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Posts published in August 2010

A shift in the churches of central Seattle

A Crosscut piece definitely worth the read: About the shift of ownership of one of the key churches, University Baptist Church near the University of Washington - a landmark among liberal churches in the area.

Now the Mars Hill Church, an Evangelical church known for its conservative stances and its criticism of the region's dominant culture, has bought the place.

Takeaway quote from the Crosscut piece (which goes into some detail, with nuances beyond but largely backing the quote): "Once, in the not too distant past, Protestant Christianity was the religious expression of the prevailing culture and its values. Increasingly, it seems that Christianity, at least in its currently thriving expressions like Mars Hill, plays a more oppositional role in relation to the prevailing culture and its values."

Seattle: As a prevailing matter, you're either Evangelical or secular? Historically, that hasn't been a realistic formulation. But it may be getting that way.


Not so much for the specifics noted - which seem incomplete and sometimes, to non-wonks, a little unclear - as for the basic approach, take a look at what the Oregon Democrats did with the economic proposal put forth by Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Dudley.

They took an original version of the file (PDFed originally, probably) and effectively used a red pen to editorially mark it up. (Writers who have worked with editors will immediately grasp the approach.) It makes for a visually arresting approach.

One comment here on one of Dudley's 26 proposals, the one being part of number 3: "He will budget the way Oregon families and businesses budget, by determining how much money the state will have and then building a "Priorities First" budget within existing revenues." First, that's actually not so very different from what's done now in times of revenue downturn. Second, it assumes something sacrosanct about the current revenue levels: What's the argument for why they should not be higher or lower? But we'll return to some of this in another day. The Democrats, as you might imagine, didn't take quite that approach in their markup.

The Idaho Falls clash

There are supposed to be four debates in the Idaho gubernatorial campaign upcoming, and if the first - in Idaho Falls, Thursday - is a reasonable guide, the next three ought to be entertaining at least. And something of a marker of the real differences between Republican Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and Democratic candidate Keith Allred. Who "won" may depend on the world view you bring with you; what you got was a fair representation of both candidates.

(No full video of the event, backed by the Idaho Falls City Club, seems to be available. But Idahoans and others can listen for now at least to a stream uploaded by . . . someone, to an online storage site. Of that ogg vorbis stream doesn't float your browser, there's an mp3 available too.)

A generic gripe: Both tossed in so many references to the "founding fathers" that you began to wonder if either of them really understands that the year is 2010, not 1790. But then, this is an Idaho Falls audience.

Otter has traditionally gotten underrated as a debater, but over the years he has consistently shown some skill at it, and did again on Thursday. He sounded a little bombastic, often, and an angry tone seemed to seep in regularly; he only occasionally sounded like the happy warrior of yore. (He's mostly having to defend now, not launch a crusade.)

But he slipped in some neat jabs at Allred, notably at the Democrat's proposals to chop out some as-yet-unnamed sales tax exemption, which Otter routinely described as tax increases (which as a matter of practice is what they would be).

At one point in a rebuttal, Otter delivered a question to Allred, and Allred - stepping outside the debate rules - went ahead and answered it. To which Otter slipped in, "That doesn't mean under the rules you get to reply" - drawing laughter.

But Allred got some laughter of his own (and showed off his own debate skilled) when he quickly answered, "It's good to do this with a career politician who has learned all the tricks." (more…)

Left and right, both?


When Jerry Brown, who is running for governor in California this year, ran for that office the first time in 1974, he spoke of "moving left and right at the same time." Is Snohomish County taking that to heart 36 years on?

First, and most significantly, the 2nd congressional district - which runs north to the Canadian border but gets close to half of its votes from Snohomish County - showed signs of being competitive in November. It used to be highly competitive, and in the 90s even Republican-leaning, before starting to elect Democrat Rick Larsen, now seeking his sixth term. Larsen took a solid 62% in his last election, and 64% in each of the two before that. In his first two, he won closer, 50%-46%. In the first of those, he faced Republican John Koster, who is running - hard - this year.

In yesterday's primary results, Larsen leads Koster but just barely, 42.8% to 40.9%. Slipping that far below 50%, against an opponent who's running as close, is a clear danger sign. While none of the other Washington U.S. House incumbents showed signs of serious danger in the primary numbers, Larsen clearly will have to run seriously in the couple of months from here to there. His edge is not overwhelming.

Their strategists may notice something of interest in those primary results: The two candidates didn't fare equally well everywhere. Of the five counties in the district, Larsen won five, three (King, Skagit and San Juan) strongly, two narrowly (Island and Whatcom). He narrowly lost one: Snohomish (43.2% to 41.5%).

Then there's this.

The most central of the several legislative districts in Snohomish is the 38th, which includes Everett and various points north and south of it. What happened there on Tuesday is also notable.

The Senate seat there is held by Jean Berkey, an Everett Democrat who ran afoul of several unions and other interests for her centrist votes in the last couple of sessions. Unwilling to go along, they backed an insurgent candidate from the left, Nick Harper, who also collected a batch of support from assorted liberal organizations. While Tea Party insurgencies in Washington largely faded out, this run from the left worked: Harper took 35.3% of the vote to Berkey's 33.6%, meaning that those two Democrats will go on to November (shutting out the Conservative candidate Rod Rieger).

There are indications, especially in some of the suburban districts that Democrats won initially in the last few cycles, that Republicans likely will gain some pushback this year. But the results from Tuesday also show a more complex picture than just that.

WA primary: On to November

Did the primary election results in Washington say a lot we didn't already know about what to expect out of the November election?

Not a tremendous amount, although the results should give everyone some reason not to get comfortable.

In the Senate race, incumbent Democrat Patty Murray took 46% to Republican Dino Rossi's 34%. For Murray, her portion of the vote is less than she should have wanted; there's a line of thought that anything under 50% for an incumbent in a generally open primary like this one is dangerous. Certainly the figure suggests some vulnerability. But Rossi's task is formidable. While he will surely get a lot of the Republican vote that splintered off in other directions in this election, he's also going to have to appeal powerfully to the independents. Rossi's climb here is steeper than Murray's, though both have some work to do.

In the U.S. House 3 race, which is open, Democrat Denny Heck led as expected with 31.5%, to Republican Jaime Herrera's 27.2%. If you add the votes from all the Democratic and all the Republican contenders together, though, you get 43% for the Democrats and 53% for the Republicans - which suggests an edge for Herrera. Balance that against financial and other structural advantages Heck has, and you get a highly competitive race. This one can truly go either way; a lot really will depend on how well each of these (highly polished and articulate) candidates, and their organizations, perform, not least in the area of November voter turnout.

One other factor should be considered: Most of the competition in these and other major races around Washington was on the Republican side, which may have helped inflate Republican turnout, compared to Democratic, a bit. How much? Hard to say.

Regional. Among the Republicans: Didier won just two counties, Benton and Franklin, doing well enough in the latter to give it to Murray in a Murray-Rossi faceoff. Which won't happen in November. But check out the overall state map for the election and you'll get a familiar-looking picture: Murray won a plurality or better in all counties west of the Cascades except Lewis, plus Spokane and Klickitat. Against a Republican unencumbered by splinter candidates, Murray likely cannot win as many. But then, she wouldn't need so many to win. And she has an opportunity to pick up more votes in the Democratic precincts that didn't turn out this time. Chances are good, for example, that she can improve on the 58% she got in King County today. (In 2008, Barack Obama got 70% there for president, and Democrat Chris Gregoire, running for governor against Rossi, took 63.9%.)

WA primary: Tea party crashes

Consider for a moment the subject of the media political frenzy - that supposedly powerful, big grassroots movement going by the name of the Tea Party.

To judge from Washington primary results, they don't look so big and powerful tonight. They look, rather, like minor players - the establishment favorites carried the day. (Or at least have so far, but the results seem decisive enough that reversals in the week to come are highly unlikely.)

In the U.S. Senate race on the Republican side - not the "Republican primary" since this is a top-two, all comers considered election - the establishment, non-Tea candidate was Dino Rossi, the former state senator and twice a gubernatorial candidate. He was much better known, had much more organizational and financial support than his opponent, and his win Tuesday wasn't a surprise to much of anyone.

But here's the numbers (as of this evening): Rossi 33.9%, Tea Party (and Sarah Palin) favorite Clint Didier 11.95%, and Tea second-runner-up Paul Akers 2.5%. For all the splash Didier made, and he made a lot of splash, the votes weren't there - not nearly. Voters taken as a whole didn't seem to have a problem with Rossi the (conservative) establishment candidate, as such. So much for the tsunami insurgency which Rossi, to his strategic credit, seems to have recognize was overrated (though, yes, he did cater to it more in the last two to three weeks than he had before).

The other key race was for the one open U.S. House seat, in Washington's 3rd district (southwest Washington, from Olympia to Vancouver to the coast). All three significant candidates ran as conservatives, but of different shades. State Representative Jaime Herrera, widely considered the front runner, was probably the most establishment of the group in overall approach. David Castillo, who also had some backing from highly visible party people but also had some Tea support, was more or less in the middle. David Hedrick, a newcomer, ran full steam on Tea concentrate (privatize Social Security, for example).

The result? Herrera outpolled the other two put together (27.2% to 12% for Castillo and 13.8% for Hedrick). The perils of being flanked on both sides may have weighed down Castillo. But the overall strength ran heavily to Herrera.

Not a good night for the hard-core insurgency. We've had the suspicion for more than a year that it has been overrated. And for the most part, it seems to be, except when actual voters weigh in.

The hazard of Highway 12

The matter of the giant trucks that want to use Idaho's slice of Highway 12 - a thin, twisting road that tests even drivers of compact cars - might yet turn into a genuine political issue.

The point was laid out neatly in a comment on an Idaho Statesman story today about a lawsuit filed to block the truck traffic. The comment says in part: "So let's get this straight: one of the largest multi-national corporations - with no ties to Idaho, wants to block both lanes of an Idaho highway, create an extreme traffic and environment hazard in our state, to haul South Korean made equipment, on the way to harvest oil in Canada? ..then we get to pay to rebuild our torn-up road when they are done with their 200 oversize loads? did I get that right?"

Have a look at Fighting Goliath, an energetic web site on the subject.

This week in the Digests

weekly Digest

Washington was coiled tight for its primary election on Tuesday - a primary unlike most primaries since it won't choose party nominees but will decide who goes on to compete in November. In that atmosphere, economic indications remained downbeat; officials across the three states including the governors warned that though recent funding from Congress was helpful, it will not avert large cuts in services. In Idaho, rural incomes were reported as down. In that environment, a new study of Tea Party views and attitudes turned into useful reading.

Still, an array of other indicators offered types of messages. A Hynix plant sale in Eugene appeared to be moving toward reality. Tax credits have helped home sales in Washington, and some other new economic developments seemed to be just on the horizon.

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.

Options in the 3rd CD

Denny Heck
Denny Heck
David Castillo
David Castillo
David Hedrick
David Hedrick
Jaime Herrera
Jaime Herrera

Tuesday's election day in Washington will be one of the first real Northwest indicators of how November's elections will play out. One of the best places to examine for clues may be the Washington 3rd district: An open House seat - incumbent Democrat Brian Baird is retiring - in a district closely split between the parties, and strongly competed for by both parties.

A quick reminder: This is not a normal primary election, where party nominees are chosen, but rather a "top two," where the two best vote-getters proceed on to November. They could even come from the same party, though in the case is of the 3rd, the odds are strong the finalists will be one Democrat and one Republican.

Not a lot here by way of outright predictions, but some thoughts on what to watch for.

This much is pretty easy: One of the candidates to clear the top-two bar almost certainly will be Denny Heck. Heck is not the only Democrat on the ballot - Cheryl Crist, who has run for the office before without accumulating many votes - is running, and to his left, which will likely mean some peel-off. How large that is may be an indicator of just how well Heck, who has run as a Democratic centrist, has been able to bring his party's base on board.

One other point to watch: What is the combined Democratic percentage, compared to the combined Republican percentage? That may be a useful indicator for November. To be noted: Heck has a hefty financial advantage, according to the most recent reports, $707,840 cash on hand, which is more than six times as much as anyone else.

The biggest interest, though, is on the Republican side, where the results seem less clear than on the Democratic, and where the race is much harder fought.

The weight of opinion has given an informal frontrunner status to Jaime Herrera of Ridgefield.

There's a case for this. She has connections, worked for U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, who has backed her campaign and attracted additional help. On her own, Herrera is a state representative, first appointed and then easily elected in 2008. She is articulate, photogenic (not a knock - it's an asset) and energetic - a solid candidate on her own merits; the external help is just a plus. She has amassed what are probably more substantial batches of endorsements than her Republican rivals. She also has raised more money ($410,627) than any of the other Republicans, and has more on hand ($113,838). She's been spending, and is alone in running spots on cable TV.

Still, the cautionary notes abound: Don't write this race off yet. David Castillo of East Olympia has raised competitive amounts of money ($257,815) and spent the bulk of it; David Hedrick of Camas has raised and spent far less, but has had a highly energetic campaign and gotten attention.

Castillo especially merits some attention. Like Herrera, he has gotten backing from a cadre of well-placed Republicans including Attorney General Rob McKenna and state House Republican leader Richard DeBolt of Chehalis - a key figure in Republican politics in the district, and personally representing a district that's a part of the Republican core.

Another indicator of sorts: Castillo has done very well with newspaper endorsements, winning those of the Seattle Times, the Vancouver Columbian, the Longview Daily News and the Centralia Chronicle. (The Columbian was the only one to endorse two Republicans - Herrera was the other - for the top two.) Point here is not that endorsements make winners, but that - like campaign contributions - they often do reflect a candidate's viability.

If all of that sounds like an argument for tossing the third Republican, Hedrick, off the train, well, not quite. And that is partly a reflection of this particular year.

Hedrick's web site calls him a "constitutional conservative Republican" ("patriot" and "Christian" show up a lot too), and this is a dog whistle you can hear. All three Republican candidates call themselves conservative, and fit the description by any usual standards, but Hedrick's message sounds distinctly different, much more Tea Partyish - and his appeal is aimed squarely in that direction. He seems to have aligned himself loosely, for example, with Senate candidate Clint Didier, who has lots of Tea Party support; but while the Senate race has two TP candidates and one establishment Republican (Dino Rossi), the 3rd district Republican scene has two more establishment Republicans (Herrera and Castillo) and one partier - Hedrick. And Hedrick doesn't mind some boat-rocking. In a radio forum last week on Oregon Public Broadcasting, Hedrick came out flatly for privatizing Social Security, which left Heck in definitive opposition and the other two Republicans scrambling.

Consider this from Matthew Trent, a blogger, a council member at Centralia and himself a Tea Party backer: "I was already a supporter of local tea party icon David Hedrick. So I am biased, but I'm going to say he dominated the 3rd district speeches to the assembly Saturday. Fellow candidates Herrera and Castillo lacked Hedrick's fire and substance. It felt like they were telling us what we wanted to hear, while Hedrick spoke with conviction about the liberty he loves. The delegates (almost 1200 of them this year) responded much more vigorously to Hedrick than his competitors."

So how large is the Tea Party impact in this week's election? We may find out, and more clearly here than in the Senate race. Watch for this on Tuesday.