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Posts published in September 2011


The widespread outrage over Wall Street and the company's financial structure seems to be finding an outlet in the Occupy movement - outgrowths, evidently, of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have gone on for some days now.

Just lately - in the last few days, especially just today - the movement has gone viral and flash, drawing "Occupy" crowds in places all over the country. Most large cities, and quite a few small ones, seem to have events going on. Could be an interesting weekend.

You can find a bunch of them by searching through Facebook. A quick run of searches showed events in Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Boise (OccupyBOI), and Spokane; there could be more. They report holding General Assembly meetings; little more than that seemed to be immediately clear, though reports are flooding through the social media.

Occupy Portland's website says that "Occupy Portland is a nonviolent movement for accountability in the United States government. At 12PM on October 6th, 2011 we will assemble at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 1020 Southwest Naito Parkway in Portland, OR. We will gather in solidarity with the ongoing protest in New York City, Occupy Wall Street, and the growing number of cities whose people will no longer sit back watching corporate and special interests run their government. We are citizens of the United States, and this country is ours. We will take it back."

A selection of comment scraps from the Occupy in Portland (to judge from a picture, located on the Willamette waterfront):

"we have more showing for the meeting than NY has for the protest it looks like to me. WELL DONE!!"

"I belong to 107 groups. This, by far, is THE most organized group i've ever seen. We should add people from different occupation sites so they can see what we are doing in portland"

"i'm confused, has this already started? everything says it starts oct 6

"This is the first general assembly.. started at 7 down at the waterfront."

"doesn't say when it ends..."

"Maybe it won't? anyone bring sleeping bags? :)"

Tweets that bite

Donna Nelson
Michael Baumgartner

Twitter, like the other social networks (why hasn't a socnet formulation taken hold?), is a potentially big tool for candidates. But tools can be used in both helpful and dangerous ways.

Washington state Senator Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, asked of his Twitter followers what sounded like a reasonable question: “The past couple of weeks many have asked me to explore running for US Senate. What do you think?” That would be as the Republican candidate against incumbent Democrat Maria Cantwell, who so far has no major challengers - meaning the field is pretty much open on the Republican side.

Nothing at all wrong with Baumgartner's tweet - other candidates have and will throw such ideas out there, and it can be a useful tack - other than that you can't control what the reply might be.

In this case, as the news site Publicola reported, "Twenty hours on, Baumgartner, who can lean moderate on social and environmental issues, has only gotten two reactions; just one person retweeted it and one person said it would be her “dream come true.” Both folks described themselves as Tea Partiers."

Or maybe Baumgartner just learned something useful ...

Looks competitive

The early take, here as (broadly) elsewhere, has been that the Washington governor's race for the year upcoming, between Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee, will be highly competitive. A couple of new polls seem to reinforce that.

Both give McKenna, at present, a modest lead.

Moore Information puts McKenna at 37%, Inslee at 32%, and 26% "don't know." Moore's analysis concludes, "At this stage of the campaign, this race appears very fluid with almost one-in-three voters not opting for either candidate. However, among those who have decided, McKenna is hitting the right targets and doing well with the audiences he must have to win statewide."

Moore is, it should be noted, considered a Republican pollster with some controversies in the past.

That said, a SurveyUSA poll (data collected a week ago) gives McKenna 44% and Inslee 38% - numbers not far off from Moore's (and more favorable to the Republican). The weight of polling results continues to give McKenna a modest lead.

Whether it will last is another matter. McKenna is fairly well known already, having been elected twice statewide, while Inslee has been well known only in his district north of Seattle. Over the course of more that a year of campaigning, both will likely become about equally well known.

And there is some ongoing weight to running as a Democrat in Washington. In the race to replace McKenna as attorney general, two King County Council members, comparably well known (that is, not very outside of King), have announced and were polled; Democrat Bob Ferguson scored 39% and Republican Reagan Dunn 34%.

The governor's race looks plenty hot from here.

The raw economy

And it's still an ugly picture. We check out the economists' reports day by day, and they don't seem to be getting any better.

Here's the unabridged executive summary from the report out today from the Washington Economic and Revenue Forecast Council. See how many bright spots you can find in it.

 We are in the fragile aftermath of the Great Recession where a return to normalcy seems like a mirage in the desert – the closer we get to it, the further it moves away. Fear and uncertainty have overwhelmed consumer and business behavior. The risk of a recession has increased significantly.
 Revisions to U.S. real Gross Domestic Product show a much deeper recession than previously estimated, and a U.S. economy close to stall speed in the first half of this year.
 Our previous forecast prior to these data revisions had expected growth regaining momentum in the second half of 2011 as oil prices stabilized, and supply chains were restored with Japan rebuilding. Now that it turns out that there was no growth momentum in the first half of the year, a second half return to momentum seems unlikely.
 The likelihood of a full-blown European debt crisis, and the consequent ripples across the global economy have increased.
 Washington’s economy is not immune to national and global economic developments. Like the nation, the outlook for the Washington economy has weakened since June.
 The employment recovery in Washington this recession has been the weakest of any post-war recovery. Labor market conditions since the June forecast have been worse than anticipated.
 The recovery in state housing and construction will be later than previously expected. New construction faces headwinds from rising foreclosures and falling home prices.
 Washington is still expected to outperform the nation in employment and personal income growth, although the outlook for both has been lowered substantially.
 General Fund-State revenue for the 2011-13 biennium is now forecasted to be $1.4 billion less than forecasted in June.
 The preliminary General Fund-State total for the 2009-11 biennium came in $24.9 million below the June forecast.
 The downside risks to the outlook have risen and exceed the upside risks by a wide margin.

Bonamici’s ad

Suzanne Bonamici, one of the three main Democrats running for the open Oreogn 1st district seat, is the first out with a TV ad. Simple and basic: It shows her speaking directly to the viewer, with a message area Democrats likely will approve.

It matches up with her stump message and approach. We watched her speak last Thursday to the Yamhill County Democrats at McMinnville, and you could say it was a longer version of what you see in the ad: Simply spoken (she didn't come off like a lawyer, which she is, but did seem to be herself) and not flashy, but likable and direct.

Her message, or at least her stand on issues, doesn't seem so far a lot different from her primary competitors, Brad Avakian and Brad Witt. But she is broadcasting it first.

Weekly polls

You may notice a new polling box to the right on this page. With your help, we'll start running weekly polls here and several other locations (such as Facebook). The poll results on each location will be open; at the end of the week, we'll collect them and run them in our weekly Public Affairs Digests (Washington, Oregon, Idaho).

This first is about predicting who will be the next governor of Washington. If you have a question you'd like to see here next week, let us know.

All the usual caveats apply. These are self-selecting and unscientific. Still, they may be of some interest as a reflection of thinking (at least, of this site's readers). So have at it.

ID redistrict: The overtime plan

The falls, formally, into the category of a recommendation only - the same as if any other group of six Idahoans proposed a statewide redistricting plan (as some have).

But because these six are the former redistricting commissioners, this particular proposal - Final Compromise 2 (does that sound like a bad movie name?) - could carry some weight. When the new districters get together (the three Democrats are named, the Republicans not quite yet) they could be tempted by the idea of just adopting this one and cruising home, in a day or two, as opposed to some much longer procedure.

It evidently has support from both parties; their chairs will hold a joint press availability on Monday seemingly in support of it.

Partisan bottom line?

Democrats ought to be delirious about it. What they're getting here is much better than they have had any real right to expect. Central Coeur d'Alene is intact, providing competition there. Moscow and Lewiston still anchor districts and should remain competitive. Boise has a rough equivalent to the current very-Democratic District 19 plus three other competitive district - roughly the setup they have had. The Blaine County-based district will continue with about the same setup as before. The Pocatello area will have one Democratic-based district and one other that should be competitive. That's about what Democrats have now, and considering that most of the last decade's growth has been in Republican areas, doing this well would have seemed improbable at the start of the process.

Who will be unhappy? On a partisan level, it's not as if Republicans somehow gave away the store; the map does not put their huge majorities at any risk. But a number of incumbents will be put at risk - at least three pairs of Republican senators (Shawn Keough and Joyce Broadsword in the Panhandle, Patti Anne Lodge and John McGee in Canyon County, and Denton Darrington and Dean Cameron in the Magic Valley) will be thrown into districts together, presumably knocking out one in each case. And the people in the southeast corner of the state, who've had a bum district boundary linking Teton County through forested mountains south to Bear Lake and Franklin Counties, will see that get worse: That district looks about the same, with Oneida County tacked on in the southwest.

There are issues. But there'll also be a strong temptation to just go ahead and adopt a plan evidently accepted, at this point, by both political parties. How often do you get that?

30 or less?

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire's call for a special legislative session for November sounds on its face questionable. Legislators will be coming to town in regular session not so long after that - probably within a month after it adjourns.

Still, the budget numbers have been worsening at a heady clip, so the argument for action sooner than even that does have some weight. Olympia Republican Representative Gary Alexander, after the announcement: “Budget leaders can begin the process now. The longer we wait to address the issue, the harder the budget problem will be to solve." Not a bad point.

And there is one other. By focusing on budget adjustments in December, there should be a better ability to focus on other things - economic problem-solving - in January. That clearly seemed a driver in Gregoire's thinking; her release on the call noted she wanted "to spend the regular session focusing on policy bills to support job creation and economic growth." Passage might be a little easier than way, with fewer opportunities, in some quarter or other, for hostage-taking.

So how long will be the special be? Don't figure on a lot less than 30 days, though there'll surely be a strong push to get home well in advance of Christmas.

New preferences

Four years ago, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was all the rage among Idaho Republicans. It didn't matter much, since by the time Idaho Republicans got to vote in the primary Romney had dropped out and John McCain had the nomination in hand. But Romney was the clear early favorite among Idaho Republicans, at the upper reaches of elective office and party structure, and well down below.

This year, not so much - or rather, things are a lot more complicated.

For one thing, Idaho Republicans' presidential preferences - at the nomination stages - will matter a lot more in 2012, since the party has chosen to move (as the Democrats did a while back) to an earlier caucus, probably March 6. That means the party's activists actually will play a meaningful role in the nomination process.

And there are indicators to what that could mean.

Romney again has the support of much of Idaho's Republican leadership. His Idaho co-chairs are Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and U.S. Senator Jim Risch and the steering committee (Representative Mike Simpson, Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Luna, State Controller Donna Jones, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill, Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke and House Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts) could hardly be improved on as a measure of support from Idaho Republican elected officials.

But what about voter support? What about the activists who outnumber the leadership?

The Kootenai County Reagan Republicans have been running a straw poll in the area - picking up votes mostly at a regional fair but in other locations as well - and have announced results, which suggest different preferences among Republican voters.

First place went to Texas Governor Rick Perry, who wasn't even yet in the race when many of the votes were cast, with 123, or about a quarter of the total. Second place went to Texas Representative Ron Paul with 55 votes, and third to Sarah Palin (who's not in the race) with 54.

And Romney? Tied for fourth (with Representative Michelle Bachman) at 39 votes.

We've been seeing pieces of evidence for some time that there are two Idaho Republican parties. Add these little factoids to the list.