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Posts published in July 2011

Surprising lives of the Magic Valley

An excellent argument against the idea that geography equals destiny: A terrifically entertaining piece by Steve Crump of the Twin Falls Times News, about the 10 most remarkable people from the Idaho Magic Valley.

Not famous or influential (though some are), but the people with astonishing life stories, the kind that set you back and make you say, "Whoah ..."

Wonder who other regions around the Northwest would come up with?

Portland mayor: On the city itself

Could Portland Mayor Sam Adams have won a second term next year? That would fall into the category of a tough call. After the scandal (a personal relationship denied during his 2008 campaign but brought to light soon after) at the start of his term, he was called on for resignation and two recall attempts, with some real support, were tried. On the other hand, those recall efforts failed to come close to getting the needed number of petition signatures - some indicator that the idea didn't have the requisite appeal broadly across Portland.

Which isn't the same thing as choosing to re-elect. Adams also would have had a record to run on, but also to defend. Parts of it have been highly controversial (the loss of baseball, for example) and the opposition certainly has racked up. There's also the little-noticed point that his closest Council ally, Randy Leonard, is also opting out next year, and that would have left Adams essentially alone to defend an incumbency position.

All of which is of course moot now, since Adams declared on Friday that he would not run for a second term. After running through some of the highlights of his administration, he says this:

We have a lot more work to do, which brings me squarely to my future plans.

I am under no illusion of how challenging the race for re-election would be. I’ve been in tough elections before; nobody thought I could win my city council race in 2004. But I believe for me to win re-election as mayor, I would need to fundraise and campaign full-time, starting now.

As I have considered the reality of a possible re-election effort, I have come to the conclusion that I have a choice: Move this agenda forward, or campaign full-time for re-election.

With the state of our nation in such flux, and so many local issues needing focused and hands-on mayoral leadership, for me, the choice is clear.

My best service to Portland will be to complete the platform of change and improvement you elected me to deliver: Creating jobs, increasing the high school graduation rate, and making Portland the most sustainable city, with the most equal of opportunities. This work is well underway, and I’m committed to making every day of the next 17 months count. Thus, I will not seek re-election.

Each day—supported by my partner, Peter, and my family—I wake up feeling blessed to have the opportunity to serve as your mayor. It is, without a doubt, the best job in the world.

The remark was made by some people who know Adams well that he loves the job he has now. (And the idea of moving up further in politics, once highly realistic, probably is foreclosed now.) the decision couldn't have been easy. But, as a number of people (and by the Oregonian) have said, it does allow the campaign to come to focus on the city of Portland more than on Sam Adams.

Carlson: Remembering Doc Robins

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

“Benewah County has an opportunity which may never come this way again.” - St. Maries Gazette Record, June 6, 1946

The above item was the last point in a campaign ad for C.A. “Doc” Robins, a former three-term Benewah County State Senator running for the 1946 Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The 61-year-old Robins easily defeated former two-term Idaho Governor C.A. “Bott” Bottolfsen in the primary and went on to defeat incumbent Governor Arnold Williams by a landslide in November.

Robins was the first governor of Idaho from the northern part of the state in more than 50 years and surely will be, as the ad suggests, the only governor with ties to Benewah County ever.

Ask people on the streets of St. Maries today who “Doc” Robins was and the vast majority don’t have a clue. There is no sign as one enters St. Maries that it used to be the hometown of arguably one of the most influential people in Idaho’s political history. Nor is there any notice erected anywhere in the county.

And that’s a shame.

Robins, a physician, was not only a fine governor, by all accounts he also was a warm, wonderful human being who cared deeply about his patients, was always approachable and certainly possessed an exceptional bedside manner. He delivered most of the babies born in the county for many years.

His fellow state senators elected him that body’s president for the 1943 session of the Idaho Legislature. Re-elected to a fourth consecutive term in 1944, he surely would have been elected its president again. But he resigned from the Senate rather than leave St. Maries without any doctor, which would have been the case had he attended the 1945 legislative session.

Politically, 1946 was an incredibly important year with electoral outcomes heavily influencing the future of the state and its politics. The epoch-changing events began with the death of Republican U.S. Senator John Thomas on Nov. 10, 1945.

On Nov. 17 Democratic Governor Charles Gossett resigned as governor, an act which elevated his Lieutenant Governor, Arnold Williams, to the governorship. Williams then appointed Gossett to the vacant Senate seat. The gamesmanship did not set well with the voters in part because Williams became Idaho’s first Mormon governor at a time when there was still a bias against members of the LDS church, particularly among north Idahoans. (more…)

Wu is out

David Wu
David Wu

Oregon 1st District Democratic Representative David Wu has said he will resign, as soon as the the debt ceiling issue is resolved. There was less than perfect clarity about what resolution means.

It's a national story - any resignation of a member of Congress is, especially when juicy is involved - and he may be departing just ahead of a larger media roar. It's already large enough - Jay Leno referenced him on the Tonight Show last night.

What we do know about what will happen next, once his resignation date is set, is that Governor John Kitzhaber will call a special election. He will have options, but most likely - if he does as he did back in 1995 when Senator Robert Packwood resigned - there will be two elections, first a primary and then a general, to select Wu's replacement.

Expect much more action on the Democratic than the Republican side, though a special election could attract any number of officeholders who (this being mid-term for everybody) could stay in place if they lose.

Early odds have to go to state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, who formally announced his entry on April 18 - giving him a big head start - and has been fundraising, organizing and campaigning intensively since. State Representative Brad Witt is also in, but fairly recently. If the primary election is only two to four months off, Avakian's advantage - as matters stand - may be hard to surmount.

And in this strongly Democratic district, he would be a tough target for a Republican too, which may be why there's been no Republican stampede so far in the 1st.

But, as ever, the facts on the ground can change. Just ask Wu.

In case of resignation

Representative David Wu has said - intermediaries report - that he will not run for re-election in 2012, but plans to serve out the term until then. If he chooses to do that, there's almost no way to force him to do otherwise. The House can expel members, but that recourse is extremely rare. On the other hand, Wu changed his mind about a 2012 run, so he might on the idea of resignation as well.

If that happened, what would the procedure be? We find this piece of Oregon law to explain:

Filling vacancy in election or office of U.S. Representative or Senator
(1) If a vacancy in election or office of Representative in Congress or United States Senator occurs before the 61st day before the general election, the Governor shall call a special election to fill that vacancy. If a vacancy in election or office of United States Senator occurs after the 62nd day before the general election but on or before the general election, and if the term of that office is not regularly filled at that election, the Governor shall call a special election to fill the vacancy as soon as practicable after the general election.
(2) If a special election to fill the vacancy in election or office of Representative in Congress or United States Senator is called before the 80th day after the vacancy occurs, each major political party shall select its nominee for the office and certify the name of the nominee to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State shall place the name of the nominee on the ballot.

The last such case, remember, was senatorial, when Robert Packwood (in the wake of numerous allegations of sexual harassment) resigned in the fall of 1995. Special primary and general elections were held, the latter in January 1996 and won (narrowly) by Democrat Ron Wyden, who has been in the Senate since.


Further evidence that the Idaho Republican Party is seriously into a process of consuming itself:

State Senators Shawn Keough of Sandpoint and Joyce Broadsword of Sagle, representing two of the Panhandle districts, have proposed a redistricting option for their area. As veteran Republican officeholders and candidates from the area (Keough, now a budget committee co-chair, since 1996), you'd expect that their take, whether or not accepted by all other Republicans, would get at least a respectful hearing.

What it got was this, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee:

The Region 1 Republican Central Committee passed a “no confidence” statement against them, explaining this way:

“As elected state officials, your actions have demonstrated that you do not understand, care about, or are acting in a manner that is consistent in the best interests of your constituents ... Instead, (you) have used your political positions to further personal agendas and promote the best interests of the opposing political party in direct opposition to the Republican ideals we hold dearly.”

It's not enough to say that they disagree with some element or other of the map Keough and Broadsword produced. No, they also had to describe them as dishonest officeholders and traitors to their party.

No great surprise, though, coming from a cadre (the Idaho Republican organization) seemingly seized by the idea that a conservative Republican governor (C.L. "Butch" Otter) taking normal and usual steps to boost the state's economy and foster trade between Idaho and China is trying to sell out their state to the communists.

Which elected Republican will they turn on next? Really, at this point it could be any of them.

ADDENDUM Or, put another way: Are people in Idaho starting to live in fear of being reported to the party (there being only one) central committee for lack of ideological purity and for becoming a security risk? A question: What does that remind you of?

If Wu resigned

The uproar around Representative David Wu, the Democrat of Oregon's 1st district, exploded again last week - after several quiet months - with a report in the Oregonian that a young woman (evidently 18 or 19 years old) in southern California alleged that Wu had made unwanted sexual advances toward her. Many details are missing, including what exactly Wu was accused of doing, but the congressman seems to have acknowledged that an affair occurred. This adding a sexual dimension to the Wu story, calls for resignation have arisen from many quarters.

Our view is that calls for congressional resignation have gotten remarkably quick whenever something sexual gets into headlines with public officials, and that such people as New York Representatives Anthony Weiner and Christopher Lee, and former Idaho Senator Larry Craig, had no ethical need to resign (and Craig did not). That's not to judge the Wu case yet at least, since so many details are missing and many gaps are likely to be filled in over coming weeks.

But the calls for resignation are intense enough, both from national levels (Democratic leadership apparently has at least discussed the option with Wu) and within Oregon, that resignation clearly is on the table; we just don't know yet what Wu will do.

What are the political implications?

If Democrats seem to be taking the lead in calling for Wu's resignation, it's not hard to see what the incentive would be.

Wu has been raising money for a 2012 campaign, and he has indicated he's planning to run. But after all that's happening, both early this year and last week, re-election has to be considered a long shot. He has a loyal core of supporters, polling has shown, but they are likely to wear away as time goes on. And a rough primary contest next May, in which Democrats spend a good deal of time and money battling each other, could benefit Republicans considerably. The 1st district is strongly Democratic, but a breaking point could always arrive with enough provocation.

On the other hand, a Wu resignation could cement the Democratic advantage. One Democrat - state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian - has been in the field for a while, has had good fundraising (for a primary challenger), is well-organized and has been working. He would be well-positioned to win primary and general if a special election were held. State Representative Brad Witt is also in, newer to the race and well behind Avakian in money and organization, but would provide an option for Democrats.

No Republican has entered yet, or apparently made any serious moves toward entry. A Republican would have to start from scratch, ramp up in a big hurry, and overcome formidable odds in an unfavorable district. The best Republican scenario seems to be a run against Wu in November 2012. A win for a Democrat in a special election this summer or fall would give Democrats nationally some good headlines and momentum, and would cement Avakian (or Witt) as the incumbent come November 2012 - a much tougher challenge for a Republican than running for a de facto open seat.

Rainey: Free speech for me, not for thee

From Barrett Rainey's Second Thoughts blog, about an incident in Roseburg.

A few days ago, a group of some 18 mostly senior citizens gathered in a community park in our little Oregon town of Roseburg (pop. 21,500). It’s very safe to say these people represented a distinct minority around here – politically speaking.
They were out on a sunny afternoon to sit at picnic tables, chat with each other, talk of the need for peace and discuss current events. If there was a loose political connection it was they associated themselves with though most, if pressed, couldn’t really describe the national liberal organization or how it operates.

Within a few minutes, about 35 people showed up. Some in camouflage clothing, mostly male, waving “Don’t Tread On Me” and American flags. They carried signs reading “No to socialism in America,” “Communists,” “Marxists” and “Socialists.” They confronted the seniors chatting at the picnic tables while one of their number captured the “action” on video.
The interlopers claimed to represent the Tea Party and something called “Douglas County Americans For Prosperity.” A guy named Rich Raynor did most of the talking. They taunted the surprised seniors, calling them “Communists” and “Marxists.”

When it was apparent the newcomers wouldn’t stop, the seniors adjourned to the home of one of their number. As they prepared to leave, the harassing continued. “Take your Marxist agenda with you,” one of the taunters says on the video.

- more -

Meet the new radio … or not so new

There's an unusual change in Boise radio, and a somewhat cloaked one one too. It's unusual for the shift in control of a frequency from non-commercial to commercial. And it looks to be cloaked for the gap between the way it's being presented to the public just now, and what its corporate and other alliances suggest.

What's going away is the jazz, local news and National Public Radio offerings on KBSU AM 730 (FM broadcasts will remain), whose license is held by the state Board of Education. You might remember that the latter consists of conservative Republican Tom Luna and appointees of conservative Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter. The Board sold off the AM 730 frequency to a private radio company, Impact Radio Group, a pretty unusual thing.

What's coming in its place is “NewsRadio AM730 KINF”, which was scheduled to go on air today.

The radio news site has Impact's description of what will go on air: "Impact Manager Darrell Calton commented, “We are ecstatic about the launch of “NewsRadio AM730 KINF”. Our local team of reporters, anchors and partners will create a true radio news station designed for the Treasure Valley. We should be technically ready by Friday if not before.” Each weekday, NewsRadio AM730 KINF will deliver ten hours of prime time coverage featuring Idaho’s NewsFirst Team, America’s Morning News, America’s Radio News Network and the Associated Press. The station is partnering with the Idaho Statesman for expanded coverage in the news room, and ... KTRV-TV Channel 12 for meteorological expertise and news room muscle and Boise Traffic."

The addition of any local news coverage on radio is worth some celebrating (bearing in mind that KBSU-AM was doing some of that too). But what else is heading for air, and how will the time be apportioned?

For example. America's Radio News Network (do you start to get suspicious when you see grandiosity of that sort in the naming?), which is about six months old, is owned by Talk Radio Network, which has "an emphasis on conservative talk on weekdays and variety/general interest talk radio on weekends. Some of the most recognizable personalities in American radio, such as Laura Ingraham and Michael Savage, are syndicated on Talk Radio Network. It is headquartered in Central Point, Oregon." (The current yes/no poll question on its web site: "Do you feel that your nation is making moves towards Socialism?") How many hours will ARNN occupy? We'll know soon enough.

In other words, look for more conservative talk radio for Boise, a market already overwhelmed on AM with it - conservative and nothing else, very much in alignment with the people who run Idaho and its state government. That's not quite the sense you get from the hopeful talk about a local news team and partnership with the Idaho Statesman. (How will its partner the Statesman be reporting on this?) But follow the corporate bread crumbs, and see where you go.