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Posts published in “Oregon”

Walden for gov?

Once an election is past, the next cycle begins - yes, even if it's a four-year cycle, as in the case of such offices as governor. And Republican blogger Ted Piccolo (I Am Coyote) is throwing in an intriguing prospect for the next-up.

Greg Walden
Greg Walden

As the field developed for the Oregon governor's race in 2006, one of the Republican prospects who opted away was U.S. Representative Greg Walden, whose constituent turf includes the Medford area and everything in Oregon east of the Cascades. Walden is popular enough in his own district that, if he does what he's done up to now, he presumably could keep the seat as long as he wants it. (His re-elect precentages range from the high 60s to the low 70s.) He's shown signs of interest in other things, though, and a some time early this year he didn't seem to discourage talk of a run for governor, even after the Republican field was filling with other contenders. (He even joked about it, with a semi-serious edge, at last winter's Dorchester conference, where he moderated the debate of the three Republican gubernatorial candidates.)

And there's a new inducement since then: Life in the minority in the U.S. House, which has to be a downer to the many Republicans there who have only known life in the majority.

Piccolo mentions that a lunch meeting was held some weeks back to move toward a Walden run. Now, he writes, "Here is what I think will happen. I think Congressman Walden will make this his last term in Congress. I think he steps down to allow someone (Sen. Jason Atkinson? Ted Ferrioli?) else to run for his seat. He works to help a Republican win the 2008 Sec. State seat. He then spends two years campaigning. If this is the case then one would have to consider Congressman Walden as one of, if not THE, frontrunner for 2010."

Of course (as Piccolo notes) four years is a long time off, which cuts both ways. The political atmosphere today would not be favorable for a Walden statewide run, but who knows where we'll be in 2010? As the smarter Democrats demonstrated this year, you only get to take advantage of opportunities that do arise if you're prepared for them.

Whence independents

Iif you did an Oregon politics version of the celeb mag standby "the most fascinating people of the year," Ben Westlund would have to be right up there. He probably was more charismatic than anyone else who ran for governor this year, but more than that he is trying to do something new: Found a new political movement.

Ben Westlund
Ben Westlund

His departure last winter from the state Republican Party seemed part of the machinery of his gubernatorial bid, announced around the same time. But the governor's race is long gone, abandoned last summer, as is his neutrality in it: He wound up endorsing Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, which should win him some points with the second-term executive in the months and years ahead. (That could and probably will manifest in ways other than an appointment of Westlund to something or other, which the senator indicates he wouldn't want anyway.)

Equally, it likely will not with the members of his old Republican caucus. As the Bend Bulletin remarked today in a profile of Westlund's prospects, "When Westlund launched his independent campaign for governor, Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said Westlund would be invited back into the Republican caucus if the campaign didn't pan out. At least for now, it appears the welcome mat is no longer out."

All of which matters now because Westlund will have to go back to work in the Senate, a Senate dominated not by independents like himself - though those ranks have been added to the addition of former Democratic Senator Avel Gordly of Portland - but by Democrats and Republicans. And he is now headed into the last half of his Senate term: In 2008, if he wants to remain in the Senate, he will have to run for re-election, in a heavily Republican district, presumably as an independent.

How all of that will go over will likely depend on what Westlund does next.

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Next up

Okay gang: The 2006 campaign cycle is dead. Long live the 2008 cycle - for the next 24 months.

A quick reminder here of what lies ahead.

ALL THREE Presidential contests await. After the results from 2004 and - atop that - this year, Washington, Oregon and Idaho may not be foremost targets; the first two have taken on deeper shades of blue and Idaho remains about as red as ever. But hope may spring quadrennial.

WASHINGTON No Senate race, but the governor and statewides will be up, along with all the U.S. House members, about half the state Senate and all of the state House. The governor's race is likely to be dominant, so expect action on developing a Republican candidate for Governor Chris Gregoire to kick in before long. Gregoire's numbers are still not where they really ought to be for a governor at this stage of term; but they are a lot better than in early 2005, and better than Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski's were a few months back. Will Republican Dino Rossi try again? Our guess is not, though he likely has first right of refusal.

Expect another hard run at the 8th congressional district. As for the legislature - its level of vulnerability may depend greatly on how the enhanced Democratic majority handles its increased power.

OREGON Republican Senator Gordon Smith will be up, and a battle royal that contest may be. In 2002 he won decisively (but short of a landslide) against Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, and polling indicates he remains personally popular. But a working majority of Oregon voters has soured on Republicans, ace fundraising isn't enough (paging Ron Saxton), and several strong Democratic prospects hanging around out there. (Either former Governor John Kitzhaber, now comfortably recovering from politics though still apparently retaining an interest, or Representative Earl Blumenauer, who's been visible statewide and burnished his national support network this campaign season, would give Smith a helluva race.

Beyond that, races for partisan constitutional officers other than governor, the U.S. House delegation (all reconfirmed in their electoral strength by this year's results) and the legislature. Expect the Oregon House, teetering at the brink of partisan control, to return as a high focus of attention.

IDAHO Republican Senator Larry Craig is up, and there's some question about whether he will run again - a cycle in the minority (where, to be sure, he has been before) after those years in the majority, may be ill-appealing; especially if he wants to set about making some money pre-retirement. He already has a fierce primary opponent in Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez. Some Democrats are trying to talk recent congressional candidate Larry Grant into the race.

The House seats will be up as well, with the question being: What will be the state of play as regards Bill Sali's first term? The legislature (all of it in Idaho) will be up, with the question: Can the Democrats retain/expand their new substantial base in the city of Boise?

A small transition, by the river

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski's win on Tuesday was a good deal more substantial than his first for the office in 2002, when he narrowly won and carried eight of the state's 36 counties.

Kulongoski counties 2002
Kulongoski counties 2002
Kulongoski counties 2006
Kulongoski counties 2006

Those counties were Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Hood River, Lane, Lincoln, Mulnomah and Tillamook. They were barely enough to eke out a win.

In this election he won with a much bigger margin even though adding just two counties to the mix. The numerically important of those was Washington County, the state's second largest, a county trending Democratic steadily over the past 20 years and a key building block to Democratic statewide wins. It accounts for many of the gains leading to Democratic control of the state legislature. (Kulongoski nearly won it four years ago.)

The other, much smaller but in some ways more interesting, is Wasco County, home of The Dalles.

Going way back, The Dalles and surrounding country is ranching, timber and resource country that has trended Republican. It had enough union base to support the Democratic surge in the mid-50s and into the 60s, but in the 70s seemed to begin joining the parade of rural counties in casting Republican-dominant votes. Only in the 90s did it occasionally, quirkily, vote for Democrats in the case of a particularly popular candidate. But in this new decade, there's been a subtle transition, and now it seems to have taken hold.

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OR results 1 – turning blue, big time

Oregon Democrats have an almost unalloyed night to celebrate. They didn't win everything; after an emotional sendoff to Aghanistan on Saturday, for example, they watched promising newcomer (to legislative politics) lose to veteran Republican Jackie Winters.

But they didn't lose much else.

Ted Kulongoski
Ted Kulongoski

That Governor Ted Kulongoski won re-election was no great surprise. But that he appears to be holding steady at over the 50% mark - leading Republican Ron Saxton by about eight points - must come as an especially sweet win. He can't be accused, any longer, of being a default governor - the winner only because the Republicans nominated a weak candidate - Saxton was sold as the strongest the Republicans had, and the strongest the party had fielded in many years. And he can't be said to be governor only because of a split in the conservative vote; a majority win is a clear endorsement.

It also says something, as do a bunch of races this evening, about the impact of money in politics - that, in short, it doesn't have to be decisive. Saxton and his backers outspent Kulongoski and his backers by nearly two to one. And see what it got them.

Democrats just held even in the state Senate, but they appear to have won the House - looks that way from the results we have at this point. (As matters sit, we're counting 31 Democrats winning House seats - but a couple are very close, and not all the ballots are in.) The sweetener here: The apparent defeat of House Spaker Karen Minnis, who outspent her opponent about two to one, with a record-breaking million-dollar budget.

Question: Where do Republicans in Oregon go from here?

Tonight, tonight, tonight

In the three states of the Northwest, the magic - or witching - hour is 8 p.m. That's when the polls close and, soon after, numbers start to roll. (In Idaho, where most people are in Mountain Time, numbers usually do not much roll until
9 p.m. Mountain time, in consideration for the people up north whose voting deadline is an hour later.)

polling place image - Washington Secty State officeWe will, of course, be getting a sense of the national trends before that, since many eastern polls will be closing around 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. Northwest time.

Expect that Oregon numbers will be among the first out; its vote counting procedures allow the count to begin on Tuesday well before the polls close. (And remember, only ballot in the hands of county officials by 8 p.m. today will count - in contrast to Washington, where a Tuesday postmark traditionally has sufficed.) Of some interest: With its new heavy reliance on mail voting, how early will be the Washington votes?

Of course, be sure to check back here: As per usual, we will be tracking results mostly on line. In between a short TV appearance and a stop at a political event, our regular stops this evening will include:

IDAHO

  • The Secretary of State' s office did a fine job of updating on primary election night; it's our top stop in the Gem State.
  • KTVB-TV traditionally has some of the best and fastest election night results in the state.
  • The Idaho Statesman will have information posted on its front page.
  • In eastern Idaho, try KIFI-TV.

OREGON

WASHINGTON

A VIEW FROM CONGRESS Also, this could be interesting: Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) says he plans to blog regularly during election night. Could be interesting to pull the take from his angle.

Oregon punditology predicts

We on this site usually don't get into flat predictions, preferring to deal in odds and probability for events which haven't yet occurred. But for those interested in predictions - something to tide you over till polls close, Punditology has just the thing.

Around Oregon 346 politically involved and interested people filled out a survey on Monday on how they think the election will go (not to be confused with what they'd prefer), in Oregon. It seems to be the largest and most detailed late-date prediction set in the region, and it probably does constitute a late-game conventional wisdom. Check it out, and then this evening watch it get variously upheld and overturned.

OTHERS David Postman's Seattle Times blog offers a prediction contest, and some commentary is attached in comments. A thread of Idaho predictions can be found at the Democratic Red State Rebels.

What the vets say

Polling tells us that the conflict in Iraq is top of mind for Americans as they vote or prepare to. That suggests we might take a minute to peruse the congressional rankings of what may be its single most relevant private organization, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

They are self-described as "Founded in June 2004, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the nation's first and largest group dedicated to the Troops and Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilian supporters of those Troops and Veterans." And it says that "The IAVA Rating is based on this legislator's voting history on issues that affect US troops, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and military families."

Like other interest groups, they track legislation and congressional action, and also like many, they rate the members of Congress, in this case by letter grade. Here is how they rate the members of Congress from the Northwest.

office Idaho rating Oregon rating Washington rating
Senate Craig (R)
Crapo(R)
D-
D
Wyden (D)
Smith (R)
B+
C-
Murray (D)
Cantwell (D)
A-
A-
House Otter (R)
Simpson (R)
C
C
Wu (D)
Walden (R)
Blumenauer (D)
DeFazio (D)
Hooley (D)
B
C+
C+
B
A-
Inslee (D)
Larsen (D)
Baird (D)
Hastings (R)
McMorris (R)
Dicks (D)
McDermott (D)
Reichert (R)
Smith (D)
B+
A
B
C
D
A-
C-
D+
A-

Flipping the House

Of the six legislative chambers* in the three Northwest states, just one appears to be seriously up for grabs - in partisan control - on Tuesday: The Oregon House. So what are the odds Democrats will wrest control of it, for the first time in 14 years, from the Republicans?

Oregon HouseWe think: Slightly better than even, with a distinct chance of split chamber control such as the Oregon Senate had the term before last.

[*The Oregon Senate might be next in rank order, but Republicans appear to have realistic shots at just two Democratic Senate seats, and their odds of picking up either are no better than even; while Democrats have at least an equal chance of unseating one Republican senator. The chance of a chamber flip in either Washington or Idaho, in this election, seems remote.]

In the 60-seat House, Republicans currently hold 33 and Democrats 27 seats. All are up for election. The math is simple: If Democrats manage a net gain of three seats, the House will be under split control; if Democrats gain net four or more, they take control.

The bulk of the 60 seats are opposed by a candidate of the major opposition party, but (as is usually the case) only a minority are so seriously contested as to merit close consideration: In the vast majority of cases, seats will be held by incumbents. Counting those seriously contested seats is the core of the question, and a difficult matter: Good analysts can come up with different numbers.

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Catching on

The increasingly worn initiative come-on of something for nothing really does seem to be wearing thin this year. Several Washington initiatives which would seem to have generated plenty of support in years past are encountering static this year (foreshadowed, maybe, by the failure of the 2005 gas tax measure). In Oregon, the most recent poll projects failure for the TABOR and term limits measures.

Jim Risch
Jim Risch

And in Idaho, polls show the land-use initiative, Proposition 2 - the followup to Oregon's troubled Measure 37 - riding on the edge, where once it might have been a presumptive winner. Part of the reason may be the breadth of opposition to it.

Consider today's press conference (we followed on conference call) set up by Governor Jim Risch at his office. The point it sought to make was made, really, even before anyone spoke. The range of people there present to declare opposition was startling, from business groups to environmental groups to quite a few others. Reflecting on a history of publc gatherings on one side or another of major issues (and Risch has been doing this more than a third of a century), he remarked, "I've never seen one as diverse as this group is." (The next two speakers after him were Republican Senator Brad Little and Democratic Senator David Langhorst.

Risch's own stance as a backer of private property rights is too extensive to seriously question, so his stance on Prop 2 carries weight: "This proposition does not enhance that . . . I can say that with a considerable degree of confidence." His main point was that the initiative would destabilize established land and planning practices, deeply upsetting property rights - and that has been precisely the case where Measure 27 has impacted Oregon.

Another bit drew laughter. One question at the conference noted that Proposition 2's backers said that opponents to the initiative were "liberals."

Which drew a big laugh from Risch: "I've been accused of a lot," he said, "and now the list is complete." Which may be one of the more compelling arguments the Pro 2 critics can make: Any movement so detached from reality that it argues Jim Risch is a liberal . . . well, . . .

WASHINGTON ISSUES Idaho's Proposition 2 still looks like a fairly close call - though momentum seems to be running against it - but as noted above, polling has been showing several key Washington state issues failing. For a solid overview of this, check out the latest University of Washington polling, which projects losses for both Initiative 933 (property rights and land use, comparable to Oregon's Measure 37 of 2004 and Idaho's current Proposition 2) by 51%-39%, and Initiative 920 (to repeal the state estate tax) by 53%-32%.