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Posts published in “Day: October 13, 2014”

Being a politician

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Nels Mitchell says up front in his campaign against Sen. Jim Risch that he is not a career politician. “In fact, I’m not a politician at all.”

Breaking news: Mitchell is a politician. He’s a career lawyer and there’s no way he could survive in that field without being a politician. So there’s Exhibit A in building a case (beyond a reasonable doubt) that he is, indeed, a politician.

Exhibit B is his campaign manager, Betty Richardson. She has an outstanding reputation as a lawyer and she’s a pretty good politician as well. Richardson was unsuccessful in her run for 1st District Congress against Butch Otter in 2002. But in 36 years covering politics (not all in Idaho), I’m hard pressed to think of any candidate I’ve seen who was better prepared.

Exhibit C is in Mitchell’s actions. As he blasts networks such as FOX News for creating anger and outrage, Mitchell releases a video of MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow – the left wing’s answer to Rush Limbaugh – slamming Risch for suggesting that the national debt is the biggest problem in Idaho. Mitchell says he does not want to match Risch with snide comments. Yet, after a televised debate in Boise, Mitchell nailed Risch for “creating a sideshow,” using “theatrics” and spouting “half-truths” and “shrill insults.”

So, Mitchell is not a choir boy and don’t look for him to star in a remake of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” But he is an intelligent, thoughtful and articulate person and an intriguing candidate. Running against Risch, the ultimate “career politician” presents challenges. It also presents advantages, since there’s no shortage of people who dislike Risch, perhaps the most polarizing figure in Idaho politics. Mitchell says his internal polling shows that Risch has not closed the deal in this election.

So he’d better learn to be a politician quickly if he is to peel off undecided voters. Maybe he could watch a few clips of Huey Long to learn how to rile up a crowd. Mitchell, at 60, acknowledges that he has some rough edges as a politician. After all, he did not mold his life and career to run for the U.S. Senate, as Risch has. About a year and a half ago, Richardson, former Gov. Cecil Andrus and others encouraged him to run and initially he did not take the bait – that is, until Congress shut down the government. “That was the tipping point,” he said.

Another motivator was the feeling that Risch should have an opponent. No other Democrat was interested in challenging a well-funded incumbent. Last year, in an interview with the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board, Risch talked in glowing terms about how much he enjoyed life in Washington and social perks, such as attending events at Ford’s Theater and his wife attending a luncheon hosted by Michelle Obama. I was in the room when he said (as reported by the Statesman’s Dan Popkey), “You know, I really enjoy this job. I really like this job.” Being governor is hard work and can wear a person down. “You can’t do that job permanently. This, you can do ad infinitum.”
Mitchell says that Washington is broken with a system run by lobbyists and career politicians. He says he’d serve one term, which is understandable for a 60-year-old man. Six years in that rat race is enough even for those much younger.

Mitchell says, Democrats share part of the blame for the dysfunction. He’s not impressed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He calls the implementation of President Obama’s health care plan as “an embarrassment,” and views the president’s foreign policy as short-sighted.

He disagrees with Risch about the national debt being the greatest problem facing Idaho. “The biggest problem facing Idaho is the lack of living-wage jobs and our weak economy,” says Mitchell, promoting raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

The big challenge is convincing Idaho businesses that raising the minimum wage is a good idea, then getting it passed through Congress. It will take some masterful political skills to make all that happen, so maybe Mitchell should not dwell so much about not being a politician.

He’d be better off talking about why he’s the right man for the job.

On the front pages

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)

Fire department bond considered (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing Winmill ruling on sage grouse (Boise Statesman, TF Times News)
Restoring the Silverthorne Theatre at LCSC (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow activists work against fracking (Moscow News)
Crowd opposes state taking federal lands (TF Times News)

Harrisburg plane part supplier may expand (Eugene Register Guard)
Medford may lift alcohol ban at some events (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing District 3 tight Senate race (Medford Tribune)
Oregon looks at ERA, ACLU says it's not needed (Medford Tribune)
Looking at jail intake system in Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
Limited access for Oregon death w/dignity (Salem Statesman Journal)

Reviewing Kitsap coroner race (Bremerton Sun)
Suquamish seafood business poised to grow (Bremerton Sun)
Olympia police back in schools (Olympian)
Washington state employee labor agreements cost $583m (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Voters will consider Tacoma mayor term limit (Tacoma News Tribune)
Spokane treasurer race focuses on experience (Spokane Spokesman)
Washougal reviews arguments against oil terminal (Vancouver Columbian)
What's proper size for a school class? (Vancouver Columbian)
Candidates competing for auditor job (Yakima Herald Republic)

In the briefings

merkley biden

 
Senator Jeff Merkley was campaigning on his home turf in east Portland when he and Vice President Joe Biden stopped in for ice cream at Salt & Straw Ice Cream on Alberta Street. (photo/Merkley campaign)

 
This was a week with a couple of actual financial scandals – or at least issues that might develop that way – on the part of Oregon political figures, but they went barely remarked. That was because something even more grabby emerged: The state's first lady, Cylvia Hayes, acknowledged that she had, in the mid-90s, married an immigrant for he could get his green card, for a $5,000 payment. The story dominated news play around the state, while another story – about the relationship between the governor's office and Hayes' consulting firm – got scant attention. (The other hot story that didn't fully surface was about state Senate candidate Kim Thatcher and allegations of contracting fraud with the state.)

The string of debates between Idaho statewide candidates in Idaho last week – a number of them highly watchable and most available through online streaming – are noted in this week's Politics section.

In Washington, the merger of marine cargo operations at the Seattle and Tacoma ports seemed the clear top story of the week in Washington state, even as campaign season reaches a peak. That may be a commentary on the relatively quiet nature of this year's campaign season.