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Posts published in November 2012

Student choice

Not always is the Idaho Student Mock Election, whose results were released today, predictive of Idaho state results. But a particular variation in this one make it worth watching.

At the top of the ballot, the Idaho students chose Republicans Mitt Romney for president and Raul Labrador for U.S. representative in the 1st district, and Mike Simpson in the second. That's certainly in line with what the state is likely to do tomorrow, though the margins were closer than the real election's likely will be.

Having said that, there's this: The students voted overwhelmingly against the "Luna laws," the three referenda (1, 2 and 3) which would sustain them or reject them. The students' margins on them were not close, about three to one in opposition to each. They defeated #3, for example, by 324-1,363.

What will the statewide voters do tomorrow?

An ominous attack on our most basic liberty

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

In the 1950′s, three governors stood on the steps of Southern public educational institutions in their states, attempting to block African American students from attending. Flash forward 50 years or so and it’s Florida Gov. Rick Scott standing between Floridians and their polling places to stop them from exercising another guaranteed right of citizenship – the vote.

Our most basic freedom – the right to cast a ballot to determine our choice of government – has been under attack this year by Republican legislatures and Republican governors as never before. It’s been totally a Republican Party drive.

And before one of my elephant-loving friends rises in defense of these elected law breakers, he/she better be holding in his/her hand an concrete example of a Democrat-sponsored effort to participate in this despicable enterprise. Go ahead. I’ll wait. ‘Cause it won’t happen.

Republicans in at least seven states have undertaken various approaches to denying Americans their rightful place at the ballot box. When the efforts were taken to the courts, all were stopped but one. And that one – upheld by a Republican-appointed judge in Pennsylvania – was reversed on appeal. These were just the ones that got through the legislative process. In more than half-a-dozen other states, the Republican-backed treachery was stopped before getting out of the chambers.

In Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Republican Secretaries of State have also tried to separate voters from the franchise. One fired Democrats on Ohio’s voting commission when they opposed his illegal restrictions. All three made drastic cuts in early voting hours, days and polling places. All have sponsored official web sites with wrong voting data about polling places, dates of the election, hours of operation and “official” telephone numbers for voting information that were either unanswered or led to automated messages containing similar bogus data.

In two states, billboards were placed along highways that contained phony information – such as photo identification being required to vote- even after courts had struck down the illegal requirement. Official mailings were sent out in three states with dates to vote listed that were two days after the election. In one case, the voting information was only wrong – in Spanish.
Is this a full Republican Party press to violate constitutional rights of citizens? No. Thank God, no. In Florida and Ohio, several Republican county officials refused to comply with state orders to cut days, hours or otherwise impede voters. They were threatened but held their ground.

But what we’re seeing played out here is – in my view – a symptom of the internecine battle to come within the Republican Party following this week’s election. There are Republicans – God love ‘em – many Republicans who’re just as disgusted and embarrassed about this destructiveness as the rest of us. They are seeing the rotten fruits of the labors of zealots and ideologues who control the Party from precinct level to national offices. (more…)

More about that last independent

In the last Idaho column I noted that I didn't know much about A.L. Freehafer, the last person elected (in 1928) to the Idaho legislature as an independent, other than that he was later (in 1930) elected as a Democrat, and had served in the legislature some years before as well.

Turns out that Freehafer has some family members who became considerably better known around the state than he was: His grandson was former U.S. Senator James McClure. The senator's son, Boise attorney Ken McClure, sent a note this morning on Freehafer, filling in some of the background about him:

I know a fair amount about A. L. Freehafer. Nice to read about him. He was my great-grandfather. Albertus Leroy. The source of Dad’s “James Albertus.” He actually served in the Senate from three different counties He lived in Council, and was elected in 1908 to represent Washington County in the Senate. In 1909 he carried the bill that created Adams County (split off from Washington County) and then was elected to represent Adams County. He left the Senate to serve on the (I believe first) PUC in 1913 if memory serves. After that service concluded he later moved to Payette County (to be nearer my grandmother and her husband and to practice law in that growing metropolis) where he later was elected to the Senate.

A.L. was a lawyer who “read the law” instead of going to law school. He and my grandfather, W. R. McClure, practiced law together in Council after my Grandfather graduated from the U of I Law School in 1920 (following a stint in the army air corps in WWI) until my grandfather moved to Payette in 1924, just a few months before my father was born. After that, A. L. practiced in Council for a couple years with Roger Swanstrom’s father (or perhaps grandfather, I don’t recall, I do recall that his nickname was “Too Tall Swanstrom” since he was tall, just like Roger) until he moved to Payette. He may have run as an independent in 1928 but he was a Democrat, particularly after Roosevelt was elected. I had always assumed he had run as a Democrat in Washington and Adams Counties, but I guess I don’t know for sure. I need to find out. Thanks for the article. It gives me a bit of research to do.

Thanks: Illuminating a whole section of Idaho politics and law.

The lonely independents


In 1928, a man named A.L. Freehafer was elected to the Senate from Payette County. (Back then each county elected a senator and at least one representative.) We don't know much about him, but we do know that he had served a couple of terms two decades previous, and one more after the election of 1930.

We also know this: He was elected in 1928 as an independent, not as a member of any party. That is a rarity in Idaho. Every Idaho legislator elected in the years since, including Freehafer himself in 1930 (as a Democrat), has been elected either as a Republican or a Democrat.

Such are the odds for any candidate choosing not to run under the umbrella of one or the other. Usually, non-major party candidates aren't a big deal in terms of the vote count, picking up a sliver of the vote. If a major party candidate isn't opposed by the other major party, a third-party or independent candidate might collect a quarter or even more of the vote. But close calls have been almost nonexistent.

But before we cross to the far side of election day, take note of a legislative race that's not on most radar screens, and after the fact might or might not be of interest. On election night, cast a glance over to District 7 and the Senate contest between Republican Sheryl Nuxoll, of Cottonwood, and independent Jon Cantamessa, of Wallace.

Those candidate addresses give you a sense of the size of this district: Immense, from the outskirts of Sandpoint down to where northern becomes southern Idaho. It is also hard to get around, since so much of it is in backcountry with winding highways, if those. Newly created this decade, it will be a hard district to represent.

The more or less incumbent – she current is a senator – is Nuxoll, now wrapping up her first term. In 2010 she defeated an incumbent Republican in the primary and easily won in the general in her old district, which takes in much of the southern part of the new one. She is well positioned in the Idaho County and Clearwater County communities, with deep family and other connections. She has made a few missteps as well, though, such as sending campaign-like mailers on the state dime to not just current constituents, but to people in the northern part of the newly-formed district.

Cantamessa has his base of strength too, in the northern part of the district; he has been a Shoshone County commissioner (his brother is running to replace him), and has been involved with a mass of regional organizations. His family has operated a grocery at Wallace since 1925.

Like Freehafer, Cantamessa has some background with major parties. When he was elected to the Shoshone commission in 2004, he ran as an independent against both a Republican and a Democrat. Seeking re-election in 2006 and 2010, though, he did so as a Democrat. But he has picked up support from other quarters. His web site carries endorsements from Phillips Baker, CEO of Hecla Mining and Republican Senator Joyce Broadsword (she's not on the ballot this year), whose district is close by.

District 7 is Republican territory, and Nuxoll may win easily. But this is an unusual case, and Cantamessa a more-advantaged candidate than usually runs as an independent. Keep a watch here for an indicator of how well, or not, an independent candidate for the Idaho Legislature can do.

Secret sauce

A phrase in politics that may go national in next cycle, and started here in the Northwest:

Secret sauce.

It came from Washington Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee, using it to argue that the state's gift for innovation will be the ingredient that helps it toward a better economic future. Or something like that.

We've started to see the phrase pop up here and there in political discussion around the country. Since it comes so close to the election, it won't of course be much remembered in this cycle (other than in Washington).

But come next cycle? Maybe. And how it is used, and the connotations it holds, likely will have a lot to do with whether Inslee wins or loses on Tuesday.

More civility than you might expect

From today's e-mail by David Ammons, of the Washington secretary of state's office:

FYI: Excellent column today by Danny Westneat, quoting Secretary Reed, on how release of initiative/referendum petitions has not resulted in intimidation, and about how civil the conversation and campaigns have been this year on some difficult ballot issues – gay marriage and marijuana legalization, most notably.

Sam, of course, has made civility and open government/transparency signature issues. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently dismissed a challenge of the Secretary of State’s view that our voter-approved Public Records Act applies to initiative/referendum petitions. The case arose from release of petition signatures for Referendum 71, the “everything but marriage” expansion of domestic-partner benefits that passed in 2009. The court noted that the signers’ names have been on the Internet for months, without incident, and that challengers have not shown examples of intimidation or chilling the initiative process. The U.S. Supreme Court previously also has upheld the general constitutionality of public records release of petitions, in Doe v. Reed.

At the time of the 8-1 court victory, Reed urged citizens not to misuse the public documents by harassing or intimidating people who are using their constitutional right of citizen legislating. No one should pay a price for exercising those rights, he said at the time. He also continues to urges a civil tone when people discuss divisive or difficult issues – to “disagree agreeably.”

Emile Allais

Martin Peterson
From Idaho

Emile Allais died two weeks ago. No individual who has lived in Idaho ever had a greater impact on his sport, although a close runner up would have to be Dick Fosbury, a long-time Ketchum contractor. Fosbury won the gold medal for the high jump in the 1968 Olympics. His revolutionary backward dive over the bar became known as the Fosbury Flop and is now used by virtually all of the world’s high jumpers.

There have been other athletes who have lived in Idaho at some time or another who have had major accomplishments in their chosen sports, but none with a major influence on their sports as great as Allais and Fosbury. Keep in mind that being great and having influence are two different

Dan O’Brien, a University of Idaho track star, won the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1996 Olympics and was called, at the time, the world’s greatest athlete. But he has had no apparent lasting impact on the way decathletes compete in their sport.

Two other greats were Betty Ellis from Clarkston and Barbara Peturka from Orofino who, fifty years ago, dominated the world of women’s log burling with a series of world championships.

One of the greatest rodeo stars with Idaho connections was Jackson Sundown, a member of the Nez Perce tribe, who won the all-around cowboy title at the 1916 Pendleton Roundup when he was 53 years old. Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, wrote a novel based on Sundown’s 1916 Pendleton Roundup appearance titled The Last Go ‘Round. He died in 1923 and is buried at the Slickpoo Mission Cemetery near Jacques Spur.

Two other rodeo competitors who come to mind are Dean Oliver of Nampa and Bonnie McCarrol of Boise. Oliver won eight world championships in calf roping and three times was world champion all-around cowboy. McCarrol was one of the outstanding women rodeo riders back in the day when women were allowed to compete in bareback and saddle bronc riding and bulldogging. She died at the 1929 Pendleton Roundup when a horse fell on her and that was the end of women competing in bronc riding. Sadly, it could probably be said that McCarrol had the ultimate impact on her sport, since her death led to its being banned from rodeo competition.

Another great Idaho horse rider was Caldwell’s Gary Stevens. He started his career as a jockey at Boise’s Les Bois Park and went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes three times and the Preakness once. His mounts have collected over $221 million with 4,888 winners.

Walter Johnson pitched for the Weiser Kids during the 1906-07 seasons, where he was said to have pitched 84 consecutive scoreless innings in one stretch. He left Weiser and signed a contract with the Washington Nationals (later the Senators) and became one of the first five
players inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also named to the Major League Baseball All-Time Team.

And, of course, there was Harmon Killebrew of Payette. When he retired from major league baseball he was second only to Babe Ruth in American League home runs and is now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Picabo Street, Christin Cooper and Gretchen Frasier, all from the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, all were Olympic medalists and, at various times, the best in their fields. Which brings me back to Emile Allais. I say he had greater impact on a sport than anyone else who has lived in Idaho.

You say you’ve never heard of him. I’m not surprised. He was 100 years old when he died on October 17 and his major impact on his sport was well before most of those reading this column were even born. (more…)

Will you vote on character or race?

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

One of every two people reading this – statistically – is anti-black and/or anti-Hispanic. In fact, slightly more than that. Statistically.
For some time, I’ve held the opinion racism has been a large – but unspoken – factor in our national politics. A very large gorilla in our universal living room. Some of you have challenged that. Some have even called me “too sensitive” or “just plain wrong” when responding to my concerns. When it comes to expressing opinions, that’s O.K. When it comes to fact, it’s not.

I have in hand the results of a new Associated Press national survey as exhibit “A.” It was conducted by Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of Chicago. While the combined results might be questioned because of regional differences, that’s hard to do when so many widely separated institutions come up with some very comparable statistics. Very.

Here is the AP’s direct quote on its survey results. “Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008, whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racial attitudes or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about the topic directly.”

In sum, 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes compared with 48% in a 2008 survey using the same system. But, in the questions that let to an implicit showing of racial attitude, anti-black expression jumped from 49% to 56%.

As for Hispanics, those institutions did their baseline work in 2011. They found 52% of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. In just one year, the 2012 results jumped to 57% in the implicit test!
If those racial results are accurate – and it seems they are when compared to similar research – what are the direct implications for President Obama when people are asked about his performance in office? Is the increase in anti-black sentiment because people are displeased with his actual performance or is it easier to be critical when you factor in his race? Even if you do so implicitly – meaning you may not know you’re harboring those feelings but they showed up in questioning? Could he have been expected to succeed even under the best of times? Which these certainly are not!

The subject of how Obama’s race would factor into how he’d be treated as president surfaced in my thinking during the 2008 campaign and was renewed after his election. I don’t mean to say I was looking for instances of different treatment – only that it was a part of my thinking about a president that had not been there before. Why should it?

The first time I made a connection was when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted out “You lie” during a speech by Obama to a joint session of Congress. No historian can remember any such outburst and the breaching of what remains of congressional decorum. Wilson, it should be remembered, was one of only six members of the South Carolina Legislature who voted to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over his state capitol. A flag that symbolizes the nation’s years of slavery to America’s black population. His legislative voting record on this and other issues is certainly open to scrutiny in matters of race. (more…)

Koster and ‘the rape thing’

Washington's first House district is much the most interesting, seemingly much the closest, congressional race in the Northwest this year - the only one that really has had the feel of a jumpball race. Is it still?

The new first district is really unlike any that preceded it, an inland district generally in northwest Washington between Seattle and Canada. It includes some King and Snohomish county turf toward its southern end that tilts Democratic, but lots of other territory north of that with a Republican history. It's commonly called a close-split district, and seems here to have maybe a thin Republican edge.

The race there is heated. The Democratic primary, won by self-financing Suzan DelBene (who has experience running in the 8th congressional district), was closely contested between a bunch of candidates. The Republican field was relatively cleared by John Koster, a Snohomish County commissioner well-known in the area, who came within an inch or so two years ago of defeating 2nd District Democrat Rick Larsen, and ran very strongly in the substantial parts of the new district that overlap with the old 2nd. Our initial take was that this race was close, but Koster seemed to have a slight edge.

That may be gone now. DelBene has been heavily outspending him, though that may be a lesser factor. She has been leading (though not by a lot) in the few polls that have surfaced.

And now, days before the ballot deadline, there's Koster's entry into the Republican rape talk hall of fame.

One of Koster's problematic areas, in a district largely economically conservative but more socially liberal, has been his social conservatism, especially on abortion and related subjects.

Last weekend, he was on tape saying this: “On the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s the consequence of this crime, how does that make it better? You know what I mean?”

Asked about incest and rape, he described incest as "so rare" - the suggestion being that it's so uncommon as to hardly merit cognizance.

What that may be widely taken to mean is Koster's association with the Akin-Mourdoch discussion about rape and abortion, a stance that has crippled those once-strong candidacies and has turned them both from frontrunners to underdogs. If Koster's statement goes viral around the 1st in the next few days, DelBene may not just win, but win easily, in a district that otherwise would have been a tough, close call for days after next Tuesday.