Archives for April 2006
Finkbeiner’s sudden retirement puts state GOP in a world of hurt
It’s a sunny day, and I’ve got tons of little errands to run, but I just wanted to post a few additional comments on 45th LD Sen. Bill Finkbeiner’s announcement that he would not run for reelection, and Rep. Toby Nixon’s announcement that he would vacate his seat in an attempt to replace him.
Big picture, the state GOP was already in a world of hurt, and this now gives them two more open seats to defend. Ouch. The Republicans now have three open Senate seats, with Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer the odds on favorite to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Oke in the 27th, and both the 45th and 47th having a history of electing Democrats.
Changing demographics continue to chip away at Republican support in suburban districts. Combine this with a spate of retirements and the current political climate, and the Democrats have a good shot at expanding their majority in the House and capturing a comfortable working majority in the State Senate for the first time since 1992.
Back to Finkbeiner, I’m sure there were a lot of personal and political reasons for his retirement. His vote in favor of the anti-discrimination bill couldn’t have helped him with the most active segment of the Republican base — the right wing — and no doubt it is time for him to pursue other interests.
But Democratic challenger Eric Oemig deserves at least some of the credit for pushing him out of the race. Finkbeiner’s heart just didn’t seem to be in it, and on top of all his other problems he was now facing a tough challenge from a strong candidate who was willing to spend his personal wealth to stay dollar competitive. Had Finkbeiner faced only token opposition, I’m guessing inertia might have kept him in the race, but you gotta think the prospect of all that fundraising and campaigning factored into his decision. Which proves once again that when Dems put up legitimate challengers, even against relatively strong incumbents… good things can happen.
And how do the Senate Dems thank Oemig for his help? By trying to replace him with another candidate with greater name ID, of course.
Both current Rep. Larry Springer and former Rep. (and failed candidate for SOS and state party chair) Laura Ruderman are being urged to step in… and to be fair, the political calculus is defensible. Last I heard, neither seemed all that willing to jump in, but either would present Nixon with a strong challenge.
While Nixon is good on some issues (labor and the environment come to mind) he is completely out of step with the district on social issues like the anti-discrimination bill and reproductive rights. He has also been a bit of an obstructionist on transportation issues, and a downright frothing partisan on election reform. Oemig, Ruderman and Springer are all more closely matched to the district than Nixon, but the latter two have already proven they can win office.
My personal choice would be for Springer to run for the Senate against Nixon, and for Oemig to move to one of the two House seats that would now be open. This gives the Dems a more experienced candidate gunning for the Senate, while Oemig might be unbeatable going for the House.
A first time candidate like Oemig unbeatable? Well, the Republicans will have a tough enough time recruiting two strong House candidates at this late stage, and Oemig’s personal wealth will surely scare off potential opponents assured of being substantially outspent. If I were a GOP hopeful, I’d go for the other seat, and thus chances are, Oemig would draw the weaker of the two opponents.
Of course, all this is speculation. Neither party has yet to recruit new candidates, and when we last spoke Oemig said he was still running for the Senate. But Finkbeiner’s sudden retirement certainly leaves the GOP in a much weaker position.
Which brings up an interesting question: why did Finkbeiner wait so long to announce his intentions, knowing that it would put his party in such difficult circumstances?
Only Finkbeiner can answer that question, but one can’t help but wonder if it was a symbolic, parting gesture to a party with which he never really seemed to fully fit in.
Daily open thread
Sen. Maria Cantwell will be on Face the Nation Sunday morning, 8:30 am KIRO TV-7.
Anybody who says that Sen. Cantwell isn’t a strong leader, didn’t just watch her segment facing off with Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on energy policy. Cantwell made no bones about what needs to be done: protect consumers from price gouging in the short term, while immediately and aggressively developing a long term energy infrastructure based on alternative technologies.
Oh… and it was comforting to see that even Murkowski thought the GOP’s proposed $100.00 tax credit was a joke.
Driving Mr. Duke
A few days ago, it was just another DC sex scandal. But now it looks like we may have a congressional Watergate on our hands.
Federal authorities are investigating allegations that a California defense contractor arranged for a Washington area limousine company to provide prostitutes to convicted former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and possibly other lawmakers, sources familiar with the probe said yesterday.
In recent weeks, investigators have focused on possible dealings between Christopher D. Baker, president of Shirlington Limousine and Transportation Inc., and Brent R. Wilkes, a San Diego businessman who is under investigation for bribing Cunningham in return for millions of dollars in federal contracts, said one source, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Baker has a criminal record and has experienced financial difficulties, public records show. Last fall, his company was awarded a $21 million contract with the Department of Homeland Security to provide transportation, including limo service for senior officials.
Homeland Security spokesman Larry Orluskie said the department does not routinely conduct background checks on its contractors.
Yeah, that’s right… the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t routinely conduct background checks of contractors hired to cart around high level government officials. As Georgia10 points out on Daily Kos, that’s a scandal in itself.
But it’s gonna be fun to see which other congressmen are caught up in this prostitution ring.
Daily open thread
Well, I might as well mention Rush Limbaugh’s arrest, since apparently that’s all anybody here wants to talk about.
Be afraid, dear Blethens
I don’t much care for the political direction of the Seattle Times editorial board under Frank Blethen, but I’m willing to give his son Ryan (his heir apparent) the benefit of the doubt.
Ryan recently joined the Times as an editorial columnist after a stint as a regional editor at the family-owned Press Herald and Sunday Telegram in Portland, Maine. While I’ll reserve judgement on Ryan’s skills as a writer, I’m at least relieved to find him coming across as thoughtful, curious and open-minded. For example, his column today on the newspaper industry’s circulation woes was somewhat self-critical.
There are many gloomy predictions about newspapers in the cyber world. Frequently, these predictions of the newspaper’s demise are sent in the form of nasty e-mails that ooze with joy at the irrelevance of the MSM. (MSM is not a news division at Microsoft, but the mainstream media.)
Those radical conservative and grass-roots liberal bloggers who trumpet their hatred for the press, on which they rely for vitriol, are wrong about the fall of newspapers. It has nothing to do with being too liberal or too conservative. It has to do with our treatment of readers, no matter their political stripe.
First of all, I’d like to assure Ryan that I’m not one of those bloggers who hates newspapers. On the contrary, I love newspapers. I don’t subscribe to any, but I read bits and pieces of dozens of papers a day… including the Seattle Times. I’ve had the privilege of meeting dozens of reporters and columnists, and I genuinely like almost every single one of them. (And I don’t mean to offend any of them, but I now kinda, sorta consider myself a journalist too.)
In fact, I love daily newspapers so much, that I desperately hope Seattle manages to support two of them… regardless of the physical medium on which they are published.
So I hope Ryan takes my comments in the constructive spirit in which they are offered, for I really do want our local papers to succeed and prosper and expand their newsrooms so that they can continue to fill the crucial role they play in a functioning democracy.
But in his analysis, I think Ryan got it only half right. He’s absolutely dead-on when he talks about building relationships with readers and reestablishing public trust. But he misses the point entirely if he thinks the problem lies with technological interlopers like Google News.
Essentially, Google News is hijacking news with no compensation to newspapers. The search engines then get credit for the entire news-gathering and presentation process. A lot of online news reader say they get their news from Google or Yahoo!
An inconvenient truth
The biggest blockbuster movie of the summer won’t be M-i-III or United 93 or even the Da Vinci Code. Sure, they may draw a little more audience, but the biggest film this summer, in terms of impact, is going to be a documentary based on a lecture by a former politician with a reputation for being dry and stiff.
Of course, I’m talking about Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
The movie’s trailer (which I strongly urge you to watch) bills itself as “By far, the most terrifying film you will ever see.” And I don’t believe that is a typical, Hollywood overstatement.
The film is based on Gore’s touring presentation on global warming, which I had the privilege to attend a few weeks back in Seattle. Frankly, I was stunned, not so much by the scientific research — I already knew most of that — but by the way Gore so compellingly connected the dots to drive home the full impact of our impending global climate crisis.
An Inconvenient Truth has the potential to change minds and move people to action, and thus deserves all the hype it can get. It opens May 24 in select markets, and Friday June 2 in Seattle. The film’s website asks you to pledge to see the movie on the opening weekend, and I’d like to try to organize a group here in Seattle.
The film will be playing at The Guild 45th and the AMC Pacific Place. (I’ll post show times as soon as I have them.) Please let me know in the comment thread, or via email, if you’re interested in joining me.
Richard Cohen describes the film:
Boring Al Gore has made a movie. It is on the most boring of all subjects — global warming. It is more than 80 minutes long and the first two or three go by slowly enough so that you can notice that Gore has gained weight and that his speech still seems oddly out of sync. But a moment later, I promise, you will be captivated, and then riveted, and then scared out of your wits. Our Earth is going to hell in a hand basket.
You will see the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps melting. You will see Greenland oozing into the sea. You will see the atmosphere polluted with greenhouse gases that block heat from escaping. You will see photos from space of what the ice caps looked like once and what they look like now and, in animation, you will see how high the oceans might rise. Shanghai and Calcutta swamped. Much of Florida, too. The water takes a hunk of New York. The fuss about what to do with Ground Zero will turn naught. It will be under water.
Eyman’s anti-gay referendum unlikely to qualify for the ballot
I couldn’t go to bed without briefly commenting on the latest news from our state’s best known professional blowhard.
Supporters of an effort to overturn the state’s new gay civil-rights law sent out an e-mail Wednesday saying they’ve collected just a fraction of the signatures needed to get the measure to voters.
Tim Eyman sent the e-mail to supporters and the media, saying that only 8,718 signatures have been gathered. He needs 112,440 valid voter signatures by June 7 to get Referendum 65 on the November ballot.
Hmm. What to think?
Well, on the one hand, knowing what I know about Eyman’s organization (or lack thereof), it really wouldn’t surprise me to learn that R-65’s signature gathering efforts have been so anemic. But on the other hand… Timmy’s a pathological liar.
Further complicating the analysis is the fact that Eyman’s email touting his dismal performance is entirely out of character. Indeed, his usual M.O. is to flood supporters with upbeat proclamations that he’s “never seen this much excitement before,” but urging everyone to work (and give) harder because it always takes a “Herculean effort” to get any initiative on the ballot. Such guarded pollyannaisms are Tim’s norm, regardless of a measure’s actual public support.
I suppose it is possible this latest email could be a clever feint, but I fail to see the tactical advantage of portraying his campaign as weaker than it really is, and besides… Timmy isn’t really all that clever. So in the absence of even the tiniest scrap of evidence that the R-65 signature drive is gaining any traction whatsoever (you know, like actual people gathering actual signatures)… I’m going to have to reluctantly take Eyman at his word.
So… absent a sudden, six-figure infusion of cash, R-65 doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of making it onto the ballot.
Let’s look at the numbers. To qualify for the ballot Eyman must collect 112,440 signatures by June 7, but not all these will be valid. The Secretary of State recommends a cushion of 25 percent, but let’s be generous and say Tim can get by with only 10 percent, for a minimum target of 124,000 signatures.
As of yesterday, Eyman claimed to have collected only 8,718 signatures, while hateful, nutcase preacher Joe Fuiten claimed to have another 2,900. That left them about 112,000 shy of their target with only 42 days before the deadline. To put this in perspective, they’re now less than one-tenth towards their goal, more than halfway through the 90-day signature gathering period.
To qualify for the ballot, the R-65 campaign would have to collect about 2,700 signatures a day, 7 days a week, from now until June 7… not necessarily an impossible task if you can afford to hire an army of paid signature gatherers.
But Tim can’t.
For the past couple years, Timmy has essentially been a kept man, financing his campaigns (and his lifestyle) primarily through the generous support of one Michael Dunmire of Woodenville. His latest $30 Car Tab initiative is flush with Dunmire cash, but R-65… not so much. Eyman claims to have raised only $13,000 thus far, but most of this actually consists of loans from him and the Fagans. In fact, as of March 31, R-65 had raised only $1041.01 in cash contributions.
So what we’re looking at here is an all volunteer signature drive, a difficult endeavor under the best of circumstances, and something Eyman has never organized. I suppose the strategy, so to speak, was to rely on conservative church groups to gather signatures, and I guess the hope was that the effort would somehow organize itself spontaneously.
But with the exception of those rare ballot measures that simply catch fire, successful signature drives require either an immense amount of planning and organization, or an immense amount of money… and Eyman has neither. The truth is, without Dunmire’s money, Eyman brings little to the table other than a knack for garnering undeserved media attention, and a hateful measure like R-65 requires a helluva lot more resources than that.
Daily open thread
11 ranking Members of the United States House of Representatives will be filing a law suit in U.S. District court on Friday, The BRAD BLOG has learned, seeking a permanent injunction of “Deficit Reduction Act” which George W. Bush signed into law on February 8th of this year, despite its not having passed both houses of Congress.
Gee. I guess President Bush never watched Schoolhouse Rock.
Ride with Peter Goldmark
Now, maybe I’m just talking out of my ass here, but I can’t help but think that this is the perfect Democrat to run in Eastern Washington.
Former GOPolitburo chair Chris Vance seems to think the Dems are merely running a hat for Congress, but in Peter Goldmark we’ve got ourselves a genuine cowboy with an impressive resume, who clearly shares the values of his community.
This race won’t be easy, but if Goldmark raises money, runs strong and catches a 1994 like wave, he can make Cathy McMorris a one-termer.
Finkbeiner out? [UPDATE: Finkbeiner out!]
I don’t generally like to print rumors until I’ve confirmed them, but this one is too hot to wait for my calls to be returned.
Word is that State Sen. Bill Finkbeiner (45th LD) will not run for reelection this November, and that Rep. Toby Nixon will run to replace him. I called Sen. Finkbeiner’s office, and the woman I spoke to seemed surprised, but did not outright deny it, and promised to get back to me quickly with an official response.
Meanwhile, I just got off the phone with Democratic challenger Eric Oemig, and he assured me that he was staying in the senate race, regardless of who his opponent is:
“It’s never been about Fink. This is about making Washington stronger, and making politics better.”
I’ll update when I get confirmation one way or the other.
Rep. Toby Nixon responds:
“My understanding is that the Senator plans to issue a press release on this issue at 11AM. I’ve been quite public with my intentions: if he does not run for re-election, then I will run for the senate seat.”
“The first word that comes to mind when I think about representing my district in the Legislature is “grateful’,” said Finkbeiner, who was first elected to the House of Representatives fourteen years ago. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve in the Legislature, but at this time my family and I have agreed that the time is right to step aside and give someone else an opportunity to represent the district as Senator while I turn my attention to a career outside of politics.”
Darcy Burner tops list of DCCC “Red-to-Blue” candidates
According to Roll Call, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has chosen the first batch of 22 House challengers for inclusion in their coveted Red-to-Blue program… and looky whose name is at the top of the list:
Darcy Burner (Wash. 8th)
Phyllis Busansky (Fla. 9th)
Francine Busby (Calif. 50th)
Joe Courtney (Conn. 2nd)
John Cranley (Ohio 1st)
Jill Derby (Nev. 2nd)
Tammy Duckworth (Ill. 6th)
Brad Ellsworth (Ind. 8th)
Diane Farrell (Conn. 4th)
Steve Filson (Calif. 11th)
Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y. 20th)
Tessa Hafen (Nev. 3rd)
Baron Hill (Ind. 9th)
Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio 15th)
Ron Klein (Fla. 22nd)
Ken Lucas (Ky. 4th)
Patricia Madrid (N.M. 1st)
Harry Mitchell (Ariz. 5th)
Chris Murphy (Conn. 5th)
Lois Murphy (Pa. 6th)
Heath Shuler (N.C. 11th)
Peter Welch (Vt. At-large)
Of course, Darcy Burner is at the top, because the list is in alphabetical order, but the fact that she made it at all is both an indicator of how seriously the DCCC is now taking WA-08, and a tribute to Burner’s hard work and natural talents. Burner has proven to DC insiders what she believed all along… that she’s the perfect candidate to represent her district.
This is a big deal. A few short months ago both parties were writing off this race. Now, thanks in part to the netroots-fueled fundraising surge that helped Burner blow past her first quarter targets, the Reichert campaign is running scared and the DCCC is committing significant resources into the district.
“This is an exclusive program that rewards the candidates who and campaigns that are most skilled, not only at raising money on their own, but at getting their message across to the voters they hope to represent,” [DCCC chairman Rep. Rahm] Emanuel explained in the memo.
In the 2004 cycle, two dozen Red-to-Blue candidates each took in about $250,000 in additional donations thanks to the program, but the DCCC promises that this year’s effort will be even bigger, with the program launching earlier in the cycle and many more candidates expected to participate.
The Roll Call piece goes on to specifically mention nationally hyped Red-to-Blue races like Francine Busby’s bid to replace the disgraced Duke Cunningham in CA-50 and Tammy Duckworth’s race to succeed the retiring Henry Hyde in IL-6. But as I noted the other day, the highly respected Rothenberg Political Report now ranks the Reichert-Burner race as more competitive than either of those two high profile contests.
In addition to direct financial aid and support, the Red-to-Blue candidates names will be circulated to donors across the nation. Burner will also be paired with a Democratic Member of Congress for “mentoring.”
Mentors, [Rep. Adam] Schiff stressed, are chosen carefully. They essentially enter into contractual agreements, pledging to visit their prot
Daily open thread
Mike Brown gets a heckuva job.
Drinking Liberally Burien (and Tacoma)
The Burien chapter of Drinking Liberally meets tonight, and the 4th Wednesday of every month, 7 PM, at Mick Kelly’s Irish Pub, 435 SW 152nd ST. And… I’ll be there!
Yeah, I know… who cares about me? But they actually have some real guests lined up, including State Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz, and State Reps. Shay Schual-Berke (33rd LD) and Joe McDermott (34th LD). I’ve asked Sandeep to show up with a headset and microphone, just to put a fright into Dwight.
And if you’re a little further south, stop by the Tacoma chapter instead, which meets tonight and every Wednesday, 8 PM at Meconi’s Pub, 709 Pacific Ave.
Podcasting Liberally… with Joel Connelly
Thank God Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly joined us once again last night, otherwise our panel of Podcasting Liberally regulars would have drowned in our own mediocrity. (Not to mention our beer.)
Joining Joel and me (Goldy) in our weekly, ethanol-fueled punditry was Mollie, Will, Gavin and Carl.Topic’s of discussion included former VA Governor (and possible presidential candidate) Mark Warner, current King County Executive (and possible cabinet appointee) Ron Sims, former insurance industry lobbyist (and future insurance industry lobbyist) Mike McGavick, plus mass transit, gas prices, the Iraq war, global warming and other trivial stuff like that.
The show is 57:09, and is available here as a 35.7 MB MP3. Please visit PodcastingLiberally.com for complete archives and RSS feeds.
[Recorded live at the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. Special thanks to Confab creators Gavin and Richard for producing the show.]
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