The last week, we’ve asked readers whether incumbent Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney or challenger Scott Bedke (the assistant majority leader) would emerge as winner when the session holds its organizational meeting next month.

Results: 87.5% say Bedke, and the rest said someone else. No one predicted Denney.

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Idaho

mendiola
Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

With about 6,100 jobless Idahoans facing a cutoff in their extended weekly unemployment payments by the end of December and plunging over their own fiscal cliffs, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, says Congress and the Obama administration have only a few weeks left to resolve the nation’s ominous federal budget crisis before taxes spiral up and deep spending cuts are imposed.

Conducting a November 14 iTownHall conference call from his Washington office that reportedly was tuned into by thousands of Idahoans, Crapo said, “We truly are facing difficult and historic times in our country.”

Noting the nation recently went through extremely intense presidential and congressional elections that only succeeded in maintaining the status quo – President Barack Obama remaining in the White House, Republicans controlling the U.S. House and Democrats dominating the U.S. Senate – Idaho’s senior senator said the government has been split and unable to bridge partisan differences.

Meanwhile, Americans “face very, very serious and immediate problems,” including a $16 trillion national debt swelling by $1 trillion a year, and the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlement systems “rapidly facing insolvency.”

Crapo said: “The economy is beginning to reel because of our debt load. If we don’t take prompt action soon, the world markets will soon lose confidence in the ability of the United States of America to pay its debt. We literally face the threat of losing the American dream.”

He explained the so-called “fiscal cliff” technically is different from the debt crisis but related. The cliff over which the federal government is scheduled to go over on Jan. 1, 2013 involves $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts “done in a way that is very inartful with the potential of causing great damage to the military and the economy,” Crapo said.

The Idaho Republican said he supports protecting the $1.2 trillion level of the cuts, but reforming them so they are not so draconian. On the flip side of the spending cuts is a steep spike in a wide gamut of taxes reduced eight to 10 years ago, commonly known as “the Bush era tax cuts,” enacted when George W. Bush was president.

“Every American is facing increasing taxes,” Crapo said. “Most all Americans will see tax increases, even those who don’t pay income taxes.”

Key components of the fiscal cliff include:

· The disappearance of a 2 percent temporary cut in federal payroll taxes.
· The expiration of extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
· The ending of Bush era tax cuts impacting married couples, families with children, inheritances, investments and income.
· A sharp cut in reimbursements for doctors participating in Medicare.
· Imposition of an alternative minimum tax on 26 million households, raising their taxes by an average of $3,700.
· Effecting new taxes on family investment income exceeding $250,000 to help pay for Obama’s health care law.
· A variety of smaller tax cuts for both businesses and individuals known as “extenders,” including tax credits for research and development and sales tax deductions in states without income taxes.
· A $55 billion or 9 percent cut in defense spending.
· A $55 billion in cuts to domestic programs, including a 2 percent cut to Medicare providers.

Crapo said a recent study shows the fiscal cliff could mean a $3,000 tax increase for average families in Idaho. More than 7,000 workers have left the state’s labor force since May. An estimated 1,100 left the job market in October, the fifth straight month of Idaho labor force declines.

Referring to the looming fiscal cliff, Crapo said: “Congress cannot allow this to happen. World markets would immediately react negatively.” He added the U.S. credit rating could be downgraded and the U.S. economy could implode.

Crapo continues to work with the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators organized to help tackle the nation’s deficit crisis, which he said has the support of 40 senators.

“One way or the other, it’s my hope we start seeing responsible government and responsible solutions supported,” Crapo said. “People in America are clamoring for the gridlock in Washington to stop. Frankly, we don’t have time.”

President Obama’s insistence that tax rates be raised on those earning $250,000 or more annually would hit small businesses especially hard, Crapo said, urging that the U.S. tax code be reformed. Raising taxes on the upper two brackets would not come close to generating the revenue needed to close the nation’s deficit gap, he said.

“The crisis is because spending is too high not because taxes are too low,” Crapo said.

A Pocatello woman whose husband works for Meadow Gold said the company has decided it will be less expensive to pay a fine for not carrying health care than providing coverage for employees. She said her family was in panic mode upon learning the news.

Crapo predicted Obamacare ultimately will force millions of Americans to get health care coverage from the federal government because private companies will discard their own policies. Health care costs could more than double, some analysts have said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates if the Bush era tax cuts are allowed to expire and taxes spring back up, that could raise up to $5 trillion in revenue over 10 years. About $800 billion could be raised from the top two tax brackets, Crapo said, but that’s the optimistic assessment.

“That kind of tax increase would be squarely hitting everyone in America,” he said, adding some pessimistically think it would raise only $2 trillion on the low end if unemployment were to vault and economic growth shrink by 3 percent. “I wish I could give absolute assurance the gridlock will be resolved and we won’t go over the cliff. … The worst option of everything is to do nothing and accept the status quo.”

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Idaho Mendiola

Oregon is home to a good deal of talk about the reorganizing of its liquor marketplace, prospectively moving away – as Washington state has – from the liquor store system, and possibly removing such elements as the three-tier sales system (producer, wholesaler, retailer) that without doubt adds inefficiency and cost to the system, and to the product.

Not as a final word but as a factor in thinking about this, take a look at this Washington Monthly article, which suggests – more clearly than I’ve seen elsewhere – the pluses to throwing inefficiency and extra cost into the system.

A sample: “And so, for eighty years, the kind of vertical integration seen in pre-Prohibition America has not existed in the U.S. But now, that’s beginning to change. The careful balance that has governed liquor laws in the U.S. since the repeal of Prohibition is under assault in ways few Americans are remotely aware of. Over the last few years, two giant companies—Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, which together control 80 percent of beer sales in the United States—have been working, along with giant retailers, led by Costco, to undermine the existing system in the name of efficiency and low prices. If they succeed, America’s alcohol market will begin to look a lot more like England’s: a vertically integrated pipeline for cheap drink, flooding the gutters of our own Gin Lane.”

As the region moves, apparently, in the direction of a marijuana marketplace, some of the ideas here might come into play there as well. – Randy Stapilus

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Oregon

idahocolumnn

For all that nothing has changed in the numbers of Republicans and Democrats in the Idaho congressional and legislative delegations, the state’s battleground picture may have shifted a little.

Not a lot. But in some notable places.

Of the 105 seats, 21 were unopposed (one of those a Democrat, Michelle Stennett of Ketchum), and 58 more were decided in true landslides of 60 percent or more of the vote, so 79 of the 105 seats were generally not competitive at all. If we scale back a little further and look at races won only by realistically close margins – under 55 percent – then just 14 races, out of the 105, remain.

When you look at where in the state they were, the geography of the races makes sense.

Two of those close races were in the new District 5, which meshes Democratic-leaning Latah and Republican-leaning Benewah counties. Democrats won two of the three races there, but the closest legislative contest in Idaho this year resulted in the Republican win of Cindy Agidius (helped by strong connections in Moscow) by 123 votes over Democrat Paulette Jordan. The third-closest was the win of Democratic incumbent Senator Dan Schmidt over the man he beat more easily two years ago, Republican Gresham Bouma. This will be a hotly-contested district in 2014.

The second most competitive race was in District 26, the big Magic Valley district where the largest population base is in Democratic Blaine County. In House A, there was just enough Republican support in Gooding County to deliver a win for Republican Steve Miller. This may be a more competitive district now than it has been. Races in Lewiston and Pocatello ran close too, reinforcing that these are truly competitive areas, not the Democratic-leaning cities of yore.

Another district represented twice in this group may augur more for the future. Democrats made a strong bid for the seats in District 15, which is on the west side of Boise and historically has been solidly Republican, though electing relatively moderate Republicans. Did redistricting create a district more open to Democrats than the area had been in the past?

The top line in 15 is that Republicans Fred Martin won the Senate seat (52.1%) and Mark Patterson won the House B seat (53.1%). But these contrasted sharply with Republican wins in the old, differently mapped District 15, where Republicans often won landslides and in the last decade never got closer than the 53.2% (in 2002). Precinct results show the two Democrats there, Betty Richardson and Steve Berch (respectively), won a batch of precincts in the middle of the district that could form a clear base for Democrats in future races. District 15 has emerged as a true battleground.

In 2010, the foremost battleground in Idaho was District 18. on the southeast side of Boise: Republican Mitch Toryanski won the Senate seat there by just 103 votes over Democrat Branden Durst, and in House A the Republican Julie Ellsworth beat Janie Ward-Engelking by just nine votes. It was hard-fought this time too, but not quite as close – and running in the other direction. Democrats Durst won with a margin of 1,496 votes, and Ward-Engelking by more than that, 2,259 votes. The trend line suggests 18 may be following the rest of Boise in a Democratic direction.

These are of course changes at the edges. As a while, the Gem State is as Republican as it ever was.

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Idaho Idaho column

carlson
NW Reading

From the transcript of a November 12 reporter session with Idaho Superintendent of Pubblic Instruction Tom Luna, whose 2011 school legislation was defeated at the polls on November 6.

Q: It’s been six days now. What is your assessment of the next step? What reforms might you look at with the Legislature?

I think it’s important that education reform doesn’t stop. We just had a 22-month discussion about education in Idaho at a level of detail that we’ve never had before, and I think that that, if anything, has been very productive. People around the water cooler and the dinner table have had conversations about education reform, so I think the last thing that anyone wants to see is an end to education reform in Idaho. I think it’s critical that we work together and identify parts of the reform legislation that have support from all legislative stakeholders—ones that are easy to move forward in this next legislative session. What those are I don’t know just yet. I think you heard during the campaign that there were parts of these laws that were agreeable to both sides, but there were also parts that were disagreeable obviously to the “Vote No” campaign and to the electorate. Again, I think that we have to take advantage of the conversation we have had over the last two years in Idaho. We need to continue that conversation, and we need to make sure that conversation leads to meaningful reform in our schools.

Q: The “Vote No” campaign has said that it is willing to reach out and open a dialogue with you and other members of your administration. Has that happened?

Yes, I’ve had a number of meetings with stakeholders. Unfortunately, Penni Cyr and Robin Nettinga, the leaders of the IEA, have been gone. They get back tonight; I leave tomorrow morning. So we’re going to have a phone conversation. But there have been other conversations already with stakeholders in person and over the phone with the IEA. We will sit down and meet with them. We did before, and we will continue to do that going forward. It’s important that we do that in a collaborative way, and we will.

Q: Superintendent, do you have any regrets about this entire process and how you’ve handled it?

Well, those are two questions. Let me address the second part of your question. There are some things I wish I had done differently. Particularly, I regret that I used the phrase “union thuggery.” Just some background: there was a 48-hour period of time where some incidences happened. My vehicle was vandalized. I was interrupted during a live TV interview by someone who was unhappy, and if someone hadn’t gotten in the middle of that, I don’t know how that would have played out. And then a gentleman who identified himself as a teacher showed up at my mom’s house, who was a recent widow, to give her a piece of his mind. I think I referred to that as “union thuggery” or “union tactics.” I wish I wouldn’t have used that phrase because obviously it was used over and over and over. I can’t imagine a son not being concerned about his mom in that kind of a circumstance, but that’s one time when I wish I had been maybe a little bit more measured in how I responded to that incident.
I’ll give you some background, so I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play Monday-morning quarterback, but hindsight is 20/20. In hindsight, we can all think of things that we would have done differently.

When we ran these pieces of legislation, I never anticipated that we would end up in a referendum type of situation. When you look at these bills, each is very complex. So, it’s easy to identify one or two things in a very complex piece of legislation and focus on that and run a campaign based on one or two things that you are not happy with in a particular piece of legislation.

Q: Are you saying that you wish the bills themselves had been simpler.

Well, again, you’re asking me to play Monday-morning quarterback. I try to avoid that because I am looking forward.

Q: When you say that opponents focused on one or two things, are you suggesting that because of the campaign that was run, voters didn’t necessarily understand…?

No, the same people who voted down these laws elected me to this position twice. So, I can’t criticize them for turning down these laws and then congratulate them for making the right choice when they elected me. I have full confidence in Idahoans educating themselves and then making a decision based on the information that they’ve gathered. So, I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that if we knew this was going to a referendum, then maybe rather than three bills there should have been a couple dozen bills, and we should have treated each of these things separately so they could have been weighed on their own merits. And maybe that’s the process going forward. I don’t know because those conversations are still happening.

With a referendum, it’s easy to target just one or two parts of each law. I think the way it was described to me was that each of these three laws was like a separate movie in a trilogy. Each movie had six different scenes, and each scene had four different parts. So it was just very complex.

Q: When the HP contract was announced, several of us asked what would happen to the contract. At the time, your comment was, “Well, the train has already left the station.” Did this really take you by surprise—the voter rejection of the propositions?

No, not on Proposition 3. I am just being brutally honest with you. We knew going into Election Day that Proposition 3 was going to be very difficult to carry. And then, of course, all three of them were handily beaten. But, when it came to Proposition 3, I assume that our struggle was that we were able to implement Propositions 1 and 2 but not Proposition 3. Districts were able to negotiate for two years under the collective bargaining components of Proposition 1. We had pay-for-performance that had operated in our schools for a year under Proposition 2, and eight out of ten teachers will be receiving a bonus this year as a result of that. Proposition 3 was something where implementation really was to begin next year. I really believe that if our schools had received the laptops, and that people saw the benefit of that, it would have changed people’s impression of Proposition 3. I think that the fact that we were not able to implement it made it a heavier lift.

To the question of whether we should have waited to make the HP announcement, I don’t agree with that. I know there were some people who even thought, once we had an agreement, that we should wait. But, I think that voters deserved to have all of that information as soon as we knew it so they could vote with all the information we had having been made available in a very transparent way. I can’t imagine knowing that we had that contract agreement in place, letting people vote, and then days afterwards saying, “Oh, by the way, we reached an agreement with HP two weeks before the election and didn’t bother to tell you.” We wanted to be very transparent and let voters know what the contract was and who the contract was with and the details of it.

Q: There was a perception that the timing of the announcement was meant to leverage the outcome of the vote in favor of the propositions.

Well, how’d that work out (laughs)? We could have sat on that information, but that’s not the right thing to do when you are dealing with taxpayer money. So, we put the information out there and tried to answer questions that came up. I understand that some people thought this was some way to gain leverage, but again, that wasn’t our intent, and it clearly wouldn’t have worked had it been our intent.

Q: I think we all know that the Students Come First laws, however affectionately or otherwise, were labeled the “Luna Laws.” With all due respect, you don’t introduce legislation into the legislature. You don’t vote on anything in the legislature. You don’t sign anything into law. I think more realistically they were as much the “Otter Laws” as they were anything. With that said, looking forward, have you communicated with the Governor? Where is Governor Otter in terms of looking forward in education?

Well, “Otter Laws” doesn’t flow as well (laughs). I’ve had a number of conversations with the Governor, and we both agree that we need to take advantage of this opportunity that has presented itself—this conversation that has been had about education reform. I never ran into one person who said they were voting “no” because they didn’t think we should reform our schools. They had specific issues with certain parts of the law. I ran into a lot of people who were splitting their votes. I ran into a lot of people who said, “I like this about Proposition 1, but I struggle with this part.” So, I didn’t hear from anyone who said, “Let’s go back to the system we had before.” We’ll get everybody around the table, have conversations to identify the things that we all agree on that were in the different propositions, move forward together with legislation that would restore those parts of the bill, and then work together to find common ground on areas where we do not agree.

Q: Do you anticipate the Governor being involved in that process?

Yes, I do. I think the Governor will continue to play a lead role. If you look at other states that have gone through this process, it’s similar to what we are going through in Idaho. There are steps forward. There are bumps in the road. There are times when you have to have a process check and a reality check. But every one of those states has had a governor, whether it’s Tim Pawlenty or Jeb Bush, who continued to provide the leadership and really the expectation that we have to do these things and then used that pulpit to encourage the citizens and the legislature to respond.

Q: Indiana just unelected their Superintendent last week. Are there lessons to be learned from that for Idaho?

Well, I am good friends with Tony Bennett. I am good friends with a number of education leaders across the state. What happened in Idaho really happened all across the country, where education reform was defeated on many different fronts, or, at least, stalled on many different fronts. And what happened in Indiana is just another example. It happened in South Dakota. I don’t believe it means “stop.” I think what it means is that there are forces in play that you have to recognize and you have to engage with in order to get the water to the end of the row.

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Idaho Reading

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

MANDATE: noun (1) an official order or authorization. (2) the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.

That word “mandate” has been popping up in the media since the re-election of President Obama. For a few days, I thought it was not accurate. Most people usually use it only when someone wins by a significant margin. Which Obama did not. But I – like them – was wrong. Except that I DID believe a mandate was given – not just this usual one so often misunderstood.

It would seem some of the ill-thought-through, conservative feedback I got from some readers – the ones telling me “there was no mandate” – was wrong, too. Note that nothing in the old dictionary says a mandate is anything more than just “an authority … regarded as given by the electorate to party or candidate that wins an election.” Doesn’t say “overwhelming” or “lop-sided” or anything else. Just “wins.”

So, seems there was a “mandate” after all. While I’ve not used that word to describe last week’s Obama victory – yet – I do so now. Maybe two or three of ‘em. Not just using the dictionary definition as evidence but because of other votes. For instance, the ones that totaled 332. The old electoral college. The place where 270 wins the pot. That’s the one real political pros keep their eyes on.
To knowledgeable folks, that 332 Obama win is more important than the raw vote total of about 120 million for both candidates and an Obama final victory margin of about three million. A “mandate” the dictionary says. And more.

Pros know the electoral vote is more important when it comes to counting. That’s because they look to see WHERE those votes came from. In Obama’s case, the majority came from large states with large populations and – more important to the pols – large elected political delegations. You can rack up half a dozen small states – Idaho, Montana, Utah, Kansas and North and South Dakota for example – and not equal one Florida or one Ohio or one California. Romney got more states than Obama. And lost.

So, in the political business, Obama got a mandate in the electoral college, too. When you throw in a net Senate pickup of three seats and half a dozen or so in the House, professional nose counters see a tide beginning to turn with a large off-year election only two years hence. Got to get out front.

Now comes a new national poll with even more bad news for Speaker Boehner and that caucus he can’t control. ‘Cause it adds more pressure to that small, well-defined tidal movement now turning against them. When voters were asked – days after the election -who’d be to blame if Congress and the President can’t solve the debt ceiling and sequestration issues, 53% said House Republicans – 29% the President – about 10% to both.

If you’re sitting in one of those House GOP seats – or one in that third of the Senate – all up for election in two years, you don’t want to be seen by more than half the electorate as continuing gridlock or being obstructionist. Those poll results – just that outcome – really amount to “mandate” number three. The answer for who’d be held to blame – “Republicans.” Period.

Republican talking heads, wingnuts and foil-hatters have begun the circular firing squad over their nationwide swat down at the polls. The closed ideological loop of Faux News, Limbaugh, Beck, the oft-disgraced Morris, O’Reilly, Rove and others of their ilk – with their skewed political polling – provided all the phony B.S. and other-worldly political disinformation the rapt audience of single-minded followers could swallow. And swallow they did. Even Romney and Ryan gobbled it up. Ryan said after the election, “Our internal polls sure showed much different information than the outcome.”

Well, duh? When everyone involved is in a deliberate “disinformation” circle, what other outcome would you expect?
Then there was Romney’s completely ridiculous “Obama gave them gifts” craziness. Another ignorant shot at Latinos and black Americans – the same ones Republicans want to attract. Wonder how he squares that with Obama wins in Iowa, Maine and New Hampshire – hardly large minority areas. Seems to me his 47% became 52% and kicked his ass. Nothing more than that, Sir.

The national Republican Party will not be much different before the next election. Oh, a few in Congress may stop their suicidal, ideological idiocy.

They’ve read the winds and will become “shape shifters.” Some always survive that way. But the dedicated T-P types won’t budge even though a few of their number bit the dust this time and several came awfully close to being unemployed. Their desire for purity is not unlike the British Redcoats of Revolutionary War times who lined up and walked across open fields into the guns of the American army. To what end?

Already Sen. Paul is talking of running for president in 2016. The intellectually-vacant Rep. Gohmert of Texas this week nominated Newt Gingrich – who resigned from the House in disgrace many years ago – for new Speaker of the House. Of course, GOP members were voting a full week AFTER our 2012 election was over. Our own neighborhood idiot who’s been twice rejected in Oregon’s Fourth District has promised to be back in two years. More will show up.

And they’ll continue to come back like Capistrano swallows because the people who support them have control of the national – and in some cases local – party nominating process. Otherwise intelligent rank and file Republicans may not want the madness to continue. But they don’t run the party. Until they take it back, they’ll be just as victimized as the rest of us. And that won’t happen anytime soon because the crazies control the machinery to do so.

The fastest growing political group – based on 2012 registrations and identified voters where required – is “Independent.” Because we under that banner can’t vote in most nominating primary elections – and because the GOP is on a kamikaze mission to the far right – you may see a national group try to formalize “Independent” and use that as a base to go for that third party we often talk of. Given exit polling and those other statistics cited, it looks like that’s one direction things could go. ‘Course they’d probably have to change the name.

All that is speculation, of course. But this much we do know. The President got a mandate – maybe two – maybe three. He has more control of events now than a month ago – congressional Republicans less. He’s not able to run for a third term. So, if he’s to build a legacy, as presidents are wont to do, he’s in a fine position to build a good one.

For those who want to dispute all this, just keep watching your Faux News. Fiction that goes your way is much easier to accept than facts that don’t.

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Rainey

westcascades

The question is going to be asked this year: Are Washington and Oregon one-party states? Actually, it’s already being asked; a David Brewster piece in Crosscut already asks it (and wrestles with but doesn’t totally pin it).

Let’s define some terms.

A one-party state is where one party is in near-total dominance, and the other is reduced to virtual non-competitive status. Look at Idaho, where statewide Republican candidates nearly always win in landslides or near-landslides, and where the legislature is upwards of 80% Republican. That’s a one-party Republican state.

Not so far from that is California, at least after last week’s election. There, Democrats dominate among the statewides and will hold two-thirds of the state’s legislative seats. Such gaudy margins may or may not hold, but that has the look – for now anyway – of a one-party Democratic state.

Washington and Oregon are something else.

Democrats do have a definite advantage in them; these states are closer to blue than to red.

They have all the partisan statewide offices in Oregon, and all but one in Washington. They have both U.S. Senate seats. They have control (after this year’s election) of both legislative chambers in each state.

But we can’t really use the same kind of overwhelming language to describe them.

In Oregon, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber just barely won in 2010. Republicans do have a U.S. House seat (one of five). The Democratic majority in the Senate amounts to a seat seat above tie, and in the House, which just emerged from a tie, Democrats have a fragile four-seat advantage, which could melt away again as swiftly as it returned this year.

In Washington, Republicans hold four of the 10 U.S. House seats, a point often forgotten after the loss of three open-seat races this time (two of those in districts where the Democratic voter edge is strong anyway). And while they remain a legislative majority, the margins are close enough to put Democratic control in regular jeopardy – and may be in the next session amid semi-revolt from a couple of the caucus members.

Put Washington and Oregon in a different cetegory – Democratic-leaning, but not one-party.

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Northwest Oregon Washington

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Several readers have indicated they believe there should be an explanation of why the six indices the column forwarded as ones to track before the final vote that would give one a good idea whether there would be a new president missed the mark.

All seem to have a perverse desire to see this humble scribe masticating on crow.

#1. The 80/40 rule which said if Obama took 80% or more of the minority vote then Romney had to take an almost impossible 60% of the total white vote. Preliminary final tallies show that neither hit the mark. Obama took 75% of the minority vote (including an impressive 72% of the Hispanic vote), and Romney came close to topping the 59% plus of the total white vote that Reagan garnered but did not go over the magic 60% mark. What was really deceiving to the public was the impression the media created of a massive turnout by showing long lines waiting to vote at places where there were not as many balloting places as before for budgetary reasons, or, as in Florida, where early voting time was cut in half. Actual turnout totals will not top either the 2008 or the 2004 elections.

#2. Watch how undecided independent women break. Initially they appeared to start breaking towards Romney after the first debate, but the predilection of stupid, white male GOP Senate candidates to start talking about rape and abortion soon brought many of them back to their concern as with other women about access to abortion and protection of contraceptive rights. When the smoke cleared Obama had a 12 percent advantage among women voters more than erasing Romney’s 7 % advantage with men voters.

#3. As goes Ohio – this said no Republican has ever won the presidency without taking Ohio and it still holds true. Polls appeared to show Romney gaining steadily on the President in Ohio but what the polls could not measure was the superior ground game Obama had in Ohio with far local store front offices in key neighborhoods and a far more sophisticated involvement plan for all its numerous volunteers. Romney’s team simply did not believe that Obama could recreate the 2008 coalition nor match the intensity. Not only were they wrong on that they had no idea how much more sophisticated the ground operation Messina and Axelrod had in place was over theirs. When the smoke cleared not only had Obama won Ohio, he took every other one of the key swing states.

#4. The 5% lie factor. If it was ever there it disappeared in the appearance of the Romney surge right after the first debate. The evidence though appears to suggest that it was never there, that today’s polling techniques are so sophisticated it can detect and minimize those that may lie by weighing answers to other key issue questions. How one analyzes the data and how the data is collected remain key matters that do determine how good the material can be in terms of guiding critical campaign decisions. Today’s candidates need to ask pretty tough questions about sampling including whether there’s a certain percentage of random calls to cell phones and whether there’s an internet component.

In the final analysis most of the major polls were amazingly accurate and this led to some darn good prognostications by folks like the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato as well as the Washington Post’s 538 blog site which always presented a good analysis based on composite numbers from ten leading polls.

#5. Whoever wins the money game, usually wins. Well both campaigns spent over a billion dollars each with Romney winning the money race barely and narrowly losing the total ballot race.

#6. The debates. The column was dead on correct on this one. Romney came with his game face on to the first debate and the President was obviously not prepared. Turn the sound off and it was even more clear who was winning. Romney then held his own in the next two also. If Romney had won almost all political pundits and historians would have ascribed it to the first debate.

There are many factors that constitute winning or losing an election. Some are controllable, such as how prepared one is to debate, and some are uncontrollable, such as the Benghazi event. It will always be an inexplicable mystery as to why the President was so lackluster in that first debate. He virtually created the opening for Romney to attempt to drive his Nash Rambler through.

In the end, the President won and he can thank three people: #1 former President Bill Clinton; #2 Chief campaign strategist David Axelrod; and #3 Vice president Joe Biden. He owes these three one heck ‘uv a lot.

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Carlson

Washington now has – and I take this from a couple of online sources – the highest-ranking women in the U.S. Senate and House majorities.

That has been the case for a while now in the Senate, where Senator Pattty Murray has been majority conference secretary, 4th-ranking in the caucus, since 2007.

Today, 5th District Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers also became 4th-ranking in leadership, in the House majority caucus (as chair of the House Republican Conference).

Washington hasn’t quite yet returned to the heavy impactful days of the 70s and 80s, but it seems to be getting there. – Randy Stapilus

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Washington

When the Oregon House went 30-30 in the last election cycle – it reverts back to Democratic control after this year’s election – there was concern about just how that would be made to work, with the two parties equally in charge, in a time of hyperpartisanship. The answer turned out to be: Not bad at all. Productive, even.

But one of the elements of that was clarity. Aside from brief mutterings about someone maybe flipping parties (which didn’t happen), everyone knew the score.

That’s the problem right now in the Washington Senate – no one conclusively knows the score, and various people are playing various games. In theory, there’s a Democratic majority. But one Senate seat in Clark County is at the moment totally up for grabs and evidently headed toward a recount. And two other Democratic senators are talking about power-sharing.

From Crosscut: “Sens. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Rodney Tom of Bellevue are demanding that committee chairmanships not be decided by the majority party and that the leader of the Senate could be from the minority. (Tom is so conflicted/confused that he formerly served as a Republican representative. Despite his antics, there’s no sign of a reconversion so far. Or a name change to run next time as Tom Rodney/Prefers Various Parties).”

The Crosscut piece is a good, quick overview of an evolving slice of uncertainty. – Randy Stapilus

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Washington

If you added up the population of the six most populous counties in Idaho, you have just over a million people – about two-thirds of all the people in Idaho. Those people cast just about 250,000 votes for Republican Mitt Romney for president.

The single largest county in Washington, King (anchored by Seattle), cast more votes for Romney than those six counties in Idaho did: 252,090 votes, by today’s count. And the people who cast them are in a far more concentrated geographical location than those Idahoans.

But how different the psychology. Those Idaho Republican voters certainly don’t (generally at least) feel isolated; they know they’re in a large community of like-minded people.

So, this, in the Seattle Times today: “Oh, the loneliness of being a Seattle Tea Party Patriot, especially after this last election. All around you: Liberals. Democrats. Obama supporters. People who think Dan Savage is really cool. ‘It’s getting harder and harder for me. I was at Trader Joe’s, and I was glaring at everyone around me,’ says Keli Carender, 33, co-organizer of the local group. Carender’s glaring took place at the Trader Joe’s in the University District, a neighborhood that, for sure, is a bastion of libs.”

In society, a lot of things are relative. – Randy Stapilus

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Stapilus Washington

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While living in Oregon offers us many blessings, two really standout for me.

One was coming up with a Pacific Ocean as a border, then putting it on our western edge. I like that. Thanks to former Gov. Tom McCall, we are one of only three ocean-side states that allow full, unfettered public access to every foot of it. We get to enjoy it a lot. And one side benefit is we deprived Idaho of oceanfront property. At least for now.

The second blessing we Oregonians share is a growing, multi-faceted and extremely valuable community college system. They’re all over the place. And communities adjacent to each of them are better for their presence.

Here – near our little burg-in-the-woods – we have one of those. It’s got a really nifty, compact campus, offers some first-rate classes in relevant subjects, is staffed by what appears to be a well-qualified and diverse cadre of instructors and seems to always be looking for more ways to improve its value to the community.

Part of this last quality is the arrival of a new president who has some real-world experience in his background – in addition to the required educational stuff, of course. But, even before his tenure, our little community educational gem launched a new, two-year degree program backed with considerable financial input from our regional grape growers and wine producers. The first year, students learn the basics of how to grow and care for grapes. The second, they learn the basics of how to make the wine.

Two factors make this a valuable addition to our neighborhood. First, students become skilled workers feeding into the more than 80 vineyards hereabouts – so skilled they can be hired at more than minimum wage and employers don’t have to do lengthy, one-on-one training with each hire. Same for the more than 40 or so wineries.

The other major benefit is, if students complete the course wanting to learn more, our little program is designed to lead into two universities less than 100 miles away that offer even graduate programs in the grape-growing, wine-making subjects. What a deal!
As one who hates the hide-bound resistance to change so present in our higher educational systems, I like the smaller, quicker response these community-based schools can provide. And we may be about to see an excellent example of that. Right here!

Our little college is looking at becoming a national leader in – wait for it – drone aircraft maintenance. Drones? Those flying, spy-killing machines? Them? Yep. Keeping those Taliban executioner, pilotless lanes flying could become our newest community college offering alongside nursing, computer science, dietary and auto mechanics.

Our new non-traditional C.C. president got to wondering about that mechanics program. Auto engine repair is now a highly computerized speciality. So, in his mind, if you can fix ‘em to drive, why can’t you fix ‘em to fly? He started making some national contacts and was encouraged by the feedback.

I’m one of those “alarmist” citizens concerned about our privacy when it comes to drones. Spooky stuff that can be badly used. But, as usual, there are some pluses to consider. Drones can be used for traffic control, weather forecasting, geology and mineral exploration, storm chasing and lots of other useful things.

But one special reason why we may see drones buzzing around our tree-covered neighborhood is to spot forest fires. For more than a century, we’ve sent people out in the woods each summer to look for and report fires. If you find ‘em earlier and kill ‘em quicker. Works most of the time.

Sol, suppose you put a couple of drones in the air covering a dozen counties or more. Put some specialty cameras in each and monitor all from a single location. Would seem to me you couldn’t find a smouldering fire faster, determine the size quicker or give the first-attack firefighters better real-time information.

Some timber companies are sizing up this new technology while our little community college leadership is sizing up the possible benefits of getting into drone mechanics training. And not just for Oregon. Kinda like the wine business. You don’t find trained wine workers or good drone technicians looking for work on just every street corner.

So, there you are. Our little one-story, community college seems about to make news in a big way. I’m still a little spooky about the drone business. From a philosophical perspective. Also, we’d have to get used to them buzzing around on test flights and all that. Have to keep more of our clothes on. But I say, “What the Hell? Go for it.”

And if you live in Idaho. I was just kidding about that oceanfront business. You may get it eventually anyway.

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Rainey

idahocolumnn

Idaho’s 44 counties voted 132 times in all on the three ballot propositions on last week’s Idaho ballots, concerning the school-related “Luna laws.” In those 132 contests, counties voted to sustain them 11 times and reject them 121 times. In the case of Prop 3, all 44 counties voted to reject the laws strongly promoted by Idaho’s governor, superintendent of public instruction and passed by both houses of the Idaho Legislature.

(Those contrary counties, by the way: Fremont, Jefferson and Owyhee backing Props 1 and 2, and Adams, Boise, Cassia, Lemhi and Madison just on Prop 1.)

That was a stunning result, much the biggest news from this year’s Idaho general election, and not even so much the grand total as it was how widespread it was. The big Republican wins on the presidential and congressional side were of course expected, and the Idaho Legislature’s remaining exactly as Republican (extremely) was no shock either – at most it might realistically have shifted by a couple of seats or so. Nearly without exception, Idaho elections 2012 played exactly to the norm we’ve seen for two decades running.

The education issues were no given, however. Surveys and anecdotal evidence a year ago and into this spring seemed to suggest the efforts by the Idaho Education Association and others to repeal the laws passed in 2011 would fail. Idaho voters have no strong history of overturning at the polls what their legislators have enacted. And in this case, the enacting was done by the people elected overwhelmingly by Idaho voters.

Someone asked if there are voters who thought these laws originated from Democrats. That’s hard to answer conclusively, but the association between the laws and Idaho’s overwhelming governing party could not be clearer. Nor is there much dispute that the laws are an extension of recent Idaho state policy on education, teachers, accountability, outsourcing and more. They tie together coherently.

So this question: Is there a disconnect between voters attitudes on candidates (and their parties) on one hand, and public policies on the other? Or, more bluntly: Are there a lot of Idaho voters who really like electing Republicans, but without closely linking that to whatever those Republicans do once in office? I’m not claiming an answer here, but I think the question is fair.

There’s been a line of argument for a few years that one tactic Idaho Democrats might usefully try is a series of carefully targeted ballot issues, the thinking being that they might be more successful in winning support for those (not on all Democratic issues, of course, but on some of them) than in electing candidates with the fatal “D” after their names on the ballot.

This election may, in Idaho anyway, help make that case.

A quick note about last week’s column, which mentioned the last independent elected to the Idaho Legislature, A.L. Freehafer of Payette County. I said that I didn’t know much about him, but it turns out at least one column reader knows quite a bit more. Boise attorney Ken McClure wrote in to say that Freehafer was his great-grandfather, and grandfather of his dad, former U.S. Senator James McClure. The senator’s middle name, Albertus, was taken from the A. in A.L. Freehafer. (I’d always wondered where that came from.)

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Idaho Idaho column

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ICCU President and CEO Kent Oram and tellers Rebekah Cote, center, and Dani Neumann inside ICCU’s new Chubbuck branch, the latest of the company’s 19 Idaho branches. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

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Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

Idaho Central Credit Union’s November 5 opening of its $2 million Chubbuck branch marks another milestone for the state’s largest credit union as it continues to grow at a robust double-digit pace against strong head winds in the nation’s financial markets.

ICCU’s statewide monthly payroll ranges between $1.5 million or $1.7 million – or more than $20 million annually, says Kent Oram, ICCU president and chief executive officer. Of the nation’s 7,000 credit unions, Idaho Central ranked 164th in assets at the end of September.

Its growth rate stands at about 20 percent annually. By comparison, the national growth rate for credit unions amounts to about 4 percent.

Idaho Central – a state chartered and federally insured financial institution – boasts 40,000 mobile banking users. Between 900 and 1,000 ICCU customers have signed up for “very well-received” mobile deposits that were started a month ago and allow photo copies of checks.

ICCU’s annual loan growth rate has averaged 26 percent as opposed to the national average of 1 percent. Idaho as a whole is doing better than other states in the nation, Oram says adding there are about 60 credit unions operating in the state, down from about 110 to 120 when he started. There were about 12,000 credit unions nationally three decades ago.

The Chubbuck branch on Yellowstone Avenue is not far from ICCU’S five-story, 700,000-square-foot headquarters building near the Interstate 86 interchange, where the company has been based the past five years. That highly visible structure is at 80 percent capacity with 175 employees, Oram says.

Planning for the HQ building started about 10 years ago and construction commenced seven years ago. Some of its electrical, heating and air conditioning systems are solar-enabled.

“People thought it was a hotel for a while. Now, it’s our home,” says Oram, a Blackfoot native who earned a bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University in information systems management.

pocatello
Idaho Central Credit Union President and Chief Executive Officer Kent Oram stands outside the new ICCU branch in Chubbuck. Behind him is a new Sherwin Williams paint store at Yellowstone Commons. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

Oram started with ICCU 28 years ago and moved to Boise to manage its information systems, which were relocated to Pocatello at the end of 1984. He has been president and CEO for about five years, succeeding Chris Hyer, who succeeded Ned Freckleton, ICCU’s first president and CEO.

ICCU directors discussed moving company headquarters to Boise, the state’s political and financial capital, the Blackfoot native says, but opted to stay put in the Pocatello area, deciding “this was the right place for us to be.” Oram praises the character, work ethic and resilience of Eastern Idaho residents.

Organized at Boise in 1940, the credit union moved its only office to Caldwell in 1944. Four years later that office was moved to Pocatello. For a time, it only had offices in Pocatello and Boise before launching an ambitious expansion. It now has 19 locations throughout southern Idaho, including 12 in the Treasure Valley (where 60 percent of ICCU’s customers live) and two in the Magic Valley. A Caldwell branch also recently opened.

Of ICCU’s nearly 400 employees in the state, about 200 work in Eastern Idaho at the headquarters, one branch in Pocatello, one branch in Chubbuck, one branch in Blackfoot and two branches in Idaho Falls. Pocatello has about 12,000 members; Blackfoot, up to 4,000, and Idaho Falls, about 7,000.

Statewide, one in 15 Idahoans has a relationship with Idaho Central. Regionally, it’s about one in eight in Pocatello; one in seven in Blackfoot, and one in 14 in Idaho Falls.

Oram estimates 150 employees are ISU graduates and about 75 percent of employees staffing an ICCU call center are attending college. “We’re very well connected with ISU.”

Forty-five employees across the state are directly involved in mortgage lending, which has been very hot lately, Oram says, estimating ICCU originates between $30 million and $50 million in mortgage loans on a monthly basis. This year all loans processed by ICCU will total about $1.1 billion.

“We’ve never stopped lending in the recession,” he says.

About 40 percent of Idaho Central’s traffic is people who do business in person at branches, including many Generatiion Y and Gen X clients. “We plan to build one or two branches a year for a few years anyway,” Oram says, stressing local branches help maintain a hometown feel.

Citing a “bricks vs. clicks” difference in approaches, Oram observes: “Some credit unions have chosen to stop building branches and have retracted.” ICCU also plans to keep on the cutting edge of technological advances and continue investing heavily in protecting its electronic systems from hack attacks.

Oram has noticed more bank customers shifting their accounts to credit unions, but not because banks are inferior to credit unions. Following the 2008 global financial meltdown, many banks disappeared, such as Washington Mutual, which was absorbed by Chase. Major banks also employ local people and take really good care of big accounts, he says.

“Our niche is Jill and Joe Lunchbucket,” Oram remarks, emphasizing equity has not vanished nor eroded away in Idaho. While real estate values have declined in the Treasure Valley and the housing market there has struggled, it has not suffered as badly as Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada, and appears to be recovering. “It’s been a tough five years for all financial institutions.”

The Chubbuck ICCU branch and a new Sherwin Williams paint store anchor the new Yellowstone Commons commercial development. The new branch is more spacious and modern than its former location north on Yellowstone Avenue, where it was housed since 1985.

The new site features wider drive-through lanes to accommodate Eastern Idaho’s big pickup trucks; safe deposit boxes; new equipment; mortgage services and business features.

It typically takes 180 days from start to finish to open a new branch, Oram says. Acquiring the land and going through “hoops and hurdles,” including planning and zoning requirements and building permits, usually are done within six months.

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Idaho Mendiola

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Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Whether we have too much government or not enough, do you know how many of such entities we really do have in this country? I didn’t until going through the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report this week. Right now – today – the count is 89,004 local governing bodies! 89,004!

But take heart, my government-loathing friends. That is DOWN from 89,476 in 2007 – the last year the census folks counted. We’re goin’ the right way!

It breaks out like this: 3031 counties – 19,522 municipalities – 16,363 townships – 37,203 special taxing districts and 12,884 independent school districts. Every five years, the feds count ‘em all and it’s the only uniform source of statistics for all the country. Knowing these numbers, the experts can do in-depth studies of trends and provide a universally accepted base for a complete, comprehensive and authoritative benchmark.

So how many of us work for all these “governments?” That would be about 16 million – also down about 1.4 percent since 2010. To relieve your angst about the “size of government,” included in that total are 8.9 million education professionals, about 950,000 in hospitals, 923,000 in law enforcement and 717,000 in corrections. Rest are your old garden variety bureaucrats, I guess. But of course we know, “government doesn’t create jobs.” Yeah.

Now, next time someone accosts you with some “government is too big and intrusive – get rid of a lot of it – damned bureaucrats – etc.” – you can counter with just how many there really are and who they are. Because that angry person likely won’t know.

A respected correspondent accosted me the other day with a claim that government – Democrats in particular as is his wont -was being intrusive in San Francisco by banning large soft drinks. Intruding in our lives as it were. Not sure I’d blame just Democrats, though. The former-Republican-now-Independent Party Mayor of New York City did the same thing with a politically-divided city council. Other communities – Democrat, Republican and some with no party affiliation at all – have, too.

No, the issue is not one political party or another when it comes to government’s reach into our lives. After all, each of those 89,004 governments was elected. So, in a “majority rules” society, most of the people governed – we/us – should be held responsible when something is decided politically. Whether we like the decision – whatever it is – or we don’t. The real issue is that, sometimes, the majority just does things that run contrary to our minority views. It goes both ways.

Here. Let me give you one that runs contrary – very contrary -to my view and which makes my blood boil with hatred for “intrusive government.” One that should’ve never been in the hands of anyone’s government in the first place: abortion.

Now I realize, for some, the subject may not rise to the level of their desire for an illegal 40-ounce Slurpee when we’re talking “government intrusion” in our lives. Different strokes for different folks and all that. But government’s intrusive reach into a doctor’s exam room when one of my daughters is discussing her personal health just doesn’t sit right. Nor does the Republican-sponsored political intrusion into my family’s personal lives. And, so far, the majority of those intruders wears an elephant hat.

What we’ve just seen in our national polling is a majority representative of inclusiveness kicking the butt of a minority party currently practicing exclusion. And, judging from comments by its leaders in days since, pretty-well determined to continue the lemming-like rush to becoming an even smaller minority.

This determined political lunacy is the guaranteed product of exclusion, over-reach and discrimination against people and conditions that are different. In my world, I can live with a smaller Slurpee. But I won’t live with the overreach and intrusion of any political hack trying to practice medicine or muzzle a physician. You want to talk “intrusion?” Get the hell out of my life!

The Republican Party platforms of recent years have all contained planks condemning homosexuals. All the bigwigs have dutifully signed on. With one prominent exception: Dick Cheney. Anyone ever pick up on that missing endorser? That’s what happens when you have a family member – in his case a daughter – who is one. And at least two of my Northwest Republican friends in Congress have likewise been missing from that list of endorsers for the terribly-labeled “pro life.” plank. Probably because they both had daughters who decided on abortions.

When these phony topics – which never should have been part of any political discussion – are hotly debated in the abstract – “too much government, intrusive government, anti-gay, anti-abortion” – they create smoke without fire while doing damage to our way of life. But, when they become personal – inside one’s family – there’s a sudden realization that these decisions by family members are nobody else’s damned business.

Were I living in San Francisco, I’d probably be a soft drink scofflaw. Until some monied idiot spent a million or two get some court to declare the ban “unconstitutional. That’s government-intrusive life in the big city.

On the other issues, there will never – never – be a political conclusion. And that’s because – like the illegally large Slurpee – it’s just nobody’s damned business. Government intrusion? For some it starts at the 7-11. For some of us, it’s closer to home. Deal with it.

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Rainey