There's a poignant moment for the American political conversation around dinner time on election day. The polls are closing, but the results aren't yet in. Or, more likely, everybody you see on TV already knows the likely result thanks to exit polls, which – in a nutty exercise of misplaced high-mindedness – they don't share with the public. In any event, for politicians and political journalists, there are about 10 seconds when there is truly nothing to say.
An intense national election campaign comes to an end on Tuesday. Below is a summary of the ballot recommendations that The Spokesman-Review editorial board has presented over the past few weeks. The recommendation we make with the greatest conviction, however, is the one that goes to the core of America's political values: Vote.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt are good people, with solid congressional records, who have behaved badly in their campaigns for Murray's Washington Senate seat. Each has distracted the public with attack television ads that dredged up old controversies. Rather than concentrate on issues, Murray has slammed her opponent for moving to Bellevue and called his truthfulness into question for breaking his term-limits promise several years ago. Rather than focus on differences between Washington's senior senator and himself, Nethercutt has hammered away at Murray with a misleading account of comments she made about Osama bin Laden to a high school class.
The contest between Republican Mark Richard and Democrat Bill Burke isn't a clash of ideologies. It's a battle over who best understands the job description. They both want to be the District 2 commissioner for Spokane County, replacing Kate McCaslin, but they have dramatically different ideas on what the job entails. If they were artists, Mark Richard would paint by numbers. Burke would produce abstractions. But the job isn't art; it requires concrete solutions and attention to detail.
For Allison Oler, the severe shortage of influenza vaccine is more than a story on the nightly news. As the mother of three children, she knows that her house will be incapacitated for a week if – or is it when? – the flu arrives. Worse, as a primary-care physician, she has several thousand high-risk patients who are now without an inoculation that could save their lives. Five years ago, there wasn't much interest in the vaccine; now it is more precious than a winning lottery ticket, and its distribution seems just as random. Oler has heard of vaccinations offered at supermarkets, pharmacies and prisons, but her clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School has none.
And finally, the showdown is almost here. After a campaign that feels like it has run for a million years, voters go to the polls Tuesday. Then the lawyers go to court on Wednesday and presto, just four to six short weeks from now, we'll know who's going to lead this country for the next four years.
The vast 7th Legislative District is home to some of the deepest poverty in the state. The region's problems would overwhelm even the most able legislators, but the area cannot begin to turn things around if it continues to look to the past. The two races for state House of Representatives seats underscore that reality. The Position 1 contest is between Republican Bob Sump, a four-term incumbent, and Democrat Jack Miller, the information systems director for Whitworth College. Though the fortunes of his district never improve, Sump has easily won re-election three times. Miller has traveled tirelessly throughout the district and has made a persuasive case for change. He says Sump merely works against the flow in Olympia, failing to embrace the region's daunting realities. Sump has made jobs the centerpiece of his campaign, and he is right about the overly aggressive regulatory nature of the state. Miller agrees on that score. He also agrees that the B&O tax needs reform.
Voters in Washington's 9th Legislative District have a problem of the best kind. On Tuesday they have to pick three state legislators from a field of six candidates who are all bright, articulate, reasoned and astonishingly civil campaigners. But choose they must, and the difference may boil down to experience in and out of office.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – With luck I'll be out of here before the wolves get me. It's been that kind of week. I left the relatively placid environs of Massachusetts – if you don't count the Red Sox – for a trip on assorted bankrupt airlines through assorted undecided states. Here in what is ominously called Ground Zero of this campaign, the airwaves are so full of ads that I am tempted to end every conversation with an Ohioan by saying, "I'm Ellen Goodman and I approve this message."
Throughout the 6th Legislative District, signs for Democrat Laurie Dolan frequently show up in the same yards with Bush-Cheney signs. Dolan, running for the state Senate, is seen as so mainstream that even moderate Republicans feel comfortable supporting her. And several, including retired GOP state Sen. Jerry Saling, have done just that. The retired school administrator gets our recommendation for the seat Spokane Mayor Jim West held for 17 years. Dolan knows her district and the community and not just because of her education career. She was president of downtown Spokane Rotary and was a prime mover behind the West Central Neighborhood Education Team.
Twice, Kootenai County voters have passed a local-option sales tax to pay for a $12 million expansion of the local jail and to provide an equal amount in property tax relief – the second time by a supermajority vote. Now, county commissioners are asking their permission to lobby the Idaho Legislature to expand the legislation to use the half-cent sales tax for projects other than jail expansion. They see the county sales tax as a good way to pay for important projects, such as the purchase of open space or construction of a civic center. They're right. With voter approval, Idaho counties and cities should have the right to levy a sales tax to pay for projects that now are funded by the property tax.
Take a look at a fascinating Web site called Operation Truth ( http://www.optruth.org), which was recently started by a group of military veterans to present the views of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group pledges to educate the American public about the wars in both those countries from the perspective of soldiers who have served there, especially when "political approaches to military operations" cause problems on the front lines.
The Spokane Transit Authority has $13.2 million to spend on preventive maintenance, transit enhancements and bus purchases. If you'd like STA to hold a public hearing on how the money will be used — $10.6 million in federal funds and $2.6 million in local match — you have to let them know in writing before next Sunday. If at least 10 such requests are received, a hearing will be scheduled at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 in the Spokane City Council Chambers. To request a hearing, write to the chairman of the STA Board of Directors, 1230 W. Boone Ave., Spokane, WA 99201.
The race for the state Senate in District 3 pits veteran legislator Lisa Brown against political newcomer Mike Casey, a dentist. Brown is the only Democrat in the state Senate from Eastern Washington. Last session, she served as the minority leader and would be majority leader if Democrats win control of the Senate. In recent years, Eastern Washington could also look to Cathy McMorris and Jim West as legislative leaders, but only Brown remains, and we believe she should be re-elected. She has a record of making sure this region's concerns are met. For example, she helped head off a veto by Gov. Gary Locke that would have cut off funding for the Health Sciences building at Spokane's Riverpoint campus.
DENVER – If a president could improve the economy, he would. If a president could prevent the economy from going into the tank, he would. Just ask Jimmy Carter. If, as president, Carter could have dictated an interest rate in the single digits, he would have – rather than enduring the 16 percent and 18 percent and 20 percent the nation experienced leading up to the president's bid for re-election.