picked up considerable support during his campaign, including a bunch of newspaper editorial endorsements. And Castillo has had some bad headlines. I’d have taken a flyer on Maurer winning this race but for what has seemed like a barely-visible campaign. Without that, the default goes to the incumbent.

Well, maybe. We’ll all know soon enough how solid the conventional wisdom really is.

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