Writings and observations

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Rob McKenna

The 2012 campaign for Washington governor has been launched, with Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna‘s entry this evening.

He may be starting with the best odds of any Republican seeking the job since the last one who won it, then-King County Executive John Spellman in 1980 (with the advantage of his King base and a deeply unpopular Democratic incumbent, running within a Republican surge; but even the 1984 Republican surge couldn’t save Spellman that year). He had three terms on the King County council, and retains some clear support there (how much in a governor’s race against a Democrat remains unknown). He was elected AG in 2004 in a heated campaign, and strongly in 2008 in a very Democratic year. He has a reputation (which more than a few Democrats have and will contest) as a moderate, which would be helpful in the general. There are no obvious substantial opponents in the Republican primary.

In early-heat matchups, he polls closely with the presumed leading Democratic contender (not yet announced), Representative Jay Inslee. Notwithstanding the razor-close race of 2004, a lot of Republicans have long seen this as their best shot at regaining the governorship they last won more than 30 years ago. And that long run of Democratic control, the longest in the nation, is sure to be a big point of discussion over the next year and a half.

Against some of that are a series of land mines that should evoke to comparisons of Indiana Jones in the cave at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark. He has already been treading carefully, stepping this way and that, so as not to tick off the conservative base while alienating the middle – an uncommonly difficult task this cycle. Democrats, well aware this has been in the works for a long time, have been firing shots in a variety of ways for quite a while; and comparisons to other Republican governors around the country have been in the air for some time now. (You can get a good overview of that at the Democratic site called Rob McKenna for Governor.)

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As the Idaho redistricting commission moves deeper into its mission on its second day, a quick shot – here – at a legislative redistricting plan, with the idea of isolating where the stress points and idiosyncrasies may be.

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Stapilus legislative plan (1)

The map as developed is available at the Idaho Maptitude site under the user stapiluscarlton, as “My Current Legislative fast.” The latter referred to my intent of doing it quickly, with an eye to keeping the deviations between district size as small as possible, but political considerations (such as legislator residences) to a minimum. It started from the current districts, and held to population equality as a main principle, along with keeping counties and cities and general communities intact where possible.

The norm in Idaho remapping is to start from the north and working south, since the panhandle districts are more dictated by the narrow geography. Here, I followed a piece of advice offered Tuesday morning, to start both there and in the southeast – another mostly lightly-populated area – working toward the big Ada-Canyon population center, where shifting lines would be most easily accomplished. The other advantage, and the one specific district bias I had in drawing it, was to eliminate the ungainly district at the southeast corner of the state running from Preston to north of Driggs, often through country without a highway serving the widely scattered communities. It is the poorest district in the state at present, and I simply concluded the people there shouldn’t have to put up with it for another decade.

The end result is not perfect (there are a number of small oddly-assigned areas, which don’t change the bigger picture but were hard to remove). But the highest deviation for any district was 4.7%, pretty low, and most were much lower than that. It probably could pass legal muster. (I think.)

Here are a few things that became clear in the process of drafting it.

bullet Lewiston and Moscow always have been united in their own separate districts, and anchored them. That may simply not be possible this time. This map splits Lewiston, and it may be hard to redistricters to avoid doing something like that. That’s just the nature of the population shifts.

bullet The long-running big district in the east, long anchored at the southeast by Rigby and running off to Salmon and Challis, would logically this time be split up. A district tossing Lemhi and Custer counties in with Blaine would make redistricting sense – and a real pot boiler of a district.

bullet Because the current Democratic/competitive districts of Ada County (16, 17, 18, 19) lie toward the middle of a large population area, many outcomes are possible. But absent heavily political maneuvering, this seems most likely: One district (19) with an ongoing Democratic advantage, and the other three with infusions from precincts which have had strong Republican advantages. Of the three districts, 16 (or a rough equivalent) seems most likely to give Democrats some advantage, and 18 least.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

For years millions of radio listeners were tantalized each noon hour by the news and personal interpretations of the great radio commentator, Paul Harvey. He would throw out a nugget to tease his listener before a commercial break and then come back with “and now, for the rest of the story.”

That thought, and an old saying – “success has a thousand fathers, failure is a bastard” – came to mind as I read recent reports regarding removal of the dams on the Olympic peninsula’s Elwha River.

On June 1, the process of shutting off generators in the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dam powerhouses began. This will lead to dismantling the two dams that have blocked the return of once bountiful salmon and steelhead runs following construction of the projects shortly after Woodrow Wilson was elected to the presidency in 1912.

Restoration of these salmon runs and acknowledgment of their centrality to the religion of the indigenous native American Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is the primary driver for this historic action.

It is the largest dam removal project in American history, will take three years to accomplish and cost America’s taxpayers $325 million. While there will be many who claim parentage, some with legitimacy, such as the tribe and the advocacy group American Rivers, much of the credit should go to a former aide to Governor Cecil Andrus: John D. Hough.

Hough first hooked on with Andrus as campaign press secretary during Andrus’ successful 1970 governorship race. Adept and imaginative at generating coverage for candidate Andrus, once in office Hough chafed at the “baby-sitting the media” role called for in a press secretary.

Hough’s true love was and is resource policy. He convinced Andrus to make him his natural resource aide. Eventually, Andrus made him chief of staff. Before then, though, Hough left fingerprints on a number of successful resource protection issues.

For example, Hough led initial designations for several Idaho rivers as “wild and scenic,” including stretches of the St. Joe, and the Snake River, where it flowed through Hells Canyon. Hough also worked closely with Andrus to obtain National Recreation Area designations for Hells Canyon and the Sawtooths.

He further played a key role ensuring the Chamberlain Basin was included in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and off-limits to timber interests that lusted after the area. Success here brought the undying enmity of Boise-Cascade.

Hough has several passions and ranked only slightly behind wife Ellen and their four children is he loves to fish, especially for salmon and steelhead. Now semi-retired and living on the Kitsap Peninsula, Hough fishes often, and loves to torture friends with snapshots of his latest catch.

Despite his key role in the Andrus administration, Hough chose not to accompany the Governor to Washington, D.C., in 1977. Rather, he became Western Field Director for the new Interior Secretary, a role he relished.

One issue Hough focused on was removing the Elwha dams and restoring the salmon runs. He saw an opportunity to demonstrate that it could be done. With the assistance of his deputy, Dave McCraney, and a willing accomplice in Olympic National Park Superintendent Roger Contor, as well as strong support from Andrus’ assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Forrest Gerard, Hough set about the gargantuan task of orchestrating and mobilizing public support to obtain congressional authorization to remove the dams.

His flair for publicity was immeasurably helpful in drawing media attention to the issue and generating support. He worked tirelessly with all interest groups including American Rivers and the Sierra Club. Ultimately, he was the indispensable element that set in motion the process which culminated after Carter left office in congressional authorization to remove the dams.

Ironically, a year before the end of Andrus’ tenure at Interior, Hough became northwest governmental affairs director for ITT, the huge conglomerate that owned the Rayonier Pulp Mill in Port Angeles, the prime recipient of power produced by the Elwha projects. To his credit he continued his campaign for dam removal, convincing his superiors it was in ITT’s long-term interests to support dam removal.

Twenty years after Congress said get started the process is finally underway. As I read news accounts my thoughts turned to John. From afar I said, “Take a bow, Hough. That’s one for you!” And now you know . . . . . . . the rest of the story.

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

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