Writings and observations

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley will be doing more than watching the Election Day results in November. He’ll be keeping an eye on Republican winners, because his job depends on it.

Perhaps even more than the governor’s race, the state’s direction hinges on the outcome of the legislative races. Bedke, who won by a narrow margin in 2012, is no lock to win re-election. Critics – and there are plenty of them within the conservative wing of the GOP caucus – say he hasn’t done enough to bring opponents to his side.

“He’s leading with the D’s, and that’s no way to lead,” said one Republican House member.

For certain, Bedke could not have gotten through the implementation of a state-run health exchange without the help of Democrats.

“A majority of the Republican caucus voted against the exchange and the only way it passed was with the help of Democrats,” said Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens (Kootenai County). “That would not have happened under the previous speaker.”

Barbieri also opposes Bedke on Common Core education standards and fears that the speaker could push for Medicaid expansion. Barbieri isn’t alone with in his complaints about Bedke’s leadership. Earlier this month, the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey wrote an excellent piece, talking to two of Bedke’s leading critics from the conservative side – Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane of Nampa and Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude of rural Ada County.

But complaints against Bedke and the more moderate “Otter” Republicans are empty without a viable conservative alternative, and that’s a problem. The bench is thin. Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star has the resume, but he has told others that he is not interested in the speaker’s job because it would signify the beginning of the end of his legislative career. Rep. Tom Loertscher of Bone, the longtime chairman of the State Affairs Committee, also has the qualification. The question is whether he wants to stay on for another term or two. In Popkey’s article, Crane offered himself as a potential candidate for speaker. The question is whether he is ready for such an assignment. My guess is he is not.

Bedke, in many ways, has done a good job leading the House and a divided GOP caucus. He’s highly intelligent, engaged in the issues and has superior knowledge about budgeting. He’s also a superb communicator with the media, a trait not often found with Republicans.

Conservative members have a different view, as Popkey’s article outlined. Crane says that Bedke’s style has made the GOP divisions worse.

“It’s about divide and conquer, and that’s not leadership,” Crane told Popkey. “Leadership provides direction, provides a vision, provides a mission of where we’re going and gets people united. It’s not about dividing people so you can manipulate the process.”

Others within the caucus are less kind. He often is described as “mean,” “vindictive,” “dictatorial” and “condescending.”

Bedke is more likely to get favorable reviews from Democrats than conservative members of his caucus. House Democrat Leader John Rusche of Nez Perce gives Bedke high marks for fairness and sensible approaches to some issues, but says some fellow Democrats see him as condescending.

Criticism of House speakers is nothing new. In some respects, Bedke reminds me of the late Tom Stivers, who ruled with an iron fist in the 1980s. Critics also accused him of being “mean” and “vindictive.” I also see in Bedke some of the qualities of now-Congressman Mike Simpson in terms of intelligence, decisiveness and savvy with the media.

Bedke could do better for himself by taking some of the qualities of his friend and former speaker, Bruce Newcomb. Newcomb often alienated some of the more conservative members of his caucus, but he had a way of bringing people back to the fold – often with his friendly nature and sense of humor.
Bedke’s style of humor does not always hit home with legislators as Popkey’s article illustrated. As Crane was discussing the need for party unity, Bedke reportedly came back with, “What do you want, Crane, more ice cream socials?”

Those who heard the conversation were laughing like schoolyard bullies, but it was hardly funny to Crane – and hardly a way for Bedke to bring conservative members to his side.

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Malloy

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)

Very hot springs killed dog; access changes (Boise Statesman)
US Geothermal increases its profits (Boise Statesman)
Battle at Lewiston urban renewal board (Lewiston Tribune)
Washington’s Carlton fire nearing control (Lewiston Tribune)
State’s public defense system under review (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa dispute over burger place parking (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello PD buy big armored vehicle (Pocatello Journal)
Free lunches cut back at Pocatello schools (Pocatello Journal)
Hollister cuts speed to preserve road (TF Times News)
Salmon Gate water could end today (TF Times News)

Another hotel may be tried for Corvallis (Corvallis Gazette)
Corvallis may limit demolition of houses (Corvallis Gazette)
Adidas logos replace some Nikes at UO (Eugene Register Guard)
Marijuana legalization hits November ballot (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Klamath ag research loses water too (KF Herald & News)
Lightning fires hit southern Oregon (Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune)
OSP chief says counties have to fund enforcement (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Not much immediate effect of health insurance ruling (Portland Oregonian)

Battles in District 26 (Bremerton Sun)
Causes of Oso slide still unclear (Seattle Times, Everett Herald)
Mukilteo lets Liias retain city, state jobs (Everett Herald)
Some progress on wildfire fight (Vancouver Columbian, Kennewick Herald)
Cowlitz Republicans see faction fight (Longview News)
Senator Hargrove concerned on water rule suit (Port Angeles News)
Moorage rates at Port Angeles reduced (Port Angeles News)
Spokane reconsiders taxi rules (Spokane Spokesman)
Clark County economy booming (Vancouver Columbian)
Looking at 4th CD fundraising (Yakima Herald Republic)
Settlement on public records costs Yakima $25k (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

Critics of Oregon’s proposed top two open primary say one weakness is that in some districts the top two who advance to the general election may be from the same party. A report from the Independent Voter Network, takes a look at California Senate District 28, where two Republicans advanced onto the November general election.

Their conclusion? It’s a good thing. With Republican voters making up just 40% of the voters in SD-28, it means that the two Republican finalists will now be forced to appeal not just to Republican primary voters, but to all voters. This has caused the candidates to minimize ideology and focus on local issues that matter to more voters.

Wedge issues aren’t nearly as effective when you have two candidates from the same party.

Frankly, all the wailing that a top two open primary will occasionally result in two Republicans or two Democrats taking the top two spots is a red herring. In fact, it’s one of the strengths of the proposal.

In Oregon, under the current closed primary system heavily Democratic or Republican districts produce a single candidate in November. In 20 of the 60 Oregon House races this November voters will get one major party candidate to vote for. In the 66 Oregon Senate seats up for election, 6 of them will likewise feature one major party candidate. Over one third of Oregon’s Legislature is basically uncontested and features a single major party candidate.

At least under the open primary system there’s a likelihood that these 26 races would feature two major party candidates, even if they are from the same party. This would give voters a choice. And for candidates in heavily R or D districts, they couldn’t just pander to either the public employee unions leaders or the Chamber of Commerce in their respective primaries and then prepare for their coronation in November.

When Our Oregon supporter or a tea party member claims that a top two open primary may result in two Democrats or two Republicans advancing to the November ballot. Say…GREAT! That doubles voter choice of major party candidates in a third of our Legislative districts.

Note: This isn’t an endorsement of the open primary initiative, on which I’m undecided. It is a critique of the Democratic and Republican hypocrisy in their criticism that the open primary reduces choices.

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Harris Oregon Oregon column