& & by Pia k. Hansen & & & &

& & Clear sailing & & & &

SPOKANE -- Former Republican candidate for the 5th District, Richard Clear, has surprisingly turned around and endorsed the Democratic winner of the race, Tom Keefe.

"It did surprise some people, but I really knew it from the beginning," says Clear. "If I could have endorsed Nethercutt, there would have been no reason for me to run. And since I didn't win, I'm going to come up with a second choice."

Throughout his campaign, Clear blasted Nethercutt for not keeping his promise of staying in Congress for only three terms.

"I'm taking a lot of heat from the Republicans on this one," says Clear. "But I ran as close to an independent campaign as you can. I never got any money from the party, and they really didn't support me."

Keefe said in a press release that though they may not agree on everything, the former competitors have found much common ground, and some of Clear's volunteers have already joined Keefe's campaign.

"Our position is that Tom [Keefe] has always been really clear about what he stands for," says Keefe campaign spokeswoman Elisabeth Rutledge. "There are some areas where they disagree, for instance, their stands on choice [abortion]."

Clear and Keefe agree on not breaching the Snake River dams, supporting farmers with minimum price guarantees and also on the importance of creating more jobs in Eastern Washington.

Keefe got more than 23 percent of the vote, and Clear almost 22 percent on primary night. So if Clear's directive sways his supporters, Nethercutt, who earned only more than 41 percent in the race, a low number for an incumbent, could be in trouble.

But don't expect seeing Clear on a street corner waving a Keefe sign any time soon.

"Going into this, I really had no designs, I just offered my services. My first order of business is trying to find work," says Clear, a former radio talk show host. "Because of that, I can't travel the district and campaign for Tom. I'm trying to get back on the air, but maybe not here in town."

& & Mixing fun and politics & &

COEUR d'ALENE -- Mayor Steve Judy is venturing in a different direction as the prime developer behind a new amusement park on West Appleway.

The future site of the Adventures 'N Fun amusement facility is the two-acre lot located between the Shilo Inn and the U-Haul moving center, which Judy recently bought together with his wife and business partner Michelle.

So far, the Judys have made plans for a 45,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor facility, catering to children from 6 months old and up. There will be 17 attractions including a secured area for very small children to play in.

"Adventures 'N Fun will fill the need in our area for interactive play and learning for young children with their parents," says Michelle Judy, who's the mother of three. "I am well aware of the need to have a positive, safe place for our children to play."

With permits freshly filed, the Judys are ready to begin construction, which will continue through March next year. Doors will open just in time for spring break.

The new fun center will include an 18-hole miniature golf course using the latest in high-tech design, including water hazards, sand traps and roughs. There'll also be a 4,000-square-foot video arcade.

While the kids play, parents will be able to enjoy coffee and snacks, or an entire meal at the full service restaurant on site.

"We have also developed an incredible environment for parties," says Steve Judy. "Our parties will accommodate children, teens and adults. We will also offer corporate party planning services and teambuilding."

Steve Judy will not say how much the entire project is going to cost, just as the theme of the facility will not be unveiled until later. He adds: "We plan to employ between 30 and 40 people both in full-time and half-time positions. It's a multi-million dollar project, but that's all we'll say."

& & Hightower visit & &

Cheney, Wash. -- He's on the radio, he's writing books and he's even in The Inlander from time to time as a columnist. His name is Jim Hightower, and he is one of those characters you either love or hate, or simply love to hate. No matter what topic he talks about, the WTO or globalized guacamole, he likes to rock the status quo.

On Wednesday, he'll be at Eastern Washington University giving the first speech in this year's Dialogues series. Hightower will use the title of his new book, If Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates, as the foundation for the presentation.

Hightower is a self-proclaimed "kick-ass radio populist" with an inclination toward left-of-center politics. But it wasn't always like that.

He was born and raised in Texas from where he headed north to a string of government positions in Washington, D.C. In 1976, he returned to his home state and a job as editor at The Texas Observer. He was elected twice as Texas Agriculture Commissioner and was also chair of the National Democratic Party's Agricultural Council.

His career as a public commentator began in '91, when he launched his first radio show. Since then, his knack for exposing the connection between cool cash and the deals struck behind closed doors in trade and politics has become his trademark.

& & & lt;i & Jim Hightower speaks at EWU's Showalter Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 pm. Free. Call: 359-6871. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &

Mount St. Helens: Critical Memory @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through July 31
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