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Jobs up

The official stats out today show a positive picture for jobs - on the official unemployment front - regionwide.

Still, the improvement was spotty, and it still doesn't seem to do much for wage rates, which are at least as critical a factor. (more…)

912 and Gregoire

From the day it was pitched, Initiative 912 - the one seeking to roll back the road funding package passed earlier this year by the Washington Legislature and brokered by Governor Christine Gregoire - was billed as a referendum on Gregoire and unified Democratic control of the legislative and executive branches.

Given the closeness of the last election, and the deep anger among Republicans and many independents over the way it was resolved, there was some feeling that the initiative would be a slam dunk on that basis alone - not to mention the sterling track record of anti-tax intiatives statewide in Washington.

The counting in last week's election is nearly over now, and I-912 wound up failing 54.5% to 45.5% - a decisive nine percent. Now that the counting is nearly done, what conclusions can we draw from this intiative? (more…)

U.S. House vulnerabilities?

The opening piece of analysis from this site about the 2004 U.S. House races in the Northwest is a default to status quo. Even the one House seat we know will be open (the Idaho 1st) probably will stay with its current party. For every other House seat in the Northwest, barring unexpected retirements or something else out of the blue, the larger probability is that the incumbent will be returned in 2006 for another term.

Probable but not a lock, of couse - these things never are a lock until election day, and sometimes even then. Still, you have to look hard for many chinks in the armor. Probably only two members of the House delegation are representing districts whose partisan leanings are just a bit at odds with the incumbent's situation. And neither of those - Republican Dave Reichert in the Washington 8th, and Peter DeFazio in Oregon's 4th - look weak. Both won decisively in 2004.

Analysts over at the Democratic Daily Kos site, however, do list a few Northwest seats - three altogether, those two and one more - on their roster to watch, of potentially vulnerable Republican and Democratic seats. (more…)

Cantwell-McGavick polling

Presumption here is that Washington Democratic incumbent Senator Maria Cantwell starts with an edge - not overwhelming, but there - in her run for re-election next year against Republican SafeCo executive Mike McGavick.

Some confirmation comes from the new Rasmussen poll, wich outa her at 52% and him at 37%. His numbers are likely to improve as his name ID does in the months ahead, but an incumbent over 50% makes a challenger's job tough.

Upending K-R?

Washington and Idaho just finished a major newspaper ownership transfer, one of the biggest in a generation. Is it about to see a new one?

Knight RidderThe national backdrop is the decline in newspaper circulation, following a quarter-century of ever-tighter squeezing of profits out of newspapers. That is something the recent newspaper swap between Gannett Corporation and Knight-Ridder, which left the latter with the Boise Idaho Statesman, the Olympia Olympian and the Bellingham Herald, in addition to the 49% of the Seattle Times it already owned, did not address. But now Knight-Ridder's largest single shareholder is hitting it head on. (more…)

Sad cases

These two cases of Oregon state representatives, Democrat Kelly Wirth and Republican Dan Doyle, are more than instances of private failure: Both dragged over into the public sphere. That does not make them less sad. But it mens the rest of us have an understandable stake.

Dan DoyleDoyle was the legislator who started the year at a political high - as the top House budget writer, one of the most influential people in the state - and will end it in prison, serving a 10-month term. He resigned from the Oregon House on January 31.

His offense was lying on his campaign finance reports, hiding the way he shifted money from campaign coffers to cover his personal expenses. His may have been the first case ever of an Oregon legislator serving time for a campaign offense.

Kelly WirthWirth's case, still in process, is more complex, but suggests no less moral culpablity. During a police inquiry of an assault against her - the background of which is still murky - a small amount of methamphetimine was found in her vehicle; she then resigned effective October 15. One could consider the matter serious legally but semi-private in nature up to that point. But then came reports about Wirth drastically increasing pay for some of her aides - most notably her mother, a woman now receiving about $6,000 a month, who according to news reports seldom was seem in Wirth's statehouse office.

The question: What effect do these cases have on public affairs and politics in Oregon? (more…)

The state of abortion

There's no huge shock, but some food for thought, in the latest Survey USA state-by-state poll on abortion.

The question asked was whether the respondent considered himself or herself "pro-life" or "pro-choice." There are loads of objections to this approach, not least that attitudes on abortion in this country tend to be far more nuanced than that. But the effort to deliver a clean dividing line as a tool for political analysis.

Natonwide, SUSA said, 38% call themselves "pro-life," and 56% "pro-choice." In ranking the states, in just 13 states did the "pro-life" percentage outnumber "pro-choice." Utah came in first, which is no surprise.

Idaho was fourth, decisively so, 55% pro-life, 41% pro-choice. So decisive a pro-life lead is a little surprising, since the issue has not been a decisive winner at the polls. The last time it was a truly driving issue was in 1990, when the Idaho Legislature passed what would have been the strongest anti-abortion legislation in the country, only to see itself rebuked first by Governor Cecil Andrus' veto and then by Idaho voters, who gave the state's Democrats a sohrt moment of sunshine before the Republican lock set in two years later.

But - on the other hand - that was 15 years ago, and Idaho has changed a lot since. Has it become so much more socially conservative that the legislature's action, rejected in 1990, would be decisively upheld today? Maybe so.

Oregon and Washington scored almost identically in the SUSA survey, with 33% and 32% respectively calling themselves "pro-life," and 62% and 63% respectively self-described "pro-choice." Makes clear why the issue doesn't often come up in these states as a wedge; it wouldn't work very well.

In Tuesday's balloting, California voters rejected a proposal to require parental notification for abortion for a minor. (California's numbers: 28% pro-life, 65% pro-choice.) There has been talk about putting such an issue on the Oregon ballot in 2006. One suspects that after a review of the California results, and of polling information, that idea may go by the boards.