Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in May 2012

Carlson: 30 pieces?

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Some may recall an ad for a brokerage firm a few years back. Folks would be talking and suddenly everything would go silent as everyone strained to hear what the man from E.F. Hutton was saying. The message was simple: when E.F. Hutton speaks, everyone listens.

Former four term Governor Cecil D. Andrus spoke this past weekend to the Idaho Conservation League’s annual retreat at Redfish Lake. He had two very pointed messages not just for the ICL, but for all the Idahoans as well as the states’ elected leadership.

Everyone should stop everything they are doing and listen. Nothing less than the future of Idaho as a viable, economically growing state is at stake.

Cece is 80 now, still sharp as a tack, but hard of hearing, has vision impairment in one eye (Not his shooting eye he’s quick to tell one), and manages other ailments that come with age. Gifted with energy as he is, inevitably the old clock starts to slow down, but his devotion to a state he loves and led during 14 years as governor compels him to speak out.

His first message was typically blunt. He told his friends at the ICL and Congressman Mike Simpson, who also spoke later, that it was time to quit fiddling around with trying to please everyone regarding the need to provide additional protection for the high peak areas of the Boulders and White Clouds to the east of Redfish Lake.

Andrus called on the ICL and Simpson to write President Barack Obama that just as Jimmy Carter had to do in Alaska, President Obama had to declare the Boulder/White Clouds a National Monument. Both Simpson and the ICL, who have worked so hard for so many years to obtain compromise wilderness legislation, had to support this step as the only way to overcome Senator Jim Risch’s “hold” on Simpson’s wilderness bill and galvanize the Congress into acting.

While complimentary of Simpson’s extraordinary efforts to achieve reasonable compromise, Andrus was critical of Senator Risch for bowing to the single issue interests of those who simply desire to take their snowmobile or ATV anywhere they want on public lands, damn the consequences. (more…)

Try this one the Atlanta Braves or KC Chiefs

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

From time to time, seems to me the “correctness police” take things a step too far. A State of Oregon busybody group is the latest “correctness” over-reacher.” Specifically our Board of Education which has decided that – henceforth- our public schools may no longer have mascots, nicknames or logos that are Native American in nature.

The official “thinking” behind banishing all things Indian connected to Oregon schools is that somehow they’re “racist,” “shameful,” “dehumanizing.” Apparently some in the American Indian community feel that way. Equally apparent, some don’t. Also apparent, some don’t give a damn.

I’ve never attended an Oregon school with an athletic team or image that contributed to this official human “shame.” We were the Bend High Lava Bears and, frankly, we didn’t much care if a few bears in Central Oregon or elsewhere were bent out of shape about it. The notoriously bad play of our football team in my senior year would have created enough shame even if we were St. Catherine’s of the Cascades. Bummer.

But here in the “burg-in-the-woods” where I now live, the local high school must surrender to this “correctness” which means removal of all things Indian from buildings, uniforms, letterheads, football end zones, basketball courts and cheerleader outfits. All must be done because the Board of Education “correctness police” are watching. And if all “dehumanizing” accouterments aren’t gone in 60 months, state funding will be withheld!

Imagine, for a moment, your state legislature took a dislike to the name of your town for some “correctness” reason, and told your city council to rename your village posthaste or there would be no more state dollars come 2017. “BLACKMAIL,” the cry would go up. “FISCAL BLACKMAIL!” Schools, however, are expected to roll over and get their collective tummies scratched.

What makes it even more ridiculous is this. In the community of Oakridge, school athletic teams are called “Warriors.” And they’ll continue to be called “Warriors” because the “correctness police” have drawn a fine hypocritical line between that label and any other thing “Indian.” (more…)

Running once, running twice

When Washington 1st District Representative Jay Inslee resigned to run for governor - in what looks like unfortunate timing - he set up a number of curiosities in his old district.

In November (and in the primary too), voters will have the oddity of being able to vote for two different people to represent the 1st - one for a "short term", really short, just a month - and the other for the full two-year term. Candidates can run for both, since the terms are consecutive, not concurrent.

In one sense, why should they run for both? Here's another oddity: The 1st district to be represented is different in the two elections. It was reapportioned, dramatically, with the boundaries moved much to the east, so that the new and the old district only overlap about half of the population. Campaigning may be a lot more complicated running in, in effect, two districts at once.

(Left: Current District 1; Right: New District 1/Daily Kos)

In the last few days, though - last week being filing week - there's been quite a tussle about who runs in one or both. Word was that state Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz wanted his main candidates to run just for the full term, in what will be a very competitive new district, more closely competitive than the old Democratic-leaning one has been. But there's been some pushback.

For one thing, John Koster, the presumptive Republican standard-bearer, is running in both - and there are good reasons. An article in Daily Kos points out one factor applying to all candidates in the races:

By running in two elections at once, FEC contribution limits are doubled, so donors who've already given the maximum amount allowed by law can be re-solicited. Burner was reportedly concerned that Koster, the Republican standard-bearer, would also jump into the special, giving him a financial leg up. Koster did ultimately wind up doing so, but it appears Burner made the first move—and that prompted most of the rest of the field to abrogate their agreement with Pelz and follow suit, lest they, too, wind up at a disadvantage.
The one holdout was, as I mentioned, Hobbs, who put out a press release hammering the other candidates for trying to "dodge federal campaign contribution laws." It's not clear why Hobbs didn't follow the herd, though perhaps he thinks he's got a good angle with voters by avoiding what he called "financial trickery and shifty politics."

That would be Darcy Burner, who has run twice (unsuccessfully, but in close races) in the 8th district, part of which makes up the new 1st (but not the current 1st; see?). And legislator Steve Hobbs.

Of the seven candidates for the two-year term, just two - Hobbs and Independent Larry Ishmael - aren't running as well for the month term. But, oddly, the short term has drawn a raft of candidates. They include one Independent (Bob Champion), eight Democrats (compared to five for the 2-year) and two Republicans.

The top-two primary will winnow the lists, of course, presumably to Koster and one of the Democrats. But working out the calculus beyond that has gotten a little harder.

A matter of tone

As you consider the Idaho primary election, put aside any thoughts of who was more or less “conservative”, whatever that may mean. Tone is more significant.

Many of the races had individual characteristics. The most striking races were challenger-against-incumbent, where the challenger rhetoric was common to many of the races (at least on the Republican side, where most of them were), and the background structure of the races mainly split into two types.

The rhetoric of the challengers tended to be overheated, even apocalyptic – so-and-so must be defeated or our freedom and liberty are at risk. “The downward spiral of our nation,” warned one House candidate. Or some such: Shrill rhetoric, shrill candidates.

Not all but many challenges fell into two overlapping structural categories: Coming from the inside, from established political people and forces, or outside, from people evidently angry about conditions in general. On election day in Idaho, both kinds of challenges failed. (more…)

Another look at the shifting numbers

I don't really know how many Idahoans have told me in the last month, especially before the primary election last week, that there was no way they were going to publicly declare or sign up with a political party. Not all but a lot of them were, well, known Democrats.

The widespread (and it does seem to be widespread) antipathy to the new party registration regime in Idaho looks to be especially strong left of center, not a great shock in a state dominated by Republicans. Voting patterns from last week seem to support that idea.

Secretary of State Ben Ysursa was quoted as saying, "In my opinion, the main reason for the decline in the turnout was attributable to the, for the first time, Idaho’s closed primary where people had to declare their party affiliation and make that a public record."

His office hasn't yet posted the number of ballots cast and the number of registered voters, from which turnout is calculated. But if you take his website's estimate from not long ago of registered voters (about 742,000) and the "turnout" estimate of about 23%, then you come up with a number of cast ballots around 170,660. Since the total number of partisan ballots cast in the congressional primaries was 154,649, you get the suspect that even 23% could be a tad high.

You'd have to go back quite a way to hit a lower number for a primary election - back when Idaho's population was smaller. In 2100, primary turnout was 203,013; in 2008, it was 182,627; in 2006 it was 184,456. Back in 2004 the ballots-cast number was similar (172,006) to this year, but that was an unusually boring primary season.

The diminished turnout, then, seems to be solidly established. Overall turnout was down about 29,000 from 2010 and about 8,000 from 2008, and about 6,000 from 2006. (Primaries in non-presidential years tend to bulge a little higher because most of the statewide officials are on the ballot then.)

There's another interesting numbers question too, in a release from the Idaho Republican Party (whose efforts generated the registration system). Party rules Chair Ronald Nate offered the analysis that "Idaho Democrats have a problem. They are bleeding support. With all the speculation about the Republican’s move to closed primaries possibly hurting voter turnout; the actual vote totals tell a startling story." (Note, before we move on, that he's not disputing the idea of the system "hurting voter turnout," but just drawing attention to something else.)

His numbers, which are accurate, are a mix of cherry-picking and something intriguing.

The argument is about the Democrats comes from votes cast in the congressional races, for Democratic candidates, amounting to 10,149 this year, compared with 24,698 in 2010 and 36,101 in 2008. That trajectory looks like a charge right off the cliff: At that rate, they'll get no votes at all in 2014.

Broaden the picture a bit, though: In 2006 the Democratic congressionals drew 27,856, and in 2004 collected 25,741. 2008 looks like an aberration, explainable by the Obama enthusiasm at that time. A standard Democratic turnout of around 24-30,000 seems in place.

(That seems to be in the range of a fifth to a quarter of the Republican turnout, so there's certainly a story here of Republican dominance in Idaho. And Republicans didn't seem to mind registering nearly as much. Republican congressional votes, at 144,500, were down from the much hotter primary year of 2010, when 158,746 voted in those races. But this year's Republican primary turnout, in the congressional races at least, was higher than in any year prior to 2010, so advocates within the party can legitimately crow about that.)

Except that this year, fewer than half as many voted, accounting for just about all of the decline in overall primary voter turnout. The Republican Party naturally argues that has something to do with Obama, but that doesn't seem likely; presidential caucus turnout, even without a contests, was fairly strong among the Democrats, and Democrats generated a larger than usual number of candidates for office this year. Neither indicated a recent utter collapse (comparatively) among Democrats.

No, the more logical explanation is that Democrats, more than most others, rejected participation in the system. While it is true that only those voting in the Republican primary had to register with that party, it's also the case that to vote at all, you had to "Fill out a new voter registration card, Fill out a Party Affiliation Declaration form, Declare a party [or non-affiliated] at the polls at the 2012 Primary Election." And a lot of people just rejected that.

And we now have a pretty good idea of who did - and, for the most part, it doesn't seem to have been Republicans.

OR: Environmental victory lap

Among the groups registering pleasure or not after Tuesday's voting was the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, who got heavily involved in a bunch of party primaries.

And it was very happy with the results. Its release today seems worth a quote at length.

Throughout Oregon, OLCV’s endorsed candidates in contested races won 14 races and lost only once – with two more races still to be decided in fall run-offs.

In the marquee race of the night, OLCV scored a huge win for the environment in House District 48 (SE Portland/Happy Valley). Future environmental champion Jeff Reardon overwhelmed incumbent Mike Schaufler by a wide margin – 66%-34%! During his time in the Legislature, Schaufler had earned a lifetime 57% on the OLCV Environmental Scorecard. From start to finish, the Reardon campaign ran an excellent race and OLCV couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of Jeff’s campaign.

Speaking of future environmental champions, OLCV had a clean sweep of our other targeted legislative races, with our candidates winning in HD 47 (East Portland), HD 36 (SW Portland), and HD 29 (Forest Grove/Cornelius/Hillsboro). Congratulations to Jessica Vega Pederson, Jennifer Williamson and Ben Unger!

But there’s more to celebrate than just our successes in legislative races. (more…)

Carlson: Fading away

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The late former Idaho Senator, Frank Forrester Church III, is rapidly fading from public memory not only in Idaho, but nationally. Church served Idaho honorably for 24 years (1957-1981), the only Democrat senator ever re-elected (three times) in Idaho history.

Except for those that love to recreate in “The Frank,” the vast 2.3 million acre wilderness in central Idaho named after the author of the 1964 Wilderness Act (The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness), few folks recall Idaho’s most famous Democratic senator and second only to William E. Borah as Idaho’s most famous in the first 125 years of statehood.

Thousands of Idahoans and hundreds of thousands of Americans owe a special debt of gratitude to the Senator, who was unique in pursuing an issue we all come to care about but few senators ever take up as a cause.

Frank had an abiding concern about how elderly are cared for especially as death approached. He was an early supporter of hospice and the dignity of dying at home with loved one’s around and professional caregivers available to assist.

It took him eight years to get it done, but eventually something we all take for granted today, became a reality - the ability to have hospice costs covered by Medicare.

The next time a hospice nurse drops by to assist you in caring for a dying loved one, say a brief prayer of thanks for the Senator.

He was keenly aware of the fragility of life, having beaten testicular cancer as a young man at Stanford following his work in World War II as an intelligence officer. Having faced down death once he was virtually fearless. The cancer returned when he was 59 and he died relatively quickly on April 7, 1984. Some say it was just as well he had been defeated in 1980 by Congressman Steve Symms.

I’m not one of those; all I see is lost opportunity. He did so much good and in three years could have done more. From the creation of the Sawtooth and Hells Canyon National Recreation Areas, to care for elderly, to the defense of American values by holding hearings exposing the rogue activities of the CIA and international corporations, Frank Church did it all, with grace and honor. (more…)

ID: Challenges coming up short

The new closed primary in Idaho seems to have had one of the effects a lot of people expected: Turnout is down. People professional expected to be neutral, like journalists and judges, are voting in smaller numbers. And a lot of other people, disgusted at having to declare a party identification, took a pass too.

But one of the other anticipated effects - the idea that relatively extreme challengers would be knocking out lots of Idaho legislators - seems not to be materializing.

Look up in District 1, the first north Panhandle district, where all three Republican legislators - Senator Shawn Keough and Representatives Eric Anderson and George Eskridge - were challenged from, probably you could say, the right. (A local Tea Party leader, Pam Stout, who had some national visibility, opposed Eskridge.) The challenges were energetic and well-publicized. All three incumbents seem to be surviving their challenges with strong votes.

Just south of them, Republican Representative Shannon McMillan was challenged by two primary opponents, one of them a former candidate for governor and senator - Rex Rammell. As this is written, she's at 54.4% of the total vote, well over as many as the other two combined.

A challenge to House Republican Caucus Chair Ken Roberts - one underwritten in part by fellow House Republican leaders - seems to have fallen well short.

A challenge from the libertarian-oriented Maurice Clements to Senator Patti Anne Lodge went nowhere; she won in a landslide.

And so it went around the state.