Blue Crush - 2008 Election Results

by JOEL SMITH, TED S. McGREGOR JR., KEVIN TAYLOR, DANIEL WALTERS, NICHOLAS DESHAIS, JACOB H. FRIES and JAMES HAGENGRUBER & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t says something, perhaps, about the historic nature of this year's election that Barack Obama's mention of David Plouffe elicited a more deafening roar from the crowd of nearly half a million gathered to hear his acceptance speech in Chicago's Grant Park than did his reference to Joe Biden. But then, it wasn't the senior senator who won Obama Colorado, Virginia and Nevada. It was Plouffe -- the campaign's manager -- and strategist David Axelrod who executed the brilliant, savvy and utterly innovative campaign that granted Obama the presidency on Tuesday. Even the hungry horde knew that.

And how could they have missed it? Though things remained agonizingly close in the opening hours of election results Tuesday night, the minute Obama scored Ohio, it became abundantly clear that this was a rout. The West Coast alone would push him over 270 Electoral College votes. The rest -- New Mexico, Florida, and other states that nobody dreamed a Democrat could seize -- would be piling on. "This basically has shattered the electoral map," New Mexico governor Bill Richardson told Tom Brokaw.

It took a historic political organization -- multi-platform, even-tempered, massively broad -- to seize such a historic victory.

Of course, that word -- "historic" -- has nearly lost its coin by now. Bloggers, pundits and everyday citizens have been calling this "the most important election in history" since before the primaries began. And, in their defense, they had good reasons. That a mixed-race candidate with an Arabic name and a background that reaches from Hawaii to Kenya to Jakarta has ascended to the highest seat in the land is a story almost too wonderfully outlandish to believe. As Obama proclaimed in his acceptance speech, "If there is anyone who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he weirdness of our democracy, he could've said. In an election that featured so many reversals, surprise turns and historic firsts, race is only the most obvious oddity. Aside from being the country's first African-American president, Obama will also be the fifth-youngest president (between Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland) and only the third senator to ever become president (after John F. Kennedy and Warren Harding). Indeed, this election pitted two senators against each other for the first time in American history. It was also the first time in 80 years that no sitting president or VP has been running and the first time since Monroe that the country has elected a president after two straight two-term presidents.

The Republican ticket was equally historic. At 72, John McCain would have been the oldest president ever (Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was inaugurated). His running mate would have been the first female vice president. And she was already the first Alaskan to run on a major ticket.

The campaign itself was also historically long, reaching back as early as 2003, when Hillary Clinton first hinted at a 2008 run, then to March of 2006, when the results of the first Republican primary straw poll were announced.

The long campaign, pundits say, worked to Obama's advantage, giving the relatively inexperienced candidate time to lay out his case to the nation. It also allowed him to amass over $600 million, which is more than the combined war chests of all candidates in the 2000 election. The senator from Illinois broke one monthly record after another, attracting over three million small donors, energizing young voters and using the Internet like no candidate before.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & o it was a long, weird, difficult election. You could see that in the tired, teary eyes of John McCain as he delivered his concession speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. "We fought as hard as we could," he told a small congregation of invited supporters. "And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours."

You could also sense in Obama's voice the relief that comes at the end of a two-year-old fight. "Sasha and Malia," he said to his daughters in Chicago, "you have more than earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House."

But it's hardly going to be all puppies and playtime for Obama come January. Just look at the eye-popping list of seemingly intractable problems in the Oval Office's in-box. The next president may face a $1 trillion operating deficit, and we already have a $10 trillion national debt. Then there are three ongoing wars -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and against Terror -- and two major international headaches coming from Russia and Iran. Success will be hard to come by over the next four years; the situation has one-term-and-out written all over it.

A good strategy for success will be to look back to Franklin Roosevelt, who took over during similarly dark times. Along with tackling the issues via the New Deal, Roosevelt became the nation's cheerleader-in-chief. His fireside chats, over time, lifted the spirits of a beaten nation to the point when America could rise again, stronger than ever.

Obama needs to rebuild confidence in our institutions. Earning back America's trust will only come one step at a time. But confidence starts with competence -- no more experiments with self-regulation on Wall Street or putting the likes of "Brownie" in charge of FEMA.

And the world needs to have confidence in us, too. There's been a lot of talk about how the Republican "brand" is broken; America's brand is tattered, too. If we are to lead the world's economic turnaround -- as it is clear the world is looking for us to do -- we need to start living all those platitudes we hear during elections. Freedom and democracy. Opportunity and equality.

Using the leadership style of an FDR or a Ronald Reagan, Obama would be able to connect with citizens of America and the world because they are hungry for a sense of optimism. And nothing will do that more powerfully than symbolism. And there's a giant one located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Simply by closing that symbol of an America set adrift from its ethical moorings, a very important page will be turned.

Both candidates ran as an agent for change in our politics, and again the opportunity for symbolism is ripe. In the appointment of a cabinet, presidents generally stack the deck with their friends -- the folks who already agree with them. This president might be better served to hearken back to Abe Lincoln, who populated the cabinet with the best people he could find -- including some bitter political enemies -- all asked to come together in the nation's time of need. A government led by a coalition of the two parties would speak more about change than any speech.

Of course there are very real, very specific issues to deal with as well. There will be a window of opportunity for the next president to bring some big changes in his first year, and health care reform will be at the very top of the list. The country is choking on the skyrocketing costs of health care, and the system needed fixing 15 years ago. The related issue of entitlements -- what the government will be on the hook for as all those baby boomers retire -- is a ticking time bomb that needs defusing, too. Others include fixing our failing infrastructure, refocusing our education system so we can compete with the world and reforming our government so money can't buy favors or kill progress.

But there are even more grave challenges. We're facing profound questions about the future of the human race: global warming that can melt ice caps and cause massive upheavals; economic collapse that can lead to more poverty and suffering; and international turmoil that can lead to war, even nuclear war. Navigating these make-or-break decisions wisely will take the smartest people we can find; a focused, apolitical effort; and, ultimately, leadership of the kind we hope we have just elected.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "T & lt;/span & he road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep," Obama told the gathered crowd at Grant Park on Tuesday. "There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree."

After eight years under the rule of a "decider" who has eschewed wise advice and objective recommendations and has -- not coincidentally -- steered the country toward economic, environmental and military disaster, these were some of the most refreshing words Obama could've uttered. Whether he will stick to his promise will be seen in the coming months and years. But it took unconventional means to bring Barack Obama to this strange moment in history, and it will take unconventional thinking to lead us toward a brighter future.

"This victory alone is not the change we seek," he said Tuesday night. "It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were."


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ANALYSIS: What Happened?

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & Y & lt;/span & ou can't win a marathon with a bag of rocks strapped to your back, and it's the same for a presidential candidate bearing the weight of George W. Bush's failed presidency. John McCain made mistakes of his own, too, especially in throwing a Hail Mary pass to Sarah Palin. And his scattershot campaign failed to deliver a consistent message, ultimately hoping Joe the Plumber could win it.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama ran a nearly perfect campaign, transcending some of the peskiest prejudices we face every election season. Smartest of all, perhaps, was his middle class tax cut, which erased that old standby Republican critique -- that Democrats will raise your taxes.

The question of the election was whether America could break from its partisan past -- a history defined by both Bushes and Clintons -- and embrace change. On Election Day, America answered: "Yes we can."

-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.

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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "I & lt;/span & come from Iowa where you had to register as a Democrat or a Republican. The woman doing the registration knew my family and said, 'Oh, Donnie Head! You're registering as a Republican.'"

Don Head -- an infantryman captured by the Germans in World War II and former special agent for the Spokane office of the FBI -- laughs at the memory of a chatty small-town registrar signing him up for the GOP without asking his preference.

"I always voted Democrat. I remember voting absentee for FDR in World War II. I haven't missed a vote that I know of ... except maybe when I was in prison camp," says the 83-year-old Head, who was captured in the Battle of the Bulge.

"Just because John McCain is a former prisoner of war like I was doesn't make me want to vote for him. He talks heavy ... carries a big stick. He's too militaristic."

As a man who experienced the dark side of war first hand, Head is impressed with Obama's foreign policy stance. "Obama is willing to sit down with people who are enemies and talk to them. You can't be antagonistic. We've got to talk and try to get into their heads. It's all about diplomacy."

Obama, Head says, "is sincere and he is youthful."

And there is another reason to vote for him.

"When Obama is elected he will appoint three, maybe four Supreme Court Justices. That will have a big effect on the judiciary and affect the lives of everybody in the country. He will be able to appoint justices who are more in tune with the people of the United States."


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(All results current as of 11pm, Tuesday, Nov. 4.)

NATIONWIDE RESULTS (Percentage, total vote and Electoral College votes)

JOHN McCAIN (R): 47% - 52,945,214 - 159

BARACK OBAMA (D): 52% - 58,631,881 - 349


JOHN McCAIN (R): 42% - 605,340

BARACK OBAMA (D): 56% - 811,445


JOHN McCAIN (R): 48% - 66,020

BARACK OBAMA (D): 50% - 69,571


JOHN McCAIN (R): 62% - 233,018

BARACK OBAMA (D): 36% - 138,043


JOHN McCAIN (R): 61% - 33,331

BARACK OBAMA (D): 36% - 19,299

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(All results current as of 11pm, Tuesday, Nov. 4.)

WASHINGTON GOVERNOR (Spokane results in parentheses)

CHRIS GREGOIRE (D): 52% (49%) - 704,874 (68,850)

DINO ROSSI (R): 48% (49%) - 652,121 (68,536)

CONGRESS (Washington 5th)

MARK MAYS (D): 36% - 76,144

CATHY M. RODGERS (R): 64% - 133,223


JOHN LADENBURG (G): 40% - 528,230

ROB McKENNA (R): 59% - 773,395



51 | 56


49 | 40



233 | 259


202 | 176


MARK RICHARD (R): 51% - 67,156

BRIAN SAYRS (D): 48% - 62,482

TODD MIELKE (R): 54% - 72,056

KIM THORBURN (D): 45% - 59,985


YES 40% (33%); 556,912 NO 66% (60%); 828,009


YES 58% (53%); 825,590 NO 42% (46%); 587,744


YES 74% (75%); 1,033,870 NO 26% (25%); 358,565


TERRY BERGESON 49%; 609,256 RANDY DORN 51%; 631,509


J. OSGOOD (D) 42%; 567,083 SAM REED (R) 58%; 798,174


SUTHERLAND (R) 50%; 683,095 GOLDMARK (D) 49%; 672,050


LISA BROWN (D) 75%; 21,389 JOHN MOYNA (NP) 24%; 6,842


CHRIS BOWEN (R) 31%; 8,917 ALEX WOOD (D) 68%; 19,771


MIKE NOVAK (R) 33%; 9,411 TIMM ORMSBY (D) 67%; 19,192


BOB McCASLIN (R) 56%; 19,339 J. OWENS (D) 43%; 14,880


L. CROUSE (R) 55%; 18,861 L. THOMPSON (D) 44%; 15,091


T. HATTENBURG (D) 43%; 14,492 MATT SHEA (R) 57%; 19,413


D. BARLOW (D) 49%; 23,829 KEVIN PARKER (R) 51%; 24,941


J. AHERN (R) 49%; 23,832 JOHN DRISCOLL (D) 51%; 24,992


BRUCE NOBLE (D): 34% - 17,000

TODD TONDEE (R): 57% - 28,606

GREG WELLS (I): 9% - 4,831

STEPHEN CAIRES (D): 31% - 15,795

ELMER CURRIE (R): 53 - 26,962

BOB MACDONALD (I): 15% - 7,834

U.S. SENATE (Idaho)

LARRY LAROCCO (D): 34% - 128,935

JIM RISCH (R): 57% - 214,348

CONGRESS (Idaho 1st)

BILL SALI (R): 50% - 96,820

WALT MINNICK (D): 50% - 96,156


A. INGLE (I) 25%; 12,540 ROCKY WATSON (R) 75%; 37,723


YES 39%; 20,397 NO 61%; 32,468


YES 36%; 18,351 NO 64%; 33,128

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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & eet Michelle Creek, a 19-year-old political science major, and unofficial vice-president of Whitworth University's Political Activism Club. "There are a lot of things that people our age can get passionate about, but we see politics as something our parents are involved in," Creek says. "We don't necessarily see it as something exciting."

Tuesday's election was the first presidential election Creek voted in, where she was equally excited to vote for John McCain for president and Dino Rossi for governor.

"I was a Dino Rossi fan four years ago when I couldn't vote," Creek says. "That has mostly carried over to now."

While Creek believes that Gregoire has done a decent job as governor, Creek is skeptical about all the free goodies Gregoire's been giving out -- including the amount of aid given to college students. "When you decide to give so much money to so many different things, you have a lot of money out there," Creek says. While she doesn't yet have to pay taxes, the adults she knows aren't happy about them.

Even at Presbyterian Whitworth, Creek's conservative ballot puts her in the minority. A plurality of Whitworth students and a supermajority of faculty members supported Barack Obama, according to a Whitworthian survey.

Creek says her personal faith is incompatible with Obama's abortion position. So while social issues haven't dominated this election's news cycle, they were paramount in Creek's decision to vote for McCain and Rossi.

"When it comes to the economy, honestly, whatever plans they have are going to change," Creek says. "When it comes to life -- their positions on life don't normally change."

Creek grew up in a conservative Christian household, but college has been a time where those beliefs were challenged, tested and ultimately honed and refined. "Before my reasoning for being conservative would be my parents," she says, "but now that I've seen other perspectives, and I've come full circle to where I am."


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & J & lt;/span & erry Yates just bought a brand-new television. It's huge and directly in front of his recliner. He took a day off last week -- he owns Acme Plumbing and is his only employee -- to watch it.

"I've formed a new addiction ... I just sit here in awe of that thing," the Spokane Valley man says. "Tuesday night, I'm going to turn that TV on at 5 o'clock and I'm going to watch it until 2 in the morning and I'm going to savor everything."

Yates, 66 and a self-described "McGovern Democrat," has voted for every Democratic candidate for president since John Kennedy ran in 1960. Unsurprisingly, he's voting "down the line" for Democrats this year: Obama, Gregoire, Thorburn, Sayrs, etc.

His reason? A 60 Minutes program about race in the South that he saw as a young man.

"I had no idea what it was like in the South. I watched that program, and I can go back to 47 years ago and remember how impacting that was for me to think that in this country we actually had people [in that situation]. For me, that's a Democratic thing. They were the ones trying to make it better," he says. "Now we're going to have a black president."

But he's also voting against some things. "This thing with Joe the Plumber is absolutely driving me nuts," Yates says. "The guy is not a plumber. He works for a plumber. My wife says, 'Well, he does plumb,' and I say I could do a job for a doctor and watch him operate. That doesn't make me a doctor."

Jerry Yates should know. "My dad was a plumber. My grandpa was a plumber... My son's a plumber and his kid's a plumber. That's five generations of plumbers."


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Kristin & eacute; Reeves is 27, dynamic, a young woman of color who has risen to chair the Spokane County Democrats in a presidential election year that has been making history for both the gender and race of candidates.

One could say Reeves is the face of this election. But it's not just that she has a woman's face or a brown-skinned face.

"In Spokane I would say race is not an issue. I talk to my friends of color and my friends of not-color and the issues for voting for Obama have nothing to do with his race," Reeves says. It's about the tax plan, the health plan, funding Social Security. "This is probably the most informed I have seen people in my age group."

But Reeves has a more personal stake. She grew up in Moses Lake where her grandparents, an interracial couple, experienced bigotry. "My grandmother couldn't get an apartment if she had her kids with her. She had to leave them in the car," Reeves says.

Attitudes eased by the time she was growing up, but the emotional wounds were still fresh. Reeves was among the few locals chosen to go to Denver, where watching Barack Obama accept the party's nomination was cathartic.

"I cried for, like, four days straight," Reeves says. "It was really emotional for me -- for me as a person of color, for me as a woman, for all the things my grandparents had been fighting for.

"You can listen to people say that you can grow up to be anything you want, but you don't really believe it until there I was watching people up on that stage who looked like me," Reeves says. "It was like looking at the Preamble to the Constitution and seeing that it can happen."

You know, the "We the People" part. We. Us. All of us.


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he ghost of 2004 left Gov. Chris Gregoire as she took the microphone on election night. "Just so you know," she said, the first words in her victory speech, "the race has been called by CBS, NBC..." Her listing all the major networks was quickly engulfed in the cheers of her Seattle audience. As she delved into the speech, it was clear she was happy for someone other than herself: President-elect Barack Obama.

She dropped his name repeatedly, finally inciting the crowd to chant Obama's familiar refrain, "Yes we can."

"She did a good job of tying herself to him," says Loren Collingwood, a senior researcher for the Washington Poll, noting that she was building up good leads in counties she had lost four years ago. "Obama definitely helped her."

For the last year, though, no one could have called her victory a sure thing.

Since last October, when it was clear that Gregoire would once again face off against Republican Dino Rossi, the contest had proceeded neck-and-neck, with both campaigns -- and their operatives -- spending enormous amounts of money. Rossi had his dukes up and he did his best to have Eastern Washington carry the state for him.

"Don't Let Seattle Steal this Election" was plastered all over Eastern Washington this summer, a mantra uttered on Rossi's behalf.

The billboard campaign, paid for by the Building Industry Association of Washington, had a few goals: remind voters of the bitterly contested battle of four years ago, rally the Republican foot soldiers to turn out the vote, stir animosity between east-siders and Puget Sound and, most importantly, secure a Rossi win.

Those 61 billboards cost BIAW $160,000, a negligible sum compared to the more than $6 million the group has spent so far, making them Rossi's biggest backer. The Republican Governors Association has raised a total of $5.5 million for the candidate. Aside from these outside funders, Rossi himself raised $11 million.

Gregoire's re-election effort was bankrolled pretty handily itself, mainly by Evergreen Progress, a cobbled force funded by the Democratic Governors Association and labor unions. The group spent almost $5 million on Gregoire's behalf. On her own, Gregoire raised about $13 million.

Weeks out from the race, Lisa Brown said the campaigns were receiving unprecedented amounts of money because Republicans believe "this is the one place in the entire country where they believe they have a viable candidate."

In 2004, conservative inland counties had a far lower turnout than the bluer ones near Seattle. Last week, record registration numbers were beginning to excite local Republican leaders. Curt Fackler, Spokane County Republican chairman, said early voting in the traditionally Republican 6th district encouraged him.

Across Washington, however, Rossi appeared to be falling behind Gregoire in the final days of the campaign. Collingwood the pollster said Gregoire was up 51 to 44 percent over Rossi a week before Election Day. Another poll, conducted by Stuart Elway, showed a similar spread.

Analyzing the poll numbers, Collingwood said Obama's coattails hadn't swept up Gregoire as they had for other candidates across the nation. Instead, independent voters supported both Obama and Rossi. The last bastion for a Rossi victory was in the hands' of young men without a college degree.

Instead, Collingwood says, those young men and lots of other demographic groups came out and supported Gregoire.

Fackler, speaking from a quiet jubilee at the Davenport Hotel Tuesday night, was dismayed at the lack of a change in the guard. "People always want change. We're the state with the longest running [Democratic] government in the nation. It amazes me," Fackler says. "There've been Republican governors in Massachusetts. There've been Republican governors in Hawaii."


ANALYSIS: What Happened?

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & n a bleak landscape, many Republicans grabbed onto the idea of Dino Rossi providing the party with its one bright spot for this election cycle. Chris Gregoire showed a lot of moxie to survive the full force of the GOP machine to win a second term. With the righteousness of a contender who lost a split-decision, Rossi's smart, tough campaign allowed him to run ahead of the Republican brand by claiming the "change" mantle for himself. But with the Obama wave washing over the state -- especially on the West Side -- it wasn't enough.

-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.

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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & athy McMorris Rodgers had a lead from the start. She had incumbency, a huge money advantage and name recognition. Mark Mays, on the other hand, had little political experience, less money and no name.

And in the end, the fact Mays was running as a Democrat in an election swept by Democrats proved too little to make a difference.

At times, the race didn't feel like much of a contest at all; Rodgers seemed to have home-court advantage -- the 5th Congressional District has been reliably Republican since 1994 -- and the funding divide was well in her favor. In the end, she pulled in nearly 20 times as much as he did ($1.3 million to Mays' $69,000), according to the Federal Election Commission.

Mays said he knew what he was getting into, that money would be hard to come by. Still, at debates, he pounded away, painting Rodgers as another Bush Republican who led the country to war and allowed the economy to collapse. Appearing to borrow the Obama playbook, Mays vowed to focus on health care challenges and the collapsing economy.

"I have five kids," he told The Inlander in September. "I'm worried about the world we're leaving them. And I wanted to be able to look at them and say, 'I did everything I could.' We're doing everything we can. We'll see what happens."

For her part, Rodgers cited her commitment to provide rural health care, protect and grow Fairchild Air Force Base and make alternative energy solutions being developed in Washington part of the national solution for energy independence. "I've proven myself to be effective," she said.


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & G & lt;/span & ary Rhodes is unmoved. In 2004, he ran as a Libertarian for state representative and was blown completely out of the water. He got 214 votes, while each of his opponents received more than 13,000. But he's still a Libertarian and he's still heavily involved in politics.

"With Libertarians it isn't what you do -- it's what you don't do," Rhodes says, adding that what he's doing is voting in a deeply conservative way. This Election Day, he planned to vote Libertarian, Republican and anyway else that "lets business move ahead without harming anyone else."

"I really think that [Spokane County Commissioners] Mielke and Richard worked out," the 55-year-old says. "They're pro-growth. They want to cut through the red tape and get projects done. I like what they've done with the Raceway Park."

Rhodes voted for Initiative 1000, which would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal amount of drugs to terminally ill patients, because "people own the right to their body and they should be able to go out when they want."

Earlier this year, Rhodes was part of the Ron Paul movement that threatened to take over the Republican state convention. Though Paul won 46 percent of the GOP vote in Spokane County, his platform was rejected statewide. With Paul out of the race, Rhodes supports Libertarian candidate Bob Barr for president.

People, Rhodes says, "end up voting for the party they think is going to do the least amount of harm rather than voting for who they want. If you're voting for the lesser of two evils, you're still voting for evil."


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & y press time, the race was too close to call, but it was certainly notable that Walt Minnick, a pro-choice Democrat in a heavily conservative district, was giving incumbent Bill Sali a run for his money. Minnick owed a swarm of ticket-splitters -- Idaho residents who marked both McCain and Minnick -- for such a strong showing. He also owes his mighty campaign war chest. "There was a national push from the Democratic Party," says Brian McQuid, assistant professor of political science at the University of Idaho, who is quick to add that the Minnick race is an anomaly, not a sign that Idaho has suddenly discovered its true liberal nature.

Normally, he says, the Republican -- any Republican -- would have left Democrats in the dust.

Instead, to mix some playground metaphors, the race has seesawed back and forth over two separate tugs-of-war. "Does Republican Bill Sali play well with others?" And, "Is Democrat Walt Minnick simply pretending to be conservative so the popular kids will like him."

Some think the close race showed Sali's vulnerability. "Sali was considered vulnerable to begin with," says McQuid, who notes that during his first race for his congressional seat, Sali gathered less than 55 percent of the vote.

During that race, Sali's opponents dredged up a string of embarrassing anecdotes to show Sali as a loose cannon. Sali, one story went, made his House colleague Mike Simpson so peeved that Simpson threatened to throw him out a window.

But even after his election, Sali tossed his opponents even more gaffes to bludgeon him with. He submitted a satirical bill to repeal the Law of Gravity. He said the founding fathers never intended to have a Muslim in Congress. And during his campaign, he failed to fill out his FEC report on time or correctly. Perhaps most embarrassingly, while Minnick spokesman John Foster was giving an interview, Sali's staff made faces and held up "bunny ears" behind him.

Yet the Democratic Party's intent to show Sali as irresponsible may have backfired. They dredged up documents from Sali's less-than-sound financial past and mass-mailed them to voters. The problem: The flyers also displayed Sali's Social Security number, prompting the state Attorney General to scold Democrats publicly.

Sali's campaign focused on underscoring its candidate's strong sense of traditional conservativism -- and so did Minnick's. Minnick advertised Republican supporters, his timber-business background and even scored himself a 7 -- with 1 being very liberal, 10 being very conservative -- on an Idaho Press-Tribune survey. (Sali marked an 8.)

Sali ripped Minnick for trying to stake claim to conservative ground. "Minnick campaigns like a ballerina," a Sali Website said. "He'll dance to any tune that makes an audience happy."

Sali's campaign ticked off a list of Minnick's liberal beliefs: his Obama endorsement, his environmental connections, his support of abortion rights, his refusal to rule out breaching the Snake River Dam and his D-grade from the NRA.

Minnick remained on the offensive, flaunting his number of guns (seven to Sali's five), tweaking Sali for voting against a bill to outlaw earmarks, and calling him fiscally irresponsible.

From September to October, the polls swung dramatically in Minnick's favor. Minnick went from being 11 points behind in a Daily Kos poll to rocketing 6 points ahead in a SurveyUSA poll. The reason, McQuid says, is the economy. It's a bad time to be a Republican and a worse time to be an incumbent. "No doubt there's a lot of voters [voting] with a blow-the-incumbent-out type of mindset," McQuid says.

To compound the problem, Republicans worried that McCain's performance nationally would depress turnout among Republicans, McQuid says.

"A close race like this is all based on turnout," he says.

ANALYSIS: What Happened?

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & H & lt;/span & ow bad a night did Republicans have? They struggled to even hold on to both Congressional seats in one of the nation's most reliably right-leaning states. But the seeds of this defeat were planted back during the six-way GOP primary of 2006, when the D.C.-based Club For Growth pumped big money into Bill Sali's campaign, giving him the edge he needed. Now the Club has egg on its face here and in Michigan and Maryland, where its king-making has backfired. And it certainly helped when news broke that Walt Minnick owned more firearms than Sali.

-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.

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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "I & lt;/span & f I had my choice -- and I don't, because he's not going to get it -- I'd vote for Ron Paul," says Daryl Gankema, 66, a registered Republican. "I think he's a real American. Don't get me wrong by saying, 'real American,' because my folks came from Germany and the Netherlands ... The two we got running, I don't have a lot of faith in either of them."

Originally from rural Michigan, Gankema made his money building pools in California (his clients, he says, included Goldie Hawn, Mel Brooks, Kenny Rogers and Richard Nixon). He moved to Coeur d'Alene in 1992 to retire, but quickly got bored and went into real estate. He says he's still doing OK, but he recently saw someone with a 700-plus credit score get turned down for financing. "It's kind of sad."

He ended up voting for John McCain, despite having little confidence in Sarah Palin as VP. "I just think [McCain] is mature enough to handle this country," Gankema says. "I look at Obama and I hate to say it like this, but to me, there's a lot of -- excuse this phrase -- shucking and jiving."

Gankema pointed to Obama's tax plan -- which would cut taxes for people making less than $250,000 -- as being unfair. "That's crazy ... Everybody should be taxed equally."

As far as the bond to expand the Kootenai County Jail goes, Gankema says he supported it, but worries that the money could be misused. In the end, he says, he has little confidence in politicians in general. "The Senate, the Congress -- they scare me," he says.


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & P & lt;/span & erhaps lost in the news of Barack Obama's historic journey to the White House was the passage of Initiative 1000, Washington's so-called Death with Dignity Act. Of the three initiatives on the state's ballot this fall, I-1000 clearly dominated the conversation. Its approval comes after voters rejected a similar measure in 1991 by a 54-to-46 margin. Over the last few months, supporters of the measure -- which empowers doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to patients given less than six months to live -- trucked out families whose loved ones suffered long, painful deaths. Opponents, for their part, highlighted people who were told they had months to live and then beat the odds. "The fundamental flaw is in telling anybody that they've got less than six months to live," says Chris Carlson, chair of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide, who's been living for three years with terminal cancer.

Organizers of the measure modeled it after Oregon's assisted suicide law, which took effect in 1997. In the following decade, about 350 people died under the act. Former Washington governor Booth Gardner was the initiative's most prominent spokesman, calling it his "final campaign." Gardner has Parkinson's disease, which, because it's not a terminal disease, wouldn't qualify him under the law. "We shouldn't force people to endure agonizing suffering if we don't have to," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It's about autonomy."

I-985 (failed): The measure would have opened up carpool lanes during off hours and paid to synchronize red lights -- all in the name of reducing traffic congestion. It would have siphoned money from red-light cameras, like those recently installed in Spokane.

I-1029 (passed): The measure requires long-term care workers involved in helping the elderly or disabled to undergo more training and complete a certification test. Opponents had called it an unfunded mandate, driving up costs and creating more bureaucracy.


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & t's a good thing that none of the judicial races on Spokane County ballots features more than one candidate, because picking a judge is damn near impossible. Not for K & amp;L Gates attorney Mike Keyes -- who clerked under state Supreme Court Chief Justice Garry Alexander and took a Gonzaga law class from Justice Debra Stephens -- but for most people, he says. "It truly is difficult. The public isn't as familiar with judicial posts, and judges need to be non-partisan, so it's hard for them to speak about issues that may ultimately appear before them. They can't really say a lot during their campaigns."

Keyes, 37, says he won't cast a vote until he feels he's fully informed -- which is why his ballot hadn't yet made it to the box when we spoke. He had a hard time recalling who his local state representative was, and the jury remained out on I-985 and several obscure state executive officers.

But the self-proclaimed "political junkie" and "raging independent" is solidly against I-1000, the assisted suicide initiative. "My dad died of cancer and struggled at the end and died at a very young age. But to be able to administer a lethal dose of medication to take your life ... I think there's just something inherently problematic about that. Life is sacred."

Though an early Hillary Clinton fan (and a McCain supporter in 2000), Keyes sounded excited to vote for Obama. "Like most people, I'm worried about the economic state of the country," he says. "I'm also concerned about our standing in the world community. After 9/11, there was so much goodwill that the world had towards the U.S. Everyone stood in solidarity with us. Instead of capitalizing on that, we squandered it."


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & O & lt;/span & ne of the odd red blotches on the Left Coast electoral maps Tuesday night showed up here in Spokane County as Republican incumbents Mark Richard and Todd Mielke appear to have staved off challenges for seats on the Spokane County Commission.

About an hour after initial Spokane County election returns were posted, Mielke's opponent, Dr. Kim Thorburn, told The Inlander she was conceding.

"There is no way to make up the gap," Thorburn said, noting Mielke's 54-46 percent lead.

The gap was a little surprising, given Thorburn's name recognition as former Spokane County Regional Health Director and the fact she raised more than $103,000.

Richard was in a tighter race, 51-49 percent with Liberty Lake City Councilman Brian Sayrs.

In an election year filled with big-ticket races, there still was plenty of money tossed at the candidates for county commissioner. All but Sayrs raised six figures in total donations and combined for better than $410,000.

"That seems like a lot of money when you have the presidential race, the governor's race, a congressional race ... How much money is out there?" asks former County Commissioner John Roskelley.

Richard out-raised Sayrs by better than two-to-one, but Sayrs was able to close a seven-point gap in the primaries to two points in Tuesday's initial results.

Former County Commissioner Kate McCaslin said, "The race with Sayrs and Richard is still so close tonight it could change. Sayrs is within striking distance. It proves a point that you don't have to raise a lot of money."

However, McCaslin did say that an emerging trend in the short history of mail-in ballots is, "Republicans tend to vote late. I anticipate Todd's and Mark's totals will get stronger."

State Sen. Chris Marr, who scored a breakout win as a Democrat in the staunchly Republican Sixth District, said Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign has energized voters in a way he has not seen before, citing the tenor of comments he received while campaigning for local Democrats.

But the rising blue tide did not lift all boats in the county commission race. Spokane County is so reliably red that Roskelley is one of only a handful of Democrats elected commissioner in a generation.

Mielke and Richard have worked hard to distance themselves from former Commissioner Phil Harris, who became vulnerable to issues of cronyism and nepotism in his 2006 loss to Democrat Bonnie Mager.

This cycle's incumbents have kept the issues on stewardship, fiscal responsibility and jail expansion. The challengers tried to gain traction by criticizing Mielke and Richard's decision to purchase the former Spokane Raceway Park at auction this summer.


ANALYSIS: What Happened?

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he Republican brand isn't quite broken in Spokane County, where the county commissioners so many Democrats love to hate -- Todd Mielke and Mark Richard -- survived for second terms. Perhaps this was all about the purchase of Spokane Raceway Park, and if that is the case, it turns out the locals like the idea of the county getting in the racing business.

-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.

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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & J & lt;/span & ulianne Edwards says two topics -- the environment and the war in Iraq -- played large roles in her ballot decisions. "I come from a pretty conservative family, so I have both sides, but I am very liberal," says Edwards, 21, a North Idaho College student who works as a restaurant hostess.

She supported the bond measure to expand the Kootenai County Jail, despite believing that too many people are incarcerated for things like drug possession. "I find it hard to put tax money to hold inmates I don't believe should be there," she says, "but I don't believe it's right for them to be crowded."

She voted for Obama and even volunteered for his campaign but says she respects McCain's smarts. "I would trust him as a leader, but I think he's very set in his ways, kind of like a lot of grandparents are ... I lost a lot of respect for him when he chose Palin as VP."

Mostly, she says Americans need to be inspired and Obama has been able to do just that. "We need someone to unify us and to get us excited about being American again. If I was in a foreign country, I would say I was Canadian. I wouldn't want to claim this country."


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & G & lt;/span & enevieve Briand cast her first vote for president last week, at age 40. An economics professor at Eastern Washington University, she was born and raised in France but gained U.S. citizenship in 2005. "I was proud of doing it," she says of her vote. "It's the natural thing to do."

Briand, who advises the College Republicans at EWU, framed her electoral decisions in the language of her profession. "The most important [issue] to me is economics," she says. "I like pro-trade policy and pro-business policy."

She voted against Initiative 1029 because she believes requiring certification for home caregivers is a barrier to the work force. She voted for Dino Rossi because of his business policy and, at least in part, because Christine Gregoire once pushed a payroll tax to fund paid medical leave for working mothers (and the added tax, Briand says, would've actually made it harder for women to stay home with their children). She favored Cathy McMorris Rodgers for her opposition to the $700 billion financial bailout and gave the nod to John McCain as "the lesser of two evils" on pro-trade policy.

Calling herself "conservative but not a religious person," Briand says she may differ from others in her party when it comes to assisted suicide. She voted for I-1000, arguing that death should be a decision left to the individual.

"In this country, compared to others, you can choose to do whatever you want whenever you want," she says, "like getting an education. People can go to school and get whatever skill they want, whenever they're ready. You can always get back on your feet."

But, she also adds, "I am really hoping that we can keep what makes this country great, which is the freedom to fail."


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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & R & lt;/span & AMADI, Iraq -- The walls of the reeking porta-Johns here carried smatterings of political graffiti -- "Gobama!" and "Nobama!" -- along with the usual mix of unprintable slurs, odes to Chuck Norris and threats to old girlfriends' new boyfriends.

But there were no yard signs dueling in front of soldiers' tents. And the televisions in the chow hall were blissfully free of Rossi-Gregoire ads.

When the sun broke above the Anbar desert Tuesday morning, some of the newly arrived Washington National Guard soldiers began their day without even remembering that the fate of their country was being decided back home.

"It's Election Day?" Maj. Scott Taylor, of Orcas Island, asked when the topic was raised. "Oh, I guess it is."

Word spread pretty fast, though. During breakfast, as groups of soldiers with the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team gulped bad coffee, powdered eggs and mystery-meat sausage, they spied Fox News playing on a few of the sets bolted to the chow hall walls (most of the TVs were tuned to the Monday night football game -- remember: we're 10 hours ahead over here).

About 2,300 Washington National Guard soldiers -- and 900 Californians -- are now beginning yearlong deployments at bases scattered across Iraq. Many of the men and women are just now finishing their two-week transition periods in Kuwait, but the first 140 soldiers arrived at Camp Ramadi last week and have been working nearly nonstop since.

They're bolting together furniture, settling into tents, installing satellite communication links, filling mud holes with gravel and holding countless meetings with the outgoing command staff. There's been little time to focus on the politics back home.

"Actually, I'm glad to be away from the election," said Staff Sgt. Ryan O'Leary, a 30-year-old Montana native now living in Seattle. Like many other soldiers, O'Leary doubted the outcome would make much of a difference in how he spends the rest of his deployment. "It'll definitely affect the outcome of this war, but I don't think it'll affect my life in the next 10 months."

Soldiers in the 81st Brigade will be doing a variety of tasks in Iraq, from guarding supply convoys to flying unmanned drones to running the day-to-day operations at Camp Ramadi. As bases in Iraq go, Camp Ramadi isn't terrible. The food is served on a plate, not from a plastic pouch. Most of the time, the showers are hot. And a steady desert breeze typically blows away the base aroma of burning garbage, diesel exhaust and raw sewage.

Most importantly, Ramadi is fairly quiet. In 2005, the 81st returned to Washington after its first deployment to Iraq with 10 fewer soldiers. Back then Ramadi was a stronghold of the insurgency. This time around, many of the soldiers say their biggest worry is boredom. Iraq remains a very dangerous place, but only a handful of rockets and mortars have fallen on this base in recent months -- none since the soldiers arrived. Soldiers now walk the base without body armor or helmets.

Some 60 percent of the Washington Guard soldiers on this deployment are on their second tour in Iraq. Along with the memories of the attacks and their fallen comrades, the veterans talk of the bitterness in giving a year to their country and not having their votes counted.

Hundreds of ballots for the 2004 election didn't reach the soldiers until three weeks after the election, said the brigade's commander, Col. Ryan Kapral. This was an election in which the governor's race was recounted and ultimately decided by 133 votes. "Many of our votes weren't even counted," Kapral said.

This time around, registration drives were conducted during training, before the soldiers left the United States. Most cast their vote weeks ago, Kapral said.

Because of the time zone difference, the results of the election weren't known here until the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Some of the soldiers pulling night shifts logged onto computers to check results. Others set alarms for 3 am so they could trudge across the base to a recreation center, where televisions could be found.

First Lt. Joseph Cluever, of Spokane, said he didn't want to interrupt his short amount of sleep to find out who won. "It doesn't matter who's elected. I'm going to be over here until August anyway," the 27-year-old said.

Not everyone serving here in Mesopotamia was so nonchalant. Sgt. Gerald Ritter, 27, of Bothell, was pulling nightwatch when the results started coming in. He did everything possible to get to a TV to find out who would be the next person in charge of rocking this cradle of civilization.

Ritter said John McCain "definitely has my respect for his military service," but said his vote went to Barack Obama. "He's trying to pull people out of here. That's good."

Few soldiers expect the new president to change much in Iraq during their deployment. In fact, an analysis published Oct. 27 in the Marine Corps Times declared "the similarities in the two candidates' positions on issues dearest to the troops are remarkable."

Like most voters in the United States, many Washington Guard soldiers here said their decisions were based not on the war, but on economic factors. "There's people getting laid off back home," Ritter said, when asked what topped his list of concerns.

The frustrations run even deeper for Dr. Haydar Abbas, an anesthesiologist at Ramadi General Hospital. During a break in an American-led medical training class Tuesday afternoon, Abbas said he wished he had the opportunity to vote. He's a citizen of Iraq, which is perhaps America's largest battleground state.

"If I was American, I would vote for Obama. He's of African origin and spent time in the Orient. He will understand other people in the world," Abbas said, adding that he does not want to see coalition troops leave his country anytime soon. "It will be a massacre here if they do."

James Hagengruber, a former Spokesman-Review reporter, is working as a freelance journalist in Iraq. Read his blog at

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& lt;span class= "dropcap " & "I & lt;/span & 'm excited because on the 3rd of April, 1968, Martin Luther King said these words, that God's allowed him to go up to the mountain, that God's allowed him to look over and see the promised land," says Happy Watkins, the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Spokane. "I may not get there with you," Watkins quotes King as saying, but someday it would happen.

For Watkins, having a black man in the White House is a symbolic realization of King's vision and an in-your-face repudiation of all the bile spewed by racists and white supremacists. But it's not really about race, he says. He subscribes to King's dream of people being judged by their hearts rather than the shade of their skin.

"He's a bridge. He's a catalyst. He's a hope," Watkins says of Obama. "He gives hope to every young man and every young woman who desires to better themselves."

He's an inspiration, a gleaming light in a dark tunnel of high gas prices, bankruptcy and war. He's an African-American, yes, Watkins says, but one bringing jobs and changes to health care and welfare. The fact that Watkins' grandsons -- ages 19 and 21 -- can vote this election makes it all the more sweet.

While Obama's the headliner on Watkins' ballot, the reverend also appreciates Washington's governor. "I like [Christine] Gregoire. I truly like her," he says. "She's been over here on this side of the mountains." Watkins celebrates Gregoire's work on education, especially her encouraging full-day kindergarten. The key to Gregoire's success comes from her community involvement, he says, something Watkins would like to see from more politicians. "They've got to get in the community," he says. "They need to come out and walk the streets and talk to the pastors, congregations, community leaders."


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