Writings and observations


Scott Andrus, a Twin Falls resident described in an Idaho Statesman article as a former driver under the influence who has turned sharply against alcohol consumption, is pitching a pledge to Idaho legislators. Not, thankfully, a policy pledge – this one wouldn’t require a vote for or against something. Rather, it’s a request that legislators pledge not to drink alcohol during the session.

This seems to call for reflection on what’s likely the premise here: That legislators come from their hometowns to go to the big city, where they get into spending nights out, get drunk, and proceed to do stupid things when they write bills and cast votes at the Statehouse.

This is probably not a rare image or presumption, and every so often some specific instance comes along – the Senator John McGee case in Idaho earlier this year, for example – to give some weight to it.

What people should know is that cases like McGee’s are pretty unusual. And more now than once was the case.

Your scribe recalls, in the 70s and 80s, considerably higher levels of nighttime tippling than in the years since. At a peak back then, maybe a dozen legislators, probably fewer, might have been considered problem drinkers. That’s out of 105 total. I can recall no more than two or three under the influence while working at the Statehouse. A large portion of them, as now, didn’t drink at all. (There are as for many years a lot of Mormons in the Idaho Legislature, and over the years I’ve not seen many violate the rule against alcohol.) Legislative nightlife seems for whatever reason to have dulled down considerably over the last generation. Hang around the legislature any time in the last couple of decades and you’ll find it’s a pretty sober bunch, as least as regards chemical stimulants.

I’d make the argument that those harder partiers of years past tended to be better legislators as well (though whether alcohol had anything to do with it might be an open question).

Andrus apparently has gotten 13 or so legislators to go along with him. Since the number of teetotallers in the chambers is considerably higher than that, his numbers stand to grow a little more.

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The deadline was New Year’s, and the Washington Redistricting Commission seems to have hit the end line just barely before it. Today (as was promised yesterday), they unveiled their new remaps for congressional and legislative districts.

A look at the congressional first.

This was complicated a bit by the need to add a tenth district, which meant a little more shifting of boundaries than usual, and inevitably some district in which none of the nine current U.S. House members reside. That district will be centered, as was most widely speculated, on the Olympia area.

At first blush, these look like five Democratic and four Republican districts

Let’s move from east to west as we consider what’s changed and what the implications may be.

District 5, which has been roughly the easternmost fourth of the state from Canada to Oregon, is smaller and is now more like the easternmost fifth – it loses Okanogan, Adams and southwestern Walla Walla (but not that city itself) to the 4th district. These are all very Republican areas, and should move the district a little closer to competitiveness. It will clearly remain Republican overall, however; incumbent Republican Cathy McMorris-Rodgers should have no trouble with it.

District 4, which has taken in the rural country north of Wenatchee south to the Oregon line, and including both the Tri-Cities and the Yakima area, gains Adams, Okanogan and the slice of Walla Walla, but loses Chelan (Wenatchee), Kittias (Ellensburg) and, facing the Columbia River to the south, Klickitat County. It becomes a more ungainly district, its population centered more directly on the two big urban centers with the substantial Okanogan population left far to the north. It should not change much as a partisan district; it has been very Republican, but the swaps are of Republican territory. Not much change there; and again, Republican Doc Hastings should be untroubled.

District 3, the southwestern district focused on Clark County, will be comparable to what it has been, with one small and one larger difference. Republican (mostly) Klickitat county (Goldendale) will be added along the Columbia River. In the last decade and before, this district included the Democratic Olympia area, but – though some southern precincts of Thurston County will remain – the Olympia metro area was cut off to go to the new district. Overall, this seems to move what has been a competitive district closer into the Republican column. But not by much, the specific race at hand depending. Republican incumbent Jaime Herrera Beutler likely will be more happy than not with it.

The new district, 10, will take over the whole of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater area, plus a few precincts in Mason County to the northwest, and a large slice of Pierce County – up toward Tacoma – to the northeast. This area has been in District 9 and is politically variable but mostly Democratic. Considering how strongly Democratic the Olympia area is, this logically will be a Democratic district. If Democrat Denny Heck, who lost in the 3rd district in 2010, runs here, his chances ought to be good.

The new District 9, which has included some of the urban areas of Pierce County (Tacoma) and southwestern King, looks as if it has lost its southern tail in central Pierce, and, smaller in size, is crawling a little northeastward into King, roughly south and east of Seattle proper – and into the hotly contested near east side of King, around Renton, Auburn and Bellevue. As in the other districts to this point, Democrat Adam Smith should see no political damage from this, and it may even make him a little more secure.

District 7, which will continue to be the central Seattle district, changes only at the periphery and not by a lot, though it will now reach lightly across the Snohomish County line. It is likely to stay as overwhelmingly Democratic as it has been, changing the calculus for Democrat Jim McDermott hardly at all.

To the west, across the Puget Sound and on the Olympic Peninsula, District 6 is mostly similar to what it has been the last decade, except that this district will include only a smaller slice of Pierce County. Democrat Norm Dicks once had Tacoma as his base; this new remap will still keep him in a significant slice of the city. It will also give Dicks all, rather than just the southern part, of Kitsap County. But it will remain Democratic.

One of the most dramatic changes is in the current district 8, which has been over the last decade Washington’s most competitive, including in King and Pierce counties the newly Democratic areas just east of Seattle and Tacoma, and the more Republican areas up toward the Cascades. The remap chops off many of those more Democratic communities in King and Pierce, and appends to the district, across the Cascades, Republican Chelan and Kittitas counties. This logically turns into a clearly Republican district, and Republican incumbent Dave Reichert should be very happy with this development, even if it does mean a lot of additional trips across the mountains.

The remaining two districts in the northwest have, in a sense, flipped numbers, though the boundaries of each have been adjusted. District 1 is inland, running from northeast King County north to Canada, across farm country and scattered communities and mostly not reaching as far west as the Puget shoreline. District 2 will include the island counties of San Juan and Island, and many of the urban areas from Everett north toward Bellingham. The incumbent in the old district 1, Democrat Jay Inslee, is running for governor instead; the district 2 incumbent, Democrat Rick Larsen, is resident in the border area between the two new districts, at Arlington; he could conceivably run in either. But the new water-oriented District 2 should be much more Democratic than the new District 1, which initially looks competitive.

How does this break out politically? Republicans should have clear advantages in Districts 4, 5 and 8. Democrats should have clear advantages in 2, 6, 7, 9 and 10. District 3 should lean Republican, but gently, and 1 should be competitive with possibly a small Republican tilt.

The two leading negotiators, Republican Slade Gorton and Democrat Tim Ceis, are known as hard-nosed people who don’t roll over in the face of competition. This map actually looks close to what you might expect from a state with a Democratic edge, but not by enormous numbers. Neither side got rolled here.

UPDATED No Republican state commentary on it yet, but some from the state Democrats, who seem generally okay with it. From their statement about three especially notable districts:

1st Congressional District
“Washington’s newly drawn 1st District is ugly but lovable. Stretching from King County to Canada, the First will be a Democratic leaning district.
“We are fortunate that the 1st District has already drawn a slate of exciting, high profile Democratic candidates who will sharpen their skills, message and campaign organizations in advance of the general election. There is talk that the Republicans will trot out John Koster once again, but voters in the new 1st District are sure to reject his extreme, Tea Party policies in 2012.

10th Congressional District
“The newly drawn 10th District provides Democrats our best opportunity to send a true middle class champion to Congress. We are already on our way with Denny Heck, who will stand up and fight for families, fairness and economic opportunity.”

3rd Congressional District
“A redrawn district will not help Congresswoman Herrera Beutler hide from her record of serving as a rubber stamp for Speaker John Boehner’s partisan gamesmanship and Tea Party politics. Democrats will fight to ensure that Washington’s 3rd District is represented by a true champion of Washington’s middle class, not a politician who has abandoned her promise of creating jobs in favor of advancing an extreme, out-of-touch agenda.”

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Two of Idaho’s finest non-elected public servants, Darrell V. Manning and Marty Peterson, retire soon with a combined 100 years of service to the state between them. Their nature is to slip quietly into retirement, but Idaho owes them a hearty “job well done.”

Their service exemplifies the best and brightest rising to the top in the Gem State. Their works provide them with the satisfaction of knowing they helped improve the lives of many who will never know how much they owe these fine public servants.

Every governor from Cecil Andrus to Butch Otter would heartily agree.

Manning is retiring as chair of the Idaho Transportation Board, but his resume reflects how indispensable governors have found him to be. It includes director of Idaho’s Aeronautics department, the first director of the reorganized Department of Transportation, adjutant and commanding general of the Idaho National Guard, chief of the Bureau of Disaster Services, administrator of the division of Financial Management, executive director of the Idaho Board of Education as well as a member of that board and a regent for the University of Idaho, acting director of Health and Welfare, and special assistant to several governors.

Peterson is retiring after 20 years as the special assistant to the president of the University of Idaho in charge of coordinating the university’s government affairs programs That he served seven different presidents over those years speaks to his ability to earn respect and achieve results for the state’s land grant university.

Peterson’s career includes serving on Senator Frank Church’s staff, as the executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities, and stints as budget director for both Andrus and Governor John V. Evans. Andrus also tapped Peterson to be the planning and administrative director of Idaho’s highly successful Centennial Observance in 1990.

An avid Idaho history buff, Peterson maintains a summer home in historic Silver City, is a sought after speaker on Ernest Hemingway, serves on several boards including the Idaho Humanities Council, and like Manning, though a “business Democrat,” has adroitly served governors of both political parties.

Both cut their teeth on politics early: Manning, a graduate of Utah State, came right out of the Air Force in 1960 ran, and won a seat in Idaho’s House of Representatives from Bannock County at the age of 28. He became friends with a newly elected State Senator from Clearwater County, 29-year-old Cecil Andrus. After four terms in the House, Manning joined Andrus in the State Senate in 1968.

Besides working on Senator Church’s staff, Peterson, a native of Lewiston and a graduate of the University of Idaho, was a “loaned” campaign worker to the 1970 Andrus gubernatorial campaign.

Both Manning and Peterson have a reputation for probity. Both at one time ran the Division of Financial Management. Both have charming wives.

Few will recall though how close both came to meeting their Maker early in their careers.

In April of 1973, Darrell and Rochelle, Marty and Barbara, and Dr. Sam Taylor, from Nampa along with his wife, Jean, who was Governor Andrus’ appointment secretary, undertook the 36 mile backpacking trip through Hells Canyon from Idaho Power’s Hells Canyon Dam downstream to Pittsburg Landing where they would be picked up by a jet boat and taken the 76 remaining miles back to Lewiston.

Picking them up would be Eddie Williams, a former state legislator from Lewiston who was then Andrus’ chief of staff, along with Ed’s good friend, Jack Bowman.

Disaster struck in the Imnaha Rapids, the boat swamping with all eight being tossed into the incredibly cold waters of the high flowing Snake River. Swollen by the spring run-off, the river was fast, full of whirlpools and even with life jackets on, one could still be swept under the surface.

Years later Manning would recall the anxiety he and Rochelle experienced being swept under several times, caught in whirlpools they could not seem to get out of, and helplessly floating seven miles downstream to the river’s confluence with the Salmon before making land and safety.

As they were swept along Manning did note how the Taylor’s and Peterson’s managed to get out and upon several rocks at various spots in the middle of the stream. With night coming on hypothermia was an immediate concern but fortunately another boat came along able to pick up the survivors.

Unfortunately, neither Eddie nor Jack had life jackets and were last seen clinging to seat cushions as they too were swept away. Bowman’s body was recovered a few days later but the river never yielded Ed’s. Andrus, devastated by the tragedy, personally searched the river by helicopter.

Manning and Peterson still acknowledge how fortunate they were to survive. The state of Idaho has been the true beneficiary of their survival. Join me, please, in saying to them both “thank you for jobs well done.”

CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andurs. He lives at Medimont.

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