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Posts published in October 2011

An alternative thought on the OR 1st

Judging from news reports, blogs, comments and various sources, a prevailing view of how the Oregon 1st congressional district primaries will go - in about three weeks, ballots having just hit mailboxes.

On the Democratic side, state Senator Suzanne Bonamici is thought likely to win. She has and has spent more than her opponent, is in a one woman-two man contest - the men are state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Representative Brad Witt - in which the core of the men's support is assumed to be labor, which they may split. The polling out so far also gives her a lead. On the Republican side, businessman Rob Cornilles is presumed to have a powerful lead and likely to win overwhelmingly. He has a campaign warchest comparable to Bonamici's and far beyond any of the other Republicans, has a strong campaign organization in place with a skillfully-run campaign ready to re-up from just last year, and (owing to his 2010 contest) is clearly better known than the others.

And it may go exactly that way; the logic is reasonable. We'd not bet any money against it.

And yet ... most election days have their surprises. There's at least one alternative scenario out there too. If one or both parts of it does happen, remember: It wasn't entirely unforeseeable.

Remember that we're talking here, on the primary level, about a special election: For most voters, this one race will be all that's on the ballot. (There are a few exceptions.) This primary contest hasn't, for the most part, broken through to really widespread attention. You see not a large number of yard signs and such (more for Cornilles at this stage than anyone else), and talk of the race doesn't seem to be in everyday chatter. Local political junkies follow the race, but most people in the 1st ... probably not so much. All this taken together suggests low turnout, a turnout in which activists will probably have disproportionate influence.

Republican activists, in the last cycle or two, have been in large part Tea Party-type activists, or at least people for whom ideology is pre-eminent. Last year Cornilles ran as a John Boehner-type Republican, not part of the Tea Party group but close enough to it to make its members comfortable. In this year, though, he sounds a good deal different, taking a more moderate tack. In debate a week ago in Forest Grove, he was sharply criticized by two other Republicans for having abandoned the party's ideas and - horrors! - sounding more like the Democrats at the debate than like his fellow Republicans. And at times, he did.

One of those Republicans, Jim Greenfield, does seem to have emerged as the flagship candidate for what we might call the Ideology Republicans - his take was a lot like what you'd hear from Tea Party Caucus Republicans in the U.S. House. He sounds harsh and limited if you're not aligned with him, but he delivers tasty catnip if you are. He evidently has little money or organization. But this is a group with a strong, if informal, communications network. If it spreads in a serious way the word that Greenfield is the real deal and Cornilles is the Mitt Romney of the race - an analogy not hard to see, and which has already spread to a degree - there's room here for an upset.

The situation is a more subtle on the Democratic side, where Bonamici is not so far ahead of Avakian in money. Excluding candidate loans to the campaign, the two have raised comparable money. The money is most key in buying TV spots, but in races like this, where there's no significant attacking going on (and there isn't), the ads have limited impact beyond introducing the candidates to the voters - and remember, a disproportionate number of special election voters already probably know them (and Avakian's political record goes back more years than Bonamici's, and has extended statewide, as hers has not). By several accounts, Avakian has a substantially larger and more active ground and volunteer effort.

One other factor could play in: Avakian has gone farther in using activist language and approaches, and in identifying himself with activists like the Occupy Portland group. That's a judgement call, to be sure; both Bonamici and Witt also have been present at Occupy events and have been supportive. It's a matter of tone as much as anything else. (His first TV ad was called, "Ticked off.") But it seems clear, and it's easy to imagine Avakian picking up a disproportionate part of the activist vote.

To reiterate, none of this is an argument that Bonamici and Cornilles won't win. Just that, even though ballots are out, the race is hardly over yet.

The quarterlies

A few thoughts on review of the quarterly federal congressional campaign reports - the receipts and spending by candidates up to September 30.

• In Washington's 1st district, an open seat with the gubernatorial run of Democratic Representative Jay Inslee, there are a wealth of reports from Democrats - five of them - and just one from a Republican. Laura Ruderman, the former state representative and secretary of state candidate, has raised the most money ($182,675), followed fairly closely by current state Representative Roger Goodman ($162,127). There are three other candidates, two also legislators, but the early numbers suggest Ruderman and Goodman are the two to watch most closely. For now anyway. And: Not much financial action yet for Republican James Watkins, who also ran last cycle.

• Oregon's 1st district features a special election, with the primary election period starting this weekend - the crisis period has hit. Top money raiser so far is Democratic state Representative Suzanne Bonamici at $600,404, though a third of that is a loan from the candidate. Second (among the Democrats) is state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, at $378,678 - not far behind Bonamici in terms of ternal money raised. Also of interest is the very serious money coming to Republican Rob Cornilles (the 2010 nominee) - $505,556. Cornilles raised upwards of $1 million for his unsuccessful run last year; he seems on track to raise as much or more this time. High competition is being signaled here, just around the bend.

• Oddly, no new report yet from Washington Senator Maria Cantwell - and none from any prospective challenger. It's getting awfully late to raise serious money for a U.S. Senate race.

• Along that line, a bunch of representatives have no report-filing opposition yet. In Washington: Jaime Herrera Beutler (3rd), Doc Hastings (4th), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (5th), Jim McDermott (7th), Dave Reichert (8th). Oregon: Greg Walden (2nd), Earl Blumenauer (3rd), Kurt Schrader (5th). Idaho: Mike Simpson (2nd). And, 1st District Representative Raul Labrador has a filed opponent, Jimmy Farris, but Farris reported no contributions by the cutoff date.

Review: Andrus, by Chris Carlson

Andrus book

The title, Andrus: Idaho's Greatest Governor, would give you to think that this is a biography, albeit a hagiographic one. It is better taken as the writer, Chris Carlson (whose columns show up here about weekly), indicated in his substitle, as a reminiscence - a work of memory, through his eyes, in considerable part unchecked in any rigorous way. And, within that frame, it might be taken as this: The story of the mentor relationship between Carlson and Cecil Andrus. That's the thread that runs through the book.

The first part of the book, about Andrus' early life and early political years, is relatively biographical, and those interested in Andrus' background will find plenty of new material here. Carlson has a number of stories to tell from his years working for Andrus, mainly in a press and public relations capacity. He also tells some of his own story, his short time on the Northwest Power Planning Council (as it was called then), the founding of the Gallatin Group, and more. There's a long chapter as well concerning concerning the campaign surrounding the Washington death with dignity/assisted suicide ballot issue (Initiative 1000, which passed in 2008); Carlson was one of the leading organizers against it. Andrus did not take a role in that campaign (so far as Carlson relates), but the lessons he imparted over the years were taken into that campaign.

That suggests some of the results of the mentoring relationship that is Carlson's main subject here. Andrus, elected governor four times and Interior secretary for a full presidential term (the only one to last all of Jimmy Carter's administration), is one of the strongest personalities Idaho has had in the last half-century. If he enters the room, you know it - and you enjoy it (ordinarily). He's among the rare people seemingly at home anywhere, with just about anyone. And he learned, along the way, a lot about how the world works - another major theme of Carlson's.

On one occasion, some years back, I had occasion to ask Andrus for advice on a matter relating to a political campaign. The exact bedeviling problem at hand is now forgotten (by me anyway), but Andrus' advice was not, and especially the effect it had: It lasted no more than two or three sentences, and he hadn't finished speaking before I knew he was exactly correct. And he was. It was the gift of cutting through clutter.

Carlson also subtitles his book, "Idaho's Greatest Governor," and the back cover text says he "inarguably, has had the greatest impact on Idaho in modern times." That raises a subject we'll be addressing here a few months from now in another book, looking at the influential people in Idaho history. However exactly you rank him, Andrus has been powerfully impactful on the state. And, as this book maintains, on a lot of individual people as well.

A race in the 1st (Idaho’s)

Jimmy Farris

Idaho's 1st congressional district has a 2012 race: There's now a Democratic candidates to go alongside the Republican incumbent, Raul Labrador, who presumably will seek re-election.

Jimmy Farris, 33, now living in Meridian and a former NFL wide receiver (for a bunch of teams including the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins) said in a conference call with reporters that he's in, definitely - "We're filed, I'm in." He said his next steps will include fundraising and becoming known around the district, which seems reasonable enough. He said he has a current staff of five (geogrpahically scattered at present), and there's a website.

"This about convincing people that I'm the best person to represent people in this district in Congress. And that's a 50-50 proposition, they either vote for me or against me," he said.

Well ... as any number of Idaho Democrats would attest, it's a little tougher than that. Well, a lot tougher.

He comes across as a nice guy, more easygoing and pleasant than you might expect from a stereotypical NFL player, and those things - with some celebrity - would be assets. He is an Idaho native. And he sounds plainspoken and transparent; you don't get the sense of someone making excessive claims (as has happened in this district before).

On the other hand. He may be an Idaho native, but he hasn't lived in the state between leaving for college more in Montana more than a decade ago, and this summer, when he moved to Meridian. His interest in politics, he said, is quite recent, to the point that he only election he's voted in (in his recollection) was in the 2008 general election; he did not vote last year.

"What I really want to do is make a difference," he said. He expressed concern for the economic state of the country, but beyond saying very generally that he would support a jobs bill, had little specific by way of prescription. He acknowledged he has a good deal to learn yet about a wide range of issues.

Why is he Democrat? "I want to make things easier for other people," he said. "I'm a Democrat because im interested in the lives of everyoday people." If that sounds a little vague, it's not clarified by his view of his opponent, of whom he offered little direct criticism: "It's not about challenging Congressman Labrador." (Actually, it is: By running, he's asking voters to fire him.)

Getting to the NFL has to be a very hard proposition. This may be harder.

Carlson: Passing the test

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The “chattering” class of political pundits and prognosticators is in full lather these days offering uninformed assessments regarding former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s prospects for winning the presidency given that so much of the GOP base today is comprised of self-described Christian evangelicals.

For these folks, most of who are in the south, Mormonism is a cult, not a religion. Some experts think over half the delegates to the National Republican Convention in 2012 will be self-professing evangelicals. Polls show only about 20 percent of this core base of the GOP could vote for a Mormon to be president.

Much is being written since a prominent Southern Baptist pastor with ties to Texas Governor Rick Perry charged that Mormonism is a cult, not a Christian faith. While the self-anointed political experts commenting on this may know something about analyzing polls, most are uninformed when it comes to actual knowledge about Mormonism.

Permit this pundit a few observations.

First, Governor Romney can win the 2012 presidential election for the simple reason that a desire to retire President Obama will trump all concerns regarding his religion. Regardless of one’s political bias, most objective perspectives would concede that so far Romney’s campaign strategy has been smart, well-implemented and soundly executed. (more…)

Allegations of cultishness

Most of what we've heard about this has come from southern religious conservatives. But Seattle's Mark Driscoll appears to be weighing in as well, with implications in this part of the world too.

The subject is the Mormon church - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - and its role in the presidential campaign, and in Christianity. Our view here is that in the former it shouldn't be a consideration (we in this country have no religious test for public office, and for good reason), and in the latter is a subject for consideration by individuals. (A column by Chris Carlson on the subject generally will be up here shortly.)

The presidential candidacies of two Mormons, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, has made the subject irresistable to any number of conservative Christians, however, and a number have weighed in to argue that the LDS Church isn't really Christian, and may even be a cult. Most of these speakers have come from the southern Bible Belt.

Enter Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hills Church (which has been expanding south to Portland) on the subject:

The danger facing the Christian church is always to capitulate to culture. As Mormonism becomes more culturally acceptable, the temptation will be to make Mormonism more acceptable to Christians as well. This can’t happen if the Church is to preserve it’s witness in the world to the true triune God of the Bible as worshipped by Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians alike.

Many mormons are good neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. But, we cannot go so far as to call them brothers and sisters in a common faith. To do so is to not only confuse real Christians, but to also diminish the importance of lovingly speaking with Mormons about the errors of their belief in hopes of seeing them come to know the real God of the Bible and avoiding eternal damnation for worshipping a false god.

Driscoll is certainly free to expound on religion as he will. But there are some serious political and social implications to the description of another religious organization - a large one, with deep roots in the region - as a "cult." Those could turn serious indeed as people start casting votes in the months ahead.

Order: Release those names

As per normal, this decision presumably will be appealed. But it has a ring of eventual finality - given the U.S. Supreme Court's generally open-records recent history.

Released today, the ruling from U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle of Tacoma in Doe v. Sam Reed said that Protect Marriage Washington doesn't have the right to keep secret the names of people who signed a petition to put a referendum on the ballot. The referendum, R-71, was proposed by a group of opponents to gay marriage on the broad extension of the state's domestic partnership rules.

The argument was over whether the names on the petitions ought to be considered private, the way ordinary votes are (votes, say, on the referendum after it was on the ballot). But before it could get to the ballot came a policy choice about putting it there - the sort of policy choice that usually has operated in more sunlight.

PMW argued that people might be subject to harassment if their names were released.

But as in some other cases, evidence of harassment was thin.

"Similarly here [as in other cases], PMW was able to secure 137,000 signers for R-71 and obtained nearly half the vote with 838,842 votes. And Doe has not supplied competent evidence or adequate authority to support its claim that R-71 signers constitute a fringe organization with unpopular or unorthodox beliefs or one that is seeking to further ideas that have been 'historically and pervasively rejected and vilified by both this country's government and its citizens.' "Pretty much the opposite, one would think, and the court found similarities between this case and others were more open rules applied.

Testimony was brought from a number of initiative supporters saying they had been - in their terms anyway - harassed. But as the judge noted, these were all public figures, all well known for their stands on gay-related issues for some time, and little evidence was brought that their involvement in R-71 specifically subjected them to harassment. Besides that, the judge noted that more than 800 contributors had (as per the state's campaign finance law) been publicly listed as backers of the R-71 effort, with little evidence of any blowback.


And the Idaho redistricting commission's work seems to be done, with a congressional plan that looks a whole lot like the one Idahoans have had for decades, save only some shifting of precincts in central-west Ada County.

That was almost certainly what was inevitably going to happen, eventually, though this one could have headed toward deadlock. The Republicans on the commission were determined that a split-Ada approach would happen, and the Democrats wanted a plan that united Canyon County with the rest of southern and eastern Idaho. The odds of that major shift occurring were ... never high.

So Democrat Ron Beitelspacher switched sides and voted with the Republicans for split-Ada.

Does it make any real partisan difference? Evidently some Democrats seem to think so, but it's hard to see how: Both districts, either way, remain overwhelmingly Republican. Changes on a scale much larger than redistricting can afford would be needed to turn either district genuinely competitive.

Now the question: Will someone sue, and if so over what?

Marching in Roseburg

Donna Nelson
Occupy events at Roseburg/photo by Barbara Rainey

The Occupy movement has spread to some small and conservative communities. A report from blogger Barrett Rainey, who lives in Roseburg, Oregon, and reports on activities there. Cross-posted from Rainey's Second Thoughts blog.

Well, I was wrong. Our little right-leaning community here in the forests of Southwest Oregon really did try its hand at the “Occupy” demonstrations last Saturday. I’d previously said it likely wouldn’t happen here where all things political list to starboard. More of a sharp slant, actually.

A few more than 100 folks from seniors to toddlers gathered at the Douglas County Courthouse, then marched across town to the BLM offices for another round of speech-making and display of signs. They picked the BLM, I guess, as the local representative of federal government. The only local fed site larger is the V.A. Hospital campus and who wants to picket a hospital where some of your friends are? And where you may end up?

The kids at the local almost-daily paper duly recorded the thoughts of a few of the participants and published several pictures. But, as usual, there was more to the story that escaped them. First, a little history.

A few months ago, a dozen or so mostly seniors – mostly Democrats – gathered in a local park to sit at tables and talk politics. And grandkids and the price of gas and other subversive things. Soon they were confronted by mostly male – and completely right wing representatives – with nasty signs and nasty, confrontational words. And a fella who shot a video – of what to normal folks would be an embarrassment – to post on a local fringe website.

When the Dems left the park to reconvene at a private residence, the nut jobs followed, tried to trespass, were turned away and settled for blocking the driveway for an hour or two. For the next several weeks the screwballs were roundly chastised by the local, literate citizenry in letters to the editor.

O.K., back to this weekend’s “Occupy” day. The kids at the almost-daily missed – or deliberately avoided mentioning – the collection of some of these same righties standing – where else – on the fringes. One, who likes to think of himself as the epicenter of all-things right locally – was taking pictures of individuals and making a written list of the names of those he knew. He even tried to bait a few passers by, challenging their right to entitlement programs or their “socialist” demonstration. Nobody bit. (more…)