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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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State’s hodgepodge primary system is ignored – until it’s endangered

OLYMPIA – One casualty of the state’s budget woes could be the 2012 presidential preference primary. It’s on the block in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget proposal, and a good fiscal conservative can make the case that these aren’t the times to spend $10 million for a largely symbolic vote. State political leaders were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the presidential primary in 1989 by an initiative. Since that time, state Democratic officials have done everything they could to ignore the primary, while state Republican officials have partially ignored it.

Note to Democrats: Areas with high voter turnout hurt you

Statistics may be for losers, as Scotty Bowman once said. But losers who don’t pay attention to statistics may be destined to keep losing. So it might be wise for Spokane County Democrats to consider statistics from last month’s election that show they lost the courthouse essentially because they did poorly in areas that voted well.

GOP’s anti-Cantwell e-mail at odds with state’s reality

After regular missives for months from the folks at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, things had been quiet for two whole weeks. The group in charge of getting Republicans elected to the Senate didn’t call, they didn’t write, they didn’t text.

Spin Control: Pace of ballot counting sure gets the dander up

One sure sign that fall is easing into winter is that political types are complaining about how long it takes to count ballots in Washington state. This rant usually starts about three days after an election, when the results of most races have been known for two days but a few close contests hang in the balance. This year, the main target of the whining is a state Supreme Court race, which on Friday was still somewhat in doubt.

Election season had smears, jeers, memorable moments

With the 2010 election all over but the counting – admittedly the counting still is important in a few races – it seems appropriate to look back over the campaign. It was an avalanche of nasty ads, debates over debates, commercials and visits from out-of-state big shots played out against a backdrop of voters worried about their next paycheck, house payment or bag of groceries. And that’s looking at things as an optimist. Maybe the best that can be said about it is, it’s over. But before it fades from memory, here are some of the highlights and lowlifes of Campaign 2010.

Forcing transparency of PACs would be sound step forward

Here’s a modest proposal on campaign finance reform that might meet constitutional muster with the U.S. Supreme Court: Let’s have a truth-in-labeling law that requires political committees to say what they really are up to. Democrats got in trouble last week – potentially big enough trouble to void an election – while playing the old “hide the hit money behind nice-sounding PACs” game in a Snohomish County legislative race. They’re facing sanctions for deliberately not reporting the money and hiding the donors to a conservative state Senate candidate, all part of an effort to whipsaw a moderate incumbent Democrat the unions didn’t like.

Spin Control: Mr. President, welcome to Spokane

After President Barack Obama stopped in a Seattle neighborhood for a “backyard conversation,” the Washington State Republican Party complained that this was nothing but a political event for which Sen. Patty Murray’s re-election campaign should be charged. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. The 35 or so folks gathered in the Wedgwood backyard were polite – “Seattle nice” was the phrase some local reporters used – and while several said their questions weren’t pre-approved by White House staff, many prefaced their remarks with praise for what he’s done or thanks for coming to town.

Voters’ take on Senate debate only one that really matters

One of the downsides of being a panelist in a political debate is that people always ask “Who won?” That happened after Thursday’s debate between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi, and my answer was: “I don’t know.”

If voters pass both liquor sales initiatives, heads will spin

Getting the state out of the liquor business is such a popular idea that voters have two chances to do it in the Nov. 2 election. Based on their ballot titles, Initiatives 1100 and 1105 may seem close enough that anyone in favor of state-operated liquor stores could reasonably vote no on both.

Spin Control: Enough already with oohs, aahs over young vote

After listening to decades of hype about young voters, I have a request. Don’t bug me about Rock the Vote, unless it’s something akin to “Rock Around the Clock” the Vote. You got a program for Swing the Vote or Jitterbug the Vote or even Charleston the Vote, I’ll listen. They’re the ones who vote.

Spin Control: Cooler head prevails in voter fraud probe

Mention “voter fraud” and the politically righteous thunder how it won’t be tolerated. How nothing is more important than protecting the ballot. How only the lowest of the low – usually connected with the opposing party – would stoop to such a thing. So when elections officials fingered a Stevens County man this spring for voting twice in 2008, the system swung into action. A sheriff’s detective interviewed Alan Christensen about the fact that his signature appeared to be on documents for two ballots, one in Washington and one in Oregon.

Spin Control: So far, Rossi stiff-arming Didier on pledge

Clint Didier, who placed third in last month’s U.S. Senate primary, released a long letter to supporters last week explaining why he still can’t endorse fellow Republican Dino Rossi, who finished second. Although from the letter, one might argue that Didier doesn’t consider Rossi a fellow Republican, at least not until Rossi makes certain statements about taxes, federal spending and abortion. By trying to dictate terms, Didier is putting Rossi in a very strange position.

Spin Control: Look at law can calm fuss over ballot waiver

Have you heard that lunkheads in Washington state are trying to take away that most precious right of our brave men and women dodging bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan? And that those Commie pinkos in the federal government are going to let them because it will help Democrats win some tight races in November? Or something like that. It gets better – or worse – with each retelling of the reports that Washington state was granted a waiver from the federal law requiring military and overseas voters to be sent their ballots a month and a half before an election.

Rossi campaign waged losing battle over veterans

OLYMPIA – Candidates with at least half a brain rarely pick a fight they cannot win. So it seemed odd last week when a Seattle television station reported Dino Rossi was challenging Sen. Patty Murray on veterans issues and alleging the federal government was “spending recklessly” on veterans programs. Not only does Murray have a campaign commercial with a slew of veterans singing her praises, but she has a reputation for actually working on an issue to which most members of Congress merely pay lip service. It’s a recognized strength, sort of like recruiting point guards at Gonzaga.

Let the annual finger-pointing begin

OLYMPIA – There are two relatively famous quotes that come to mind as the Legislature rumbles toward opening day Monday. One is the standard axiom that no man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the Legislature is in session. That line has probably been uttered in every state capital since it was written down by Gideon Tucker in 1866.

Spin Control’s Christmas trivia quiz

In honor of the holidays, Spin Control usually lays off politics to brighten our readers’ spirits with the annual Christmas Quiz. It’s a tradition that dates at least to the last time Christmas was on a Sunday and there were no good topics for a political column. It’s also a chance to mix a bit of cheer with political trivia. For those who think Christmas and politics don’t mix, they obviously aren’t getting all the e-mails I get from elected officials. They all wish you the very best these holidays, by the way.

Verdict: Judge is no carpetbagger

When someone hurls a political slur during campaign season, it’s probably too much to expect for the slur-slinger to get it right. But still … In an e-mail to constituents last week, Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple explained his endorsements for various city offices. No big deal there. As long as he doesn’t use city equipment – which he didn’t – Apple is as entitled to an opinion as everyone else.

Study finds early campaigner catches the older voter

Note to candidates and campaign managers: If you’re going after voters in the upcoming election, you may want to target seniors early and hit the Gen Ys after Halloween. At least in Spokane County. That’s one of the conclusions of a new study by Eastern Washington University’s Kevin Pirch, who analyzed last year’s voting patterns and found some things that go against conventional wisdom.

Obama citizenship ‘settled’ for McMorris Rodgers

Bad news for “birthers,” those people who think Barack Obama isn’t legally president because he wasn’t born in the United States: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers isn’t on your side. Birthers may have briefly harbored hope – and people who think the whole idea is crazy may have arched an eyebrow – about two weeks ago when the Eastern Washington Republican gave a wishy-washy answer to a blogger from the Huffington Post while hurrying up the Capitol steps.

Buck Knives nervous about Customs language

There’s a switchblade fight going on in Congress. Depending on who wins, North Idaho could bleed jobs. This is not some latter-day version of the Sharks and the Jets, minus the choreography. It’s even nastier, because it takes place in an even more dangerous neighborhood: federal regulations.