Midday Scan: A farewell to Arun Raha; AP's rosy look at gay marriage; Nickels back in the saddle

The state's revenue forecaster steps down (Can you blame him?); The Associated Press' rose-tinted marriage equality glasses; Greg Nickels returns to local politics.

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Former Seattle mayor, Greg Nickels

The state's revenue forecaster steps down (Can you blame him?); The Associated Press' rose-tinted marriage equality glasses; Greg Nickels returns to local politics.

The arc of history bends toward justice, with a fair amount of kicking and screaming along the way. In Washington, gay marriage has evolved from the reactive murk of the defense of marriage act, to domestic parnerships, to the likelihood of full marriage equality. Did any politico anticipate that a once lightning-rod issue would hit critical mass so fast?

"The Legislature is on the verge of having enough support to make Washington the seventh state to approve gay marriage, according to a tally by The Associated Press," Rachel LaCorte and Mike Baker write. "A same-sex marriage bill is expected to be introduced by the end of the week. The AP reached out to all 49 state senators over the past week and found that more lawmakers are firmly supporting gay marriage than opposing it, by a margin of 22-18." 

The first axiom of politics is to learn how to count. On the house side, Democrats have the votes. On the senate side, the count is more tenuous, with a few Hamlet-like holdouts. The key may be to court moderate Republicans rather than kowtow to the Hamlets, however. It's a strategy already in motion.

"The two Republican senators who are now supporting gay marriage — Steve Litzow of Mercer Island and Cheryl Pflug of Maple Valley — said the issue was a matter of equality," LaCorte and Baker write. Holdout lawmakers might want to revisit archival video of the late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd as he pretzeled and paused, trying in vain to explain his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It's no fun to be on the wrong side of history. 

Public service can be a beast, and no one understands that better than Arun Raha, the state's revenue forecaster, who announced yesterday that he will be resigning, effective Jan. 31. Is there a worse job in an anemic economy? (Or conversely, a better job in a bullish one?) It demands an undertaker-like sobriety, and a willingness to tell snarling naysayers that everything isn't necessarily going to get better, at least for now.  

"Somebody else will have to be the bearer of bad news for state government," Jordan Schrader writes. "That’s been Arun Raha’s role for the past three years. As the state’s chief economist, he projects Washington’s revenues and delivers quarterly reports that say how close they’re tracking to those estimates. As such, he’s one of the more visible people in state government."  

The political class sometimes scapegoats non-elected state employees, but Raha's humor and professionalism provided ballast. Any chance we can have Raha cloned? 

The Seattle Times' Jim Brunner gets the scoop on former Mayor Greg Nickels possible run for Secretary of State (Incumbent Republican Sam Reed is retiring.) "Since he lost his bid for a third term as Seattle mayor in 2009, Greg Nickels has spent time at a Harvard fellowship, served as a public delegate to the United Nations and even advised mayors in Ukraine," Brunner writes. "But local politics has always been in Nickels' blood, and now he's considering getting back in the game — by running for secretary of state." 

One key benefit of a high-profile candidate like Nickels is to underscore the mission of the Secretary of State's office. In fact, it's more than voting and registering corporations. The Secretary of State is Washington's de facto historian, overseeing the state archives, state library, and heritage broadly defined. For a history fiend like Nickels, it could be an excellent fit.

However, as a student of history, Nickels also knows that no Democrat has been elected to the office since Victor Aloysius Meyers. Meyers was defeated by Republican Lud Kramer in 1964, before even Midday Scan's author was born. And so Nickels and his fellow Democrats will need to begin every political pitch with "I solemnly pledge to break the curse of Victor Aloysius Meyers."  

Microsoft is back on top according to an astute analysis by Slate's Farhad Manjoo. It's an outsider thumbs up that should buoy the spirits of investors and Microsofties throughout the Northwest.

"I’ll say it: I’m bullish on Microsoft in 2012. This could be the year that it shakes its malaise and takes its place alongside Apple, Google, and Amazon as a dominant innovator of the mobile age," Manjoo writes. "For the first time in forever, Microsoft has a couple major products that are not merely good enough. They’re just plain great. I’ve been effusive in my praise for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s new mobile operating system. At the Consumer Electronics Show this week, we saw the one piece that has been missing from Microsoft’s new phone effort—killer hardware."

Promising news, even if it still feels odd without Bill G. as poobah.   

Lastly, what is Jesus doing in Montana?  He manifested himself as a statue on public land near Montana's Whitefish Mountain Resort. "Clad in a flowing blue robe, the statue's arms stretch toward the Flathead Valley below. It has been here for over half a century — a fixture on the slopes of Big Mountain. So when the U.S. Forest Service, the resort's landlord, recently tried to evict Jesus in response to a complaint that the statue violated this country's guarantee of the separation of church and state, the ensuing uproar attracted national attention and the ire of Montana's lone congressman," High Country News' Tim Lydon writes. "I'm probably in the minority, but I think the Forest Service was right."

Judge for yourself (although Jesus might respond in Aramaic, "Judge not, that ye be not judged.") So forget judging, just think about it.  

Link Summary

The News Tribune, "Gay Marriage within reach in Wash. legislature"

The Olympian, "State forecaster Arun Raha will step down"

Seattle Times, "Greg Nickels considers run for Secretary of State"

Slate, "The year of Microsoft"

High Country News, "Go take it off the mountain"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson