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Posts published in “Idaho”

Train, train

Can't recommend holding your breath in waiting for this, but the political stars in favor of the Pioneer line just might be calling into place for the first time in a lot of years. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo is on board with it again, as he has been in years past, as are the two Oregon senators, but perhaps in the next few years the political environment will be less daunting than it was.

A new Senate bill - S. 294, Amtrak reauthorization - which, among other things, would do a preliminary Pioneer evaluation, moved out of Senate Commerce in May, and now may be getting some of the floor push it needs - the list of co-sponsors is approaching 50 names. An evaluation might or might not pass this year. But if the Senate moves increasingly Democratic after the next election, as seems likely, public transit ideas already in the pipeline may get considerable push. And there's excellent prospective support in the House, where Oregon's Peter deFazio is the go-to guy on transportation funding these days.

A lot of this has to do with the standards used to maintain transit lines. Pioneer, which once carried passengers (your scribe, periodically) on a line that included a run from Ogden to Pocatello to Boise across Oregon to Portland, shut down 10 years ago; it was reported to have lost $20 million in its last year. But, of course, that depends in part on how you count.

Part 2: The second time around

Last year while running for governor of Oregon - he would take second place in the Republican primary - Kevin Mannix made a history-based argument to those in his party worried about whether he was electable. Mannix had, after all, lost not only the race for governor the election before in 2002, but also two runs for attorney general against a less-than-charismatic opponent (Hardy Myers, who's retiring this year).

Mannix' counter was this: You don't get to be governor of Oregon without losing a race or two before getting there.

The point's barb doesn't hold perfectly - you have to overlook John Kitzhaber, Barbara Roberts and Neil Goldschmidt, who (so far as we can recall) never lost a race - but it does have a point. Oregon's current governor, Ted Kulongoski, lost a run for the job in 1982, which followed by two years a failed run for the U.S. Senate. The three governors pre-Goldschmidt - Victor Atiyeh, Robert Straub, and Tom McCall - all lost bids for major office before winning the governorship. (Their predecessor, Mark Hatfield, was lossless, but it may be worth noting that he became governor by defeating incumbent Democrat Robert Holmes, who in turn won the job by defeating his Republican predecessor, Elmo Smith.) No binding rule, but some precedent is available.

The argument didn't work for Mannix; he lost the Republican primary in 2006 to a man he'd defeated in it four years earlier. But the idea at hand - building a winning campaign on the rising ground of earlier defeats - has some pertinence in next year's Northwest major office races.

As noted here yesterday, the region's sole governor’s race likely will rematch Democrat Chris Gregoire, now the incumbent, and Republican Dino Rossi. The two Senate races in the region would not be reruns, though in Idaho the probable Republican and Democratic nominees for a presumably (presumably) open seat, Jim Risch and Larry LaRocco, have run against each other twice before.

Moreover: Early energy in U.S. House races have focused so far on three districts in the region, one in each state - and each one featuring, evidently, a rematch from 2006. In the Washington 8th, Republican Dave Reichert likely will re-face Democrat Darcy Burner; in the Idaho 1st, Republican Bill Sali probably will again be challenged by Democrat Larry Grant; and (although this is less settled) in the Oregon 5th, Democrat Darlene Hooley may again face Republican Mike Erickson.

Yesterday we looked at the recent history of taking out incumbents (spotty at best). Today: How do candidates do when they run again? Do reruns often work?

Examine the regional results over the last generation, and you find an answer: Sometimes, but usually when something important enough changes about the race from one election to another, usually something that has to do with the incumbent more than it does the challenger.

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Part 1: The second time around

Only but so many seriously-contested major-office races - we're defining "major office" here as congressional and gubernatorial - are in the offing in the Northwest for 2008, as matters sit, and that makes sense considering how few incumbents are losing these days. Also striking: The number of candidates in these particular races who, having lost once, are determined to give it a second shot.

Second runs by losing candidates of course aren't unprecedented - and we'll get to some of that history shortly - but this time, many of the key races seem to be dominated by reruns.

The one governor' race in the region appears likely to be rematch between Democrat Chris Gregoire, now the incumbent, and Republican Dino Rossi (though Rossi could still shock us all and drop out). The two Senate races in the region would not be reruns, though in Idaho the probable Republican and Democratic nominees for a presumably (presumably) open seat, Jim Risch and Larry LaRocco, have run against each other twice before. Rumors and sighs about actual battles for U.S. House seats so far have focused on three districts in the region, one in each state - and each one featuring, odds appear, a rematch from 2006.

Prompting us to take a quick two-part look at, first, the record in recent times of beating incumbents and, second (in a post tomorrow) the track record of candidates who run a second time.

Actually, we can dispose of the incumbent-beating track record pretty quickly. Simply, it doesn't happen a lot.

Over the last 20 years, no governor has been defeated for re-election in Idaho, Oregon or Washington: The last was Washington Republican John Spellman in 1984. You have to go back to 1970 in Idaho and to 1978 in Oregon to find a gubernatorial incumbent loss (though at least a couple of other governors, in Oregon in 1994 and in Washington in 1996, were at severe risk of loss and retired instead).

During this same time, just one U.S. senator was defeated for re-election - Washington's Slade Gorton, in 2000 (who also happened to be the last one in the region defeated for re-election prior to that, in 1986). The last senator ousted by the voters in Idaho was Democrat Frank Church in 1980, and in Oregon Democrat Wayne Morse in 1968 - nearly four decades ago. Senatorial losses are not commonplace in the region, either.

There are a few more in the U.S. House, but the overall record there still isn't a lot more challenger-inviting.

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He would have been pleased, now

College of Idaho

College of Idaho

The private College of Idaho at Caldwell, founded in 1881, achieved some renown over the years as a liberal arts institution, helped along to a considerable degree by substantial donations from an alum, supermarket founder Joe Albertson (and his wife Kathryn). He gave those gifts quietly, usually anonymously, partly because he was not a man who insisted on public applause for every good thing he did, but maybe also for some cannier reasons, too.

In 1991 the institution's name was changed, to the Albertson College of Idaho. Quite a few people - we were among them - disliked the change. Not, certainly, because of anything against Albertson, who really had helped the college and may have forestalled closure once or twice. Rather, because it just sounded tacky. It sounded as if the college was another department in a supermarket. It had a crass we're-for-sale feel to it. And because we were convinced that if Albertson were still alive - he had died a few years before - he would have vetoed the idea. Sharply.

Today, college President Bob Hoover said the college is changing its name again - back to College of Idaho.

It stems partly from the corporate selloff of the Albertson's company to Supervalu; but that sounds like the lesser part of it. It follows on the heels of another Albertsons donation - this one $50 million from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, one of the largest private college donations ever; there's certainly no Albertson repudiation here.

Instead, as the Idaho Press Tribune described the rationale: "The decision was made partly because some College of Idaho alumni didn’t feel connected to the school after the name change, officials said, and partly because some people believed the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation was fully supporting the college. That made it difficult to raise money, officials said."

And this: "The private school has long been the subject of jokes referring to its shared name with a grocery store, including zingers such as, 'What’s your degree in — paper, or plastic?' . . . Current students and alumni cheered when Hoover announced the name change. 'I think it will put us a little higher in the college rankings, because it just sounds more prestigous,' said Joelle Cote, a 20-year-old junior majoring in health sciences and nursing at the school."

Joe Albertson was a shrewd guy. He may have understood all this long ago.

The Craig poll

There's probably not a lot to say about the KIVI-TV poll (by Greg Smith & Associates) released this morning on Senator Larry Craig, saying a majority (51%) of his Idaho constituents would like to see him . . . elsewhere. And 21% thought he should hang in.

Our basic thoughts ran much like those of the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell, who among other things concluded: "Anyone who’s been reading letters to the editor pages in Idaho might have expected a much larger number wanting Craig to quit… And as far as the 6 percent the poll found unaware of the situation, wow! How do they do that? Is it possible to completely avoid hearing about this?"

(Commenters noted that the 6% is nearly within the poll's 5.6% margin of error. On the other hand, consider the number of Americans who couldn't tell you who the president is . . .)

Risch’s entry

Jim Risch

Jim Risch

Talk many years ago about Jim Risch, a couple of decades or so back when the subject came up about what the then-state senator might one day run for, didn't center on governor. The word was that the job he'd really be interested in above other things was a seat in the U.S. Senate.

He may become one of the few Idahoans ever to do both. With his announcement today for the Senate, Risch becomes the presumptive Republican nominee and the immediate frontrunner for the job.

Idaho politics having recently gone through such a, ah, peculiar time this last month and a half, it's worth stepping back and taking stock here of what's not been upended (yet, at least) as well as what has.

The path to Risch's announcement was most immediately cleared by Senator Larry Craig's announcement, alongside his declaration of sticking in the Senate, that he would not run for re-election in 2008. Risch months ago had said he likely would run for the seat if Craig didn't, so his announcement is in line with that. But it also had two other effects, which he must realize. The state Republican establishment must realize it too, which helps explain the high-level on-site support Risch got today (from Senator Mike Crapo, former Governor Phil Batt and even the theoretically impartial state GOP Chair Kirk Sullivan). One is that it puts a big obstacle in the way of any decision-changing by Craig on the subject of running again. The other is that it may foreclose candidacies from other major figures in the party - the establishment has closed ranks and made its decision, and it will be hard to buck.

There'll probably be something in the way of small-scale candidacies, like that of elk farm owner Rex Rammell (who has indicated some delight at the idea of running against Risch). But we're guessing there won't be one; Sullivan's support for Risch seems a real indicator. Absent a major figure such as Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, the nomination likely will go to Risch without much difficulty.

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In the hall of fame

Idaho Senator Larry Craig will be inducted on October 13 into the Idaho Hall of Fame. He apparently is scheduled to attend the ceremony.

The selection, along with others who will be inducted, was made in March, before Craig became so well-known nationally. But there's certainly less doubt now than there may have been before that the senator is among the most famous of Idahoans.

Craig: I’m Staying Put

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

We suspected this as an end result, and we weren't alone; Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance delivered a sound analysis suggesting the same thing. We were wrong to a point, which is that we didn't think Idaho Senator Larry Craig would say conclusively that he will stay in the Senate until his term ends in January 2009. But now, today, that's what he's done.

The prompt for the statement was the decision out of Minnesota on his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea; Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter said Craig's original plea was made "accurately, voluntarily and intelligently." In a release from his office, Craig said he was disappointed, did not indicate whether he would appeal (we're guessing now that he won't) but added this:

"I will continue to serve Idaho in the United States Senate, and there are several reasons for that. As I continued to work for Idaho over the past three weeks here in the Senate, I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively.

"Over the course of my three terms in the Senate and five terms in the House, I have accumulated seniority and important committee assignments that are valuable to Idaho, not the least of which are my seats on the Appropriations Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee. A replacement would be highly unlikely to obtain these posts.

"In addition, I will continue my effort to clear my name in the Senate Ethics Committee - something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate.

"When my term has expired, I will retire and not seek reelection. I hope this provides the certainty Idaho needs and deserves."

Of course, the Senate Republican caucus could always try to take away the committee assignments too. But there's a real chance (especially since that hasn't happened yet) they won't, if only because that would give Democrats some significant leverage against them.

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Once, they’d have burned it

And we keep wondering how many affronts to our dignity as citizens we'll continue to put up with in the interest of fake "security" . . . against, for example, the bra-the-could-be-a-weapon.

The Spokane Spokesman Review is reporting on an incident at the Coeur d'Alene federal courthouse, when a wire in a woman's bra set off a metal detector at the front door. The Bonners Ferry resident said, "When I walked through, the gentleman said, "'Do you have an underwire bra on?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You have to remove it.' "

So she did, then and there, "while her husband tried to shield her from view of others in the crowded lobby by holding up his coat."

And we can all feel so much safer now.