May 22, 2008 in Voices

Eugster can’t wait to get on the road again

Richard Roesler The Spokesman-Review
 

OLYMPIA – Last week, I wrote about former Spokane city councilman Steve Eugster’s Supreme Court battle to save his law license from suspension over his alleged betrayal of an elderly client.

Eugster says he was just trying to protect a longtime acquaintance who’d apparently become incompetent to manage her own affairs.

Unmentioned in the story – but mentioned in court – was Eugster’s dream for the next phase of his life: to be a long-haul trucker.

This wasn’t news. S-R humor columnist Doug Clark delightedly poked fun at the plan last year. But Eugster, who turned 64 last week, isn’t kidding. He’s now gotten his commercial driver’s license and runs a blog called High Plains Trucking.

On it, he writes about his dream of an “austere” life on the road. In an April post, Eugster described watching a truck wend its way south on U.S. 195:

“I stood in the field and watched as the driver piloted his rig down the road. He would be in Lewiston by dusk,” he wrote. “… I imagined myself behind the wheel. Easy, intentional, feeling everything, outside of myself.”

Eugster’s actually done some long-haul driving recently, helping pilot a friend’s large auto hauler between California and Spokane.

“It was hard work but I loved every minute of it,” Eugster wrote last November. “What a fine change from practicing law for over 37 years.”

Speaking of courts …

Human Life Washington, a pro-life group with chapters throughout the state, is challenging a law requiring it to disclose donors for a planned ad campaign against assisted suicide.

With the Death-With-Dignity Initiative 1000 getting close to getting on the fall ballot, the group says, it’s a good time for a fundraising appeal, phone calls and radio ads about the topic. But unless such speech is directly campaign-related, the group says, its donors are nobody’s business.

“Because physician-assisted suicide is now especially in the public awareness and debate, people are particularly receptive to arguments about the issue,” reads the group’s motion, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Key to the case is a 9th District ruling last year. In it, the federal appeals court struck down similar rules in California, saying they were too broad for “informational” messages.

I-1000 proponents say it’s hair-splitting. With the measure likely on the ballot in November, the group’s ads are de facto campaigning, they say. The lawsuit, they add, is just an attempt to keep voters in the dark about who’s paying.

And that who, I-1000 campaign manager Alex Morgan says, is likely to be the Catholic Church. In other states with similar measures, he said, the church spent hundreds of thousands of dollars opposing them.

A hearing in Seattle is slated for early June.

Gregoire to teachers: ‘This is a team sport …’

As my colleague Meghann Cuniff reported, Gov. Chris Gregoire was in Spokane last week to speak to the annual convention of the Washington Education Association, the state teachers union.

Before her speech, Gregoire met with members of the union’s political arm.

“You know, I’m getting a lot of guff, OK, for having spent money that I did,” Gregoire told them. “Do you know where most of that money went, don’t you?”

The answer, of course, is education.

“Right. So I need your help in that regard,” she told the group. “This is not a one-man band. This is a team sport that we’re in.”

In December, a high-powered legislative task force is expected to issue its recommendations for a simpler school funding formula – and likely more money for schools. The critical question remains, however: how to come up with more cash when the economy’s lagging?

Part of the answer may come next month, when Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson says she’ll unveil a school-funding proposal.

New poll numbers: Gregoire’s support growing

A May 12 phone poll of 500 likely voters in Washington suggests that “the re-election prospects for Washington Governor Christine Gregiore (D) have improved significantly over the past two months” according to pollster Rasmussen Reports.

The poll shows Gregoire leading Republican challenger Dino Rossi by 11 points, 52 percent to 41 percent. In March, the same poll showed a tie: Gregoire’s 47 percent to Rossi’s 46.

But maybe Rossi can take heart from this: On the same day that Rasmussen’s data arrived, so did a survey by legal site Findlaw.com.

Findlaw wanted to know how much stock voters put in polls. The results suggest that people generally believe the results. But they also suggest that, well, nobody cares.

From Findlaw’s poll-results summary:

“… A large percentage of Americans do not pay attention to the results of political polls and the vast majority of Americans say the polls have little or no influence on how they vote.”

Local campaigning roundup

•After months of fundraising and preparation, Spokane Republican Kevin Parker “officially kicked off” his campaign for Democratic state Rep. Don Barlow’s seat last week in Spokane. Among his supporters: former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt. Parker says the event raised $10,000.

As the clock ticks down to the now-in-August primary, Parker’s in an interesting Round 1 race against fellow Republican Mel Lindauer. Parker’s campaigning as a high-energy businessman; Lindauer as someone who can work with the statehouse’s large Democratic majority.

•Speaking of Nethercutt, he also has endorsed Diana Wilhite, one of several Republicans running for the Spokane-Valley-area seat of retiring Rep. Lynn Schindler, R-Otis Orchards.

•One of the two Democrats facing off to challenge Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane, this fall will kick off her election campaign on her birthday. Linda Thompson, executive director of the Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council for 15 years, is holding a campaign kickoff on May 29. (She’ll be 55.) The other Democrat in the race is Judi Owens, who filed all the way back in September.


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