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Posts published in June 2010

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

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.

Benton’s dropout

And so state Senator Don Benton has dropped out of the U.S. Senate race, clearing a bit more of the Republican side of the field. How many candidates will ultimately file next week?

Washington's top-two system will make for some compelling watching in the Senate contest, come primary day. If there's basically just one serious Democrat (incumbent Patty Murray) and one serious Republican (Dino Rossi) left in the field, then the primary results could make for a useful mirror of what's ahead in November.

Of course, while those two contenders are nearly certain to be the finalists for the fall, there's something else to watch if former football player Clint Didier stays in. Didier, who snagged an endorsement from Sarah Palin, is more a tea party kind of guy. If he stays in, what kind of vote does he get? And how should that be interpreted for the fall? There is this is consider: With Benton out, the Tea Party group has one clear candidate speaking something close to its dialect, and we may see just how much Didier is able to draw from that. if he stays in.

Searching the parents

Today's Idaho Supreme Court case Idaho v. John & Jane Doe is almost a primer on key parts of the 4th amendment, on search and seizure - notably when the search comes to your own body. It's not long (10 pages, including the legal analysis) and worth the read.

The background: A girl is convicted of petit theft, which puts her in the juvenile corrections system and into contact with the two parents. The Supreme Court summarized what happened next: "Because a social investigation revealed that the Does had a history of drug abuse and that Jane was on probation for possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia, the magistrate questioned the Does about their use of controlled substances. Jane admitted to the magistrate that she used methamphetamine before having her children and had continued to smoke marijuana until she was caught with paraphernalia sometime prior to the events in this case. The magistrate consequently required both John and Jane to undergo random drug urinalyses as a term of their daughter’s probation."

So: Conviction of the daughter on a theft charge leads to de facto body searches of the parents for traces of drugs?

The Idaho Supreme ultimately decided not, though the route to that conclusion is by no means as simple as you might imagine.

Pridemore out; Heck calculation changes

In effect, the Democratic side of the contest in the Washington 3rd is over: The party's standard-bearer (better not say nominee) will be Denny Heck.

Watch his percentage in the upcoming primary, and you'll get a sense of what the November general will look like.

The dynamic changes with the campaign dropout today - and we may see more like this soon with candidate filing prior coming up quick - of state Senator Craig Pridemore, who was the more liberal of the two main Democratic contenders. Pridemore left it clean for Heck, endorsing him in his withdrawal announcement. The rest of Pridemore's statement:

Pridemore, who in recent weeks won the coveted endorsements of the Sierra Club and the Washington State Labor Council, issues the following statement:

“I want to first of all thank all of the individuals and organizations who supported my campaign. I am so grateful to have earned your trust, and look forward to continued service in the State Senate. I am especially humbled by the endorsements of organizations and friends who have rallied in recent weeks, knowing that we left the session with a steep hill to climb. Thank you.

I regret the need to exit this race, but it is clear to me that the long session placed our campaign at a clear disadvantage. While I wish I had been able to focus on my campaign earlier, I am proud that my focus this winter was where it needed to be: addressing the real issues facing the working families and small businesses of Southwest Washington. I entered politics to excel at public service, not the other way around.

It could be said that Heck is the more establishment candidate, a solid fundraiser, with loads of contacts, and may be an easier sell in the more centrist areas than Pridemore would have been. Some of his troops may be less activist - or maybe not, depending on how the Republican side turns out. The Republican contest is far from settled, and two major contenders are well within shooting range of each other. The 3rd overall is a highly competitive territory, and that is unchanged.