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Posts published in “Day: November 7, 2018”

And in Oregon . . .

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The big Oregon political news on a really hyperlocal level on Tuesday was the election of Linda Watkins of Ridenbaugh Press to the Carlton (Oregon) City Council. It wasn't totally unexpected, since she was one of three candidates for three positions, but it was local landmark nonetheless.

Beyond that, looking out across the expanse of America's ninth largest (geographically) state, there weren't exactly a lot of landmarks.

I could point to this: The expansion of Democratic control of the state legislature to the point of passing the three-fifths mark.

That's significant, because passage of several types of financial measures, taxes mostly, require a three-fifths majority. And up to now, Democrats, who have controlled the legislature at least mostly for a generation, have been short of that, requiring at least some cooperation with the Republicans.

So far as I can tell (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) Democrats have hot hit that high level in both chambers since 1983. Regardless, it's been many years.

That puts more onus of responsibility on the Democrats, so a cautionary note is warranted: Don't get too eager. Overreach is often the mother of blowback elections a couple of years hence. And remember that Oregon has not had a more productive session in a generation than it did in 2010, the last time power was split between the parties (they were tied in the House).

That said, and assuming the Democrats keep their head, the 2018 election did seem to solidify ever more the blueness of the state. The new legislative peaks do not seem to represent a ceiling: They could go still higher. In the single biggest unforced political error of the year in the state, Democrats threw away a probable win in the Deschutes County area with a seriously flawed candidate; that same seat probably could be in 2020 with a better one.

This cycle saw a genuinely serious race for governor; the Republican challenger was the strongest the party has fielded in a long time, and probably the best available, period. He did respectably, keeping the race reasonably close, but still not well enough.

The federal races all wound up, as expected, with incumbents winning easily. But note this: While all the Democratic incumbents won with normal numbers, 2nd District Representative Greg Walden, a Republican in a deep red district, was down to 56.5% of the vote. That was enough for a decisive win, but compare it to his earlier percentages: 71.9% in 2016, 70.6% in 2014, 68.7% in 2012, and 74.1% in 2010. That's a steep drop, and Republicans in the district would be remiss not to look into it. (So would Democrats.)

Not so long ago, Oregon was a closely competitive state where both parties had a shot at election, and the margins were found toward the middle. No longer. More Idaho races are moving into the same kind of competitiveness the Carlton City Council saw this week.
 

And in Idaho . . .

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A few preliminary thoughts about the highly nationalized election in Idaho, which was evidently less nationalized in Idaho than in many other places.

Generally, you can divide the Idaho results into big picture and granular, and the picture looks a bit different from those differing perspectives.

Big picture, not a lot changed. For major offices, Republicans won across the board as they normally have. For governor, Republican Brad Little stopped just short of 60%, which is in the ballpark of his predecessor's recent results.

The race where Democrats had the best shot, for superintendent of public instruction, fell just about where their experience from four years ago, against the same Republican opponent, would suggest - close but still short of the majority they need. In 2014 what became apparent was that a Republican firewall of just about, or just over, 50% of the vote had been put in place, and on a statewide level that seems to be pretty much still in place.

The state legislature's partisan numbers will not change greatly. There were not many flips in legislative seats. The next Idaho Legislature will look and act a lot like the last one.

That's the big partisan picture. Shift the lens a little, and you also see some other things.

The biggest was the passage of Proposition 2, Medicaid expansion, and not barely but by a landslide. The same voters overwhelmingly supported Medicaid expansion and a whole lot legislators who do not. There's a significant dissonance here, and I'll return to that soon.

The other important development - and it will merit a separate column too - concerns legislative District 15, in western Ada County.

I've argued for years that the path, if there is one, to expanding Democratic party opportunities in Idaho, is in the Ada County and Canyon County suburbs. Nationally, shifts in those suburbs are what allowed Democrats to take over the U.S. House. In Idaho, ground zero for that development is District 15, adjacent to the Boise legislative districts that have become solidly Democratic. Up to now, District 15 has seen a series of increasingly close legislative races, but Republicans have held on, election after election.

Until now. On Tuesday, the two House seats in 15 flipped from Republican to Democratic, and the Senate seat is hanging by a margin of six votes. (A recount probably is in the cards there.) For the first time since Idaho's current political environment started to lock in around 1992, the suburban wall has been breached.

Whether that will be pushed back or expanded upon is for future elections to say. But an important transition occurred there.

The 2018 election was not politically important for big, immediate, sweeping changes in the state's politics. But it may have laid some groundwork.

More on these point to come ...