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At half-poast poll closure . . .

Here in the Northwest, early indications are that this region will mirror many of the early returns elsewhere in this country this evening: Strong results for Democrats, intermixed with some close losses.

We'll be reporting back shortly, but a few early indications jump out.

In Oregon, the early results give Democrat Ted Kulongoski 56% of the vote. A whole lot of the rural part of the state has yet to emerge, and this reflects a big chunk of Lane county (Eugene area); still, he's in a good place at this point.

Among legislative races, we've heard of one result that will upend some expectations (including today's Punditology results) - in Oregon House District 24, Democrat Sal Perlata looks poised to defeat Rebublican incumbent Donna Nelson.

Some early indications: Most of the ballot issues (including the spending and term limits issues) show signs of failing. Unclear yet as to the number of Democratic seats in the Oregon House.

No immediate surprises in Washington, with a lead in the Senate race by Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell. Not enough information on the critical 5th and 8th district races to say much at this point.

And results in Idaho are too preliminary as well for substantial judgement.

Back soon with more.

Early early

Well this is taking its time. At two hours past polls closed, just 117 of 917 precincts are in, and most of those are from eastern Idaho. Not a lot to work with yet in the premier race, the Republican nomination for the 1st congressional district.

Based on early results, the big gubernatorial primary win by C.L. "Butch" Otter looks about on track, at 69% (wouldn't be surprised to see it bump a little higher as the night goes on). On the Democratic side for lieutenant governor, former congressman Larry La Rocco appears to be piling up a substantial win over Dan Romero - there had been some question about that. The early numbers also seem to suggest a win by Tom Luna for a second Republican nomination for superintendent of public instruction, and - a surprise if it holds, which it may not - a lead by Jana Jones over state Senator Bert Marley on the Democratic side.

And in the 1st? Bill Sali, Keith Johnson and Sheila Sorensen bunched together at the top, with Sali in a narrow lead. Will it hold? The next couple of hours ought to tell the story . . . if the pace picks up . . .

A closure, a diminishment

You see the expansion notices in Meridian or Post Falls, but they don't spread evenly. Rupert today joined the list of rural places taking a hit, as Kraft Foods said it would close its processing plant there, taking 140 jobs with it, early in 2007. The plant produces cheese products.

Are there any takeaway lessons for local people, like those in Rupert, or elsewhere in Idaho or the Northwest? Well, yes, if you look closely at Kraft and its business environment.

Not, that is, at Rupert or Idaho - local conditions in that city and state appear to be irrelevant to the closure. (Not that the closure will be irrelevant to the city and state - it will put some hurt on Rupert.) Kraft was quoted as saying the closure had nothing to do with local productivity - and there's no reason to assume otherwise - but rather is part of a series of consolidation of its processing facilities. Certainly the corporation is doing some restructuring - late last month it announced it was outsourcing most of its communications and database work.

An internal squeeze seems to be on, and in that connection you might consider this from an on-line piece basically about Wal-Mart: "In fiscal 2005, Wal-Mart saw sales grow 9.5% while inventories climbed 9.3%. Wal-Mart was able to wring out such good results by putting much of the onus on suppliers such as Procter & Gamble Co. , Kraft Foods Inc. and Estee Lauder Cos."

Message to community economic development entities: When considering which manufacturers or base-level industries to attract to your community, or considering the mix you already have, ask who that business sells to. From that, you may be able to better determine if that business has a long or possibly short life span in your community.

Steady up

The Portland State University Population Research Center reports just out figure Oregon has added about 50,000 people between the summer of 2004 and the summer of 2005, and about 200,000 people since the 2000 census.

Sounds about right, as do the estimates of where in the state, exactly, these people have been going. The standout really is Washington County, which is estimated to have added more than 9,000 people just in that recent year, and nearly 45,000 since the 2000 census (meaning, practically, at least 50,000 from then to now - about a quarter of all growth in the state). That's a big boost in size, even if - proportionately - Deschutes County (Bend ) did about as well or better. The other Portland-area suburban county, Clackamas, also grew but more slowly.

Portland continues to grow, adding about 5,000 people in just the recent year to reach 555,560. Salem pushes a little further ahead of Eugene; the cities are still close in population but no longer virtually tied. And Gresham is edging close to the 100,000 mark.

It’s a race in Oregon’s 1st

Had wondered whether the talk about Hillsboro Republican Representative Derrick Kitts running for Congress against Democratic incumbent David Wu, was so much smoke.

It's more than that: Kitts is in the race. He faces an uphill run.

Politics of dereg

Just a quick heads-up on a fine summary of the development of Montana politics in the last few years - through the lens of electric power deregulation, which that state, about a decade ago, embraced.

The results have been calamitous, but are still defended in some quarters. Mike Dennison's column for the Billings Gazette spells it out.