Writings and observations

jorgensen W. SCOTT
JORGENSEN

 
Conversations with Atiyeh

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s very easy to forget that we are living tomorrow’s history. It’s also easy to forget that there are historical figures among us, whose wisdom awaits those who seek it.

I came to this realization last year. One of Oregon’s great governors, Vic Atiyeh, had left office in 1987. His steady style helped steer the state through a time of tremendous challenges. The example that he set for subsequent generations was already very obvious. The lessons he could pass on from all of his years of acquired wisdom would be priceless.

At first, I had to consider the almost mythical figure that Vic Atiyeh had become in Oregon politics, the way that his work and legacy still surround every man, woman and child in the state, whether they know it or not.

It became clear to me that I might have the opportunity to interview and learn from the former governor. Mutual friends were able to put me in touch with him, and we conducted a series of long-long interviews on a variety of subjects.

The governor was a personable man, and I enjoyed our talks very much. I asked him about formative experiences, like his time in the Boy Scouts and playing offensive line for the University of Oregon football team. His anecdotes and personal stories are treasures in and of themselves, and paint a clear picture of the great man that Vic Atiyeh was.

He shared with me many aspects of his governing philosophy, along with many important life lessons. I learned much more from our talks than I even initially expected. My biggest takeaway from the whole project was that the governor felt good about the decisions he made in his life and as a public official, and about the legacy that he would ultimately leave.

Vic Atiyeh passed away on July 20. Our last conversation had been at the beginning of the month, and it was an attempt to schedule one last interview with him.

I never got that last interview, but I realized fairly quickly that I might not even need it. The last question I would have asked him was going to be the way he felt about his legacy. But based on our talks, I felt like I already knew.

The transcripts of our talks, some of the governor’s last recorded interviews, form the bulk of my upcoming book “Conversations with Atiyeh.” It is not the traditional historical biography. Rather, it’s about the ways in which wisdom is passed down from one generation to another. It’s a unique look at the life and times of one of Oregon’s great governors, in his own words. It’s the story of a young man getting to know someone he would otherwise only read about in books.

This is my contribution to the history of a state that I have grown to love very much. My hope is that it will also serve as a tribute to Vic Atiyeh. He was the kind of leader who sought to bring out the best in everyone around him, and we would all do well to learn from his example.

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Jorgensen

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)

Idaho gay marriage ban falls at 9th circuit (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal, Moscow News)
BSU enrollment rises even as tuition does (Boise Statesman)
Mike Simpson’s conflict with the EPA (IF Post Register)
Traffic-calming circles installed at Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
Colfax airport expansion funded (Moscow News)
Canyon County Co-op sets guidelines (Nampa Press Tribune)
Teacher dislike new certification guide (TF Times News)
Profiling the Hartgen-Talking race (TF Times News)

Uncertain future for Majestic Theatre (Corvallis Gazette)
Benton County sets marijuana tax (Corvallis Gazette)
Power board gets UO foundation to redevelop (Eugene Register Guard)
Rick Steves favors pot in Oregon (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath Falls may tax pot (KF Herald & News)
Fish stranded in dry Deschutes River (KF Herald & News)
More western gay marriage bans fall (Medford Tribune)
Portland police chief Reese will retire (Portland Oregonian)
Review pot taxes across Oregon cities (Portland Oregon)
Governor candidates debate at Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)
Some ‘natural’ products contain GMOs (Salem Statesman Journal)

School lawsuits costing teachers $4.4m (Bremerton Sun, Olympian)
Reviewing Senate 26 Angel-Arbogast race (Bremerton Sun)
State Resources seeks to buy forest lands (Bremerton Sun)
More tests on Boeing tankers (Everett Herald)
Longview council will consider utility tax (Longview News)
Clatsop-Nehalem recognition vs Chinook (Longview News)
Silt adds to land size of Olympic Peninsula (Port Angeles News)
Clallam Board votes to restrict pot (Port Angeles News)
Seattle, Tacoma ports link for promotion (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribubne)
Bus advocates push on Prop 1 (Seattle Times)
City pay plan would raise mayor by $7k (Spokane Spokesman)
Idaho same-sex marriage appeal denied (Spokane Spokesman)
Fire famages much of Camas airport (Vancouver Columbian)
Advisory vote on Yakima plaza may be dropped (Yakima Herald Republic)
Looking to second year of health enrollment (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The time has come to say it. So here goes. Government employment – especially federal – has, in too many cases, become a haven from the unemployment lines for too damned many people. In addition, holding elective office – especially federal – has become a haven for too damned many idiots who’ve proven they should be unemployed.

Strong stuff? You bet! But sometimes the total incompetency in both classifications is so overpowering you can’t reach any other conclusion. What follows is my small offerings of proof(s).

Take Ebola. Within hours of the arrival in a Texas hospital of the first known case in this country, Gov. Ricky Perry – trying to boost his hopeless run for president – leaped before the cameras to claim “I’m proud Texas has become the location for this emergency. We’re the best equipped state in the nation to deal with this – we’ve the best medical resources and the best know-how to defeat this before it becomes a national disaster.” Oh, Hell yes.

Within 24 hours, we found out the “best medical resources” in Texas had seen the guy and turned him loose with some pills. Seems the nurses with the “best medical resources” had an intake computer program with the right questions but it didn’t “talk” to the one the doctors use.

Then, with four of the man’s relatives imprisoned in a small apartment, the State of Texas ordered them to move and a hazmat team activated to delouse the place. Except. The Texas health department could find no place in the whole damned state to relocate the people. And the hazmat team was stopped from acting because it had only a license to transport and dispose of the garbage but no Texas permit to remove it. A private citizen found a new “home” for the sequestered four and the hazmat folks waited 48 hours before a permit was issued. But the State of Texas? “Best equipped?” Hell yes. And Perry left for a weekend campaigning in Iowa.

CDC and Ebola. CDC top brass has been living on TV with complete assurances our health system “is the best in the world,” “it’s working” and “this will soon be behind us.” Guess they were too busy in front of the cameras to catch the Texas mess. They also weren’t truthful about those congressional jackasses who arbitrarily cut the CDC budget through “sequestration” and, since those carefully-designed-but-very-expensive CDC programs to handle emergencies like Ebola hadn’t been used, they were cut back or eliminated. Don’t need ‘em ‘cause they ain’t been used, according to the Louie Gomer (SHAZAM) – er Gohmert – School of Deep Think. Texas again. Hell yes.

VA health care. Anyone else want to jump in here? The billions we’ve spent have propped up a system rife with duplicitous civil “servants” who’ve been a cancer within. Too few medical professionals – too few programs to take care of the new medical and psychological problems veterans suffer from these days and an indifferent congress cutting budgets with no regard for the human suffering caused by their indifferent and arbitrary actions.

How about the IRS? A couple of offices of people targeting certain political groups (left and right) for special audits. Administrative perversion on that scale can’t survive without a lot of folks knowing what’s going on. Whether they participate or not.

The Pentagon. Hundreds of examples. But one will do nicely. No one in the Pentagon – NO ONE – can tell taxpayers how much equipment the military owns and where it is. Or whether it still exists. No one. The claim is inventory is too big to – wait for it – inventory.

How about the CIA? Read the other day CIA wasn’t aware of ISSA’s strength or size before things hit the fan in Iraq. “We underestimated,” said the Director. Oh Hell yes. We got the same crap when Bush-the-Junior was lying us into Iraq in the first place. Then Syria came along and another “surprise” at CIA. How about those riots in Egypt? And murders at Benghazi? Terrorist sponsorship was “news to the CIA!

Then the CIA “underestimated” the Russia-Ukraine mess. “Didn’t see that coming,” was the response. Aside from listening to our phone calls and reading our emails, what the Hell does the CIA do? Why is that spy agency alone in not knowing what’s happening?

There’s a lot more. And it’s not confined to the above miscreants. I’ve called local, county and state offices over the last few years looking for help in their areas of responsibility. I can’t count the times the response was “we don’t do that any more because of budget cuts” or “we’re too short-staffed to do all the things we used to do.” Then what’re the people left doing if they’re not doing the jobs that were the reason for their employment in those offices?

This whole loony and totally crazy illogical crap of cut, cut, cut in all areas of government is gutting what’s left. Citizens needing help with basic necessities are hitting brick walls trying to find someone to do what’s needed. People are hungry. People are homeless. People are dying. Families are being broken up. We taxpayers footing the bill are, in far too many instances, not getting what we’re paying for. If this country has ever truly had “taxation without representation” it’s happening now. The gutless political hypocrisy of “sequestration” – created by too many in congress who don’t know how government works and who’re operating in some sort of ignorant vacuum of a phony political theology – is eating necessary government functions.

What’s needed – and we’ve needed it for a very long time – is a total reappraisal of what government is – what it should be – what it must do to maintain the “common good” – what is required of it for the peace and security of the nation – all these things and more. Efforts to deal with our 21st century challenges are being crippled and our leadership in so many of the world’s activities is being undermined.

Until that reappraisal and the massive, intellectual and political work is done by newer and better qualified Americans, too much of our government will continue to be a haven for the otherwise unemployed. That should not be taken as condemnation of those in government who are honestly trying to do their jobs. But it damned well should be taken as a flat out condemnation of the intellectual idiocy and complete ignorance of a political system too full of both.

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Rainey

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Two things are certain to come from this year’s race for superintendent of public instruction. One, a woman will occupy one of Idaho’s constitutional offices since Donna Jones was elected controller in 2006. Secondly, Tom Luna will ride out of office after eight years – which is good news to a lot of “professional” educators.

The bad news is that Idaho will be losing one of its most aggressive advocates for public schools since Jerry Evans held the office. Luna and Evans disagreed sharply on viewpoints and approaches, but both took strong stands on education issues without worrying much about political fallouts.

Luna came into office promising to shake things up in education and he delivered with a series of “Students Come First” proposals – commonly known as “Luna Laws.” Many of the criticisms were justified. He didn’t bring up these proposals until after he won re-election and the process wasn’t as inclusive as it could have been. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter gave his full backing to these proposals and the Legislature voted them into law, which speaks well for Luna’s ability to navigate the political system. Voters had different ideas, sending the Luna Laws to a resounding defeat in 2012.

One thing that was positive in my mind was, at least Luna was trying to do something about an education system that has not fundamentally changed in 50 years.
Luna, a former member of the Nampa School Board, was not a professional educator. But he had something that few candidates running for the position ever had – the ability to communicate and articulate his vision about where he wanted to go and how to get there. Regardless of the audience – and even with editorial boards — he came across as confident, strong and under control.

I don’t see any of those communication qualities in the two candidates running, Democrat Jana Jones and Republican Sherri Ybarra, both of whom have a stronger education resume than Luna. Neither candidate talks about grand ideas beyond supporting the governor’s education task force and Common Core.

Jones has more experience with office, having working with three superintendents and as chief deputy under Marilyn Howard, who was a capable educator but a horrible communicator. Jones thinks a Democrat can be effective in the superintendent’s office.

“Students don’t come to school with Ds and Rs on their foreheads,” Jones said in a debate in Twin Falls, covered by Idaho Education News. “We use politics to be elected, but once there, you need to put politics aside.”

Unfortunately, legislators do care about Ds and Rs and the reality is Republicans don’t pay attention to Democrats on big-ticket issues. If Jones talks about promoting an Internet sales tax, it will give Republicans even more reason to shoot it down.

Ybarra has a better chance of working with Republican lawmakers. But she also has stated repeatedly that she is not a politician, which is a terrible quality for a state superintendent. It takes a lot of political moxie to present budget proposals to the governor’s office and make a convincing case to the Legislature. Part of the job means sitting on the State Board of Education is not for the faint of heart, or non-politicians. She’s also not much for media interviews, as Jennifer Swindell of Idaho Education News discovered early on in a profile of Ybarra in May.

“Sherri Ybarra is a career educator and accomplished student. And that’s about all she likes to reveal publicly,” Swindell said in her report. “Ybarra doesn’t share a lot of details about how she would run the State Department of Education. Her answers generally circle back to one mantra: ‘I’ll do what’s best for kids.’”

So for the moment, Ybarra – the surprising winner of last May’s GOP primary – lacks the vision and communication skills to lead the department. Jones, who lost a close race to Luna in 2006, has a solid working knowledge of the department. But whether she can get her ideas beyond the Democratic caucus is another thing.

Idahoans probably can’t go wrong either way. But gone are the days of bold initiatives coming from the state superintendent’s office and a passion for reform.

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Malloy

news

The biggest story on regional front pages today was the Supreme Court’s decision not to decide a batch of appeals from various circuit courts on same-sex marriage; the tenor of headlines throughout was that the court had in effect set a nearly-inevitable path toward such marriages nationally. The impact was varied among the three northwest states. Washington allowed such marriages by law, so the court actions have not had significant effect there. Oregon’s constitutional ban was thrown out by an appellate court whose decision was denied review, so the Supreme Court action provided additional confirmation of that action. The decision had no direct effect on Idaho, where the state’s ban is being challenged in court but still is under review at the appellate level, and so was not considered by the Supreme Court.

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)

Working on repairing Table Rock at Boise (Boise Statesman)
Revieing student debt at BSU (Boise Statesman)
Overview of state treasurer’s race (Boise Statesman)
Death in Lewiston may have resulted from flu (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow residents may be billed for tree trimming (Moscow News)
Governor candidates talk Medicaid expansion (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa considers police use of military vehicle (Nampa Press Tribune)
School tries master-level schooling (TF Times News)

300 more students at OSU this year (Corvallis Gazette)
Eugene sued by fired cop (Eugene Register Guard)
Warren visits Oregon for Merkley (Eugene Register Guard)
Teachers at Eugene agree to contract (Eugene Register Guard)
Fee to visit Crater Lake may double (KF Herald & News)
Reviewing Jackson commission race 3 (Medford Tribune)
Harry & David owner looks for employees (Medford Tribune)
Forming a Morrow County Democratic party (Pendleton E Oregonian)
SAT scores soft in Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
Employment claims cost state near $1 million (Salem Statesman Journal)

1st independent public tribal school opens (Bremerton Sun)
Washington prepares plan for ebola (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Bremerton Sun, Kennewick Herald)
Funds sought to studr slide (Everett Herald)
Stillagaumish tribe gets resource center (Everett Herald)
Colleges changing testing rules (Kennewick Herald)
Big pot farm planned near Longview (Longview News)
Thurston sheriff seeks restoration of budget (Olympian)
Clallam considers new pot law (Port Angeles News)
Vancouver considering new code for taxis (Vancouver Columbian)
ACLU seeks 2 Yakima latino majority districts (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Political debates are rarely enlightening or much of a factor in a voter’s thought process before voting. The October 3rd gubernatorial debate in the Coeur d’Alene Public Library was a delightful exception.

Ever since I read a UCLA study on debates (Among its major findings was that 80% of a viewer’s decision on who won is determined by the NON-VERBAL signals candidates convey), I’ve been a skeptic.

Granted, whether a candidate conveys “command presence” or a sense of humor, and can smile while sticking a metaphorical stiletto into an opponent’s argument, or wears a bow tie or bolo tie, as opposed to a power red tie, these are all part of image conveyance. To learn, though, that what they say and whether they can cogently convey their thoughts to the voter, has little to do with “who won” was a bit depressing.

When my former student, Kathy Kahn, who is an outstanding teacher at St. Maries High School, invited me to attend with her, I had to go.

This debate, the first between three major candidates, was a legitimate “test” for each..

The Democratic nominee, A.J. Bulakoff, a successful Boise businessman and a long-time leader on the Boise school board, had to convince teachers, like Kathy, that he was truly a supporter of education, that he was for restoring program funding and raising teachers’ salaries decimated by Governor Otter’s cuts.

Otter had to defend his rationale for the cuts by convincing voters that despite the cuts Idaho was still holding its own in national test scores and that Idaho’s educational system was producing employable graduates. Otter needed to shift the public focus away from education to his view that Idaho’s economy and its people are doing well.

The Libertarian candidate, former Republican and Canyon County prosecutor John Bujak, had to convince the audience that a third party candidate could succeed in winning the governorship and then actually leading the state without a party to support him.

Balukoff gets an A; Bujak gets a B; and, Otter gets an F.

In a polite but firm way “A.J.” went after Otter’s record on both education and the economy, citing the fact that Idaho general fund support for education on a per pupil cost basis had fallen to the point where Idaho now ranked 50th in the nation.

Otter’s lame excuse was to come back with the nonsensical “it’s not how much money you spend, its how you spend the money.” A.J. drove home the points that Idaho is not producing employable graduates nor are many of the system’s students actually graduating from college.

A.J. referenced a meeting he had recently with a firm that wanted to locate in Idaho but simply could not find enough workers who knew how to write computer code programs. Idaho does not teach the necessary class in its schools.

He won Kathy’s vote and achieved his goals for the debate. He demonstrated commendable knowledge of all the issues well covered by a panel of two businessmen asking the questions, whether it was the need to expand Medicaid funding or to create jobs by focusing on working with existing small businesses rather than employ more questionable tax giveaways.

John Bujak also did well both in making his case that he as a conservative could work successfully with Republican legislative leadership and in going after Otter’s deviance from basic Republican principles. He also hit hard at the number of scandals that have occurred on Otter’s watch.

Bujak was referencing the outrageous settlement orchestrated by Otter to settle with private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of American for a mere million dollars after the firm admitted years of false billings for work not done the extent of which we will never know because the “settlememt” included the state closing the record.

Otter flunked his test for several reasons. First, he couldn’t even begin to explain or defend the cuts in education. Second, even he admitted he had businessmen complaining to him that they could not employ Idaho graduates without having to administer remedial classes. Third, he simply ignored the credible charges both Bulakoff and Bujak threw at him regarding questionably ethical behavior, if not outright corruption, in parts of his administration.

The sad fact, though, is Butch may still win a third term, undeserving though he is, simply because he still is personally charming, looks good on a horse and plays the role well. It is a classic case of form trumping substance. If he wins, it isn’t just fine teachers like Kathy, who will continue to be unappreciated, we all will be losers as this state’s students fall further behind.

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Carlson

news

Biggest regional story today not on this list: Reports (from unnamed sources) that Hewlett Packard is on the verge of splitting itself into two companies, which seems to be a favored response for some businesses operating in tough environments. The story was strongly noted in Seattle, but also at Boise and Corvallis, each of which are home to substantial HP facilities. What would the split mean to those facilities? Unclear.

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)

Paul Revere of the Raiders dies (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing shrinking state funds for higher ed (Boise Statesman)
Ash aphids passing through (Lewiston Tribune)
Pullman pot shop holds opening day (Moscow News)
Gateway transmission line plans continue (Nampa Press Tribune)
State investigation on Hixon closes (Nampa Press Tribune)
Wilder mayor turns activist on immigration (Nampa Press Tribune)
Looking at 1st district US House race (TF Times News)
No enterovirus cases found in Magic Valley (TF Times News)

Corvallis mayor candidates in debate (Corvallis Gazette)
Top two primary hot item on ballot (Corvallis Gazette)
UO develops more research on brain (Eugene Register Guard)
Medford may approve pot tax shortly (Medford Tribune)
Rehab or closure for Portland veteran coliseum? (Portland Oregonian)
Legislature will consider climate change bills (Salem Statesman Journal)
State redefining manager roles (Salem Statesman Journal)

First Bremerton pot store opening this week (Bremerton Sun)
Belfair water pipeline becomes 2-part project (Bremerton Sun)
Aid still coming for Oso recovery (Everett Herald)
Debate over Snohomish sheriff contest (Everett Herald)
Discussion of class size ballot issue (Tacoma News Tribune, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Olympian, Longview News)
Farm labor shortage, amid record crops (Kennewick Herald)
Reviewing renewal of downtown Longview (Longview News)
Fact check: No gun registry in I-594 (Olympian)
Data transponders for tsunami in bottles (Port Angeles News)
Seattle Key Arena still pulling in bucks (Seattle Times)
Oregon’s pot initiative differs from Washington (Seattle Times)
Spokane transit promotes more buses (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma launches new water filtration plant (Tacoma News Tribune)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

Would be interesting to know who was the cool head who came up with the idea of ending the impending war between the University of Washington and Washington State University over medical education, and developing a powerful alliance of the two instead.

Whoever it was, it was a smart move.

UW has a highly-regarded and large-scale medical school operation, featuring both doctor training and medical research, to protect: A unique position in the region they would not want to lose. But there’s also a doctor shortage in the region, and a growing Washington State University (and its board leadership) was seeing no good reason not to step into the gap. The opportunities for conflict between the two institutions were obvious.

But that was a loser’s game; both sides were better positioned to block the other than to advance its own agenda. Just that was most likely going to happen in 2015.

Now, with an agreement signed by the presidents of the two institutions, they can and will go to the legislature with a comprehensive plan to increase medical education in the state, with WSU providing a major component of that. The two institutions will parcel out the pieces of the program, as (for example) UW increases its presence in Spokane with help from WSU. Their efforts may even be less costly this way.
The lobbying clout of the two together may be enough to push their plans through the legislature.

The need is clear. The nation is facing a doctor shortage, and it may be especially serious in areas away from major metros, like eastern Washington and Idaho state (which has no medical school and relies on its agreements with Washington to supply a number of its new physicians).

This agreement may be the first step in the Northwest’s role in meeting that need.

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Washington Washington column

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)

Looking at BSU tuition increases and costs (Boise Statesman)
Scientists go to work on wildfires (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing teacher certification options (Lewiston Tribune)
Nampa considers police militarization (Nampa Press Tribune)
Your Health Idaho getting new technology (Nampa Press Tribune)
Students dislike healthier food (TF Times News)

Lane College celebrating 50 years (Eugene Register Guard)
Removing the last from Lakeview uranium mines (KF Herald & News)
Mental health services expanding in Jackson (Medford Tribune)
What are Eagle Point schools doing on guns? (Medford Tribune)
Profiling gov candidate Dennis Richardson (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing marijuana initiative (Salem Statesman Journal)
Oregon Corrections Enterprises recovers (Salem Statesman Journal)

Revising plan for central Kitsap college (Bremerton Sun)
WSU campus at Everett nears its build (Everett Herald)
Olympia considers how to fix downtown (Olympian)
Wolves create backcountry tensions (Seattle Times)
Reviewing I-594 on gun sales (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Renewing Idaho’s Clark Fork delta area (Spokane Spokesman)
New street levy planned for Spokane (Spokane Spokesman)
Reviewing class size initiative (Tacoma News Tribune)
Overview of Flemming-Young county council (Tacoma News Tribune)
Bias charged in review of oil terminal (Vancouver Columbian)
Sheriff stays out of reace to replace him (Vancouver Columbian)
Arguing for logging as fire prevention (Yakima Herald Republic)
Man in the High Castle films in Roslyn (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

All 105 Idaho state legislative seats are up for election next month, and if that was all you knew, you might assume wholesale change at next year’s session. The legislature isn’t all that popular, right?

There will be, of course, few changes. Many seats are unchallenged, or barely challenged. Even by the modest standards of recent elections, we’ll see few Idaho legislative races even of much interest, let alone competitive. Surprises happen, and every election features a few. But a handful (all for House seats, none in the Senate) are worth your attention as the campaign rounds the last turn.

Just one district has as many as two of these notable races: District 5, for both of its House seats. This is a rare legislative district where the House delegation is split. Republican Cindy Agidius and Democrat Shirley Ringo, both of Moscow, hold those seats. Ringo’s is open, with her run for the U.S. House instead, while Agidius is running for re-election.

This Latah-Benewah area is a politically marginal district. Moscow provides one of the stronger Democratic bases in Idaho, and Democratic votes can emerge from the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in Benewah, but the rest of the counties run Republican. Substantial campaigns here have to be taken seriously, and both seats are seriously contested. Democrat Paulette Jordan, who lost to Agidius by only 123 votes in 2012, is back again, working hard and apparently outspending the incumbent. The open seat race, between Republican Caroline Nilsson Troy of Genesee and Democrat Gary Osborn of Troy (with independent David Suswal of Deary in the mix), also has a competitive feel.

The single most significant legislative race in Idaho surely is for House A in the west Boise District 15, where third-time legislative candidate Democrat Steve Berch is opposing incumbent Lynn Luker. You could point out that Berch has lost twice before and Luker is a well-established four-term incumbent Republican, liked in his party, in a district that has elected only Republicans for two decades.

But Berch earlier this year won a seat on the Boise Auditorium District board, which strengthens his hand, and he is a relentless campaigner building on a strong campaign effort two years ago. His particular skills, and intensity, may work better aimed at an incumbent; and Luker has become more controversial recently with his introduction of bills he describes as promoting religious freedom. All this is important because District 15 may be on the cusp of becoming a purple district, located as it is next door to the string of deepening blue Boise districts. If Berch wins, the door could be kicked open.

Three other races merit quick mention.

One is the open House B seat in District 10, where Republican Greg Chaney, whose legal issues over the years were severe enough that he withdrew from the race before the primary election. His name appeared unopposed on the ballot, however (two write-ins were unable to gather more votes) and he is his party’s standard-bearer in a deep red Canyon County district. Is the R enough? Probably, but this will be a serious test.

Another is in District 24 at Twin Falls, where prominent incumbent Republican Stephen Hartgen is being challenged by a well-connected and energetic Democrat, Catherine Talkington; her husband Chris is a veteran Twin Falls City Council member. North of there, in the Democratic-leaning District 26 centered around the Wood River Valley, Republican Steve Miller won an upset two years ago and this year will be challenged by Democrat Richard Fosbury, a former Olympic gold medalist (high jump) and an engineer by profession.

Idaho’s legislative races overall may not grab a lot of attention on election night. But the outcomes are likely to have something to say.

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Idaho Idaho column