Diamondfield

These days most written works of history – those atleast going back more than just a few decades – mostly are reliant on the written record. Writers go back over what’s been written about the subject before, consult material from the times, original documents and first-person accounts where they’re available. But mostly, writing history that runs back beyond living memory involves going through the paperwork and, if the writer is very lucky, finding some new paperwork no one has seen before, or maybe finding a new interpretation of it.

In writing the new book Diamondfield about the life and tribulations of Jack Davis, Max Black has gone through the written record, and found both new interpretations and masses of new records that no one – neither of the two previous authors who wrote at book length about Davis’ murder trial and legal case – has examined before, not since the 19th century at least. That along is reason enough for a re-examination of the case.

But Black also did something more remarkable. He tracked down the location – information never positively determined for more than a century, and thought to be lost – where the murders in question took place. He found in the ground there one of the bullets involved in that shooting, a bullet that an expert concluded had been there for more than a century. And he found a gun that was involved. And quite a bit more long thought to be lost and irretrievable.

This is a remarkable piece of detective work, more than reason enough why I’m pleased to be publishing this book.

The Diamondfield Jack case may be unfamiliar to you if you’re not an afficianado of the Old West, but anyone interested in the time and place will pick it up immediately. The context was the great cattle and sheep conflict (between opposing ranchers, not the animals) around the 1880s in south-central Idaho. (There were other similar conflicts, range wars really, in Wyoming and elsewhere.) The shootings of two sheep herders was the trigger for the case; Jack Davis was a gunman employed by the cattle interests, and accused of the killings. The two men were in fact killed by cattle workers, but not by Davis, and the Davis murder case dragged on for years, even years after two other men had themselves confessed to the killing. Davis came within minutes of being hanged, before eventually receiving a pardon. He left Idaho, and went on to a remarkable life in Nevada and elsewhere around the west.

The story long has been poorly understood, and the reasons for it tell a lot about early Idaho and how it developed as it did. Black, after putting together more of the pieces than anyone had before, lays it all out in clear fashion.

Max Black doesn’t come to this by professional circuits. A long-time Boisean, he served in the Idaho Legislature for a couple of decades, and in his private life worked in insurance. But he brought to his search for the facts an unusual determination, and that was enough to unearth what no one had before.

What he’s come up with here is a book worth reading for what it says about Idaho, for what it says about the old west, for what it says about one of the country’s most notorious murder cases, and what it says about what determination in search of the facts and the truth really can do.

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The Andrus Center, named for the former Governor Cecil Andrus and aimed at providing educational events on public affairs, has opened an intriguing new location – across the street from Boise’s Grove Hotel, on the southern side of downtown, and across another street from a large new supermarket. Its location on Capitol Boulevard will be high-visibility.

Around-Idaho travelers Chris Carlson and I, running around the state on our book tour (Chris’ book are Medimont Reflections and Andrus, mine with Marty Peterson the Idaho 100), had a chance to check out the new digs, just being transferred from a location on the Boise State University campus. There’s a real chance this could become a major venue for some high-profile events in months to come, and conversation seemed to be leaning in that direction.

We were there at a book signing and talking event, introduced by the center’s director, David Adler, and Andrus himself. As elsewhere, we attracted not mobs of people but a substantial number, enough to make for another nice event.

Next stop on the road, tonight, will be at Ketchum, at an event hosted by former state Representative Wendy Jaquet.

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After a fine stop at Lewiston, Chris Carlson and I continued on Sunday headed south to Boise.

Sunday afternoon we had a fine flash-neighborhood gathering at White Bird, where Chris had some friends. At a house overlooking the Salmon River (and depending on the flow, sometimes right on top of it), people gathered and talked and … bought books.

Today we’re in Boise; our main book event today will be at the Andrus Center at 301 S Capitol. Tomorrow, on to Ketchum and beyond.

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

An edited excerpt from Chris Carlson’s new book, Medimont Reflections, about the idea of breaching Snake River dams – and the effect on Lewiston.

Ed Chaney has been correct all along. So has my Columbia classmate, Pat Ford. From their first appearances before the Northwest Power Planning Council in 1981, through all the intervening years in interviews, articles, lawsuits, and speeches, each has consistently said that the best science says and will always say that the only real solution to restoring native salmon and steelhead runs to their former state, as required by the Northwest Power Planning Act, is to breach the four lower Snake River dams.

Supporters of the status quo and of leaving the dams in place like to point out that in terms of sheer numbers of the various runs of returning salmon and steelhead, the count is up and still rising. This is of course due to the large amount of supplementing the runs with hatchery-raised fingerlings and smolts.

Chaney points out that one should only examine the numbers of wild fish, which continue to steadily decline.

Chaney and Ford believe the law as reflected by and through the Northwest Power Planning Act and the Endangered Species law requires the restoration of the wild runs of salmon and steelhead. They insist these runs represent a distinct and separate gene pool that is declining.

On the face of it, their contention the dams continue to damage and facilitate decline appears incontestable. Courts appear also to agree with them as they have successfully petitioned to have most of the so-called “Bi-ops” developed by the Corps, the Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA and Bonneville Power Administration invalidated.

Breaching the dams is therefore the only measure not tried yet to restore and enhance the runs. What seals the deal, however, are the economic arguments for breaching the dams.

There are 31 federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers which produce 60 percent of the region’s hydroelectricity. The power produced by the four lower Snake dams is about 1 percent of the overall production. BPA of course sells and distributes this power.

Due to the several laws guiding BPA’s management of this “federal base system,” the agency also funds and manages a fishery enhancement program whose goal is, as the law requires, protecting, mitigating and enhancing the runs.

In March, I asked the agency’s public communications office to provide me with an estimate of how much money they have expended to meet the law’s requirement for the 11-year period of 2002 through 2012.

The total number is a staggering $7.35 billion, or an average of $677 million a year, with little, if any, progress being made in enhancing and protecting the wild runs.

Subtract the breaching costs from that figure and cease funding all of the fruitless efforts underway and the region’s ratepayers would be billions ahead shortly.

The next unsound economical entity is the Port of Lewiston itself. Sold by its boosters that it was going to be the catalyst of an economic rebirth for Lewiston, it has been nothing of the sort. Boosters of the port sold Nez Perce County voters a bill of goods, saying that a local option sales tax would be short-lived and retired.

Fifty years later the tax is still on the books. Face it — the Port of Lewiston is a heavily subsidized operation that will never pay for itself. The citizens of Lewiston and Nez Perce County would be far better off shutting it down and supporting dam breaching as their preferred path back to real prosperity.

Another reason that should galvanize support for dam breaching is the likelihood of a 10-year flood event inundating Lewiston’s downtown core. In large part due to the rapid buildup of silt in and around the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, water is already well above the street level in the downtown.

The levees constructed by the Army Corps were designed (there’s that engineering word again) to have a 7- to 8-foot margin above the anticipated highest level of the water. Today it is much closer to a 2- to 3-foot margin.

Meteorologists and other government agency forecasters, when pressed, will admit that a 10-year flood event, such as heavy snow in the mountains followed by a surge in temperature with a commensurate heavy rain that could bring most of the mountain moisture cascading down the Clearwater could easily inundate the city.

Lewiston City officials will also concede their ability to remove that amount of water is virtually nonexistent. For all practical purposes, the water would be trapped on the inside and it might take weeks to remove it by various siphoning methods. The damages would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and insurance would not begin to cover the rebuilding cost.

This is not a case of if; it is rather a matter of when.

The Corps response is to propose a massive dredging program for the next 50 years. By law the Corps is required to maintain a channel behind Lower Granite dam, just downstream from the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, that is 14 feet deep and 250 feet wide to facilitate barge access to the Port of Lewiston.

It’s not happening, folks.

Needless to say, the rapid accumulation of river-borne sediment will significantly add to the cost and the subsidies necessary to keep the port open and to operate the dams.

Kooskia resident and environmental activist Linwood Laughy estimates the 10-year cost of the taxpayer subsidy necessary to keep the port of Lewiston open would be $39 million — and the sedimentation accumulation would still continue.

He believes each fully loaded barge leaving the infrequently used Port of Lewiston leaves with a taxpayer subsidy of $19,000 reflecting the dredging and sediment management activities.

Virtually the only option left to comply with the Northwest Power Planning Act and the Endangered Species Act appears to be breaching and it is just a matter of time — unless of course those who want to save the dams can muster the political support to amend the Power Act and the ESA law. Such a prospect is highly unlikely.

So as a region let’s face up to the inevitable and get on with breaching the four dams.

A pure guess is that the breaching of the four lower Snake River dams would be somewhere between $500 million and $1.5 billion. This is a huge chunk of change, but still represents less than 20 percent of the costs incurred by BPA over the first decade of this century trying to enhance the native salmon and steelhead runs.

In this period of diminishing federal resources as the nation tries to get a handle on its deficit spending challenge, however, the cost benefits derived from adopting the last, best chance for real fishery enhancement are overwhelmingly compelling.

Add to that the cost avoidance of the flooding out of Lewiston and the elimination of shipping subsidies and breaching is a no-brainer.

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Medimont Reflections with shipping




Ridenbaugh Press has a number of books scheduled for release in the next few months, and today we’re pleased to lead off with a book of reflection and analysis by one of our regular columnists, Chris Carlson.

Chris’ Medimont Reflections, available now from this site (and soon locally around the Northwest), is a followup on his last book, a biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson’s take on Idaho politics over the years, the Northwest energy planning council, top environmental issues and much more.

The first review, from Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman, is out today. Popkey called it “a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho…. Carlson, who lives in the Kootenai County hamlet of Medimont, writes a newspaper column and has larded his 13 chapters with opinions. He says the council should be abolished because of its failure to revive salmon and steelhead; advocates breaching four dams on the lower Snake River; and offers his ideas on nuclear waste, the LDS influence on Idaho politics, gun control, abortion and end-of-life ethics. His behind-the-scenes accounts of the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area include lovely details.”

Carlson and Ridenbaugh Press’ Randy Stapilus will take a circumnavigation tour through all the regions and most of the larger cities of Idaho starting a week from now. More information about that (inclulding what is meant by a “circumnavigation tour”) will be available here soon.

Carlson was the first member of the Northwest Power Planning Council (since renamed, but very much active), and in the book he calls for elimination of the council – though he suggests that a different structure be followed up afterward to replace what he considers to have been a toothless tiger.

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Idaho 100

Idaho 100: The people who most influenced the Gem State, published in print last fall, is now available in the Kindle e-book format (via Amazon.com).

The 100 entries (and the other parts of the book) are a particularly good match for an electronic reader, read in pieces at a time. Even if you already have a print copy, you’ll want the e-book too for more mobile reading options.

Keep watch for some more Idaho 100 news in the coming weeks.

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Each Monday, we publish the Idaho Weekly Briefing, sent via email to subscribers. toward the end of last year, we decided to try something new: Summarizing the key elements of the Briefings from throughout the year in one book. The Idaho Briefing Yearbook 2012 is now available, covering all of the last year.

Ordering information is in the box above. It is available now.

Unlike the regular Briefings, the book is available only (for now) in print version.

It takes in a wide range of territory, the same as the weekly Briefings (which also, separately, cover Oregon and Washington). We have reports on politics, federal, state and local government, legal and law enforcement action, business and the economy, the environment, health and education, transportation, communication and culture in the state. There are also calendars and reports on milestones of people – arrival and departures, including deaths, during the year.

If you want to know what happened (that’s of importance) in Idaho last year, the Yearbook is probably the best place to start. Let us know what you think.

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The new Idaho 100 book by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson (see the box and link above) is out and available, as of today.

As is the first review, which dominated Page 1 of the Idaho Statesman today. Here’s what columnist Dan Popkey had to say about it.

From it: ““Idaho 100” is intentionally provocative, meant to spur debate, while reminding us from whence we’ve come as we approach next year’s territorial sesquicentennial. … Peterson told me that he aimed to give “an overview of why Idaho is what Idaho is.” Stapilus said the “real value is in opening up often obscure but important parts of Idaho history.” They’ve succeeded. The rankings are less important than the acts that earned a spot.”

Be sure and read the comments after the piece, too.

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Dennis Mansfield, best known around Idaho for his conservative politics, has been powerfully affected over the last dozen years or so by a specific person in his life – his son, Nate. That personal story briefly emerged in 2000 when Mansfield was running for Congress and Nate faced criminal charges over drug use. About three years ago, Nate died of a drug overdonse, and Mansfield was – well, it affected him as any parent would be.

He has written a book on the subject, Beautiful Nate: A Memoir of a Family’s Love, a Life Lost, and Eternal Promises, published by Simon and Schuster.

The Amazon description says, “Though Dennis and Susan turned their attention to helping drug addicts and their families, they were powerless to stop the death of their own son in 2009 at the age of twenty-seven. Beautiful Nate lucidly recounts these difficult years while painting a picture of what did and did not work in raising a child within the evangelical framework. Rather than lose faith in the God he trusted, Dennis eventually found new joy and purpose—with a much more compassionate and realistic view of the role parents play and the guidelines they follow.”

Haven’t read it yet. It promises to be a compelling read.

CORRECTED to reflect the cause of Nate’s death.

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Book Review

God Gave Me a Mulligan: A Journalist’s Life in War and Peace, by A. Robert Smith (Punster Press, 2012)

Northwest political watchers who go back to the 70s, or further, will recall the name of A. Robert Smith, who covered the region for nearly three decades from the viewpoint of Washington, D.C. His is a story of a specific time and place; it would not be easy to replicate now.

Smith was a World War II vet (the book’s title derives mainly from a close call he had in the Pacific) unsure about what he wanted to do afterward, professionally. He became interested in journalism, drove to Washington D.C. to work for a while as a copyboy in one of that city’s now long-deceased papers, and then decided he wanted to become a Washington correspondent – cover Congress, attend White House briefings, break stories through the executive agencies. He didn’t go for it the usual way, which would have involved spending many years working his way up at one of the papers. His route, instead, was to go to one of the regions of the country where few of the newspapers had D.C. coverage other than the wire service (mostly, that is, Associated Press). That brought him to the Northwest, where he sold editors in the region – mainly Washington and Oregon (the Oregonian and the Eugene Register Guard among them) but a few in Idaho too, and also in Alaska, for which he covered the arrival of statehood – the idea of coverage tailored for their readers.

That meant Smith had essentially no preparation at all for taking on a major and highly complex journalistic assignment. Seemed not to matter. Through the 50s and 60s, his bureau grew in size. By the mid-seventies, as newspapers were swept into groups and the first of many rounds of cost-cutting began, the bureau began to struggle, and in 1978 Smith left for an editing job at a Virginia newspaper.

Before then, though, there were lots of stories, and Smithy tells quite a few in this memoir. Some of the best have to do with Senator Wayne Morse, the cantankerous Oregon liberal who was the subject of Smith’s first book (Tiger in the Senate), which resulted in getting Smith banned from his Senate office for several years. (For the second time.) He throws in descriptions of many of the other Northwest figures, and presidents, he ran into along the way. There is, in all, the sense of a fair-minded guy who knew how to cover a partisan community in a decent and civil manner. Today’s Washington press corps could do worse than to take heed.

Smith’s bureau was eventually sold to Steve Forrester, whose family owned (and still does) several Oregon newspapers, and it continued on for some years. At present, though, there’s no counterpart; probably the idea of making a living covering the Northwest for newspapers, once a viable business, is no longer practical. So much the worse for the Northwest.

But it was done once, and well. Large portions of Mulligan are simply personal (a well-told human story), but Northwesterners will find plenty of interest here.

(A small quibble: If he ever mentioned anywhere what the “A” stood for, I missed it.)

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Idaho Citizens Guide
Sample pages from the Citizens Guide 





 

The timing seems right, in a new political era when there’s too often not agreement about facts – a time when, as we may hold varying opinions as a matter of judgment, we no longer seem to be drawing from the same well of common information. This book, in the case of Idaho at least, is an attempt at pulling together a common well of information – data, at least, and some reasonably well informed perspective.

Three of us – Mark Stubbs, James Weatherby and myself – wrote the Idaho Citizens Guide in 1999 (it has been in preparation for a while before that), and we had no trouble agreeing on the facts of the matter, the matter being Idaho government, politics, special interests, civic involvement and related subjects. Stubbs, now practicing law in Utah, was a conservative Republican state representative from Twin Falls, just off the campaign trail running for the Republican nomination to a U.S. House seat. Weatherby was a professor of public affairs at Boise State University, and previously a lobbyist and executive director of the state’s cities association. I had been a newspaper reporter and editor, and was publishing books and periodicals on Northwest government and politics.

We had three very distinctive world views (still do), and our value judgments differed. But as to the facts of how Idaho government, politics and society generally actually in fact operated, we complemented each other but disagreed virtually not at all. We drew from the same well of information.

The result was a book that, we thought, would be useful to anyone thinking about (or already) active in Idaho’s civic life. It offered a guide to what all the pieces were, what the terminology was, how things happened.

We got some solid backing, from ex-governors from both political parties. Cecil Andrus: “You can’t read the Idaho Citizens Guide without increasing your knowledge enormously … I anticipate that it will become a standard reference volume in the libraries of every school, community, government office, elected official and campaign headquarters.” Phil Batt: “As a long-time Idaho businessman, I also appreciate the need of citizens to be able to understand their government and how to get things done. The Citizens Guide can help.”

It ran somewhat over 350 pages. We sold some copies, and then it dropped from sight, and has been effectively out of print for about a decade.

That is what we’re reissuing now – well, to be available next week. With a few minor alterations (the original included some maps of the Statehouse that would only confuse since the recent remodeling there), we’ve returned the book to publication as it was then.

There are a few pieces out of date. Some government agencies, not many, have been reorganized, for example. But in reading through it, what you find is that the well of facts now is very much like the well of facts then.

If you’re thinking of getting active in Idaho in some way, even to the point of voting, the Citizens Guide would be a good place to start to get yourself well informed.

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Byron Johnson

Originally, Byron Johnson’s Poetic Justice was going to be just a private memoir, intended to consumption for family and friends. (We still have a spiral-bound copy of that version, not drastically different in content from the new one.)

A good thing for the state that he decided otherwise, and the title of this post – taken from the title of one of the poems strewn through this book – suggests why. Poetic Justice doesn’t read like the brief of a former Supreme Court just, probably because Johnson was an unusual justice, and an unusual Idahoan, and much of what he has to say the state should hear.

The book was released last week, and its release event drew around 100 people including justices, politicians, activists and people of widely varied description. The variety suggests a writer who has lived several different lives, and Johnson has.

He was a Boise attorney, regarded highly enough that though in solo practice he was chosen for a seat on the Idaho Supreme Court – not a common happening. He was a political figure, a Democrat in Boise when there were few Democrats in Boise, and a Democratic candidate for the Senate (in 1972) when that was very much an upstream swim. (He wasn’t elected.) He worked in some extraordinary service to Idaho history (notably in Idaho City) along the way. When he left the court (he set something of a revived precedent in serving out his term rather than resigning midway, letting voters choose his replacement), he was asked what he would do next, and initially answered: Whatever I choose to. When that didn’t suffice, he said he planned to write poetry. And so he has.

You can read this memoir for some useful background in recent Idaho politics and law, and those of us absorbed in such things will relish that. But what’s unique here is an uncommonly distinctive voice and personality. There’s this slice, for example, spotlighting one of Johnson’s quirks.

Beginning in 1972, when I ran for the senate nomination, I wore a tie only very infrequently, and not in court, except in a few instances. In the late 1970’s, I argued before the Supreme Court without a tie, wearing a turtle-neck sweater under my jacket. Justice [Robert] Huntley wrote to me, saying I was jeopardizing my client’s interests. My client won the case. The next time I appeared before the Court, however, I wore an old hand-tied bow tie from my college days. Huntley had the clerk, Fred Lyon, hand me a note that said, “I meant a real tie.” In 1986, when I was preparing to argue before the Court in Crooks v. Maynard, representing the District Judges Association as amicus curiae, I agonized about whether to wear a tie. Finally, I did, reaching into my closet to get an expensive tie I had purchased several years before. Huntley sent a note to me after the argument, saying, “Now you look like a real lawyer.” I wanted to throw up.

When I went to see Justice Huntley and tell him I would not be wearing a tie when I took the bench, he said, “I thought so.” When I told Chief Justice [Allan] Shepard, he sat and pondered for a moment or two and then said, “How do you feel about the robe?” I told him I had no problem with the robe. I later learned that the members of the Court did not wear robes until the 1930’s. It was considered elitist by the early justices.

Idahoans like to talk about the individuals, the real individuals, in their midst. There are fewer of them these days than there once were. But you can still pick up Poetic Justice and read the words of one of them. And you should.

241 pgs. Available through Limberlost Press, Boise.

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The Idaho Political Field Guide, the counterpart to the Oregon PFG and the successor to the Idaho Political Almanac series, is out!

It’s been 10 years since Ridenbaugh Press published the last book in the series. This new one covers elections of the last decade, and the effects of reapportionment as well.

Several events are upcoming. Check back.

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OR political field guide

Today’s release day for our newest book: The Oregon Political Field Guide.

We have a lot more information about it on a separate page. But a here’s a little more.

First, you can order it through Paypal via this button here.





Second, it’s one of a series. The Idaho counterpart (the Idaho Political Field Guide) will be coming shortly. The Washington book is under construction and will be released a little later.

Third: What is the Field Guide? And why do we call it that?

These books are relatives of the Idaho Political Almanac series Ridenbaugh Press published in the 90s (about, obviously, Idaho). They cover some of the same territory, but not exactly the same. The Political Almanacs contained more background about office holders and sometimes candidates, and their stands on issues, performance in office, and so on. The Field Guides are a little different: They’re about campaigns and elections, with heavy focus on the voters – how the voters voted. This edition of the book (there may be more to come, later on) covers in some detail the last decade of elections. That allows you to see how various districts, counties and other areas elected people over time; how the percentages rose and fell, how the numbers of raw votes changed. It’s intended to be a useful tool for political analysis down to a fine level.

If politics in Oregon is your thing, then the Field Guide needs to be at hand.

A quick word about the Oregon Blue Book, and how this relates to that.

We’re enthusiastic fans of the Blue Book, a terrific and gorgeously general reference about Oregon, now celebrating its centennial. (A collection of 17 of the most recent sits prominently near where this is written.) It includes some information about elections, but not in great detail. And as a state publication, it probably shouldn’t include a lot more than it currently does. The Field Guide is designed to fill the gap: To present elections and other information in a way that’s non-partisan but also explanatory and analytical in a way that might be problematic for a state-backed book.

You can find out more at the book’s main web page; a clutch of sample pages also is available. And stop by (and “like,” if you would) the Oregon Political Field Guide page at Facebook.

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In a 30-30 state House like Oregon’s, with an election coming up, every seat matters. A lot. So who’s sitting on the hot seats?

You can look at this from various directions, not all of them strictly statistical. Such matters as quality of candidates, gaffes and other negatives and the strength of a challenge matter. And, of year, money too. But party identification, in these very partisan times, matters a whole lot, and one useful place to start may be a look at what legislators are representing the most politically divided districts – or districts in which the other party has a registration advantage. (The registration numbers are those for February, posted by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.)

OR political field guide
Based on material from the upcoming Oregon Political Field Guide

In that last category, of legislators who have partisan minorities in their districts, there are six, all Republicans.

By this standard, the single most endangered Republican should be Katie Eyre Brewer of Hillsboro, in District 29. The district has a Democratic edge of 6.62%, and Brewer won with 53% in a relatively low-turnout year. She pulled a record Republican vote in this district, but Democrats exceeded her raw totals both in 2008 and 2004; and this year, like those, is a presidential. She’s at high risk.

The second most endangered Republican on this list would be Patrick Sheehan, of Clackamas, in House District 51. This district (well, its analogue before redistricting) was Republican a decade ago, and decisively into 2006, but clearly Democratic in the last two cycles – presently by a margin of 6.47%. Sheehan won his first term in 2010 with a respectable 54.57%, but his vote total was lower than the last Republican there, Linda Flores, had two years before that when she lost the seat. If turnout is up this year, Sheehan could be at big risk.

Brewer and Sheehan both represent districts with higher Democratic edge than the district held by the top-ranking House Democrat, Arnie Roblan of Coos Bay.

The other four Republicans in tough terrain are Shawn Lindsay of Hillsboro (District 30), Mark Johnson of Hood River (District 52), Jason Conger of Bend (District 54) and Julie Parrish of West Linn (District 37). All but Parrish unseated Democrats in the Republican tide year of 2010.

And it should be noted that the comparisons aren’t totally apples and apples, since the districts have been redistricted. But in most cases that doesn’t seem likely to make a big difference.

If that sounds like the makings of a Democratic target list, who should be the Democrats on the Republican short list?

There are no Democrats representing Oregon House districts with Republican registration leads. The closest would be District 9 – the Coos Bay district Roblan, the current House co-speaker, is leaving to run for the Senate. That district could have the makings of a serious contest.

After that, the going gets tougher. The Democrat in the next most marginal district is Deborah Boone (of Cannon Beach) in District 32 (Democratic edge: 8.8%), based in Clatsop County. She had a close race in 2010 (winning with 52.31%), but won easily earlier; and her new district should be more helpful to her than the old one was.

The next three districts in relatively small Democratic advantage are districts 40 (an open seat, with Dave Hunt‘s departure for a county race), 50 (Greg Matthews of Gresham) and 22 (Betty Komp of Woodburn). None look like easy catches.

In a race where such large results can turn on small conditions, the future of the Oregon House is far from settled. Based on party registration, Democrats have an early advantage.

What about other measure?

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