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Posts published in May 2010

OR: Morning-after impressions

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.

OR: Early returns

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
US House OR 5 Bruun 64% Thompson 36%
US House ID 1 Ward % Labrador %
US House ID 2 Simpson % 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: The insurgency seems to be falling short.

Conservative metrics

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
US House OR 5 Bruun % Thompson %
US House ID 1 Ward % Labrador %
US House ID 2 Simpson % Heileman
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.

Reviewing the conventional wisdom

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.

Maryanne v Maryellen at Government Camp

A great small-town story in the Oregonian about the political debate going on in Government Camp. It's a matter of governmental policy, even a technical matter - whether the community, which clings to the side of Mount Hood to the southeast and uphill from Portland, should become an incorporated city. The issue is on the ballot, and the results will be (or should be) out on Tuesday.

There are wonkish pros and cons to such things - tax considerations, regulatory control, legal mandates and liabilities. But here is where politics gets personal, especially in smaller communities:

"The future of one of Oregon's oldest communities comes down to a referendum this week on a decades-old rivalry: Maryanne vs. Maryellen. The two women – Maryanne Hill and Maryellen Englesby – have spent a combined 163 years in the alpine enclave on the southern shoulder of Mount Hood, more often than not taking opposing sides of community issues. And now, with the question of whether Government Camp should become Oregon's newest city on the May 18 ballot, they are leading the respective charges for and against incorporation."

Anyone who lives in a small town will get this. (In our small town of Carlton, the city was enmeshed not long ago with a debate over whether to maintain its police department or contract for police services with the county; the course of the debate had less to do, as a matter of raw politics, with the very real financial and other issues involved than it did with the people at city hall and a group of their persistent critics. Thus is it ever.)

For anything not familiar with small-town politics as it is, this story will provide some entertaining enlightenment.

The problem of an anti-leadership organization

This site has been among those arguing for some time that the influence of the Tea Party groups have been heavily overrated. For your consideration today . . .

On Friday, the Boise Tea Party sent out word that it had endorsed candidate Raul Labrador in his Idaho 1st district Republican primary, over the other major candidate, Vaughn Ward. But it turns out, according to the Idaho Conservative Blogger, that the Tea people are far from unified on this. He cited a number of emails including this striking one:

“The Tea Party made this endorsement of Labrador with NO polling of its members or supporters. We have been active and financially supportive of TPB since it's inception and we are appalled at this endorsement. By their very actions, they are behaving like the elitist, tyrannical Washington insiders they purport to be fighting against.”

Tyranny and elitism seem to get defined pretty far downward, pretty quickly, these days. But then, to read the sloganeering involved here, there is no floor: Anarchy is the next stop on that elevator. And anarchists make for poor group organizers.

Authenticity problems

If the matter of authenticity has become a serious issue in the Idaho 1st District Republican campaign, this latest constitutes yet another load of bricks dumped on the Vaughn Ward campaign.

Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review made a major catch in tracking the original sources for half of Ward's position statements not to Ward but to other sources on line.

Examples: "The apparent duplications included a reference to “my roadmap legislation,” which actually was introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose campaign website contains an identical paragraph. Others include Ward’s statement on tax relief, which is a repeat of a statement on the campaign website of third-term U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Kentucky."

In an interview with Russell, the campaign seemed to describe what happened as a technical glitch - raw material intermixed with new stuff. But the campaign was also quick to disable links to what's been there for a long time - a sign they knew something was wrong.

When have you ever seen a major Northwest campaign on which so much bad news has been rained in the last two to three months before a primary? This is looking almost spooky. But a whole lot of it sure looks self-imposed.

A firing and a reassignment

adams police

Adams (left) at the firing and reassignment/Portland city

The firing of Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer by Mayor Sam Adams today was the obvious top-line headline of the day in Oregon. (His replacement, for now anyway, is Michael Reese.) But a bureaucratic component of this is almost as significant, and telling.

You have to assume that the immediate trigger was Sizer's press conference on Monday, when she said that the budget cut plan Adams had outlined - which included Police Bureau provisions - would mean slicing 25 sworn officer jobs, something Adams had said he would not do. The conflict between the two of them has been growing.

But there's a lot more underneath this. Under usual circumstances, Adams wouldn't have fired her at all, because he had given up supervision of the Police Bureau. Under Portland's (ungainly and peculiar) commission system, the mayor assigns oversight of the various city agencies to council members. Usually, for the last several decades at least, the mayor has kept personal oversight of the police. Adams, dogged by scandal at the beginning of his term, chose to hand it off to Commissioner Dan Saltzman instead. (He made that choice public well before his swearing-in.) Saltzman has brought some assets to the situation during a time when police conduct and labor relations have become intensely controversial. But he isn't the kind of big-presence-in-the-room that might take firm control. So various players, including Sizer, union leaders, and others, have been flinging around.

The guess here is that Adams, though not eager to jump into this, may have recognized what a lot of observers (including the Oregonian) argued from early on: That the police are simply too hot a subject, and too challenging to ride herd on, for anyone other than the mayor to do it.

Adams: "As police commissioner, my first charge is to establish the bureau leadership necessary to get us back on track. Like it or not, our social safety net has been disintegrating for years. The City of Portland slowly--but surely--finds itself inheriting more and more of the community’s social service needs. The fact is, our 1200 officers on the street have become our community’s social service first-responders." He seems to be want to find a way to integrate the police into the range of social services, which evidently is closer to his core areas of interests.

What happened was much more than a personnel matter. The axis of Portland government changed. And that will take a while to sort out.

In error/a slip

Going after slips in newspapers (and those I've worked for have sometimes let a few show) isn't a major focus of this site, especially in these days when papers are so hard pressed. But this one isn't easy to pass up . . .

This morning's Oregonian story concerns John Minnis, who resigned last fall from leading a public safety training agency after charges of sexual harassment of a female employee. The new story notes that charges in his case have been filed. But then, you might guess that from the picture's cut line.

Minnis caption

ID: 1st district fluidity

All that attention on the Idaho 1st district campaigns seems to be pretty well placed, to judge from the new poll out by Greg Smith. (See the pdf release for the specs; it was fielded last week.)

In the Republican party, long-time front-runner Vaughn Ward is at 34%, state Representative Raul Labrador 16%, with an even 50% undecided. Ward has a 2-1 lead here. But considering Ward's long run for more than a year, and his massive advantages in organization and money, 34% isn't too impressive. Smith suggests what this seems to indicate: A whole lot of people will be making up their minds in just the next two weeks.

This spring is the period when, theoretically, the Republican organization should have been bearing down and starting to come together. The mass of bad headlines in recent weeks, mostly at Ward's expense but some splattering onto Labrador as well, may have had some long-range effects.

Smith's poll gives incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick 50% against an unnamed Republican at 20% - a good showing. Of course, once there's a name on that Republican, the numbers close up quickly. But Minnick has generated little controversy this year, and you'll hear plenty of conservatives around Idaho say they like him. That's not necessarily enough for re-election, when he may still have great trouble rounding up Democratic troops, and Idaho Republicans who express kindliness toward the occasional Democrat still have a way of coming home in November. But that presumes a Republican nominee they can like, and they haven't been seeing a lot of that in recent weeks.

At two weeks out from the primary, then: The Republican nomination is up for grabs, and so is the general - meaning among other things that Minnick is looking stronger now than he has for most of the last year.