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Posts published in September 2010

Watch list: The Idaho Legislature

Not much of up for grabs, really, in the Idaho Legislature this year - certainly nothing resembling control of either chamber. The Democrats nearly ceded that by keeping blank their line for most of the 105 seats, all up for election, if little else, this year.

Of those contested with major party candidates, not a lot show serious signs of competitiveness. This cuts both ways: Republicans aren't seriously contesting a number of Democratic seats that could, logically, be at serious risk.

Here's a quick run-through of contests that have caught our attention, not many but a few looking closely competitive.

bullet District 6 Senate. This ought to be, by a long shot, the Democrats' best chance for a legislative pickup, anywhere in the state. And they may get it. That happened because in the Republican primary Tea Party-oriented Gresham Bouma beat long-time moderate Senator Gary Schroeder, one of the last few moderates in the Senate and the kind of Republican this university district likes to elect. (House member Tom Trail, also a veteran in this district, is another.) Democrats were fortunate in having fielded a solid candidate, Dan Schmidt, a physician, a former county coroner and long active in civic affairs; he would have lost to Schroeder, but against Bouma his chances are good. According to the last finance reports on file, neither has a lot of money on hand. But then, money isn't likely to be decisive here.

bullet District 14 House B. This is the House seat Republican congressional candidate Raul Labrador is leaving behind, and it shouldn't be competitive: This territory around Eagle has been a Republican lock for a long time. Still may be worth watching. Democrats are bullish about Steve Berch, who is running hard, is apparently well organized and has raised substantial enough money ($16,455, with $11,191 on hand as of June) to indicate serious effort. We've made the point repeatedly that if Idaho Democrats are to break through, they probably will have to do it first in the Boise suburbs, in places like this one. The Republican, Reed DeMordaunt, had to run through a tough primary and spend most of his funds. A longshot for a Democrat here, but the results will be worth revisiting. (more…)

Disagreeing with yourself

This has started to pick up some traction on Facebook and elsewhere.

Oreong gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley offered last week an interesting idea for boosting the state's commitment to higher education: full-ride scholarships to the state's higher ed institutions, for the top-scoring high school students in the state.

A lot of people probably like the idea, save for one thing: Paying for it. Dudley acknowledges he doesn't have an idea for that part.

And then the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes points out this - the part that's getting some traction: "What he didn't do was follow the advice of his own "26-point Plan to Control Spending and Reform Government" that he had released a few weeks before."

Consider that a little more food for the meme Dudley shouldn't want fueled.

Checking out a challenger

Hans Zeiger
Hans Zeiger

If 2010 does turn out to be a year when a lot of incumbents get tossed out, it's also likely to be a year when a number of problematic - poorly vetted, little-understood - candidates get elected, or come close. Today's case study is in Washington's District 25 (eastern Pierce County), where incumbent Democrat Dawn Morrell is being challenged by Republican Hans Zeiger.

In the primary election, with six candidates on the ballot, Morrell got 40.3% of the vote and Zeiger scored an upset among the Republicans with 35.9%; another Republican, Steve Vermillion, was thought to be Morrell's likely opponent, and the Tacoma News Tribune described him "as qualified a political newcomer as we’ve seen this year." Zeiger was only lightly reviewed. But by the standard math of Washington primaries, this looks like a highly competitive contest.

Zeiger's website is generic and says nothing most any challenger might not say, and makes little reference to Morrell. He remarks there, "That is why I am running for State Representative in the 25th District: for jobs, tax relief, and educational excellence."

Start Googling Zeiger, though, as David Goldstein of Horse's Ass has, and another picture emerges.

Notably on the very conservative WorldNetDaily site, where Zeiger is a regular contributor. (Zieger is also on WND's speaker's bureau, and their description of him there makes clear that he is highly plugged into the more ideologically-driven parts of movement conservatism.) This, for example (September 2005), writing about "the Girl Scouts USA national convention will be held in Atlanta. It will be a gathering of radical feminists, lesbians, and cookie peddlers ..."

Not that he's ignored the Boy Scouts. He is described as a spokesman for the Scouting Legal Defense Fund, and has written a book (which WND sells) called Get Off My Honor; the net's description of it notes, "Hans shows how those who wish to destroy the scouts are attacking it for what it represents at its core – Christian values." Doesn't seem to be much mention of those sexual abuse cases that are what have gotten a lot of people's attention.

Ideological as political attack? Another example, from Intellectual Conservative: "We speak much of terror networks in our time, and here is one of the vilest, for it has made greater progress in the tearing down of American institutions and ideals than Iraq or Al Quaeda have. NEA and GLSEN are not the only groups in the network; the ACLU and NARAL and Planned Parenthood and Americans United for Separation of Church and State and others come to mind. They mean to wage war on the most sacred and most enduring things of our civilization: our faith, our heritage, our character, our self-government, and our family structure."

It's not a reach to call this an appeal to hatred. Another sad case, in other words, of trying to set Americans against each other as if organizing a dog fight.

There is much, much more - it goes on from there. Jobs? Tax relief (other than the routine calls for tax cuts)? Educational excellence? Among these mass of high-profile, exceedingly ideological writings, there's previous little to indicate those subjects gave him a moment's pause. Until, maybe, filing for the House.

Now the question is: How much will the voters know about Zeiger before they cast their votes in Washington's 25th?

UPDATE AND RESPONSE Just received an e-mail response from Zeiger, and it is well worth quoting in full and reading in context with the post above:

Just came across your post tonight re: my campaign. I had a chance to look a bit through the site and it's a well-constructed, thoughtful digest. It looks like you and I share an interest in Northwest history. You can see my own blog with a lot on local history in the Puyallup area at

I wanted you to know that the articles mentioned on Horse's Ass blog and a prior Democrat press release were written in 2003 and 2004, when I was 18 and 19. Since then I have graduated from college, graduated from grad school, and moved into the worlds of work and relationships. I am still growing and learning, but I can tell you that I have come to see the world as a far more complex and beautiful place than I once assumed it to be. I have also come to realize that I don't have a monopoly on truth, nor do I know all the answers to the world's tough questions. I quit writing for WorldNetDaily and other sites when I was still in college.

I hope that's reassuring to you. I hope that I can be truly fair-minded if afforded the opportunity to serve in our legislature. You're welcome to quote any of this in your blog if you'd like. All the best,

Priority measurement

In the Slog, writer Dominic Holden writes about numbers and what they indicate, or don't, about public priorities.

In 2003, Seattle voters passed (59% in favor) a ballot issue declaring marijuana enforcement the lowest priority for city police. In the years since, the number of arrests on pot busts declined, and fr years stayed well below levels from 2003 and earlier.

In "Pot Paradox," Holden wrote in August about an oddity: Arrests on pot offenses this year have (on a per-month basis) more than doubled. He wrote, "This year, 147 people have been referred to prosecutors with pot as the only charge, according to records from the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and the city attorney's office. That is a fivefold increase in the number of pot-only cases (last year, only 28 of the 120 arrests were referred for prosecution with pot as the only charge). In other words, pot-only arrests rose from 23 percent to 85 percent. This is a drastic shift toward busting people solely for pot."

Seemingly in response, Seattle Mike McGinn's office on September 1 posted a response. It said: (more…)

From where the misinformation?

Listeners at KBIO radio in Boise were asked to participate in a (self-selecting) online survey about President Barack Obama. Results on which they think describes the president best:

A foreign born Muslim - 49%
A foreign born Christian - 3%
An American born Muslim - 7%
An American born Christian - 22%
A president with really big ears - 20%

"Foreign-born Muslim" was actually up to 55% yesterday.

Where do these people get their misinformation - garbage that has been so repeatedly debunked over a period of years? In the case of this poll, the participants presumably were mostly KBOI listeners - local home of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other conservative talkers. Given that, the surprise may be that the 49% or 55% isn't even higher.