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Posts published in November 2010

Dudley lost because …

Totally predictable, but this contention didn't take long to surface. From the conservative Oregon Catalyst blog, by KYKN radio talker Bill Post:

"Instead of trying to please the middle, instead of trying to sound like you are not going to make any waves and play nice with the folks who have dug Oregon into this hole, what the Dudley campaign should have said is: “this State requires a complete makeover and I will be the one to do that even if it means only one term, I will stick to Conservative principles and will surround myself with strong Conservatives and I will not sleep until Oregon is the back in the condition it deserves to be in. That means that some old pictures are going to fall off of the wall.”"

Probably is true that Dudley didn't excite the core of the base as much it would have liked; but at least as many votes would have peeled off the center had Dudley campaigned as suggested. There's not a lot of objective evidence that Oregon voters are eagerly waiting for an ideological conservative to elect. (About as much evidence as that Idaho voters are breathlessly waiting for an ideological liberal.) The more logical answer should be to reframe the arguments between the parties. But few of us will hold our breath waiting for that.

Post did offer one very interesting insiderish bit as well: "All the way back in February and March of 2010, several people, very prominent in the Conservative movement and the Republican Party, met with Chris Dudley and his campaign staff. These people spoke very clearly to Mr. Dudley. He was advised, urgently, to “get rid of those people”. Of course “those people” were the Gordon Smith insiders including Dan Lavey and Kerry Timchuck. Later, Brittany Brammel and LeRoy Coleman and other “outsiders”. To their faces, they were told that they could not win this election, that Chris had to surround himself with Oregonians, and especially Oregonians who understand Oregon, not just the Portland Metro area. Chris was told during several long meetings, before the primary mind you, that he had a real chance to win if he listened now! Chris chose to go with the plan they had laid out for him and now we see the results."

All candidates for major office are heavily reliant on a strong infrastructure for support, but Dudley, who had never run for anything before and whose detailed knowledge of Oregon and its government was not especially detailed (in contrast to an extremely wonkish opponent), was more reliant on help than most. And it should be said that, while he did lose, he came very close, closer than any Republican since the last one elected governor in 1982, Vic Atiyeh. That's not exactly a shameful result.

The larger point is that in a race this close, any one of a hundred factors could have turned it; you can take your pick about which were most crucial. I'd rank the Democratic get out the vote effort maybe around the top, but you could make an argument for others too.

But there is this question (probably not one Dudley personally should agonize over, but other Republicans might consider for future reference): Is there something else Dudley could have done that might have added to his vote totals while not subtracting from the votes he did get?

One suggestion:

The day after the primary, he should have challenged Democrat John Kitzhaber to a series of debates, one every other week from early June through October, and gone so far as to cave in on matters of time and place but require that all must be televised (if only on cable) and streamed as well.

Kitzhaber might have taken him up on it; it would have looked enticing. And it would have been a risk. But Dudley would have gained instant credibility and sympathy for his willingness to take what would have been presented as a huge risk. The guess here is that by going up against Kitzhaber over and over, even if losing some of the early rounds, he would have become a far more effective debater by the end, and Kitzhaber's advantage as the sharp and experienced guy would have begun to erode. By the time of the last few debates, which would be the only ones still in people's minds at voting time, he probably would have struck many of the voters in the middle as a more credible governor.

Maybe. But next, we get to see where the Oregon Republican Party goes after having turned in one of the least-impressive results in the country in the best Republican year in years.

ONE OTHER THING. After delivering his concession, a reporter asked Dudley when he was going to do next. He was standing in front of a Mexican restaurant; he said he thought he would go inside and have a margarita. That sounded like your or I, or any normal person: An open human moment. It didn't sound scripted. Dudley, a disciplined candidate, could have used a little less script in this campaign.

Ballot messages

The rhetoric will have it in some quarters that the voters in Tuesday's election were casting voting for reduced government spending and reduced government, generally. They'd have to base that argument on the the talking points of many of the candidates who won, but as we know, people vote for or against candidates for many reasons apart from their "philosophy."

Attitudes toward policy get a clearer expression - somewhat clearer anyway - on ballot issues. So what might be the philosophical takeaways from the ballot issues around the Northwest on Tuesday?

OREGON Some local governments (notably around liberal Portland) encountered disappointment in funding measures, but that message didn't seem to apply so much to the state as a whole.

Oregon voters approved (57%) Measure 73, extended sentences for people convicted of DUI and some sex crimes, and (69%) Measure 76, which purports to guarantee a money stream for state parks and wildlife. Voters rejected two measures which would have added to private enterprise and diminished some governmental control: Measure 74 (no 57%) on a medical marijuana system, and Measure 75 (no 68%) on a proposed private casino east of Portland.

IDAHO Idaho voters expressed several types of faith in government on their ballot issues, all constitutional amendments.

They passed: Senate Joint Resolution 1 (64.1%) ending the since-statehood ban on tuition at the University of Idaho; House Joint Resolution 4 (63.5%), allowing for easier acquisition of of hospital debt (can anyone say, "Rachet up those health care costs"?); HJR 5 (53.3%), which gave similar license for public airport development; and HJR 7 (57%), a rough counterpart for publicly-owned electricity production facilities - those operations that actually do meet the dictionary definition of "socialist". The state Republican Party had opposed passage of the latter three.

WASHINGTON Washington voters did pass some tax and budget restriction measures. There were four such of some substance: Initiative 1053 (65.2%) requiring a two-thirds vote on passing many of them and Initiative 1107 (62.3%) reversing some tax increases on some food and candy materials. They rejected a proposed income tax on upper-income residents (no 65.2%), possibly in part because of a strong campaign declaring that it would be followed up (extending the tax to lower levels) by something it explicitly did not do. And it approved a measure (SJR 8225) limiting the state debt, though that was something passed by the Democratic legislature.

That's not the whole story, though; it's mainly just the tax side. The full picture is less conclusive.

Washington voters also rejected Initiative 1082 (no 58.3%), which would have broken the current state monopoly on providing industrial insurance and allowed private insurers into the market, the way Oregon and Idaho do. And they rejected two measures (Initiative 1100, no 52%, and Initiative 1105, no 63.6%) which would have ended the state's monopoly on liquor sales. The loudest arguments against the measures seemed to have to do with loss of state revenue and loss of state employees.

The Tuesday message, as always, is more complex than some people would have you believe.

Democrats in … Idaho

While Democrats all over the country had a rough night, pause a moment to consider the Democrats in Idaho.

Going into this election, they had one major office holder, Representative Walt Minnick. Votes are still being counted, but he looks to be headed to a clear defeat, after doing almost everything possible to endear himself to Republicans over the last two years, and after drastically outspending his opponent, Republican Raul Labrador. While operating from a position of power in Washington. At this point, Minnick's loss doesn't even look to be close.

They had high hopes for Keith Allred, who had spent years bridging gaps between Republicans and Democrats, described himself not as a Democrat at all but as an Independent, even appeared on on Fox News and surprised the conservative hosts with how conservative he sounded. He was a highly presentable campaigner who worked hard, came across well - no rough edges at all - and drew support from a bunch of prominent long-time Republicans. With more than half of the precincts reporting, he was losing to a Republican governor who has been fielding a wide range of shots all year, by 60.5% to 31.7% - almost two to one.

They thought that pitting the retiring Boise school superintendent, a knowledgeable and articulate man, against the Republican state school superintendent, might do the trick. He is losing by 61.4% to 38.6%. Democrats are losing all the other major offices as well, in general by percentages even more stark.

Democrats probably will maintain their seven seats (of 35) in the state Senate, picking up one in Latah County to compensate for a loss in southeast Boise. But their House caucus is likely to fall from 18 members to 13 (out of 70). Cracks are showing in the Boise legislative districts they have held the last two cycles. Two high-energy legislative campaigns in the west Boise suburbs yielded results not markedly different from the norm.

The point is this: Idaho Democrats are going to have to figure out a different way of doing things if they want to move beyond fringe status. Will they?

Re-electing Otter

Just off an election night conference call with Keith Allred, the Idaho Democratic nominee for governor. His message wasn't a concession, at least not formally, though he did talk about plans for the future that didn't have to do with moving into the governor's office.

He said that "I remain confident as ever in the message we are taking to Idaho voters." Idahoans seemed to be responsive to what he had to say, but "we knew this was a tough message to get out beyond the partisan labels."

Well, yes. At current numbers, with just short of half the vote counted, Allred was at 31.9% and incumbent Republican Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter 60.2% - a landslide number. The Republican atmospherics may have padded it a bit, but Otter clearly did very well regardless, no matter all those people who said they heard so little favorable about him.

Allred may have found some positive responses to his message, but nowhere near enough. At this point, he'll be lucky to crack a third of the vote - lower than Democrat Jerry Brady got in either of the last two cycles, though probably more than Robert Huntley did (29.1%) in 1998. Maybe; at this writing, a lot of conservative precincts are yet to be heard from.

Senate: No change, probably

Three Senate seats up in the Northwest this year, and probably no change coming out of any of them from this election.

Oregon's Ron Wyden, Democrat, is way ahead, and he's been called by national media to win. No question here.

In Idaho, Republican Mike Crapo is even further ahead; haven't spotted a specific national call of a win yet, but he surely has.

In Washington, much the closest race of the three where incumbent Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Dino Rossi have fought down to the wire. Rossi seemed to have an uptick in the last week or so, but it looks like not quite enough. It is close, 50.6% Murray to 49.4% Rossi, and a variety of counties still out. But the largest block of votes yet to be counted looks to be - and this has become a regular feature of Washington elections - in King County, which has so far been voting in landslide numbers for Murray. A close race, but she seems to have won it. (See also this post on Horse's Ass.)

First round – the House

The big national story is the (much-predicted) capture of the U.S. House by Republicans; and the Northwest looks to be a part of that. How much so isn't yet totally clear.

Looks fairly definitive at this hour, with polls closed an hour, that the Washington 3rd (the southwest corner) goes from Democratic to Republican control; Republican Jaime Herrera staked out a fairly strong lead which has held up.

In the Idaho 1st, Republican Raul Labrador is well ahead of Democratic incumbent Walt Minnick, who massively outspent him, at about 50%-43%. But the story there isbn't yet done; only about an eight of the vote is counted to this point.

Close calls too in other other districts. In the Oregon 5th, incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader, who was very hard pressed by Republican Scott Bruun, has maintained a thin but consistent lead. In the Washington 2nd, Republican John Koster has a small lead over incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen, but little over a thousand votes, and only a first run of vote totals are up - too little to judge from.

Check points

You never know from one election to the next which spot in a given state will have the most up-to-date information; it keeps changing. So we operate on a list of several, each election night. No real point in checking before 8 p.m. local time. Link list:

WASHINGTON
Secretary of State - usually one of the best, regionally as well as in Washington. Love their county-breakout results maps.
King County Elections - home of around half of Washington's ballots.
Seattle Times - general coverage plus numbers.

OREGON
Secretary of State - not sure what they'll have on line tonight; historically, there's not been a lot of real-time data here. But check it out.
Multnomah County Elections - Notoriously late in processing, but check here to see how things will look on Wednesday.
Oregonian - Often the best real-time data comes via the Oregonian.
KGW-TV - This Portland station often has tightly-timed data as well.

IDAHO
Secretary of State - In the last couple of cycles the SoS has been posting good-time numbers. They advise that won't start till 9mtn/8pac.
Ada County Elections - a number of interesting race numbers should turn up here first.
Idaho Statesman - Some years they have the most up to minute numbers in the state (for statewide, and the southwest reaches of Idaho). Sometimes not.
KTVB-TV - Traditionally strong with election night numbers, though mileage varies.

On air

If you're around Twin Falls, or available to a radio stream: I'm on the morning news program at KLIX-AM, out of Twin Falls, right about now - just past 9 a.m. Mountain Time.

Topic du jour can be reasonably resumed.