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Posts published in March 2012

Romney WA; Romney ID?

One tendency in the ever-strange Republican presidential primary season has been this: When the words goes forth that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is "inevitable" as the Republican nominee, he tends to win. When something comes along and punctures that, even if briefly, he tends to lose.

Just ahead of Super Tuesday, Romney's timing looks pretty good. He won, decisively, the caucuses in Washington state, and that wouldn't necessarily have been a foregone conclusion. Those caucuses have gone for Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson in times past. And other candidates, notably Ron Paul, have a significant presence in the state. But since the Michigan and Arizona primaries, there's been a steady drumbeat that yes, really, we mean it this time, Romney will be the guy. And that may have helped him in Washington.

Speculation here is that this will spill over into Idaho tomorrow. Romney does have natural advantages in Idaho. Nearly all of the state's Republican establishment, from the governor and senators on down, is in his camp, and the large portion of Idaho Republicans who are Mormon will largely be there too. (There's even a small thread of Romney's family history in southeast Idaho.) Substantial as all that is, it's not necessarily enough.

But the environment is favorable too. Idaho Republicans heading to caucus - a new event for them in the Gem State - will be well aware of the national situation and, especially in northern Idaho, of Washington state's too. A strong Romney win in Idaho looks like the probable outcome.

Will they fool us again?

No more fax

Among the regulatory items showing up in Monday's edition of the Washington Weekly Briefing:

This bit of rule changing by the Washington Secretary of State's office: "Documents received by fax are of poor quality, difficult to read, and must often be rejected due to illegibility, causing a delay in filing. Given that many more options exist today, such as e-mail, on-line submission, and overnight mail, the fax machine will be phased out of use."

No argument here. We only rarely use ours any more (though it's still connected). Just wondering how long it'll be before nearly all governments do the same?

For more about the Briefing (or its Oregon and Idaho counterparts), see the box to the right.

Dicks retirement

Norm Dicks
Norm Dicks

Norm Dicks is the senior Northwest member of Congress, in either chamber. Through, that is, the end of this year: He said this morning, in something of a surprise, that he will retire after that.

So, fairly late in the cycle, the newly-redistricted Washington 6th district seat comes open.

Dicks was trained in the Warren Magnuson shop, and very much comes from a time of greater civilty in Congress, and also out of the bringing-home-the-bacon era. The area around Tacoma and Kitsap County may not see so much bacon, much of it in the form of military developments, again for a long stretch.

A description in this morning's Roll Call e-mail report: "Dicks, 71, has represented the Olympic Peninsula of Washington since 1977. He is one of the most powerful and influential military hawks in his party and has had the top Democratic seat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee since Jack Murtha died. Like so many others who are retiring this year, he comes from an era when collegiality and bipartisanship were viewed as congressional virtues — not dangerous or disingenuous. In a statement, Dicks summed up his 18-term career by declaring that he was proud of his ability to bridge “the ideological and party lines that tend to separate us, and I have always believed that we can achieve greater results if we leave politics aside when the election season and the floor debates are over.”"

Dicks would have had an easy re-election; he has not had a close contest in a very long time. The new 6th House district generally covers the Olympic peninsula and Kitsap County, plus Gig Harbor and a slice of central Tacoma. Under most conditions, this will be a Democratic district. But there are Republican bases here, and substantial competitive areas - Kitsap is politically marginal, and much of what is Democratic is on the conservative side of Democratic - quite some distance from Seattle Democratic. (In that, Dicks was a realistic mirror of the district.)

Will be highly interesting to see who enters the races, as serious candidates are going to have to do quickly.

Idaho filings

A few thoughts on the well-under-way Idaho candidate filings. Since they're more than a week from completion - the deadline is next Friday - comments here won't reflect what isn't there, only what is.

First, 2nd district U.S. Representative Mike Simpson has a primary, from Idaho Falls resident John K. Baird, an agent at AFLAC insurance. Unclear at the moment how serious this is.

One legislative primary that will be plenty serious is the Senate 8 Republican, for an open seat. House member Steven Thayne, R-Emmett, is running, but so is a former House member, Christian Zimmerman, elected in 1996 and 1998. This could be a hot one.

At least one strong general election contest is in place: In District 6 for the Senate seat to which Republican Dan Johnson was recently appointed. Former District Judge John Bradbury, a well-known figure in the area, is running as a Democrat. This should be a fascinating race.

Three strong races are locked in as well in District 18 in southeast Boise, home to a number of the state's recent closest contests.

More to come.

WW: It’s for Vancouver rail

What, specifically, was the motivation for the massive planned undertaking of rebuilding the Interstate 5 Columbia River bridge? Was the heavy traffic that periodically jams up (but actually is lighter than it was some years back)? Was it bridge deterioration (though other bridges around the region, ad eve in Portland, are in worse shape)?

Willamette Week points out something that most readers (us, unfortunately, among them) of the Oregon Supreme Court's recent decision on the bridge missed: The original motivation for the whole billion-dollar project seems to have been extending light rail from Portland to Vancouver.

In the article "The $2.5 billion bridge," the paper notes, "The massive Interstate 5 bridge and freeway project is a “political necessity” to persuade Clark County residents to accept something they previously didn’t want—a MAX light-rail line from Portland to Vancouver."

Or, from the Court's decision: "It was politically impossible for the light rail project to proceed without also building new interstate bridges across the Columbia River ... Or as Metro later summarized it: ‘There is no light rail without the freeway bridge[s] being replaced.’”