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Posts published in June 2010

Felon on the run


Miller
Jesse Miller

Meet a new (since last month) state House candidate in District 29 in Tacoma, Jesse Miller, a civic activist, at Olympia and locally, working behalf of the poor. She is outspoken about racism. She runs a business, albeit one unusual for a legislative candidate: A rap record label called Felony Entertainment. Her roster of community activism - a lengthy list - includes Social Justice Fund-Leaders Under 40, Chair of the Board for Statewide Poverty Action Network 2004-2008, Springbrook Project 2008-, member of Black Collective, The Matrons Club, Praxis Project, Vote For A Change Campaign, Accessing The American Dream Project, Hip Hop Pioneer.

And one more thing, in no way being hidden by the candidate: About 15 years ago she was convicted on a drug charge (cocaine delivery) and served two years in prison. She's fulfilled all her obligations but, as the Felony Entertainment site quotes her: “'I found my options were slim,' she said, noting employment offers were limited to flipping burgers and other minimum wage jobs. 'That felony conviction followed me around'.”

The district is pretty solidly Democratic, but this is a very edgy candidate for the Democrats anywhere in Washington, no?

Well no. She's running as a Republican, challenging incumbent Democrat Steve Kirby, who actually was supportive of some of Miller's proposals last term. (Miller has an interesting runthrough about the party choice on her Facebook page.)

A 2009 law opened the door to voting and even running for office for people who have a felony conviction in their background. Not everyone supported it; Representative Christopher Hurst (a Democrat, and a police detective) told the Tacoma News Tribune that a felony conviction “should be a lifetime disqualifier . . . There are plenty of other people who could run for public office.”

There are, but the kinds of people who wind up in most legislatures tend to be . . . a lot alike. And if a person has gone through the strenuous process of societal repayment, has stayed clean and is up front about the record - why exactly should the citizen be denied the run, and the voters given the option? The point of having a lot of people in a legislature - 147 in Washington's case - is to collect a wide range of experiences, and people who have responded (hopefully successfully) in various ways.

A lot of material for discussion here.

Green prisons

Of interest: Oregon's prisons are moving toward solar energy.

It doesn't seem an obvious fit, but it apparently can work. In this high-priced arena, significant energy costs at a few of the facilities already have been trimmed back. The Two Rivers Correctional at Umatilla has has a good enough experience with it that others are now sending out requests for bids.

One more thing in a prison system that isn't reliant on an external network. There could even be a security advantage in that.

This week in the PADs

digest
weekly Digest

This week's Oregon, Idaho and Washington Public Affairs Digests are out, political news continues regionally as Washington Republicans hold their convention in Vancouver and the Idaho 1st district contest continues to take shape.

There are also reviews of the Oregon state government 9% solution, school closures in Portland and elsewhere, the shift of Boise State University athletics to the Mountain West Conference, new filings in the Lowe court case, the dispute over trust lands in the Okanogan territory and much more.

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.

The familiarity of Nadine

A fine Spokesman-Review piece today about local television, especially local television news, through the lens of Nadine Woodward.

Woodward was on-air at Spokane's KREM television for 19 years before, last year, running into a conflict with management, and ultimately leaving the station. The departure was acrimonious, and involved allegation of age and gender discrimination, and was a visible case in the community.

She was in any event not out of work for long, signing on with competing KXLY. And KXLY quickly launched what was described as the biggest promotional campaign any Spokane station has undertaken to promote a specific personality. KXLY has material to work with, since Woodward was already well known around Spokane. From the story: " Since March, when Nadine Woodward started her new job, her 18-year-old son Connor complained he couldn’t avoid her, even miles from home. On his way to school he’d see some of the 20 large billboards filled with her smiling face, part of a media blitz calling attention to her new position at Spokane broadcaster KXLY."

A good look inside local TV as it's practiced.

Non-establishment tea

At the Washington Republican Convention at Vancouver, it's the establishment over here, and the Tea Party people over there. The twain meet only erratically, it seems.

This might, in theory, have been a moment for unification and coming together, notably in the Senate campaign which features - as the two apparent leaders - former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi and former football player Clint Didier. Rossi was the hard-get for the establishment, the guy people in both Washingtons' Republican leadership council wanted as standard bearer against Democrat Patty Murray. Didier is the Tea Party guy, matching up well in mood and rhetoric to what they're looking for. He even interrupted his weekend for a quick meeting with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who may have ticked off Tea Party people elsewhere but still seems in good graces among those in Washington.

So the Tea Party appeared, according to a range of accounts, to be much more happy with Didier. And when both major candidates spoke to the Tea people, you get things like this (as reported in the Everett Herald):

Where Rossi avoided direct answers to most of the questions, Didier didn’t, and his answers were what they wanted to hear.

For example, on whether each backed Arizona’s controversial law dealing with immigrants, Rossi responded that the nation needs a “tall fence and high gate” to deal with those crossing into the country illegally.

Didier simply said, “Yes ma’am, I am 100 percent behind it.”

The Washington primary election won't, of course, result in a party nominee - just two candidates who go on to November. Those two, presumably, will be Murray and Rossi. What it won't do is give closure to some of the Didier people who may wonder how many non-Republicans, or RINOs, sent Rossi on his way to the fall.

Hart on and in taxes

The story this last week about state Representative Phil Hart, R-Athol, being slapped with $300,000 in tax liens (from 1997-2003 and two more recent years) almost slipped by - people get into financial arrears, on a basic level there's nothing shocking there - except for a few points that should be noted before this slips away.

One is that Hart is quite influential among very conservative Republicans; in the Panhandle, he's among the must-get endorsements if you're running with Tea Party and other very ideological conservatives. He has become influential enough that he was a key lever behind the ouster of incumbent Republican Senator Mike Jorgenson, from his district, by Steve Vick; the extent of Hart's involvement has been a matter of some dispute, but he apparently recruited Vick to run. In a contested open-seat race in the other House seat in the district, Vito Barbieri, a Hart ally, won the race. He has a power base in Kootenai County; he's one of the real influentials in that area.

This should be noted too: Hart is a member of the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, the key locus for tax policy in Idaho.

ID 1st and its ever-changing moods

Probably time here for a few perspective words on the ever-changing Idaho 1st House race, between incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick and (now) Republican Raul Labrador.

There are, after all, lots of conflicting indicators. We noted here, with minimal comment, a new poll giving a lead to Labrador. There's been pushback from the Minnick camp, naturally; and our view is that these days, all polls should be taken with caution. Then there are other views, such as the Stu Rothenberg national column saying "Minnick’s re-election prospects have brightened" with Labrador's nomination. Caution is needed here too; the Republican establishment had been solidly behind Labrador's primary opponent, and a lot of what you hear may reflect disappointment of many of the usual organization people and establishment sources that their guy didn't win.

So what to make of all this?

The overriding truth seems to be that this is not a locked contest and it genuinely could go either way. That's not a hard conclusion to reach when you consider the assets and liabilities each side can or prospectively could draw upon, and observe that they're not badly matched - at least for now.

Minnick has a collection of serious assets. Incumbency, for one. Idahoans in recent decades have been loathe to throw their incumbents out of office, and in the last 20 years have done so only twice in congressional or statewide elections. Minnick has given conservatives little to get angry about, leaving them mostly to the more intellectual party-in-charge argument that doesn't have much emotional resonance. A lot of conservative Republicans say they kinda like him. He has returned regularly to the district, projects a good working relationship with the other members of the delegation (all four often sign announcement news releases), appears to have kept up with constituent work. His campaign has been organized and primed since the last one ended, and it is well-funded by any standard, and extremely well-funded by 1st district standards. And far better funded, at this point, than his opponent's. He is not Mr. Charisma, but he seems to be liked personally - not a bad thing. (more…)

Not special enough

There seems to be an almost mathematical logic to legislative special sessions: The more precisely they are planned and mapped out beforehand, with goals specifically worked out and votes counted, the more likely they are to succeed. The last special sessions in Oregon and Idaho worked out well on that logic, both getting the anticipated jobs done with dispatch. The last one in Washington state (this year), though only a little hazier in intent, was just fuzzy enough in its route to completion that it took weeks longer than anyone had expected. Or wanted.

Which translates to no surprise when legislators in Oregon now have shot down the idea of a special session there, for more formal legislative review (and maybe revision) of spending cuts in the wake of revenue shortfall. Governor Ted Kulongoski, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Dave Hunt all had advised against. On one level budgeting is, yes, a legislative function. But on the other: What exactly would the legislators be attempting to accomplish? No one really knows.

In a statement out from the Oregon House this afternoon, "Oregon House members have rejected a call for a special session to begin by June 14, according to information released late this afternoon by Chief Clerk Ramona Kenady. As of 4:00 this afternoon, 34 House members had submitted ballots opposing the call for the special session. Only 17 members voted yes to come into special session. Nine others did not submit ballots and are counted as no votes."

Labrador leading?

A new poll just out on the Idaho 1st District race, the first since the primary, and again suggesting the hard-to-call nature of the beat.

Conducted by Greg Smith Associates, it gives Republican nominee Raul Labrador 39.5% support, to Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick's 29% support. (That includes both hard and soft support.) Undecided amounted to 30%.

Smith's comments: "“These findings are particularly surprising to us, since a poll we commissioned in early May showed Minnick leading 'the Republican candidate' by a margin of 50% to 20%. Certainly, the publicity surrounding the recent GOP primary, the renewed attention on Raul Labrador and his viewpoints which are clearly in step with the majority of Idahoans, and the trends nationally toward Republican candidates all play a role in these findings. However, these findings are by no means a guarantee of victory by Labrador. Minnick’s current domination in campaign funds, combined with his voting record which has not been deemed highly unsatisfactory by the Idaho electorate to date, make for a formidable candidate."

A Minnick erosion of 20 points since early May certainly doesn't seem likely. But you do get the sense of a district somewhat torn and somewhat up for grabs. Suggesting that this is a race yet to be won or lost.

Specs: "among likely 2010 general election voters in Idaho. The poll was conducted June 7 and 8 among 400 randomly selected and statistically representative 1st Congressional District general election voters eighteen years of age or older. The results of the study have a maximum margin of error of + 5.0% at a 95% confidence level."

UPDATE A comment from John Foster of the Minnick campaign on the Huckleberries blog: "It's long past the time for people in Idaho media to continue giving Greg Smith ink and bandwidth. Set aside for a moment his years of inaccurate predictions. On their own, his most recent two polls should provide a clear answer to anyone who is uncertain as to his accuracy. Before the primary he had Walt at 50 percent among GOP primary voters, and now claims that, in a matter of weeks, Walt has fallen to half that support among ALL voters? That is a massive drop in a very short amount of time, with no explanation. In other words, not statistically possible."

Choice or no choice

Here's a tip-off that a prospective contest ain't gonna be a real contest at all.

Comes in a blog item by the Spokesman-Review's Jim Camden, who noted that two Democrats have filed for the eastern Washington U.S. House seat held by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who has been winning re-elections in landslides, even against some strong campaigns, each time out.

The two new contenders, ad salewsman Clyde Cordero and perennial candidate Barbara Lampert, don't sound like the much more strongly-based candidates McMorris Rodgers has sometimes faced in the past. But the clincher is this line in Camden's piece:

"Both talked about the importance of giving voters a choice."

When the challenger is talking about a reason for running for the sake of just not having one name on the ballot, you can figure that barring a shocker of some kind, it's a race done and over with.

The WA filings: Day 2

Entering Day 2 of Washington candidate filing week, quite a few races already are filling out.

You know we're getting substantial numbers in the Senate race when Goodspaceguy makes his routine appearance. Incumbent Democrat Patty Murray is in; Republican Dino Rossi has yet to file.

Pretty solid representation too among legislative races; most seats (up for election) have at least one candidate filing. They're not wasting a lot of time.

In the weekly Digests

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 the early post-primary campaigning moves in Oregon and Idaho, and a look at Washington politics with the entry in the Senate race of Republican Dino Rossi - one week ahead of candidate filings.

There are also pieces about the retirement of Ken Griffey, Jr., the possible move of the city of Vancouver into what used to be a newspaper office building. In Oregon, there were key developments in the state's Independent Party and in biofuels and other green business expansions.

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.