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Posts published in “Oregon”

Kitz out, apparently

The Ben Westlund Senate scenario we just posted abruptly looks a little more plausible. Former Governor John Kitzhaber seems to have taken himself out of consideration for the Senate in 2008.

Kitzhaber is a guest on the KWBP interview program Outlook Portland with Nick Fish, to air Sunday morning at 6:30. A clip from it has been posted on the Willamette Week site. It shows what looks like the closing seconds of the program, when Fish asks Kitzhaber, "If the Archimedes Movement is successful and there's something to be done at the federal level, would you consider running for the Senate?"

A smiling Kitzhaber replied, "No."

You could parse the question and maybe find a trap door or two, but the speed and abruptness with which the former governor answered seemed to say it all.

On to other prospects.

Weighing Smith/Westlund ’08

Premature the speculation certainly is, premature in every way. Still, the idea intrigues too much to let go, and this closer from commentator Ben Sadler's latest column begs for a followon:

Gordon Smith
Gordon Smith
Ben Westlund
Ben Westlund

"Given the voters' rebuke of the Republican Party and Smith's orthodox partisan voting record, Smith can no longer hide in Mark Hatfield's maverick cloak. Smith is no maverick. Ben Westlund is. And Oregonians love their mavericks."

They do, and you saw it in the initially enthusiastic reaction of a lot of Oregonians when Westlund, a state senator who had just switched his affiliation from Republican to independent, announced for governor. Westlund would bring some important assets to such a race, along with some big questions.

Before going any further, some caveats we've visited here before. We don't even know, for example, that Smith is running again. The single best candidate against Smith would probably be former Governor John Kitzhaber, but his plans if any are so far an enigma and likely to stay so for a while. Next in line, we think, would be U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Peter de Fazio - either would likely get the nomination easily absent Kitzhaber and each other; but here too, intentions are obscure, the more so because these legislators are just moving into a majority. After that, there's likely no one whose entry would clear the field.

Except maybe.

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Who the client is

The issue is clear - so that there is no issue - when private citizens like you or us, or a private business or other private entity hire an attorney, converse with the attorney and get advice from the attorney. Those kinds of communications are confidential. Only under the most extreme of cases, such that there are hardly any, can those communications be legally pried loose. (Or such has been the standard in this country.)

Now let's say you're a member of a city council, and you and the other council members agree to hire an attorney to look after the city's interests - not yours personally, but the city's.

Under the norms in open meetings and public records law, those communications are considered confidential between the city attorney and the city officials: The council and mayor, say, and whoever else they allow in. The people on whose authority the attorney was hired and on whose behalf the attorney is acting - that is, the residents of the city - typically are shut out. And if you suspect that from time to time, the advice the attorney is giving council members under such conditions may be aimed more at keeping the council members out of trouble, than at doing the same for the city - and those interests do not always perfectly coincide - you could be right.

Those are the kind of suspicions the Oregon Supreme Court will now leave to fester in the case of an attempt to more fully expose to public scrutiny the financial management of the Klamath County school district.

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Peeking inside the offices

One of the unwritten rules of D.C.'s Capitol Hill is that the members of Congress are to be seen and heard (as often as possible), but not the staff: Their names are supposed never to show up, for example, in news stories. For the greatworld outside the beltway, these people, who make a whole lot happen and shape congressional directions and careers more than many elected officials will ever acknowledge, remain a shadowy presence.

Reason enough to appreciate LegiStorm, a web site and service now just a couple of months old. (Hat tip to the Oregonian blog for noting it.) Formed as an outgrowth of a watcher of Pentagon activities, LegiStorm apparently will expand but has started as a tracker of salaries of congressional staffers - those working for a member of Congress. (Committees, offices, leadership positions and other nooks have staffers too but aren't covered.)

So how does the Northwest delegation pay? A surface scan suggests: About normal for the nationwide marketplace. Which is what it is, since many of the key staffers for members of Congress float around among the congressional offices.

Pulling together material posted on LegiStorm (but not exactly in their format), here's a statistical piece of the picture: The chiefs of staff for the members of the regional Senate delegation. (Are you a political junkie? You are if you know the names of these chiefs of staff, though many of them ought to be well known . . . so consider this an excuse to meet some of the people behind the curtain . . .)

This covers the year ending last March 31. Note that in all cases, the numbers may include or exclude some payments (bonuses and so forth) so the comparisons may not be strictly apples to apples.

State Member Chief of Staff Annual Pay
ID Larry Craig/R Michael O. Ware $158,250
ID Mike Crapo/R John Hoehne $158,204
OR Ron Wyden/D Joshua Kardon $156,585
OR Gordon Smith/R John Easton $156,257
WA Patty Murray/D Richard Desimone $141,287
WA Maria Cantwell/D Kurt Beckett* $96,230

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*Held the position only part of the year.

House information is available here.

Wonderland

Wennerberg Park
Outside our front window, at low elevation

Yeah, there are some icy roads. But it's pretty out there.

The whole Northwest - almost - has been drenched with snow, even places that seldom see it at all in the winter. The Willamette Valley in Oregon has a snow floor; the mountains to east and west may typically turn white, but the valley floor only uncommonly does.

A north-central Idaho friend informs us of 17 inches on the ground there. Seattle has been coping with the unexpected white stuff (though less ice, seemingly, than usual.) A string of ski areas will open for business in the next few days; the Spokesman-review's Betsy Russell reports that Bogus Basin at Boise has gotten 14 inches of snow since late Sunday.

And more on the way. We seem well on the way to a solid snowpack for the season; might we get a white Christmas as well?

Buyer’s market

The next time you see an institution talking about conducting a year-long, nation-wide, expensive search to fill a high-paying executive post, remember Baker.

The Baker City Herald reports today on the city's efforts to fill its city manager position, which came open when Jerry Gillham resigned on September 1. After a busy period shortly before the deadline for applications hit on November 15, the city totaled them up and found the position had . . . 91 applicants.

One of the reviewers remarked, "I think there's a pretty solid group of 20 at the top."

Probably is.

A constitution view

The gubernatorial campaign of Mary Starrett, running under the banner of the Constitution Party of Oregon, generated a good deal of attention - not least for the candidate's solid campaigning skills - but it failed to hit what would have been key benchmarks.

It failed to reach even into the upper single digits (the percentage was 3.6% of the vote). And it failed to generate enough votes that it could even qualify as a "spoiler," prospectively making the difference in the outcome between the two major party candidates. Democrat Ted Kulongoski won by 8%, considerably more than Starrett's vote.

(We do take note that Starrett's highest county percentage, 8.1%, was in Democratic Columbia County, which overall went for Kulongoski; that county was loaded with Starrett yard signs during the campaign. What's happening there is worth another check.)

All this is prompted by email today from the Constitution Party of Oregon, which notes a new state party chair, Jack Alan Brown, Jr., and some political analysis from its perspective.

We intend to greatly increase our party's visibility, building on the momentum created by Mary Starrett's campaign for governor. One way we will be doing that is by fielding a few exciting ballot initiatives that directly relate to some of our platform planks. The first will undoubtedly relate to one or more of the following issues -- abortion, English as our official language, and illegal immigration. We have other plans as well that we will unveil later.

Our presence in the governor race proved what I have said all along: Neither conservative nor moderate Democrats will ever vote for a moderate Republican, as they have nothing to gain. However, conservative Democrats might vote for a Republican perceived as a conservative, if their own party's nominee is perceived as an ultra liberal, as the Nixon and Reagan presidencies demonstrated. If the Republicans can't learn this, they might as well pack up and go home. The Constitution Party of Oregon, with its principles-over-politics approach, is here to stay!

Adding to Republican headaches in review of this Rubik's cube of an election.

CORRECTION: The name of the new party chair was corrected.

Immigration wars, 2.08

By way of the Republican RINO Watch, a new website dedicated to blasting Oregon Senator Gordon Smith's stand on immigration:

Deport Gordon Smith.

Considering the recent history of the Ron Saxton's campaign on illegal aliens, one has to wonder where Oregon Republicans - those, that is, pushing this latest effort - think this initiative is going to get them.

Oregon Hotline

Quick advisory on the National Journal Hotline report today on Oregon people and places. It notes but does not indicated probabilities on the prospect of a run by former Governor John Kitzhaber for the Senate against Republican Gorden Smith in 2008. Two more distinctive items emerge, however.

1. On the subject of Independent state Senator Ben Westlund - whose next moves are of high interest among Oregon political types - Stacy Dycus, who was his campaign spokesman during his run for governor this year, had little conclusive to say. There was this, however: "Democrats have been asking Ben to run against [Smith] but he really hasn't considered it." Same, she indicated, with re-election to the state Senate and with the office of state treasurer, where incumbent Randall Edwards will be term limited out. (Republican bloggers hve speculated Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski may champion a Westlund run for the latter as payback for Westlund's support of him this fall.)

Maybe most intriguing, this: "He is an independent and all I can tell you is that his heart and mind is closer to the views held by Democrats, but he has no plans to change registration. If asked, he may caucus with the D's this session."

2. Among other Democratic names bring circulated for Senate if Kitzhaber declines: Edwards, Superintendent of Public Instruction Susan Castillo (nonpartisan in her current job, but a former Democratic legislator) and Clatsop County District Attorney Joshua Marquis (also in a nonpartisan job, but with Democratic background). The list of Democratic prospects seems to be growing explosively.

Smith at the starting line

Much of the context is still lacking, but political topic A in Oregon clearly is: To what extent is Senator Gordon Smith, the only statewide elected Republican, vulnerable in 2008, when his seat is up? Not only Democrats but Republicans as well are pondering the question.

Gordon Smith
Gordon Smith

Nationally, of course, Smith is too obvious a target to miss: A Republican in an increasingly blue state, and the only Republican among the three Pacific coast states (excluding Alaska). Nothing resembling a definitive answer is possible yet, of course, because we lack so much of what will be the context for that race. What will the state and nation look like then? How will Oregonians assess the credit or blame? Will they feel as harshly toward President Bush and the Republican Congress as they do now? Will the Democrats in Washington and Salem do well or poorly? How will the presidential campaigns affect political 2008 in Oregon?

Not to mention more race-specific issues. Will Smith run again? (The presumption is that he will, but there's no formal declaration yet, and likely won't be for a while.) If he does, will he raise a huge amount of money, or less than that? (He apparently has about $2 million on hand now.) How does he present himself to the state now, as the Bush era winds down? How do issues impact him? What sort of a campaign does he run? And, needless to say, who might he draw as opposition?

Only on some of those latter points is even loose speculation feasible. Which, of course, isn't slowing down the politically interested from taking a crack at it.

First step is working out Smith's own relative vulnerability.

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