"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)

Practically all of the people who buy and read the new memoir by Carole King, A Natural Woman, will be coming to it from the musical point of view – rightly so, considering her mass success as a songwriter and singer. But Idahoans will be looking for other material, because she has also been a public figure in Idaho, sometimes a controversial one.

The column today by Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman highlighted some of that. King, tiring of the urban life in New York, went to the far extreme and moved to backcountry Idaho, most prominently to the Robinson Bar area near Stanley. That this didn’t go over so well in some of those areas says a lot about Idaho: People in the state want growth and immigration (from other states), and they like money. But something in the cultures clashed. In asserting claims and rights that many other Idaho landowners drew, she attracted criticism the likes of which many of them never see.

The Barker review is a good introduction to some of this.

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If you’re among those who think of Oregon’s Lane County, seat Eugene, as a liberal bastion, take a look at today’s Register Guard piece on the county commission race between incumbent Rob Handy and challenger Pat Farr.

The contest is technically non-partisan, but you wouldn’t be far off describing Handy as the functional Democrat in the race, and Farr, a Eugene City Council member, as the functional Republican. There’s also a third candidate in the race, but it will surely boil down to Handy and Farr; both have strong cadres of supporters, from the usual suspects. This is not one of the rural-based districts, either: This hot contest is in the north side of Eugene, which is more politically marginal than many people would expect.

And the five-member board is marginal too. It had an effective conservative majority after the 2006 election, then a liberal majority after 2008, then conservative again after 2010. So what will come of it this year? We’ll be watching.

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The Broadway Bridge in Boise under the microscope. (Photo/Idaho Transportation Department)

Oregon Attorney General John Kroger said he will resign this summer to take over as president of Reed College. Governor Gregoire signed off on the state’s supplemental budget, ending the last substantial legislative activity for the year. Oregon’s secretary of state imposed a stiff fine on an initiative organizer. In Idaho, capitol mall demonstration rules were released by the state Department of Administration.

Personal income has taken a jump in Idaho. Hanford site operators are planning a major contract extension. Portland released an analysis of its economic development by detailed regions. Whooping cought cases in Washington are running well past 1,000. About 144 state liquor stores were sold, apart from the many more that were auctioned off, netting the state around $30 million.

Washington is bearing down on worker compensation fraud, and in Idaho the EPA is going after a dairy in Jerome. A major water diversion effort, backed by Representative Mike Simpson, is making its way through Congress. Oregon is looking for comments on management of parts of its state forest system.

Much more in the Briefings. Contact us for more.

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The Idaho Political Field Guide, the counterpart to the Oregon PFG and the successor to the Idaho Political Almanac series, is out!

It’s been 10 years since Ridenbaugh Press published the last book in the series. This new one covers elections of the last decade, and the effects of reapportionment as well.

Several events are upcoming. Check back.

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books Idaho

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Occasionally politics gives rise to an all-encompassing phrase that means more than the words themselves. During the mid-1950’s Senate hearings on the excesses of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting rhetoric the committee counsel asked a memorable question: “Have you no decency, Senator?

It was and remains a classic rhetorical question, one which answers itself.

In the wake of a recent report people who care about this state and its future should be asking Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter the same question. More pointedly, they should be asking the governor, as well as State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, whether each honestly believes he is upholding their oath of office.

For those that do care about Idaho’s future – its children and their education, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear a convincing case can be made both could be charged with “dereliction of duty” and violation of their oaths.

Idaho’s Constitution is unequivocally clear that the primary duty of the state is to maintain a uniform and thorough system of public and free schools. No less an authority than the state’s former chief economist, Mike Ferguson, who ably served five Idaho governors and has an impeccable reputation for objectivity and honesty, has through the center he operates (The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy) issued a report that says the state is not fulfilling its constitutional mandate.

Dear Governor and State Superintendent, answer these questions honestly and preface each with an “Are you proud. . . .”:

1) of the indisputable fact public school funding in Idaho as a share of state spending has dropped precipitously since the year 2000?

2) that Idaho now ranks last in the nation in state spending per pupil?

3) that 25% of Idaho’s third graders cannot read at their grade level?

4) that recent years have seen a significant number of Idaho teachers leave the state?

5) that most teachers feel their role in educating children is continually denigrated by your actions and that Idaho’s Teacher of the Year decries your attacks on her profession?

6) that almost 70 percent of Idaho’s 117 school districts now have to turn to over-ride levies to survive your gamesmanship whereby you claim to hold the line on taxes but by underfunding public education force patrons of school districts to tax themselves to replace what you’ve cut?

7) of Idaho’s proliferation of charter schools which further decrease public support within districts for the public schools with a diversion of funds to a different form of private, self-selected schools?

8) that more Idahoans are giving up altogether on the public schools and are turning to homeschooling?

9) that the Idaho Legislature continues to ignore the Idaho Supreme Court mandate to more suitably fund and maintain the physical facilities within Idaho school districts?

10) Finally, do you really believe voters won’t see how much of your “Students Come First” program is a payback to computer service providers who coincidentally happen to be major contributors to your campaigns and to the Republican Party?

This list could go on. Governor Otter and Tom Luna are the worst friends education has ever had in Idaho. The sad thing is they believe their own rhetoric; the fact most educators and anyone that knows anything about education disagree means nothing. Their “Students Come First” is the classic Big Lie. They are perfect practitioners of the Herman Goering School of propaganda – just keep repeating the lie.

The Luna/Otter reforms should be nailed by voters for the lunacy they are and repealed in November, but watch those that benefit from marketing their computers to the state pour tons of money into television advertising hoping to fool voters into thinking otherwise.

Some folks are aware the Governor strums an electric guitar. Most know he says he is going to run again. If so, the perfect campaign theme song for his appearances is Garth Brooks’ “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association,” especially these two verses:

When Uncle Sam dips in your pocket
For most things you don’t mind.
But when your dollar goes to all of those
Standing in a welfare line;
Well rejoice you have a voice.
If you’re concerned about the destination
Of this great nation:
It’s called the American Honky-Tonk Bar Association.

It represents the hardhat,
Gun-rack, achin’-back
Over-taxed, flag-wavin’, fun-lovin’ crowd.
Their heart is in the music,
And they love to play it loud;
There’s no forms or applications;
There’s no red tape administrations:
It’s the American Honky-tonk Bar Association!

Why does Butch strumming and singing this song make me think of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns. Cry, beloved Idaho.

Chris Carlson is a writer at Medimont, Idaho.

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Where heads the Tea Party, as this new election year kicks into gear?

Ridenbaugh blogger Barrett Rainey has some thoughts on that after seeing some activists in action at his town of Roseburg.

His conclusion: “(Dis)organized into many small groups, the T-P’ers don’t have the “fire in the belly” they did 24 months back. And a lot of other folk, who either shared some of their anger or weren’t paying much attention, are taking more notice of what’s been happening. Or, as in the case of congress, what’s not been happening. And why. And who. Or whom.”

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Oregon Rainey

Candidates Gone Wold. On stage.

Portland held its regular Candidates Gone Wild event – featuring Portland-area candidates – at the Bagdad Theatre.

A travel ruling affecting the Clearwater National Forest was upheld at the regional level; but another ruling, about the Whitman-Wallowa National Forest, was put on hold internally. In Washington, jobs are up but the unemployment rate remains flat. In Idaho, the jobless rate fell below 8%. Mountain Home Air Force Base formally installed a new commander.

Chicken pox cases were found at the Oregon state pen. The Washington state health agency is planning to expand its involvement with Medicaid activities. The last round of legislation from the 2012 Idaho legislative session was signed into law. Washington state government found a string of ways to reduce its ink pen purchases, cut its choices for printing paper building and reduced toner and ink cartridge buys by more than three-fourths.

The congressional delegation from the Spokane area issued a statement in favor of the North Corridor project. The Oregonian endorsed candidates in primary contests in all five Oregon U.S. House districts. Washington released its mid-month regulatory proposals. Idaho was slated to receive more than $20 million from settlements in drug legal cases. Congressional campaign contributions were reported (and results show up in this week’s Briefings).

Much more in the Briefings. Contact us for more.

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OR political field guide

Today’s release day for our newest book: The Oregon Political Field Guide.

We have a lot more information about it on a separate page. But a here’s a little more.

First, you can order it through Paypal via this button here.

Second, it’s one of a series. The Idaho counterpart (the Idaho Political Field Guide) will be coming shortly. The Washington book is under construction and will be released a little later.

Third: What is the Field Guide? And why do we call it that?

These books are relatives of the Idaho Political Almanac series Ridenbaugh Press published in the 90s (about, obviously, Idaho). They cover some of the same territory, but not exactly the same. The Political Almanacs contained more background about office holders and sometimes candidates, and their stands on issues, performance in office, and so on. The Field Guides are a little different: They’re about campaigns and elections, with heavy focus on the voters – how the voters voted. This edition of the book (there may be more to come, later on) covers in some detail the last decade of elections. That allows you to see how various districts, counties and other areas elected people over time; how the percentages rose and fell, how the numbers of raw votes changed. It’s intended to be a useful tool for political analysis down to a fine level.

If politics in Oregon is your thing, then the Field Guide needs to be at hand.

A quick word about the Oregon Blue Book, and how this relates to that.

We’re enthusiastic fans of the Blue Book, a terrific and gorgeously general reference about Oregon, now celebrating its centennial. (A collection of 17 of the most recent sits prominently near where this is written.) It includes some information about elections, but not in great detail. And as a state publication, it probably shouldn’t include a lot more than it currently does. The Field Guide is designed to fill the gap: To present elections and other information in a way that’s non-partisan but also explanatory and analytical in a way that might be problematic for a state-backed book.

You can find out more at the book’s main web page; a clutch of sample pages also is available. And stop by (and “like,” if you would) the Oregon Political Field Guide page at Facebook.

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Floyd McKay has in Crosscut a detailed look at the emerging – and it does continue to emerge – race in the new Washington 1st district, the part of northwestern Washington located roughly well east of I-5 and west of the Cascades.

He focuses on two key points (well, three if you could the lunacy of a prospective Dennis Kucinich campaign in the 1st).

One is that Republican John Koster, who came within a sliver in 2010 of ousting Democratic Representative Rick Larsen, has the Republican nomination sewn up and will be strong in the general election. He has lots of pluses, starting with having run strongly in much of this territory before, and strong organization and traditionally strong fundraising. We’d give him about even odds in the general right now.

The second is that the Democratic side is far from settled, and not yet even at the point where a front-runner can be easily discerned. The five Democratic contenders are all serious candidates with real advantages. Three (Suzan DelBene, Darcy Burner and Laura Ruderman) all have strong Microsoft backgrounds and have raised comparable amounts of money (some of it from that source), and all three have run for major office before (DelBene and Burner for the U.S. House, in the 8th district, and Ruderman for secretary of state, as well as election three times to the state House from King County’s east side). DelBene got a vice of confidence in an endorsement from Governor Chris Gregoire, but none so far look to be pulling far out ahead. And the two men in the race, businessman Darshan Rauniyar and legislator Steve Hobbs, are also running highly serious campaigns. This one has yet to be won by anybody.

One of the most interesting contests in the Northwest this year.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The real test of a president is how well they make difficult decisions. Wisdom, insight, perspective, a sense of political necessity and public acceptability, are all critical factors.

The first insight one gets into the mind of the person seeking public endorsement for their pursuit of the highest office in the land is their choice of a running mate.

The simple fact is all too often the vice president has ascended to the presidency upon the death of the president. Sometimes the nation has benefitted as the vice president turns out to be surprisingly competent at holding and exercising judiciously the powers of the Office of the President.

For example, in the 20th century most presidential historians agree that Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman and Lyndon Baines Johnson all turned in credible performances when called to center stage by the death of a president. Candidly, though, all four of those selections were based upon what were deemed at the time to be over-riding political concerns.

President William McKinley’s political mentor, Ohio Senator Mark Hanna, thought he and other GOP party bosses were putting the overly “progressive” Teddy out to pasture and out of the public mind. Imagine their shock when the young, ambitious, vain but brilliant Teddy inherited the Presidency upon the death of McKinley?

Twenty-two years later, “Silent Cal” became president upon the death of Warren G. Harding. The former governor of Massachusetts was considered by these same historians to have been a considerable improvement over the man he succeeded.

Truman of course surprised many by his ability to rise to the demands of the job. And LBJ, at last having reached his long-time goal, ushered through the Congress his “Great Society” legislation including the truly historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. Each of these men won the office in their own right in the subsequent election.

Contrast those four with the four who succeeded to the presidency in the 19th century none of whom went on to be elected. Three of the four are viewed by presidential historians as “weak leaders,” the exception being John Tyler who set the correct precedents for a veep to succeed to and be able to exercise all the powers of the presidency.

One of the least likely people to become president was Chester A. Arthur, vice president at the time of James A. Garfield’s long and agonizing death (over three months) following his having been shot by a deranged office seeker on July 2, 1881. He finally succumbed more to his doctors’ inept care than anything else on Sept. 19, 1881.

Arthur had never held any elective office having filled only the chief patronage job in New York state, that of customs collector at the Port of New York. His craven loyalty to the rakish and monomaniac senior senator from that state, Roscoe Conkling, won him the post.

Thwarted in his own ambitions to be president by a truly spontaneous “draft Garfield” movement at the 1880 GOP convention, Conkling was able to force his underling onto the ticket.

Balancing the ticket or uniting the party is most often the excuse used in asking one to join a ticket. Seldom is the critical criterion of being able to step into the job and perform well applied.

Of the most recent presidents only Jimmy Carter, who selected Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, who chose Al Gore, and Ronald Reagan, who chose George H.W. Bush, included that criterion in making their selection.

Arizona Senator John McCain, in 2008, failed the first decision test miserably in the minds of millions with his selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Few believed she could step up and into the job.

So, who will Mitt Romney select? A guess is he will approach the decision in a business-like manner, much as a board chairman would go about finding a successor. Ability to handle the job will be critical. Electoral calculus, however, dictates he must take Ohio or Florida if he is to win. Fortunately, both states have competent, capable, bright, talented potential presidents.

Ohio offers Senator Rob Portman, a former congressman and director of the Office of Management and Budget. Florida’s offering is NOT Senator Marco Rubio, despite what one may read elsewhere. He is out of step with the Latino community on the immigration issue and would not create inroads for Romney into the Hispanic vote.

A betting person might wager the Floridian Romney selects will be former Governor Jeb Bush. The more one thinks about it the more sense it makes.

Does President Obama make a counter-move? Yes, if his support with women voters starts to decline, a real long-shot bet would be he tells Joe Biden that he and Hillary are switching jobs.

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

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Some posts back we took a look at what might be some of the most vulnerable, at-risk Oregon House races according to party registration. There are, of course, other metrics too, and here’s one: The districts which have seen the closest races in recent years.

OR political field guide
Based on material from the upcoming Oregon Political Field Guide

This is not perfect apples and apples, of course, since the districts have changed with redistricting. For the most part, though, they haven’t changed so much that a look at the closest becomes altogether useless.

(Material for this post is drawn out of the just about to be released Oregon Political Field Guide, pictured and linked to at the left.)

In the last decade, the very closest Oregon House race was in House 28, in Washington County, when in 2002 Democrat Jeff Barker squeezed out a 41-vote win over Republican Keith Parker. Barker is still there, running again this year, but this doesn’t seem like one of the contenders to watch most closely. Barker went on to win 2004 and 2006 in landslides, was unopposed in 2008, and won with about 57% in the Republican year 2010.

The next two closest races in the last decade were also in 2002, wins by Democrat Betty Komp in District 22 (in the Salem-Woodburn area), and by Derrick Kitts in District 30. Komp was closely challenged in 2006 and 2010 (and that 2010 opponent is on the ballot again), so that’s a district worth watching.

So is Washington County’s 30, though Kitts, who left to run for Congress, is long gone. He was replaced by Democrat David Edwards, who in 2010 was replaced by Republican Shawn Lindsay. In District 30, no candidate of either party has gotten as much as 57% of the vote, so this is clearly a seat to attend to.

The next closest races may be a little less indicative, though they suggest the unexpected places where close contests can develop. In 2006, Republican John Dallum, running for the second time in the sprawling east-of-Cascades 59th, was held to 50.68% of the vote in what would seem to be one of the stronger Republican districts in the state. Indeed, Republicans have returned to landslide levels here since, but time and change can make for surprises.

And time can change a district. In 2004 the closest House race in Oregon was in District 10, when Republican Alan Brown barely held his coastal district 10 seat after a challenged by Democrat Jean Cowan. That close race was foreshadowed by another very close win (51%) by Brown in 2002, and in 2006 Cowan narrowly (51.58%) defeated him. Those three races in District 10, in fact, account for three of the 20 most competitive legislative races in Oregon in the last decade. But: Cowan was unopposed in 2008 and won decisively in 2010. As she leaves it this year, the district seems to have a clear Democratic lean. But how genuine that lean is may be a question for the fall.

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Thought this was settled.

After losing a primary election in his home turf of Ohio, Representative Dennis Kucinich seemed to have bowed to the inevitable, and didn’t bring back up the talk of running for Congress from somewhere else in the country. Like Washington, where some months back he seemed to be semi-campaigning.

But now, here it is again. There’s a web site, Washington Citizens for Kucinich, hosting a petition asking him to run and a survey on the question of whether he should. All of this is aimed specifically at getting him on the ballot in this state where he does not and never has lived.

And seems not to be much wanted, to judge from comments by state Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz: “Dennis Kucinich has to decide what his legacy is going to be. Will he be remembered as a principled member of Congress or the narcissist who lost two Congressional races in two states the same year?”

Kucinich’s interest in the Evergreen State seems to be drawn mostly by its possession of three congressional districts, all strongly or semi-amenable to Democratic candidates, where no incumbent is running this year. Never mind that experienced in-state candidates already have surfaced and gotten to work in all three of them, and that all three would be iffy matches with Kucinich’s kind of politics. (All three are better fits for more moderate Democrats.)

In truth, Kucinich might be a decent fit philosophically for one Washington district – the 7th, based at Seattle. But good luck trying to convince people to vote for a guy who’s never even lived in the home district before campaign season. At all.

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