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Posts published in “Idaho”

A Democratic crowd

Afew months back, 2006 Democratic congressional candidate Larry Grant, who lost to Republican Bill Sali in Idaho's 1st House district, seemed to be rolling unopposed for the nomination to a rerun in 2008. (He has not formally announced, but is broadly presumed to be in the running, and has not discouraged the presumption.)

Matters have changed. An educator at Moscow, Rand Lewis, said last winter he plans to run in that primary as well. Then came last Sunday's blast from Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey, who recounted a string of self-induced problems from Grant's campaign last year along with his determination that the campaign was run, essential, just right. That seems to have jogged loose some additional Democratic interest.

The New West site is reporting this afternoon that Walt Minnick, a Boise businessman who in 1996 ran against Republican Senator Larry Craig, is interested in the 1st district Democratic nomination, at least to the point that people on his behalf are calling around to gauge interest. That doesn't mean he's necessarily running, of course. But it does tell you something about the present mindset of Idaho Democrats, as regards the Sali race.


Culture battle commentary of the week turns up in the Ontario Argus Journal, where a story on the Fruitland School District's decision to adopt a dress code and school uniform has drawn a mob of responses.

The most immediate trigger seems to have been this quote from a parent, Terence Eastburn, a recent immigrant from California: “They’re (the students) not able to express their individuality except through their clothing while they’re at school, and they’re trying to take that away. It’s against our children’s civil rights under the 14th amendment, called freedom of individuality. That’s what this is about."

Yes, we're tempted to jump in on that, but we'll refer you instead to the comment section in the link above; the argument there will not bore.

Those from without, those from within

So - what has the sound of a pivotal moment in Boise mayoral race, and it appears not courtesy of a candidate or reporter but in the comment section of a website. My how things change . . .

The candidates are incumbent David Bieter and his challenger, Council Member Jim Tibbs. It has been a quiet race so far, in part because Tibbs hasn't been saying much about the current direction the city has taken, other than to be supportive. (Beiter has pointed out that Tibbs hasusually supported the council's direction, and his, on most issues.) Which raises the question: Why kick out the incumbent? Tibbs hasn't yet answered that question.

In an indirect way, though, he hinted at an answer in an interview last week in the Boise Weekly. In talking about his intent to improve relations with nearby local governments, Tibbs remarked, "We're the capital city, does that make us more important? What makes Boise so great is its surrounding communities."

We'd be hesitant to over-estimate the importance of that line - it can easily be explained, in part at least, as an olive branch. But . . .


The Grant races, I and II

Larry Grant

Larry Grant

Noteworthy material in today's Dan Popkey piece in the Idaho Statesman about the Larry Grant congressional campaign from last year, in which he lost to Republican Bill Sali, and prospectively about the next one as well. Those following politics in Idaho's 1st House district will find some useful background here.

The core point was that Grant hurt his on campaign in several significant ways. Popkey reported that "Democrats are grieving and resentful. Folks close to Grant don't want their names attached to criticism, but they want this story told in hopes he'll reform. They told me he's 'a hard guy to help,' and 'a pain' who 'knew everything'." That would be a recipe for trouble, all right.

A couple of specific instances certainly sound damning. In one, Grant was on the verge of winning support from the Associated General Contractors, ordinarily a very Republican group, but he "lectured the contractors on unions, the minimum wage and a gas-tax hike, and said his aim would be to clean up Congress. 'You may hate unions, but that's the way it is, guys,' Grant recalled telling AGC. 'I'm not afraid of being on the side of the working guy.'" In a second, he didn't even reply to an offer of no-cost media work from Bryant Reinhard, formerly of WRC Advertising, whose experience in working for successful Idaho Republican congressional and statewide campaigns goes back a couple of decades at least.

Popkey also quotes Grant as saying, "I really do believe that we did almost everything right in the campaign." There's a fair implication in this of trouble ahead for 2008, when Grant is planning a rerun against Sali.

We do disagree on a couple of other points.


Giuliani’s entre

Dave Reichert

Dave Reichert

The 2008 presidential campaign has been going on for a long time now, and from a Northwest perspective one of the most notable things about it has been the thinness of many of the presidential campaigns in the region.

That's not true of all the campaigns. But while our presidential support page, in which we've been citing all the public-figure backers of presidential candidates we can locate around the region, has plenty of names in a few places, many others are empty.

Two candidates, one on each side, has amassed some strong support in the Northwest, though even then limited. Democrat John Edwards has an impressive collection in Oregon, though not so much in Washington or Idaho. And Republican Mitt Romney seems to have all but sewn up Idaho, and has a strong endorsement list in Oregon too; we've not seen anything comparable in Washington.

This is recounted by way of this week's announcement that Dave Reichert, the U.S. House member from Washington's 8th district (Bellevue area), will be the lead local figure in Washington state for the current (still?) Republican frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani. Not a bad catch, but it drew out the thought that Reichert is the first public figure - so far as we've heard - so far in the Northwest to endorse the frontrunning Republican.

Among the other candidates: Democrat Barack Obama has a small contingent in Washington and Idaho (plenty of individual Oregon supporters, but no public figures we're aware of). Republican John McCain has backing from Oregon Senator Gordon Smith and former Washington Senator Slade Gorton, but that seems to be it in the region. Democrat Bill Richardson has one Idaho name. We've seen no reports of a regional endorsee for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

We could, of course, always have missed some announcements; if you know of endorsers beyond those on our page, please let us know. But for the moment, with a couple of exceptions, the regional efforts look a little thin.

A matter of membership

Stepping back from the current Idaho debate over party declaration, maybe we should reconsider the whole question of political parties and what they are. Ordinarily, most of us are happy with the concept that private organizations can have broad control over who to admit to its membership. But what about an organization that in effect holds the keys to elective office? From the standpoint of the unaffiliated (as we are), political parties can look like private organizations that have hijacked our election system. Certainly such constitutional framers as George Washington, who was appalled at the rise of "faction," would likely see it that way.

Should we simply declare that political parties are not private at all - insinuated as they are in our governmental and political process - and declare them quasi-public organizations operating on special rules? In some ways, they already are. For all the discussion (periodically in Washington state and currently, hotly, in Idaho) about party members maintaining control of the nomination process, there is no control at - and none is proposed - for controlling who is allowed to be a Republican or a Democrat. (Will the courts address that next?) Anyone can join either party, for any reason. And if you doubt that leads to some loose election results in places where party registration is part of the system, look to Oregon, a party registration state, and compare the party registration numbers with the often at-odds results on general election days.

The current row in Idaho stems from an 88-58 vote at a state Republican Party meeting a Burley in favor of "closing" the Republican primary - that is, allowing only voters who are registered as Republicans to vote in Republican primary elections. (That is how it works, for both major parties, in Oregon and a number of other states.) Doing that would require a change in state law, which despite Republican legislative control doesn't seem likely; it also presumably would mean that Idahoans would register by party when they register to vote.


Turning off the spigot

And so it begins: There may be any number of people out there who will be blaming Idaho Water Director Dave Tuthill and maybe Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter too, but no one person or any small group of people are to blame for the water turnoffs Tuthill ordered on Friday.

It was what had to happen, under Idaho law and given the water rights that various people have.

The curtailment ordered at the moment is less than had been expected; some later negotiations reduced the figure somewhat. What did happen is significant enough: "The curtailment orders affect ground water rights bearing priority dates junior to December 9, 1990 for the Blue Lakes call and junior to February 13, 1977 for the Clear Springs call. This includes approximately 591 ground water rights for approximately 16,638 acres of irrigation, and commercial, industrial, municipal, non-exempt domestic and stockwater and other consumptive uses."

Tuthill's comment carried a note of sadness: “Curtailment is a last resort, but we are obligated under Idaho law to follow through with enforcement when mitigation is not provided. We are more interested in water solutions than water confrontations. Unfortunately, the parties involved so far have not presented an acceptable solution to get through 2007, so I have no choice but to issue these curtailment orders.”

Maybe these curtailments will shock some negotiated settlements out of stakeholders. (Tuthill presumably hopes it will.) But we're suspecting that the shock treatment on Idaho's overallocation of Snake River water has just begun.

Calculations of worth

If you haven't seen it yet, take a swing around the new feature at Open Secrets - the net worth report filings for members of Congress and a some candidates.

The site ranks the wealthiest filers as well, and one northwesterner made the list of top 25: Oregon Senator Gordon Smith at 24 (and 10th among the 100 U.S. senators), with an estimated worth between $13 million and $62.3 million. No one else in the region's congressional delegation came close.

Garbage collection

LaRocco on the truck

La Rocco on the truck/KLEW-TV

Okay, we'll bite on this one: A video of a candidate for the U.S. Senate, a probable major party nominee, out collecting garbage in a garbage truck.

Larry LaRocco, a Democratic candidate for the Senate (for next year) in Idaho, actually has done this sort of things before: Working a day or so at various jobs over the course of a campaign. (He did it in 1982 running for the U.S. house against Republican Larry Craig, who he might face in the Senate race next year.) A video of LaRocco's day on the garbage truck was posted by KLEW-TV.

This may suggest one of the pluses of the long-run campaign cycle we're now in: Candidates may be able to use all this extra time for things that might ordinarily be too crunched in - amidst all the other campaign demands - to have much impact, but in this season might get a little extra attention. LaRocco's district job effort seemed to have only modest impact in 1982; but this cycle, with more time to draw attention to them and more time to develop their usefulness - and even the education of the candidate - might they change some of the nature of campaigning and alter the formulas?


Yeah, it's all way too early; we'll not argue that. But the reality is that if the two major party presidential nominees aren't chosen by or on next February 5, the deal will be done a week later. What will follow, till the general election campaign ramps up - a month or two later - will be anticlimax.

The Northwest does not stand to be a major player in this, but it can be a significant piece of the mix.

Washington and Oregon, that is, but Idaho only to a lesser degree, for two reasons. One is that, notwithstanding some attempts in the last legislative session to shift the date, the primary next year will be held on its usual schedule, on May 27, long after the nomination determination will have been made. The other diminishment is among Republicans: If Mitt Romney remains an active candidate late into the cycle (not that he might not get the nomination), then Idaho is so likely to flock to his corner that the state is apt to be uncontested on that side anyway.

Neither Washington nor Oregon appear to be especially locked up for a nominee, though, in either party (though that could of course change in the months ahead). Washington now is slated to be among the February players, and Oregon may join the pack.