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Posts published in March 2012

Carlson: Selflessly serving

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Among the some 50 members of the Idaho Legislature, who have served notice of retiring or seeking another office, is one many consider virtually irreplaceable. She is State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, the Democrat from the 25th Legislative district that includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties.

My former Gallatin Group partner, Marc Johnson, said it best: “It’s tough duty to spend your entire career in the minority. It’s much more difficult to get things done and to be effective you have to work at least three times as hard. I do believe Wendy has been among the two or three most effective Democratic members of the legislature in the last 30 years. She did it the old-fashioned way---by hard work, mastering details, building relationships, displaying good humor and always playing for the long game. Lots of people in politics are 'show horses.' Wendy is a work horse and an effective one at that.”

On a recent trip to Boise I sat down with the all-everything for the Democrats to discuss what got her into politics and what drove her to endure so long and well.

Asking the “quintessential” question---“Which high school did you attend?”---quickly provided an insight into her core being. She attended Seattle’s Garfield High. I attended Spokane’s Central Valley High in the mid-60’s, and inevitably when we got to the state basketball tournament we ran into and got drubbed by Garfield.

Of course Garfield, being an inner city high school, had a racially diverse student body whereas CV was close to all lily white., So Garfield, for several years led by an extremely gifted African-American named Levi Fisher, sent us home whether in the first round or in the finals.

I asked Wendy if she remembered Fisher? She immediately starting humming the music played by Garfield’s pep band when the school’s team fell behind. The music almost always transformed the Garfield five into a virtually unstoppable juggernaut. The music was “Peter Gunn” from the television show.

And when the pep band started playing it with that eerie beat you knew you were dead. To me the piece resonated the word “relentless” which is as good a word as there is to summarize Wendy in one word.

Throughout all the years Wendy has labored in the public vineyards she has relentlessly pursued her goals, with humor, elan, and dedication born of the knowledge that she was striving always for the right outcome.

The almost 18-year legislative veteran got her start in politics working in San Francisco for now U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, before then Supervisor Feinstein inherited the Mayor’s post upon the assassination of Mayor George Moscone by a former member of the city council, Dan White, who then hunted down, shot and killed supervisor Harvey Milk.

Her husband, Jim, whom she met while both were attending the University of Washington (he graduated from Seattle’s Roosevelt High) had worked earlier for both Mayor George Alioto and Mayor Moscone. They came to Idaho in 1977 because Jim accepted an offer to become the city administrator in Ketchum, a post he held for 25 years.

While raising their two sons this energetic woman with a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in public administration took on and successfully managed for 13 years the Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce. With that post came an understanding and appreciation for the needs of small businesses as well as their crucial role in an area’s economy. If ever there was a true “business Democrat,” Wendy fits the bill.

Along the way Wendy garnered well-deserved awards recognizing her commitment to people and causes ranging from the arts to the environment, The bottom line though is she cares deeply about people and knows there is a legitimate role for government in assisting those who through no fault of their own need the assistance only a government can provide.

Over the years she has mentored many young women and even a few men willing to listen to her sage counsel. A summary of her legislative history fills pages listing successes against great odds as well as a fascinating list of draft legislation the Republican leadership would not even allow to be printed. Her support for a local option sales tax leaps out.

She suffered defeat all too often, but as Republican lawyer/lobbyist Ken McClure (son of the late Senator) pointed out “she knows how to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Joining her in leaving the legislature will be several others who due to their own hard work and dedication will also be missed: State Senators Diane Bilyeu (29th), Joyce Broadsword (2nd), Edgar Malepeai (30th), Nicole LeFavour, (19th), as well as State Rep. Brian Cronin (19th). And two fine, ethical, decent, intelligent Republican State Senators looked like they would be squaring off against each other until Denton Darrington (27th), the longest serving State Senator in Idaho history (16 terms) decided to retire rather than challenge his friend, Senate Finance chair Dean Cameron (26th). (more…)

OR filings: Three apiece

Oregon candidate filings ended just a couple of hours ago, and we'll have a few thoughts dribbling out.

Starting with a statistical oddity: Exactly three candidates have filed in the primary election (there may be more from minor parties) for each of the five U.S. House seats. When has that happened before?

The five incumbents account for a third of them. In addition: Two Republicans in the 1st district, two Democrats in the 2nd, two Republicans in the 3rd, a Democrat and a Republican in the 4th, and two Republicans in the 5th. No really big, major figures among the challengers, and incumbents appear likely to, as usual, sweep the field.

Okay, an asterisk needs to be added to that. In District 4, where Democrat Peter DeFazio is running again, he has a primary election from Matthew L. Robinson, and (presumably) a general against Republican Art Robinson - the same Art Robinson who ran such a peculiar race against DeFazio in 2010. (Google away for the details on that; be such to note his calls for abolition of public schools and Social Security, among other things.)

There's an obvious question: Is Matthew Robinson related to Art Robinson? Apparently, yes: He does have a son by that name. Which would make for an unusual case of a single family trying for two bites of the political apple in a single election ...

The finish line

On the TV series Lost, one of the key lines was this: "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress."

So at a legislative session. Lots of discussion and, in news accounts, ink were devoted to discussions of how, especially in the last couple of weeks, the Oregon legislative session had gotten testy. Bills were being held hostage. The Republicans (last weekend) bolted for Dorchester. One legislator told another to shut her mouth. Key legislation that actually had widespread support might not clear. The budget wasn't getting done.

The session closed out last night, and the end result was something else.

Governor John Kitzhaber wound up with everything he had asked for: Two major health bills and two major education bills, what was needed to keep sweeping initiatives in those areas on track. Republicans got bills on expanding enterprise zones (a good idea) and denying public access to concealed weapons records (not so good). Democrats got a bill through to help homeowners facing foreclosure. There was a bill to help with recovery of troubled stretches of the ocean off the Oregon coast. And more besides.

A month from now, the squabbles and the hostage-taking will be forgotten (other than by a few participants). The results will be remembered, and the results were substantial - more substantial, it appears now, than in the other state legislatures meeting at present. (Sessions in Washington and Idaho are ongoing.)

And it marks another productive legislative session in a state where, over the last decade, highly productive sessions (last year's was another) have become the norm.

Romney WA; Romney ID?

One tendency in the ever-strange Republican presidential primary season has been this: When the words goes forth that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is "inevitable" as the Republican nominee, he tends to win. When something comes along and punctures that, even if briefly, he tends to lose.

Just ahead of Super Tuesday, Romney's timing looks pretty good. He won, decisively, the caucuses in Washington state, and that wouldn't necessarily have been a foregone conclusion. Those caucuses have gone for Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson in times past. And other candidates, notably Ron Paul, have a significant presence in the state. But since the Michigan and Arizona primaries, there's been a steady drumbeat that yes, really, we mean it this time, Romney will be the guy. And that may have helped him in Washington.

Speculation here is that this will spill over into Idaho tomorrow. Romney does have natural advantages in Idaho. Nearly all of the state's Republican establishment, from the governor and senators on down, is in his camp, and the large portion of Idaho Republicans who are Mormon will largely be there too. (There's even a small thread of Romney's family history in southeast Idaho.) Substantial as all that is, it's not necessarily enough.

But the environment is favorable too. Idaho Republicans heading to caucus - a new event for them in the Gem State - will be well aware of the national situation and, especially in northern Idaho, of Washington state's too. A strong Romney win in Idaho looks like the probable outcome.

Will they fool us again?

No more fax

Among the regulatory items showing up in Monday's edition of the Washington Weekly Briefing:

This bit of rule changing by the Washington Secretary of State's office: "Documents received by fax are of poor quality, difficult to read, and must often be rejected due to illegibility, causing a delay in filing. Given that many more options exist today, such as e-mail, on-line submission, and overnight mail, the fax machine will be phased out of use."

No argument here. We only rarely use ours any more (though it's still connected). Just wondering how long it'll be before nearly all governments do the same?

For more about the Briefing (or its Oregon and Idaho counterparts), see the box to the right.

Dicks retirement

Norm Dicks
Norm Dicks

Norm Dicks is the senior Northwest member of Congress, in either chamber. Through, that is, the end of this year: He said this morning, in something of a surprise, that he will retire after that.

So, fairly late in the cycle, the newly-redistricted Washington 6th district seat comes open.

Dicks was trained in the Warren Magnuson shop, and very much comes from a time of greater civilty in Congress, and also out of the bringing-home-the-bacon era. The area around Tacoma and Kitsap County may not see so much bacon, much of it in the form of military developments, again for a long stretch.

A description in this morning's Roll Call e-mail report: "Dicks, 71, has represented the Olympic Peninsula of Washington since 1977. He is one of the most powerful and influential military hawks in his party and has had the top Democratic seat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee since Jack Murtha died. Like so many others who are retiring this year, he comes from an era when collegiality and bipartisanship were viewed as congressional virtues — not dangerous or disingenuous. In a statement, Dicks summed up his 18-term career by declaring that he was proud of his ability to bridge “the ideological and party lines that tend to separate us, and I have always believed that we can achieve greater results if we leave politics aside when the election season and the floor debates are over.”"

Dicks would have had an easy re-election; he has not had a close contest in a very long time. The new 6th House district generally covers the Olympic peninsula and Kitsap County, plus Gig Harbor and a slice of central Tacoma. Under most conditions, this will be a Democratic district. But there are Republican bases here, and substantial competitive areas - Kitsap is politically marginal, and much of what is Democratic is on the conservative side of Democratic - quite some distance from Seattle Democratic. (In that, Dicks was a realistic mirror of the district.)

Will be highly interesting to see who enters the races, as serious candidates are going to have to do quickly.

Idaho filings

A few thoughts on the well-under-way Idaho candidate filings. Since they're more than a week from completion - the deadline is next Friday - comments here won't reflect what isn't there, only what is.

First, 2nd district U.S. Representative Mike Simpson has a primary, from Idaho Falls resident John K. Baird, an agent at AFLAC insurance. Unclear at the moment how serious this is.

One legislative primary that will be plenty serious is the Senate 8 Republican, for an open seat. House member Steven Thayne, R-Emmett, is running, but so is a former House member, Christian Zimmerman, elected in 1996 and 1998. This could be a hot one.

At least one strong general election contest is in place: In District 6 for the Senate seat to which Republican Dan Johnson was recently appointed. Former District Judge John Bradbury, a well-known figure in the area, is running as a Democrat. This should be a fascinating race.

Three strong races are locked in as well in District 18 in southeast Boise, home to a number of the state's recent closest contests.

More to come.

WW: It’s for Vancouver rail

What, specifically, was the motivation for the massive planned undertaking of rebuilding the Interstate 5 Columbia River bridge? Was the heavy traffic that periodically jams up (but actually is lighter than it was some years back)? Was it bridge deterioration (though other bridges around the region, ad eve in Portland, are in worse shape)?

Willamette Week points out something that most readers (us, unfortunately, among them) of the Oregon Supreme Court's recent decision on the bridge missed: The original motivation for the whole billion-dollar project seems to have been extending light rail from Portland to Vancouver.

In the article "The $2.5 billion bridge," the paper notes, "The massive Interstate 5 bridge and freeway project is a “political necessity” to persuade Clark County residents to accept something they previously didn’t want—a MAX light-rail line from Portland to Vancouver."

Or, from the Court's decision: "It was politically impossible for the light rail project to proceed without also building new interstate bridges across the Columbia River ... Or as Metro later summarized it: ‘There is no light rail without the freeway bridge[s] being replaced.’”