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Posts published in “Northwest”

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.

The purpleness of districts

westcascades

A statistical rundown of presidential votes by congressional district has been completed - for the three Northwest states at least - on the Daily Kos site, and it offers some real perspective on just how Republican or Democratic the various districts in the states are.

This is least useful, probably, in Idaho, where the two congressional districts are very nearly each as Republican - very. It does show that the second district is incrementally less Republican than the first; In 2012 it went 33.1% for Barack Obama and 64.1% for Mitt Romney (in 2008, 37.1% for Obama and 60.5%) for John McCain). That compares with the first district's 2012 of 32.2%/Obama and 64.9%/Romney (in 2008, Obama/35.1% and McCain/62.5%) - hardly a difference at all, when the overall margins are so large.

In Oregon's five districts, which like Idaho's didn't change massively with redistricting, the numbers are a little more distinctive.

By far the most partisan-leaning district of the five was the Portland-centric 3rd, where in 2012 Obama took 72% (Romney/24.7%) and in 2008 won with 72.9% (McCain/24.3%) - a much more sweeping partisan dominance than even Republicans in Idaho. It was also much more sweeping than in the Republican-oriented Oregon 2nd district, where the Republican presidential nominees won but by less than landslide numbers (2012 Romney/56.8%, Obama/40.5%; 2008 McCain/53.8%, Obama 43.3%). In fact, the appropriate Oregon mirror image to the Republican 2nd now would be not the 3rd, which is much more blue than the 2nd is red, but rather the first district, where Obama both cycles won by about as much as his Republican opponents did in the 2nd (in the 1st: 2012 Obama/57.3% Romney/40%; 2008 Obama 59.6% McCain 37.7%).

The other two districts, roughly the southwestern quadrant of the state, are closely comparable, with clear but lesser Democratic leads. In the 4th (centered on Lane County but including much conservative territory), Obama won in 2012 by 51.7% to 45.0%; in 2008, by 54.2% to 42.7%. In the 5th, the numbers were not far off from that: Obama in 2012 by 50.5% to 47.1%, and in 2008 by 53% 44.2%.

The largest interest in these numbers, though, should be in Washington state.

Here we find a genuinely wide range of results. The single most partisan congressional district in the Northwest is here, in Seattle's 7th district, where the Obama wins both cycles were enormous (79.2% to 18.1% in 2012, and 80.4% to 18.0% in 2008), significantly exceeding even the Oregon 3rd. The third most partisan CD in the region is immediately south of Seattle, the much-reconfigured 9th district, where Obama overwhelmed Republicans in both cycles (in 2012, by 68.3% to 29.6%, and in 2008 by 68.6% to 29.9%).

Of the 10 Washington districts, the Republicans won the presidentials both time in just two, the easternmost. Their strongest was the Tri-Cities-based 4th, where they nearly won landslides both times (2012 Obama 37.9% to Romney 59.7%, in 2008 Obama 39.2% to McCain 58.9%). They approached that in the 5th (2012 Obama 43.7% to Romney 53.5%; 2008 Obama 46.3% to McCain 51.2%). They are clearly Republican-leaning areas, but not overwhelmingly so by comparison with the districts around Seattle.

The 3rd district, now held by a Republican and commonly described as a Republican district, is more marginal than you might think. Romney did win it in 2012, but only narrowly (Obama/47.9%, Rommey 49.6%), and McCain lost it in 2008 (Obama/50.9%, McCain 47.1%). And while the new 8th district has been commonly described as a Republican gift to Republican Representative Davie Reichert, this may come as a shock: Obama won it in both cycles (20120 Obama/49.7%, Romney 48.1%; 2008 Obama 51.5%, McCain 46.8%). Democrats might want not to give up in the 8th.

When it was formed by redistricters, the new 1st district looked maybe a tad more Republican than Democratic, but in any event very close. But the presidential numbers show that new Democratic Representative Suzanne DelBene's win there may be no fluke. Obama won in its contours 54.1%/43.3% in 2010, and by 56.3%/41.9% in 2008.

And the newly-redrawn Washington 6th and 10th look a little more Democratic, based on presidential numbers, than that - about in lines with expectations.

All of which may provide some guidance as political people plan out their races for the cycles ahead.

One-party states?

westcascades

The question is going to be asked this year: Are Washington and Oregon one-party states? Actually, it's already being asked; a David Brewster piece in Crosscut already asks it (and wrestles with but doesn't totally pin it).

Let's define some terms.

A one-party state is where one party is in near-total dominance, and the other is reduced to virtual non-competitive status. Look at Idaho, where statewide Republican candidates nearly always win in landslides or near-landslides, and where the legislature is upwards of 80% Republican. That's a one-party Republican state.

Not so far from that is California, at least after last week's election. There, Democrats dominate among the statewides and will hold two-thirds of the state's legislative seats. Such gaudy margins may or may not hold, but that has the look - for now anyway - of a one-party Democratic state.

Washington and Oregon are something else.

Democrats do have a definite advantage in them; these states are closer to blue than to red.

They have all the partisan statewide offices in Oregon, and all but one in Washington. They have both U.S. Senate seats. They have control (after this year's election) of both legislative chambers in each state.

But we can't really use the same kind of overwhelming language to describe them.

In Oregon, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber just barely won in 2010. Republicans do have a U.S. House seat (one of five). The Democratic majority in the Senate amounts to a seat seat above tie, and in the House, which just emerged from a tie, Democrats have a fragile four-seat advantage, which could melt away again as swiftly as it returned this year.

In Washington, Republicans hold four of the 10 U.S. House seats, a point often forgotten after the loss of three open-seat races this time (two of those in districts where the Democratic voter edge is strong anyway). And while they remain a legislative majority, the margins are close enough to put Democratic control in regular jeopardy - and may be in the next session amid semi-revolt from a couple of the caucus members.

Put Washington and Oregon in a different cetegory - Democratic-leaning, but not one-party.

The Northwest’s polls are closed

As of 8 pst.

Some thoughts on this - coming at just about the time President Obama seems to be nailing down 270+ to win a second term - as the numbers come in int he next little bit.

Update 8:17 p.m. Okay, I'll go ahead and say it: With Colorado and Iowa called by major media, if the west coast (including Idaho) goes as expected, Obama has been re-elected. Whatever Ohio, Virginia and Florida do.

BTW, on the Huffington Post electoral map, that site just declared Obama as the winner with 275 (so far) electoral votes - kicked over the line by the addition of Oregon's seven electoral votes, just added to the blue column.

We have voted

ballots
Our ballots

Those of us in places where we are mailed ballots and then just drop them off - most often not mailed but rather deposited in mailbox-like drop boxes - don't get that little charge from someone calling out at their voting places that "John Doe has voted!" There are downsides to the mail process.

They're easily outweighed by the good, since we can vote in a quiet, calm atmosphere, check or doublecheck what we need to, take our time, and send off the ballots when ready.

As in our household we're doing today, at the Carlton City Hall drop box, after having received the ballots in the mail yesterday.

For those who have the option, as people in Oregon and Washington do, early voting actually has a political effect, if you're mostly supporting one party's candidates, and the campaigns have some reason to know or suspect it (as is often the case). From here to "election day" - really deadline day, two weeks hence, in these parts - the parties will be frantically going after their supporters, making sure that all of their people have cast ballots. When they see in the county records that your ballot has been received, they quit worrying about you and move on to others who haven't voted yet.

So voting early (and no, no, not often) has the effect of diminishing the political communications headed your way, and helps the campaigns you support move on to focus on others who weren't quite so prompt, or who may not vote at all without an extra nudge.

The real pot initiative question

westcascades

Really striking how the two major newspapers in the Northwest, the Seattle Times and the Portland Oregonian, have landed on flatly opposite sides on the marijuana legalization initiatives in their respective states – the Times in favor (with four editorials, no less), the Oregonian against.

The Oregonian editorial staff would be quick to note (and accurately) that the two measures are not the same. Washington’s could be considered cleaner, a more direct and conventional legalize, regulate and tax approach, while Oregon’s goes further – almost wrapping pot in the flag and founding fathers (it is true that George Washington and others of the time grew hemp), and putting regulation in the hands of a board dominated by the newly legal industry.

Talk about having the economic advantages baked in.

What the Times writers seemed to get, though, that the Oregonian’s did, is this: The details aren’t what’s important. These initiatives aren’t important in the usual way, the way initiatives on taxes and so many other things are important. In those cases, details are important because those measures if passed will go into effect as is.

Not so in the case of these initiatives. Growing, selling and possessing marijuana is illegal under federal law, and that won’t change even if both initiatives (and those in other states) pass. Voters in a state can’t overturn federal law by initiative, or any other way.

The initiatives are important, rather, as indicators of popular decision-making. If they crash and burn, elected officials who by rote have been for decades imposing fierce penalties on marijuana-related activities will get the message that their approach is acceptable to the voters. A defeat for the initiatives would be a vote for the status quo – which, if you like it, would be the way to go. If you think pot law ought to be shake up, maybe moved toward a legalize/regulate/tax regime, then a yes vote will tend to move things in that direction.

Imagine the reaction in Congress and in the new presidential administration if on one hand all the marijuana initiatives failed? Or if they passed? There would be some rattling effect either way. If they pass, there’s a good chance similar measures would pass in more states in another couple of years, and possibly more a couple of years after that. Changes in the federal law, a brick wall at present, would start to crack severely after that.

That’s what this is about. These initiatives are a form of message-sending more than they’re anything else. If Oregon actually tried, for example, to implement its new initiative, with a free open market in marijuana, the feds would be unlikely to stand by. The details of the initiative – the industry-dominated regulatory board and much of the rest of it – would either never see the light of day, or never see daylight more than once.

The Times seems clearer about that than the Oregonian, which in its editorials seems to have been dancing around the core question of whether legalization is the way to go. It’s a fair policy question. It’s also the one that makes more sense to address than the phantoms which are never likely to become real.

Smoky days

smoke

Pulling together the weather report this afternoon for the Weekly Digests I was struck by how the weather in so many places around the Northwest is dominated by smoke from wildfires.

Not west of the Cascades - it did not figure in any of those weather reports.

But in the National Weather Service reports (which I use), the weather reports for the Boise, Idaho Falls and Pocatello areas were dominated by their image you see on this post, signalling heavy smoke. Likewise Yakima, Bend the Ketchum/Sun Valley area, and Lewiston. Idaho seems much the hardest hit overall, with eastern Washington seeing some severe spots.

A river in pictures

It's not exactly obscure since the Oregonian made a picture from it today's page one centerpiece, but you really should check out the paper's new photo essay on the Columbia River.

Those of us who have often traveled across much of its distance (especially, in my case, the Portland/Tri-cities stretch) will not in recognition at a number of the shots and place them easily - the startling tree farm near Boardman, for example. But there's a lot more, and many of the shots taken from mid-river will give you a perspective you've never seen before.

Amazon heat

amazon

 

You may have seen the maps showing how the red and blue fare on votes and campaign contributions. But have you checked out the Amazon.com map on political book sales?

It may not be especially illuminating at any single moment, especially when a few hot new titles might push things in one direction or another. But over time, it could provide some insight into how political books match up with local politics.

You'll notice, for example, that while Republican-leaning books are leading generally in the Northwest (as in most of the country) at the moment, that Idaho (buying 64% red to 36% blue) is much more so than Washington or Oregon (both 54% red/46% blue).