"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

Governor Chris Gregoire said her takeaway from the Occupy protests at the statehouse boiled down to: “not an all-cuts budget, some revenue.” She took issue with a few people (who refused to leave the building) who she said distracted from the issue at hand, but backed most of what they said. (Some of them were tasered and arrested.)

“What I think is regressive and mean spirited,” she said, is to cut human services, children services, public safety.

She figures that a decent budget will mean taking it to voter decisions by referendum.

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It can be noted, and will be, that not a lot of people voted in what amounted to a straw poll conducted by the Independent Party of Oregon – evidently about 100 or so, out of a universe of potential voters of well over 20,000. That’s small turnout.

Regardless, the result is in, and it may matter for the more definitive election to come.

By a margin of just under two to one, the party’s 1st district members voted for Democrat Suzanne Bonamici over Republican Rob Cornilles. The two had just appeared together at an Independent Party-backed debate in Portland, on Sunday night.

The district has a strong Democratic edge, giving Bonamici a natural advantage. A line of reasoning we’ve heard recently even in some far-flung areas of the state went like this: Bonamici didn’t need the party’s endorsement (which could, possibly, translate to a two- to three-percentage point help) to have a good shot at winning the election which ends on January 31. But Cornilles, running in difficult terrain, did need it, badly, and would have to be considered a serious underdog if he lost the bid for the Independent nomination.

Both candidates had sought the endorsement, but neither seemed to fight for it very hard. Party leaders report that no more than a direct mail flyer or two from each side was seen. A more intensive effort by either candidate might have mattered considerably, and might have been inexpensive campaigning with potentially high return.

For Cornilles, anyway. As it stands, Bonamici wound up where she doubtless wants to be, with large advantages looking toward the general election, and having just blocked her opponent from gaining a potentially strong asset.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s self-congratulatory Thanksgiving Day column (The New Normal) claiming a number of highly debatable “successes” for Idaho on his watch reminds one of a story his idol, former President Ronald Reagan, liked to tell.

It’s the story about the guy digging madly through a huge pile of horse manure convinced that there has to be a pony in there someplace because there’s so much horse s___. With all due respect to the office he holds, Butch is just plain wrong in almost all he claims.

It’s hard to believe he can look at his mismanagement of so much and claim success. This goes beyond rose-colored glasses, beyond the normal p.r. spin one has come to expect of so many of today’s officeholders. This is pure, unadulterated horse manure which anyone with an understanding of factual information can smell from far away.

Here’s just a sample of what smells on his watch:

*Governor Otter deliberately underestimated revenue this past fiscal year by $100 million so he could rationalize real cuts in state support for public education across the board, creating chaos in many school district budgets, necessitating over-ride levies to make up the difference and then had the unmitigated gall to claim he held the line on taxes. All he did was shift the tax increase for many from a state tax to a local levy.

*Governor Otter came within an eyelash of having the federal government impose a one-size fits all health insurance exchange by political posturing against the mandates within the Obama Health Care legislative reforms. He could have cost the state the loss of a billion dollars in federal funds in needed programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Only the sleight of hand of granting exemptions kept Idaho from a folly that would have constituted a gubernatorial dereliction of duty.

Governor Otter and State Superintendent Tom Luna, after not saying word one about educational reforms as part of their re-election agendas in the fall of 2010, showed contempt for the voters by rushing a series of ill-conceived reforms through their one-party legislature that lined the pockets of firms, particularly purveyors of computers and computer programs, who were campaign contributors. They appear to seriously believe computers can replace teachers which is simply mind-boggling.

The governor-appointed State Tax Commission has engaged in a pattern of giving targeted tax relief, thereby decreasing revenues to the general fund, to firms and individuals many of whom are contributors to the Governor’s campaigns and other Republican coffers.
As the titular head of the state’s Republican party Governor Otter has remained silent in the face of what can only be described as a series of sad, embarrassing incidents that warrant at minimum condemnation if not an actual call on the perpetrators to either resign or be expelled from office. His silence creates the appearance of condoning tax scofflaw Coeur d’Alene State Rep. Phil Harts’ failure to pay a variety of taxes and his theft of state timber to build his log home. Does the governor also condone Caldwell State Senator John McGee’s dui and the mysterious disappearance of the car theft charges? Does he condone State Party chair Norm Semanko’s borrowing of an association’s funds for personal uses?

Governor Otter has yet to explain just what Idaho has received in exchange for his unconscionable agreement to abrogate Idaho’s compact with the Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy to allow the Idaho National Laboratory to receive (allegedly for research) almost a thousands pounds of spent fuel rods annually from commercial nuclear power plants for the next 20 years. These rods will remain here far past the 2035 date for removal of all nuclear waste above Idaho’s aquifer because as he well knows with the death of Yucca Mountain as the final repository there is no other place these rods can be shipped. So they will be stored above ground in Idaho over the aquifer in holding ponds similar to those that were ruptured by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year. Such a deal, Governor, such a deal.

Finally, there is no polite way to say this, Governor Otter knows and those close to him know he is engaging in what’s called “mailing it in.” He is not showing up for work very often, his schedule of public appointments has decreased dramatically, he spends only minimal time when he does make public appearances with the exception of the occasional capitol for a day. He seldom makes himself available to the press.

One could make a case he ought to turn the job over to Lt. Governor Brad Little. In a bit of contrarian thinking, though, I’m glad to see him mailing it in given the amount of damage he has done to this great state just working at it part-time.

But, please, don’t shovel all that horse manure at me and try to convince me it is potting soil full of roses.

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And the Washington legislative building – which it seems to be, as opposed to the legislative meeting room buildings – is Occupied.

They’ll need an option other than pepper spray to clear it out, since that could make the building uninhabitable as the legislative assembly commences. Which occurred, um, today.

It’s a special session, with the aim of closure before Christmas. But some Republicans are calling for this session to replace the regular 2012 session, which would put a lot more pressure on.

And pressure, they’ve got plenty of.

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Here was something unusual: a Democratic congressional nominee, and a Republican congressional nominee, appearing at a debate where the ostensible purpose is to gain the support of another party: The Independent Party of Oregon.

The Independents aren’t nominating their own contender, but are – present tense – sending in ballots to determine which of the contenders, Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles, their party will endorse. This may have been the first televised debate – it was aired by KATU 2 Portland and staged in its studio – the party has had. It’s a turning point. It may be a turning point for the candidates, though to what effect isn’t yet clear. There’s some view that, given the Democratic tilt of the 1st congressional district, Cornilles will need the Independent support to win and may not be able to win without it, while a Bonamici backing by the party could nearly foreclose a Cornilles win.

Either way, neither candidate seemed to conclusively seal the deal tonight: There were no serious body blows or major gaffes. (The station has posted it in full online.)

There were missed opportunities, though.

Cornilles reiterated the debunked argument that the Affordable Care Act (which he took care to call by its correct name, as opposed to Obamacare) would cut $500 billion from Medicare; the lowered budget amounts refer to savings from efficiencies and other improvements rather than diminished benefits, a point Bonamici could have made but didn’t. (She noted the claim had been blasted by Politifact, which is true, but probably wasn’t much absorbed by many viewers.) When Cornilles cited a statistic about how Bonamici, in one survey, voted with her state Senate caucus 98% of the time, she responded that the statistic isn’t fairly representative of the work or votes done there – which is also true, but could have been turned into a stronger point about Cornilles’ lack of legislative experience.

Bonamici was asked about illegal immigration, and spent her answer talking about how she’s like to get people around a table to hash out an answer. That table made its appearance several times; Cornilles could have hacked away at that crutch, but didn’t.

Cornilles’ best line, which he’d surely like to be a frame for his argument, came when he said “My opponent wants to defend the system; I want to fix it.” Piece of his debate fit into that frame; other parts didn’t.

Bonamici’s best moment came in a question about the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling on campaign spending, after a detailed response from Cornilles (which avoided the core impacts of the decision). She had time for a 30-second rebuttal, but smartly limited it to one memorable reposte: “I don’t happen to believe that a corporation is a person.”

Independent Party voting is supposed to conclude on Tuesday, and we should know the winner within a day or two after that.

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A couple of polls in recent months seemed to show Barack Obama at serious risk of losing Oregon in next year’s election. But the questions were a little sideways and hard to read, and we’ve been awaiting a national poll to check in on the state, to find out how the numbers are reading more directly.

What emerged in the new Survey USA poll on the presidential race is very much what might be expected in Oregon, and likely reflective of what the state will do next year:

11 months till ballots are mailed in the election for President of the United States, incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama is poised to hold Oregon’s 7 electoral votes, according to a poll for KATU-2 TV news in Portland.
Today, in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups between the two Republican front-runners, it’s:
 Obama 48%, Romney 40%.
 Obama 51%, Gingrich 37%
If Romney is the candidate, Obama leads among men by 5 points. If Gingrich is the candidate, Obama leads among men by 12 points. If Romney is the candidate, independents split. If Gingrich is the candidate, Independents break for Obama.
Romney has a Minus 20 favorability rating: 21% see him favorably, 41% see him unfavorably.
Gingrich has a Minus 30 favorability rating: 20% see him favorably, 50% see him unfavorably.

It was a survey of 600 Oregon adults, and included cell phone users.

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Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, who in the last few years has had to make enormous cuts in state spending, has said repeatedly that those cuts have grieved her. But the strong feeling behind didn’t seem to show up a lot, as she has focused on rounds of cuts rather than revenue increases.

A corner of some sort has been turned, though. Gregoire is proposing a tax increase in her just-unveiled revised budget plan (the new one dealing with further expected revenue shortfalls). There are more cuts in this budget, but she seems now to be reaching a point of saying, no more.

At one point in her press meeting on the proposal, she was asked, “Why should the voters be willing to sacrifice themselves if the state worker unions are not willing to do the same?”

And a switch seemed to flip. She grabbed a large budget pie chart, and delivered her response with a passion probably not a lot of Washingtonians have seen before:

“Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I don’t know how you can say that. Look at this.
Ten and a half billion dollars, y’all. Ten and a half billion dollars. 26 percent, has come from K through 12. 19 percent of that has come from state employee K-12 compensation. We can’t assume they haven’t stepped up. They have. They have stepped up.

“But at some point you need to understand that you have to have people do the job. You hsave to have people do the job. They are a demoralized work force. I’ve told this to CEOs in the last two weeks: How’d you like to lead a work force that is demoralized as they are? They have given. They have given on the benefits, they’ve given on their pensions, they’ve given on their salaries. They have done furloughs. And yet – and yet – they are constantly being bashed about the head and shoulders. No one says ‘thank you’ for them doing the work that no one else can, and no one else will.

“I have over the last few weeks worked with some of the finest people in state government. They don’t get overtime. They do the work. That’s what’s going on in state government. It’s time for us as a state to step up and understand. If we want protection, we need parole officers. If we want to educate our kids, we need teachers. And we can’t afford to continue to undermine the very fabric of our state. Time for us to spend one-half penny to invest in the future of our state.”

The video (fro TVW) is posted at the Slog.

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In his third term, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has taken one large step after another, but this may be the most dramatic. From his statement on the scheduled execution of convicted killer Gary Haugen, and his “temporary reprieve” of it:

“I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am Governor.”

It was a dramatic statement, and not widely expected (at least, not among us), partly because he did allow two earlier executions. His longish statement – it’s here in full after the jump on this post – is remarkable. It’s all worth reading.

Kitzhaber notes that in the last 49 years just two people have been executed in Oregon, both during his first two terms in office: “I was torn between my personal convictions about the morality of capital punishment and my oath to uphold the Oregon constitution. They were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as Governor and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years. I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong.”

He said, though, that he didn’t intend his judgement unilaterally to change policy for the state: “I could have commuted Mr. Haugen’s sentence – and indeed the sentences of all those on death row – to life in prison without the possibility of parole. I did not do so because the policy of this state on capital punishment is not mine alone to decide. It is a matter for all Oregonians to decide.”

This will create something of a roar in the next legislative session, moving the issue to the front burner. The move to oppose Haugen’s executive was not as large as some we’ve seen around the country (in part because he sought to end appeals and get the sentence over with), but it’s not been nonexistent, and some legislators have been taking about bringing up the issue.

It’s a good bet that the next legislative session will see some action in this area.

Here’s what Kitzhaber had to say:

“Under Article V, section 14, of the Oregon Constitution, I am exercising my authority as Governor to issue a temporary reprieve in the case of Gary Haugen for the duration of my term in office. I want to share with Oregonians how and why I came to that decision.

Oregon has a long and turbulent history with capital punishment. Our state constitution originally had no provision for the death penalty. Enacted by statute in 1864, the death penalty was repealed by voters in 1914, restored in 1920, outlawed again by voters in 1964, re-enacted in 1978, deemed unconstitutional by the Oregon Supreme Court in 1981 and again reinstated in 1984.

It has been carried out just twice in last 49 years in Oregon. Both were during my first administration as Governor, one in 1996 and the other in 1997. I allowed those sentences to be carried out despite my personal opposition to the death penalty. I was torn between my personal convictions about the morality of capital punishment and my oath to uphold the Oregon constitution.

They were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as Governor and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years. I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong.

Let me be clear, I had no sympathy or compassion for the criminals or for anyone who commits the most heinous of acts – taking the life of another person. The families and friends of victims deserve certainty that justice will be carried out on behalf of the loved ones who have been taken from them in such a cruel fashion.

But the nature of their crimes was not different from other murderers, some of whom are sentenced to death but never executed and others who are sentenced to life in prison. What distinguished those two death row inmates during my first term was that they volunteered to die.

Oregonians have a fundamental belief in fairness and justice – in swift and certain justice. The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor just; and it is not swift or certain. It is not applied equally to all. It is a perversion of justice that the single best indicator of who will and will not be executed has nothing to do with the circumstances of a crime or the findings of a jury. The only factor that determines whether someone sentenced to death in Oregon is actually executed is that they volunteer. The hard truth is that in the 27 years since Oregonians reinstated the death penalty, it has only been carried out on two volunteers who waived their rights to appeal.

In the years since those executions, many judges, district attorneys, legislators, death penalty proponents and opponents, and victims and their families have agreed that Oregon’s system is broken.

But we have done nothing. We have avoided the question.

And during that time, a growing number of states have reconsidered their approach to capital punishment given public concern, evidence of wrongful convictions, the unequal application of the law, the expense of the process and other issues.

Illinois banned it earlier this year, ending a legacy of faulty convictions, forced confessions, unreliable witnesses and incompetent legal representation. New Jersey abolished capital punishment after determining it had spent a quarter of a billion dollars on a system that executed no one. New Mexico recognized that the death penalty is neither an effective deterrent nor fair to victims’ families burdened with lengthy trials and appeals and replaced it with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Today, in Oregon, we can no longer avoid the question. Last Friday, a death warrant was signed for another death row inmate, Gary Haugen. And again he has volunteered to die.

He is just one of 37 inmates on death row today. Some have been there for over 20 years. They all have many years and appeals left before there is even a remote possibility of carrying out their death sentence. Two others have died of natural causes after more than a decade on death row. The reality is that Oregon’s death row is an extremely expensive life prison term, likely several times more expensive that the life terms of others who happen to have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole — rather than the death penalty.

And while it may be convenient to blame lengthy and expensive death penalty trials and appeals on inmates “working the system,” the truth is courts (and society) continue to reinterpret when, how and under what circumstances it is acceptable for the state to kill someone. Over time, those options are narrowing. Courts are applying stricter standards and continually raising the bar for prosecuting death penalty cases. Consider that it was only six years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed itself and held that it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment on those under the age of 18. For a state intent on maintaining a death penalty, the inevitable result will be bigger questions, fewer options and higher costs.

It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach. I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am Governor.

I do not make this decision lightly.

It was the will of the voters in 1984 to reinstate the death penalty in Oregon. I respect that and, in fact, have carried out that will on two occasions. I have regretted those choices ever since – both because of my own deep personal convictions about capital punishment and also because in practice Oregon has an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice. Twenty-seven years after voters reinstated the death penalty it is clear the system is broken.

To those who will inevitably say that my decision today compromises the will of the voters; let me point out that, in practice, it is the current system itself which compromises the will of the voters. I do not believe for a moment that the voters intended to create a system in which those condemned to death could determine whether that sentence would be carried out.

I could have commuted Mr. Haugen’s sentence – and indeed the sentences of all those on death row – to life in prison without the possibility of parole. I did not do so because the policy of this state on capital punishment is not mine alone to decide. It is a matter for all Oregonians to decide. And it is my hope – indeed my intention – that my action today will bring about a long overdue reevaluation of our current policy and our system of capital punishment.

Personally, I favor replacing the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole and will argue for that policy in any future debate over capital punishment in Oregon. Others will point to opportunities to speed appeals or change the criteria for death penalty cases. In any event we can no longer ignore the contradictions and inequities of our current system.

I am calling on the legislature to bring potential reforms before the 2013 legislative session and encourage all Oregonians to engage in the long overdue debate that this important issue deserves. I am convinced we can find a better solution that keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values.

Fourteen years ago, I struggled with the decision to allow an execution to proceed. Over the years I have thought if faced with the same set of circumstances I would make a different decision. That time has come.”

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A thought about the death penalty just imposed in Idaho, and the next coming soon in Oregon.

Mainly, this: There’s no assertion of doubt that they did what they’re convicted of, and that their actions really were awful.

It’s a weird parallel. Idaho has not executed a convict since 1994, and Oregon since 1997.

Paul Ezra Rhoades, who was executed in Boise on Friday, took all the shots he could at appeals and legal arguments, over a stretch running for more than two decades. There was no real argument that he committed the crimes, which formally were first degree murder and first degree kidnapping, and which he acknowledged. Three women were killed, kidnapped and shot to death in the Idaho Falls area, which was terrorized during the search for the killer.

This is the kind of guy who helps a death penalty advocate make the case. He deserved more, and harsher, than the state could mete out.

Much the same goes for Gary Haugen, the Oregon convict scheduled for execution (by lethal injection, as in Idaho) on December 6. Haugen has not fought the sentence – he has dropped appeals – or evidently denied that he killed his girlfriend’s mother more than 30 years ago, the event which put him in prison since he was 19: “the murder of his then-girlfriend’s mother, Mary Archer. Prosecutors say he broke into Archer’s house, raped her, then beat her with a hammer and baseball bat.” He has denied that he killed a fellow inmate, for which he also was convicted.

These are not, like some in the last few years, cases where the guilt of the convict was in some doubt. There’s really none here.

That may be one reason these cases seem not to have gotten the national attention some others have. Not that they cut into the anti-death case: That argument applies whether the prisoner is guilty or not.

But these Northwest cases are unlikely to be the kind of turning point cases that have been popping up elsewhere.

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Idaho Oregon

The challenge to the new Idaho redistricting plan led by Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs (joined in by a bunch of other jurisdictions) is in, and there’s been some review of it – and some support in places like the Twin Falls Times News editorial page. There is no perfect way to predict what the Idaho Supreme Court might do; it has a way of surprising on redistricting cases. But from here, the core argument before it doesn’t look especially solid.

The Times News describes it succinctly, and it goes like this. The parameters of a redistricting are bound by three sets of terms. There’s the U.S. Constitution, at the highest level, which requires (according to Supreme Court interpretations) adherence to the “one man, one vote” principle – meaning that districts should have as close as practical the same number of people (or at least electors). Second, there’s the state constitution, which has a similar requirement calling for as few counties as practical to be split. And third, there are a series of laws (and legal cases, which the editorial doesn’t make clear) which also have to be considered – things like maintaining communities of interest, not overtly benefitting specific parties or individuals, no overt gerrymandering, care not to disenfranchise certain minority groups (notably Indian tribes in Idaho’s case), and others.

The editorial: “If you accept the fact that a state law can never trump the state constitution, the map becomes a lot easier to draw. The current plan that was created by the redistricting commission carves up counties more times than they needed to be. This is where Loebs’ suit makes its stand, and it’s an approach we have a hard time arguing against.”

Maybe you already see the logical problem here.

If redistricting is simply a case of absolute trumps, then the state constitution need not apply at all. Rather, you adopt – as a matter of requirement – whatever plan you can draw that split’s Idaho’s population into 35 equally populated districts. Because, if Loebs’ trumping argument is right, then only “one man, one vote” comes into play. Anything else would dilute the mandate of the U.S. constitution.

As a matter of history, the courts haven’t looked at it that way. Reasonably and practically, they’ve allowed for a degree of give and flexibility in the system. As an informal guide, redistricters have found that courts will usually accept plans that have about a 10% or less deviation in population between the most and least populous districts. That means a number of plans could be considered reasonable and practical. That’s what allows us to even get to a consideration of what the state constitution says.

The same principle seems to apply to splitting counties. If you split too many counties, that could be a basis for rejecting a plan. But how many is too many? Consider this from the reapportionment commission’s report on its plan:

a. 1 county has a population that it can constitute a single district by itself without combining with any other county or portion of another county. It is Bingham County.Bingham County occupies a unique position within Idaho because it is surrounded by counties that must either be split or combined with other counties and contains a portion of a Native American Reservation, the remainder of which is located in three other counties (Power, Bannock, and Caribou).   
b. Two counties could be divided into districts wholly within that county that meet the one person/one vote requirement without having to combine any portion of that county with any other county or portion of another county. They are Ada County
and Kootenai County.
c. Four counties are of such population that one or more districts can be created solely within the county, but a portion of the county must be combined with other counties to meet the one person/one vote requirements.  They are Bannock County,
Bonneville County, Canyon County, and Twin Falls County.
d. The remaining counties are so sparsely populated that they must be combined with other counties to create districts of sufficient population to comply with the federal constitutional requirement of one person/one vote. One of these counties
(Bonner) must be divided and combined with contiguous counties because one neighboring county (Boundary) is not contiguous to any other county.”

There is no way, in other words, to split fewer than five counties in crafting a plan, the commission said. It could do that (which seems to be where Loebs is headed). But are the current plan’s 11-county splits (of 44 counties, remember) really too many – if it means you rapidly start throwing out all the other considerations a redistricting plan should include? It seems here, probably not.

There’s some gray area, as so often the case in this mathematical-based exercise. But the Supreme Court may wind up considering this as well: If it gives such strong primacy to a plan that places such strong emphasis on just one reapportioning goal, it’s apt to generate more lawsuits on the basis that others were not considered. And lawsuits on those kinds of bases have worked, from time to time, as well.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Let’s get back to facts and forget informed opinion in the discussion that has arisen of late around just who is Idaho’s greatest governor.

Out of deep respect for the good, great former governor of Idaho, I bit my tongue during Cecil Andrus’ disavowal of my book’s title during the opening of the Nov. 10 Boise City Club forum. His modesty is sincere. His sense of history though is flawed. The vast majority in the audience, as well as across this state, concur with the assessment expressed by the title as do most other serious students of Idaho history.

Even at the age of 80 the zeal and skill with which Andrus skewered the Idaho Republican party for harboring scoff-laws like tax-dodging, state timber stealing Rep. Phil Hart of Coeur d’Alene, drunk-driving and car stealing Sen. John McGee of Caldwell, borrowing-his-association’s-funds party chairman Norm Semanko of Eagle, to ridiculing Tom Luna’s replace-teachers-with-a-computer phony educational reform was a thing of beauty to behold.

He brought the house down with zinger after zinger, speaking candidly, forcefully and passionately. His ability to use a memorable phrase, such as my “wood butcher” friends, referring to Idaho’s timber industry, charmed the sold out forum. He added he could call the industry that because they knew he’d grown up in the “slab, sliver and knothole” business. When he finished his near 55-minute performance he received a standing ovation from the almost 400 standing room only guests.

According to moderator Marty Peterson, who has attended most Forums since it was founded in 1994, it was the first standing ovation he’d ever seen at the conclusion of anyone’s presentation. Governor Andrus virtually made my case.

There can be no serious argument. With the possible exception of Governor Dr. C.A. Robins (1947 to 1951), no other governor, not even three-term governor Robert E. Smylie, has come close to achieving the record of enacting policies and legislation which has had a more beneficial impact on the lives of all Idahoans. From the funding of kindergartens to the adoption of local land-use planning, to the consolidation of various state agencies, to appointment to boards and commission, to property tax relief for senior citizens, to increased support for higher education, to instilling a deep sense of pride in the person representing the state, no other governor has a record that begins to match that of Governor Andrus.

Spokesman-Review blog writer Dave Oliviera, who covers better than most issues of import to the inland northwest, asked his thousands of readers recently to respond to the question of who was the greatest. Over 600 responses quickly flowed in and it was no contest. Over two thirds said Andrus. That was 66 percent of the respondents. Phil Batt, no doubt a good governor (but great?), ran second with 5 percent.

Overlay this record as governor with what Andrus accomplished for Idaho when Secretary of the Interior. Idahoans have not forgotten the establishment of the Birds of Prey, the expansion of the Nez Perce National Historic Park, the reforms to grazing practices in the passage of the BLM Organic Act, the adoption of amendments to the 1902 Reclamation Act.

The list goes on of actions that benefited Idaho specifically not to mention Idahoan interest in the protection of the crown jewels of Alaska, the establishment of urban national parks, the designation of new wild and scenic rivers, and more.

Governor Smylie’s son, Steve, rose to defend his father’s legitimate claim to such a title, and rightfully so for during his three consecutive terms (1955 to 1967) he did accomplish much, but not as much as Andrus. By the end of his 12-year tenure Smylie had so alienated many friends and supporters with an arrogance no one would ever accuse Andrus of having that Republican primary voters rejected Smylie’s bid for a fourth term and nominated a virtually unknown state senator from Sandpoint, Don Samuelson, to be their 1966 standard-bearer.

The book demonstrates through stories, anecdotes and observations that Andrus is arguably as a matter of objective record, the greatest governor Idaho has ever produced and for all time will ever produce.

Marty Peterson and Randy Stapilus are compiling a book due out next year naming the 100 most influential people in Idaho history. I’ll wager anyone a box of my apples that their examination of the record of any would be pretenders will in the end lead them to the inevitable conclusion that not only is Cecil Andrus the greatest governor in Idaho history, he is also the most dominating and influential person to ever have called this great state home.

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris Carlson 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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It may be that the Oregon 1st House district results, on January 31, are definitive enough that relatively small factors in the campaign won’t matter. Sitting here before we get even to December, though, it’s hard to be certain of that – and hard for the candidates, Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles, to be sure of it either.

That has put the Independent Party of Oregon in something of a catbird seat. It will not run a candidate of its own in the 1st district race, but it will (or is expected to) endorse one of the two major party candidates. With an estimated 13,546 members in the 1st district, it could have some genuine effect if the race is otherwise close. They vote on a party endorsement between November 14 (the start of this week) and 29. (That’s separate, of course, from their vote in the January 31 election.)

So what is it asking? It already has asked for and received answers to a detailed issues questionnaire. Bonamici’s runs eight pages, Cornilles‘ ten.) They may stand as the most comprehensive single issues statements either candidate delivers in the course of the campaign.

There is also an Independent Party-backed debate, on November 27 (presumably, oddly, after most party members have voted in their endorsement event), aired by KATU (Channel 2).

The party has endorsed plenty of candidates of both parties, so it can’t be considered a gimme for either.

How this works with campaigning to the base will be something to watch.

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