Writings and observations

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

A conservative friend has challenged me to predict the outcome of the major Republican primary races, and “to say something nice about the projected winners.” Hokey dokey. Here goes.

Prognosticating a “closed” primary is difficult because no one can say with certainty who will actually vote. A poll may show one person far ahead, but if the expected winner has not mobilized his or her supporters to vote an underdog who has could surprise.

Governor: Butch Otter easily turns back the challenge mounted by State Senator Russ Fulcher of Meridian. The margin will be 60/40. While many Republicans are hard pressed to say what the governor has done to merit a third term and share my dismay at the evisceration of public school funding that has happened on his watch, they cannot buy Fulcher’s Tea Party beliefs nor the absurd Republican platform. Butch is one of the most personable people one will ever meet which causes many to overlook his managerial shortcomings and his ideology. He will also benefit from a well-organized but little publicized effort by mainstream Republicans to regain control over the GOP’s apparatus as testified to by precinct committee races across the state.

Boise school board president and businessman A.J. Bulakoff easily wins the Democratic nomination. To win in the fall he will have to dip into his considerable fortune and spend several million dollars informing Idahoans who he is, his far better support for education, and why he can do a better job than Governor Otter. If he doesn’t spend at least $4 million in his campaign, he will lose.

Lt. Governor. Brad Little turns back Tea Party candidate Jim Chmelik and likewise in November rolls over former Pocatello State Senator Bart Marley. Little is the most qualified persons currently in Idaho to be governor and Butch should have retired and let Brad assume the mantle. Thoughtful, intelligent, practical, a problem-solver who is not driven by ideology, he is one of the few public servants I know in whom one can safely posit trust.

Attorney General: If Tea Party challenger Chris Troupis has any political moxie he could make this a closer race than it should be. His “discovery” of an amicus brief in a gun control lawsuit filed by a Wasden subordinate which slipped by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden temporarily aligned Idaho with the “government ought to do more to restrict the sale of firearms” crowd led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While the brief was quickly withdrawn, the AG said nary a word hoping that it would go unnoticed, which it did for six years. Wasden’s mishandling of this creates an opening that if Troupis exploits with any skill could make his challenge more viable. My guess is Wasden will be forgiven by voters who even know about this and that his solid record and non-partisan approach to his duties will see him safely re-elected.

Secretary of State: If current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and former Governor Phil Batt say Ada County Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane is the their choice, that should be good enough for the vast majority of Idahoans who know that Ysursa and Batt are two other fine Republicans one can trust and whose appeal easily crosses party lines. Despite their endorsements this will still be a close race that is hard to call simply because primaries with more than three candidates are always hard to predict. Former Speaker Lawerence Denney may be able to convert his base support in the Treasure and Magic Valleys into a solid enough bloc vote to pull off an upset. Likewise, former Pocatello State Senator Evan Frasure may be able to attract enough of the southeast Idaho LDS vote to pull off an upset.

Second Congressional District: Mike Simpson is one of the best members of Congress Idaho has ever produced. He is incontestably a conservative but also a solution-oriented legislator, not a blind ideologue. Voters in the Second district will reward his years of service and support for INEL with an easy victory over Tea Party challenger attorney Bryan Smith from Idaho Falls. Simpson could still be a Republican Speaker of the House someday.

Other Republicans worthy of trust include Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, from Idaho Falls; Sandpoint State State Senator Shawn Keough; Rupert State Senator Dean Cameron; Speaker Scott Bedke from Oakley; and, Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill from Rexburg. Any one of these folks could capably serve as governor if destiny called.

A Republican waiting in the wings who many would like to see serve someday is Twin Falls businessman Rich Stivers, the son of former Speaker Tom Stivers. There, I’ve said some nice words about some Republicans.

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Carlson

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Kuna school levy fight returns (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
The Simpson-Smith battle over earmarks (Boise Statesman)
NCAA blasts UI on academic rules (Nampa Press Tribune)
The East Idahoans running statewide (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello police lawsuit progresses (Pocatello Journal)
New app on cyberbullying (TF Times News)

Little progress on Dorena hydro effort (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath ballot includes administrator issue (KF Herald & News)
Meth still prevalent around KF (KF Herald & News)
The contest for Jackson County sheriff (Medford Tribune)
Conflict in Jackson circuit judge contest (Medford Tribune)
Two Oracle-led projects both non-functional (Portland Oregonian)
TriMet facilities crime scaling back (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing restaurant inspections (Salem Statesman Journal)

Impacts of mudslide on Darrington (Everett Herald)
Evaluating why school bond failed (Everett Herald)
Can feds provide water to pot growers? (Tacoma News Tribune, Kennewick Herald)
On spill risk for NW oil shipments (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Kitzhaber rejects coal export from OR (Longview News)
Spokane jail overcrowded (Spokane Spokesman)
A troubled baseball league provider (Tacoma News Tribune)
Tacoma Symphony conductor retires (Tacoma News Tribune)
Remembering Val Ogden (Vancouver Columbian)
School districts struggling with growth (Vancouver Columbian)
Big growth in WA Medicaid (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

For all that a lot of people in Idaho like to see themselves as rural, outdoorsy folk, and for all that their governor likes to present himself as a cowboy out of the old West, the face of the people of Idaho is becoming something rather different.
What that is was brought home by a statistic about the city of Meridian that even some of the people of Meridian didn’t at first believe.

Meridian’s mayor, Tammy de Weerd, wrote an article describing her city as the second largest in Idaho. The local newspaper, thinking she must have erred, deleted the reference. That couldn’t be right – could it? I remember driving through Meridian back in the mid-70s when it was a little dairy town of 4,000 or so people. It’s still hard for me to wrap around the idea of the mellow-yellow-water-tower-town as a dynamo with 20 times as many people. It’s probably hard for a lot of long-time residents to grasp. But so it is.

Then the newspaper double-checked, and it found her seemingly odd factoid actually had solid support: The Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho, which among other things develops a good deal of demographic and economic planning data in the area, has estimated Meridian’s population for this year at 85,240, for the first time pulling ahead of Nampa (84,840) and trailing only Boise (217,730) in the region – and for that matter, in Idaho. The next largest cities (Idaho Falls and Pocatello) are tens of thousands of people smaller.

The Ada-Canyon population now is estimated by COMPASS at 620,080, almost 40,000 more than at the last, 2010, census. To put that in perspective: The average population size of a U.S. House district is a little over 700,000, so Ada-Canyon is coming nearly large enough to form one by itself. If it keeps growing as it has, by 2020 it might be about large enough.

Farms and ranches still can be found in the Ada-Canyon area (as the governor, living on one, would be quick to point out), but the area no longer is defined by or, broadly, has much connection with them. The Boise-Eagle-Meridian-Nampa-Caldwell area is defined these days by suburbs, tracts a lot like what you’d see in most of Phoenix or Provo or Bend or Lancaster. Probably a half-million of the people in Ada-Canyon live in what could be at least loosely described as a suburban area.

That’s close to a third of the population of Idaho; and it is far from all of the state’s suburbanites. You’ll find another large congregation of them in Kootenai county, especially west and north of Coeur d’Alene. Kootenai’s population now is upwards of 142,000 people, and close to 100,000 of those people live outside the city of Coeur d’Alene, most of them in the massive suburban areas around Post Falls and Rathdrum and Hayden.

Idaho has a lot of other, smaller, suburban-type areas too; you can find them around nearly all of the state’s larger population centers.

The effect of this is that more than half of all Idahoans are, for practical purposes, suburbanites. Increasingly, that is where the people are, and that forms the central definition of their physical world. And it is to suburban people, not rural people, that Idaho politicians increasingly are going to have to appeal.

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Idaho Idaho column