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LaRocco’s apparently in

Larry LaRocco
Larry LaRocco

Democrat Larry LaRocco's statement (not yet formal announcement) from various places (apparently originating from an interview with The Hill yesterday) that he plans to announce for the U.S. Senate next week has been prepared for; LaRocco has mentioned the possibility more than once, and even during his race last year for lieutenant governor. Assuming that materializes as expected, the former U.S. representative instantly will be the presumed Democratic nominee, likely drawing little or no serious challenge in-party.

What he faces on the Republican side, of course, is another matter.

Though there's ample question about who that will be. Our presumption for the moment is that incumbent Republican Senator Larry Craig will be back for another run; we hear from people who've known him well that Congress is too much his life to simply step away from it. Until a stronger argument comes up, we'll go with that.

But it's not a done deal.

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Remap, around the bend

Idaho and Washington both took the wise step, in time for the last go-round, of turning over the job of reapportioning state legislative and congressional districts to an independent commission, in time for the 2000 census remap. And while some glitches may have arisen in those processes - okay, some agony as well - the end result worked. And there is this: It worked out better than if legislators had done it.

In Oregon, the last reapportionment was such a fiasco that the legislature failed completely to reapportion itself, and the job went to one man, the secretary of state, who - inevitably - holds office as a partisan official and consequently has some responsibility to his party. (Republicans have been unhappy about the results of that ever since.) But an Associated Press piece today outlines the options Oregon legislators have for doing it differently next time.

Scott Bruun
Scott Bruun

The central proposal, House Joint Resolution 33, comes from state Representative Scott Bruun, R-West Linn, who has backing from 28 colleagues, and which works so hard to be fair to both parties that even the convolutions of forming its commission can be a little hard to follow. (The AP piece covers the details; we won't try to retrace them all here.) Still, it does seem even-handed, fair and holds the promise of an improve way of performing an inherently messy task; several Democrats as well as Republicans are among its sponsors. (There are alternative proposals, too, including one, House Joint Resolution 41, sponsored by the Senate and House Republican leaders.)

This will constitute a test, though, for the people who now run the legislature. In 2001, Republicans had the legislative majorities when time came for reapportionment, but the battles over the lines were so rough that the legislature wasn't able to get a remap enacted, and (by statute) the job went to the secretary of state. (Not for the first time, either.) Now, Democrats run the legislature, and have the governorship as well, and the secretary of state's office (and recent history suggests they will retain it after the next election). From their perspective: Why turn over the mapmaking to someone else when they can draw their own lines instead?

And there will be consequences to those lines. Oregon is closely enough slip between the parties that control of, say, the House could ride on those numbers. Too, Oregon may pick up a U.S. House seat after 2010, and which party wins it could be determined by where, exactly, it is located.

It's never easy to cede even a bit of power.

Crosscut launches

The new news site called Crosscut, planning news coverage around the Northwest, launched on Sunday, and it will be worth a watch.

The overall approach bears some resemblance to the New West organization based out of Montana but extending into (among other places) Idaho and Oregon. Crosscut shows some indications, though, of being relatively Washington- and Seattle-centric. But that may change as posts continue and the site develops.

Joel Connelly at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives it a sendoff and describes its background.

NASCAR out

The plan to build a NASCAR track near Bremerton was never a starter idea; the only question ever was at what point it would crash. It was placed in a spot where transportation is strained already, and it was reliant on a huge amount of public-backed funding. It never was going to fly. That's been clear for half a year or more.

So when the pullout by International Speedway Corporation was announced this afternoon, the basic response might be: It could have gone on longer and been uglier.

ISC can now take a third crack at it (remember the first proposal in Snohomish County), and maybe this time make two alterations that might reasonably result in a NASCAR operation in the Northwest: Put it in a geographically logical place, of which Washington (and Oregon too) have a number; and don't expect a massive public underwriting of ISC's private entertainment business.

An ISC spokesman had this to say: "We still think the Northwest and Washington is a great opportunity. It is a huge economic benefit generator for the state, which has a significant fan base. In the interim, our focus will be to regroup internally and decide what the best course of action is."

That could still include the Northwest.

ID Session grade

The Idaho Statesman's web site poll today asks the question: What grade do you give the just-concluded state legislative session?

With 514 votes in (at this writing), the self-selected poll says: A 1%, B 6%, C 24%, D 29%, F 32%.

Chopp shop

Frank Chopp
Frank Chopp

Frank Chopp, the speaker of the Washington House, has been an important figure in Washington politics for some years - most of a decade anyway - but he's not been particularly a household name, unless your house is in Olympia or maybe Chopp's 43rd district in Seattle. But now it seems to be getting that way, which is something he may relish or would rather go away.

His importance, as builder, solidifier and governor of the Democratic majority in the House, has been accepted in political spheres for some time. (So has his larger than life personality, and patterns of communication some writers have started to call Choppisms.) But few legislators emerge into the larger public consciousness even so.

This year, Puget Sound people have begun seeing headlines about Chopp's role on the Alaskan Way dispute - if Chopp doesn't want it, it's dead. The sense you got was of not only outsized personality, but of outsized power.

What the Slog and the Olympian are now reporting about Chopp and his dealings with two other legislators could take that image a step further.

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Otter’s session

Butch Otter
Butch Otter

Afew weeks back Idaho Governor Butch Otter, who tends to be a bit more candid than the average successful politician, acknowledged a couple of weeks ago, "There's a lot of things that I pointed out in my State of the State that haven't passed. Unfortunately, I can't think of one that has."

A couple of weeks later, another marker cropped up: A quick, substantial string of six full (plus one line-item) vetoes in rebuttal to a legislature firmly controlled by lawmakers who are a philosophical and partisan match for the conservative Republican governor. Vetoes are a part of the process and they can be useful or even necessary, but in an important respect they are a trouble sign: They are what happens when things haven't been resolved through more peaceful means.

So you can't really call this a successful session for the still-new governor. (Of course, leaving aside areas of gubernatorial involvement, it was a session unusually light on accomplishment.)

But we'll hold off grading the governor's efforts until we see how he does next time. That will tell whether he's learned the right lessons from this year's efforts. First sessions are often tricky for governors; and this one tried to do some large things without laying the proper groundwork. The year ahead will give him that opportunity.

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Idaho xgr: done for the year

The Idaho Legislature has just adjourned for the year - sine die (properly, that's see-nay dee-ay, though no one says it that way). The last bit of business was a compromised (and apparently somewhat straightened out) highway bonding bill.

Reflections tomorrow on the session and Governor Butch Otter's relationship to it.

Best places

This should be good for a Friday afternoon laugh . . . if, of course, you don't live in Seattle.

The new edition of Seattle Metropolitan magazine is out with, as is typical of such magazines, a rundown of the best places in the area to live. (Portland's counterpart did one on special neighborhoods in this edition.) And it determined the best Seattle place to live.

The Slog announces: "Do you know where Seattle Metropolitan says the best place to live in Seattle is? Kent. Kent is the best place to live in Seattle. Thank you, Seattle Metropolitan! See you next month!"

The comments section is priceless.