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Posts published in “Northwest”

Elections: Some quick impressions

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

Just a few thoughts this evening - more tomorrow - in looking at the Northwest results. (As is our wont, we'll leave most of the national commentary to other places.)

Talking to a caller early today, I remarked that I didn't see many surprises and didn't expect a lot of change in Northwest politics. With most of the results in, I see no need to change that. While control of the U.S. Senate will change some pictures for the Senate delegation, the in-Northwest political scene changed remarkably little.

Every incumbent member of Congress in the Northwest was re-elected, and not only that, re-elected easily, mostly in landslides, Democrats and Republicans alike.

The two governors up for elections, Democrat John Kitzhaber of Oregon and Republican Butch Otter of Idaho, both under heavily assault in this campaign, won re-election, to a fourth and third term respectively.

The most interesting of the congressional races, in Washington's 4th district, pitted two Republicans against each other, Tea Party activist Clint Didier against the more mainstream former legislator Dan Newhouse. Newhouse, who had the endorsement of the incumbent (Doc Hastings), won, narrowly, tempering the tone of the state's House delegation a smidge.

Washington's legislature looks likely to be split again in the term ahead - the key indicators being the Tim Sheldon and Mark Miloscia - but at least one ballot issue showed no turn away from left-activism by the electorate: The decisive win in favor of expanding background checks for gun purchases. And you can match that up against Oregon's vote in fabor of joining Washington (and Colorado) in the crop of states seeking to legalize marijuana, keeping the issue from remaining a two-state experiment.

A surprising number of Idaho Democrats pulled together scenarios for possible Democratic wins, up to and including the governorship. My take, on radio and elsewhere, was that Democrats had a small edge to win the superintendent of public instruction job, weren't favored but could come close for secretary of state, and would be unlikely to win elsewhere among major offices. Some horn tooting, then: Democrat Jana Jones may have won for superintendent (just as this is written, the vote is a dead heat - we'll know more later), Democrat Holli Woodings has a decent percentage but still is losing for secretary, and no other Democrats were coming close.

My call, though, for most significant Idaho election of the night - assuming that later returns uphold the early - is in a House seat in District 15, a west-Boise district held easily for decades by Republicans, but essential to a breakthrough into the suburbs if Democrats are ever going to gain significantly in Idaho. Those early results showed Democrat Steve Berch, who has run for the House twice before (two years ago in this district) defeating well-established incumbent Republican Lynn Luker. The other two incumbent Republicans in 15 also were on the razor's edge, and could go either way tomorrow. A decade from now, these votes in District 15 may be seen as the most significant event - as regards change - in this election year in Idaho. [UPDATE: Late results did change the totals significantly in the District 15 races, giving the three Republicans there wins; so this year was not the year it turned. But the district still is showing itself as closely competitive, and a Democratic win there in an upcoming cycle clearly is not out of reach.]

But in the main, and for the next couple of years . . . for all the discontent that seems to be out there, people in the Northwest mostly voted for more of the same.

Centers of hippy-dom

Where are the best places in the United States to go if you're a hippy? Or want to live like one?

The Estately blog has the answer, and some of it is Northwest-centric.

Oregon made the list twice, with Eugene ranking at number 1 and Portland at number 5 - a pretty strong showing. (I'd have been inclined to reverse those numbers, though.)

And in Washington, Olympia - a good call - made number 2.

No place in Idaho was noted, but nearby northern California contributed four entries of the 17 - Arcata (though Mendocino might have been a better choice), San Francisco, Oakland and Berkley.

The busy place

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

I'm hesitant to draw any conclusions about this, and I won't - for now at least. But.

Of the three Northwest states, Washington and Oregon are the more competitive politically - look at their legislatures - and Idaho has not been.

But Idaho has had talk surfacing repeatedly in the last few weeks about contested elections coming up for major office next year. The rumors swirl about the offices of governor and U.S. representative in both districts.

Not really much of anything in Washington or Oregon. Dead silence.

Well, you can ascribe a little of that in Washington to the fact that one of the major contests in the state - for mayor of Seattle - is just now hitting its climax, and maybe more discussion and interest will emerge after that. And in the months to come, the matter of control of the state Senate will become a truly heated subject, no doubt.

And in Oregon a fair amount rides on whether Governor John Kitzhaber runs again, and he's indicated he won't say until fall. (Although there is some talk that a Republican contender may emerge in the next few weeks.)

Maybe it's just varying conditions, and there's nothing more to say about it.

But at the moment, Washington and Oregon aren't looking really thrilling.

A case for closure

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Since 1981, the four states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana have – under terms of a federal law signed into effect early that year – created and formed a joint agency aimed at planning for electric power production and resource (especially fish) production, and meshing the two goals together. It is now, after a name change a while back, called the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, and it is based at Portland.

It's a fair-sized agency, starting with a council that has two members from each of the four states, and including staff at Portland and elsewhere. For decades, it has rolled along, often not much noticed by the public or many other people aside from the Bonneville Power Administration, with which it is required to work. It delivers occasional reports and recommendations.

Here's a little secret few people probably have ever realized: All it would take to eliminate this agency is for three of the four state governors to agree to end it. That's it: The Council would then vanish.

That's one point about the council that its very first member, Idahoan Chris Carlson, makes in his new book Medimont Reflections: 40 Years of Issues and Idahoans. (Disclosure: I'm the publisher of that book, which is being released right about now, through Ridenbaugh Press.) You can find this highly obscure dissolution provision in the Northwest Power Planning Act at section 839b(b)(5)(A). If the governors invoked it the Council would be gone, period.

Here's another point Carlson makes: The governors should use that authority and eliminate the council. (more…)

Bridges

Skagit bridge
 
The collapsed Interstate 5 bridge across the Skagit River (photo/Washington Department of Transportation)

 

Maybe 100 yards from our house, a bridge we use regularly was replaced across a narrow river fork. The bridge was showing some signs of cracking and crumbling, and the need to do something about it was fairly clear. Something was done. We have a new bridge now, and one most of us feel confident about traversing. We give it no second thought, and neither do the drivers of pickups and logging trucks who regularly use it too.

We would have expected as much, at least, of the bridges on Interstate 5, one of the nation's major throughfares. A lot rides on those bridges. Lives do, for one thing. So does commerce, and emergency traffic, and much else.

The fact that no lives were lost in the Thursday night collapse has been described as nearly miraculous, which it may have been (and obviously a good thing it came out that way, too). But the use of the word "miraculous" is demonstration of how large the probability was that someone might have died.

Apparently, it didn't take much to take the piece of a bridge down, just a bump from an apparently oversized truck. (This should restart some discussion of just how large trucks on our highways ought to be.) The driver, from reports we've seen, was acting responsibly. No one seems to have been violating established standards. But does that suggest the standards might be revisited?

Reliability is one of the key qualities of our transportation system. As it ages, that quality diminishes, unless we do something actively about it.

Drought ahead?

drought

 

Accuweather.com is figuring that there'll be drought again this summer, and this time it's heading west. Idaho and part of eastern Oregon may be ground central for it.

From today's update email:

As much of the eastern half of the nation has cooler and wetter conditions relative to last summer, the West will bear the brunt of this summer's drought and heat.

"The core of drought and heat will build west of the Continental Divide to California during the first part of the summer, then will expand northward as the season progresses," Pastelok said.

A lack of snowfall this past winter and a lack of rain this summer, could lead to serious water resource problems.

While drought, heat and wildfire issues are expected to be far-reaching in the West as the summer progresses, the heavily populated and major agricultural state of California could be at the center of drought-related issues ranging from water problems to wildfires. Some water for agriculture use was already being cut back to start the spring.

A couple of swings

cascades RANDY
STAPILUS
 
West of
the Cascades

At the liberal Daily Kos site there's a set of statistics anyone interested in horserace politics should examine. It suggests where he heated congressional races in the Northwest (and the rest of the country) will be, as least in statistical probability, in the next few years.

What they did was to compile, for all of the new U.S. House districts around the country (those formed after reapportionment for this decade, before the last election) the outcomes of the last two presidential contests, by district. This provides a really useful alternative check against the actual U.S. House races, where individual candidates and campaigns, or unusual local elections, might influence a specific election. It gives you an idea of how much change a Republican or a Democrat really has of winning in the district.

In a district, for example, where Barack Obama won twice, or lost twice, by decisive margins, you can pretty much tell which party is likely to hold the congressional seat.

And for nearly all of the Northwest's 17 House districts, that result is very clear. In both Idaho's congressional districts, for example, Obama lost by more than 30 percentage points in 2012 and by more than 23 in 2008. That gives you a clue. So does Obama's wins each time by more than 45 points in Oregon 3 and Washington 7. These are among the most spectacular examples, but any time the gap approaches 10, the margins are too broad for a minority party to win under any but unusual circumstances. Or unless something important happens to change politics on the ground in those places.

There's one gray-area district, not really a true swing but not far from it. Oregon 5, won the last three elections by Democrat Kurt Schrader, voted for Obama both times, but narrowly (50.5% to 47.1% in 2012, and 53% to 44.2% in 2008). It's worth watching, because it's not far from even-odds competition.

Only two districts of the 17 are close enough, in the presidential count, and they are both in Washington state. One I would have guessed falls into this category is Washington 1, the new construct that runs from eastern King County to the Canadian line; but it turns out that Obama won there pretty decisively each time, by 54.1%-43.3% in 2012, and 56.3% to 41.9% in 2008.

The closest district isn't a massive surprise. It is Washington 3, in the southwest part of the state centered on Clark County, where Obama lost in 2012 by 47.9% to 49.6%, and won in 2008 by 50.9% to 47.1% - the only district of the 17 that flipped between parties in the two elections. Widely regarded now as a Republican district (maybe partly because of incumbent Jaime Herrera-Beutler's strong win in 2012), it may have closer margins than many suspect.

The same is true in Washington 8, also a new construct which includes the eastern King County area across the Cascades to the Wenatchee area and large regions beyond. It looks like a solidly Republican district, but turns out that - surprise! - Obama won it in both of the last two elections, 49.7% to 48.1% in 2012 and 51.5% to 46.8% in 2008. That's a narrow margin, but that's the point: This should be classed as a swing district, other conditions being equal, which could happen if incumbent Dave Reichert eventually opts out.

Look to those two districts for some of the congressional heat in the decade coming up.

On animal laws

The Humane Society of the United States has ranked the 50 states according to the strength of their laws "dealing with animal cruelty and fighting, pets, wildlife, equines, animals in research, and farm animals."

Oregon ranks 4th. Washington ranks 7th (tied with four other states). Idaho ranks 50th, next to the last (which is South Dakota). (The non-state is the District of Columbia.)

California has to stem the tide of dogs

XXXXX
Dogs packed for shipment. (photo/source unknown)

 

linda LINDA
WATKINS
 

Dear Governor Brown,

I'm writing to you on behalf of the dogs and cats of Oregon, and the dogs and cats of California.

On January 13, in Brooks, Oregon - just a few miles north of our capital city of Salem - the Marion County Sheriff's Office and staff from the Willamette and Oregon humane societies seized over 130 dogs that were stashed in crates in a 7500 sq. ft. warehouse. The dogs were without adequate space, water, or food; and they were in need of medical care.

Why I'm telling you about this? Well, because the majority of those dogs came from the Porterville, California animal shelter.

Why were they found in a warehouse in Oregon? Because California's shelters are so overfull of dogs that your shelters are sending them by the truckloads up to Oregon and Washington - to rescues they know nothing about.

On behalf of the reputable, responsible rescues in Oregon and Washington, I am embarrassed and ashamed that this situation developed. Rescues and shelters up here are stepping up to help these dogs; and we'll make it right. We don't like that this happened and I'm pretty sure that the fallout from this will contribute to making some changes in how rescues in this state operate.

But, more to the point, over the last several years we have become increasingly concerned about the numbers of dogs that your shelters are shipping out of state. We're concerned because your counties appear to be doing nothing to stem the flow of dog production that is causing this situation. We're concerned because the dogs are being dumped all over the country with little to no review or evaluation of the shelters and rescues to which they're being sent. We're concerned because they are leaving your state in poor health: full of ticks and fleas, intestinal parasites such as giardia and coccidia, and infected with heartworm, parvo, and distemper; they are dogs who have sat in shelters for weeks with untreated injuries ranging from severe scrapes and abrasions to broken legs. We're concerned because nobody is monitoring the transports as dogs are packed in crates and stuffed into unheated, unventilated vans and driven 16 to 20 hours with no water or potty breaks or food, by uncertified drivers. We're concerned because the dogs (and cats) arrive dehydrated, ill, un-spayed or -neutered, and carrying new strains of diseases that weren't previously present up here. And we're concerned because as small, local rescues and shelters we know that we barely have enough space and resources to help Oregon and Washington dogs let alone the thousands you send out of state each year.

What we don't understand is why the folks in California are doing virtually nothing to clean up your problem - instead you seem to be perfectly content to continue shipping dogs to every part of the country: New England, the Mid-West, Canada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington; you name the state or the province, and they've likely had several shipments of dogs from California's major Central and San Joaquin valley shelters: Merced, Modesto, Salinas, Devore, Bakersfield/Kern County, Porterville/Tulare County, Orange County, and Los Angeles (including Lancaster). The word is out that these are now some of the highest "kill" shelters in the country. And the dogs don't die easy: Often they're finally killed only after they've developed pneumonia, or any one of several other respiratory diseases constantly present in the shelters. Being born in or put into these and a number of other California shelters is a certain death sentence - and that's why other states are ending up with California's unwanted dogs and cats. (more…)

Splitting the house

The House delegation from the Northwest split in some uncommon ways on the big tax/budget bill Tuesday - splitting the parties in the region on some not totally expected lines. (See this excellent New York Times map.)

The Senate delegation was united in its vote in favor of the bill, as the Senate overall was lopsidedly in favor.

The House was more deeply split, and unusual in this cycle has featured a bill passing the House with a strong majority of the Republican caucus in opposition. 151 Republicans voted no, almost twice as many as the 85 who voted yes; Democrats basically passed the bill, with 172 in favor and 16 against.

The Northwest delegation, given that kind of split, didn't vote as you might expect.

Of the seven Republicans in the region's House delegation, just one voted against the bill - Raul Labrador of the Idaho 1st. All six of the others - Idaho's Mike Simpson, Oregon's Greg Walden, and Washington's Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dave Reichert - all voted in favor, on the minority side within the Republican caucus. Might it matter that Walden and McMorris Rodgers are in leadership, Simpson is fairly close to leadership (well, presumably, the John Boehner side of what now looks like a split leadership) and Beutler and Richert come from relatively marginal districts?

On the Democratic side, you see an interesting split as well. Most of the Oregon Democrats voted no - Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader - while Suzanne Bonamici in the 1st district voted yes. Washington was more deeply split: Norm Dicks (the senior member of the region's delegation), Suzan DelBene (the junior member) and Rick Larsen voted yes; but Adam Smith and Jim McDermott voted no. Overall, the Democrats in the region voted 6-3 in favor of the bill, a closer margin than in the caucus overall.

You'll hear a wide range of explanations for all this in the days ahead.