Midday Scan: Congressional jockeying accelerates; Egan reflects on Rainier tragedy

They're lining up at the starting gate for a try at the 1st congressional seat, perhaps the most competitive district in America. Urban problems spill into the West's national parks. Don't light up in the car, parents.

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Mount Rainier

They're lining up at the starting gate for a try at the 1st congressional seat, perhaps the most competitive district in America. Urban problems spill into the West's national parks. Don't light up in the car, parents.

Everyone enjoys a good horse race (except the metaphorical horses known as candidates.) In the newly drawn 1st Congressional district, competitors include Arlington's John Koster (backcountry horseman) state Sen. Steve Hobbs (suburban cowboy) and now Medina's Suzan DelBene (English saddle.) How can a bookie make a smart political wager?   

DelBene is the latest to enter the fray. "Suzan DelBene joined an already crowded field in the state's hottest 2012 congressional race Thursday, resigning as director of the state Department of Revenue to run in the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District, the Seattle Times' Jim Brunner writes. "DelBene is a wealthy former Microsoft executive and high-tech entrepreneur who spent nearly $2.3 million of her own money in an unsuccessful challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert in 2010." On the Democratic side, insiders appear to be betting on DelBene given her personal resources and mostly polished 2010 run. However, Bothell entreprenuer Darshan Rauniyar, state Rep. Roger Goodman, and former state Rep. Laura Ruderman have all been vigorous and successful fundraisers. In addition, Darcy Burner (the show horse) benefits from high name recognition. All bets are off, although it's likely that the horse trainers (consultants) will fare pretty well. (In deference to animals, this will be Midday Scan's final use of horse metaphors).     

Democrats must win Washington's 1st district seat to stand any chance of regaining control of the U.S. House. It's an uncertain goal since the 1st is the most evenly divided congressional district in the country, according to former Sen. Slade Gorton. For the entire U.S. House to switch hands would require a political tsunami. Or not. "Pundits don't think Democrats have much chance to take back the House of Representatives this year, but suddenly their party is finding reasons to hope they might actually pull it off," the Huffington Post's Michael McAuliff writes. He said Democratic sources cite an impressive the 2012 recruitment class as a big cause for optimism.

While the stars could somehow align for House Democrats, the U.S. Senate remains much more of a question mark. One scenario involves a Republican Senate and a Democratic House in 2013. More likely is a slim Republican majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate split. Still, on a political scale, November is a very long time from now. If the Democrats were to re-capture the House, it will be great news for two veteran members of the Washington delegation: Rep. Norm Dicks would become chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee and Rep. Adam Smith would run the Armed Services Committee.  

The New York Times' Tim Egan brings into focus the legacy of Margaret Anderson, the young U.S. Park Service ranger gunned down at Mount Rainier National Park. "In the West, most people live in sprawling urban centers not far from the public-land playgrounds that shape so many lives on the sunset side of the United States. When the worst of our world spills over into that other one, it is people like Anderson who hold the line," Egan writes. 

Egan puts the tragedy in context and teases out the broader theme of wildness, violence, and the changing West. He notes, "In the nearly century-old history of the National Park Service, Anderson was only the ninth ranger to be killed in the line of duty. But five of those killings have occurred in the last 20 years," Egan writes. "This is a consequence, in part, of how the surging population has pushed toward the parks, making them more a reflection of society’s ills, clutter and excesses."  

No 1970s or 80s American childhood was complete without the smoking carpool Mom listening to James Taylor on the radio. Alas, sublime experiences like that—  the dulcet hacking of fifth graders in a station wagon —could soon be made a traffic offense (cue Rush Limbaugh ranting about nanny government.) As the Seattle Times reports, the state Legislature is revisiting a bill first advanced by the late state Sen. Scott White. "Under the bill, smoking in a vehicle while anyone under 18 years old is present would be a secondary traffic infraction. That means police could cite violators only after pulling them over for some other reason, such as speeding," Stephanie Kim writes.   

One irony would be for the Legislature to pass this bill (and it merits passing) while also okaying Senate Bill 5542, which curtails Initiative 901, Washington's clean-indoor-air law. Uninsured employees at cigar bars are not the same as minors stuck in a car with a puffing driver, but it is still a matter of public health. Some of us hope it doesn't happen.  

Lastly, the Oregonian reports another grim measure of hard times in the Northwest (or is it a measure of callous family members unwilling to deal with their recently departed?): "The state offset the cremation costs for a record 358 people, about 1 percent of the estimated 31,000 people who died in Oregon in 2011. The [state] fund paid for 278 cremations in 2010," Anne Saker writes. "The weak economy did contribute to the increased demand on the fund, said Tim Lancaster, president of the Oregon Funeral Directors Association. But a bigger factor is families who refuse to pay for dispositions because they believe the state will pay the bill."     

Link Summary

Seattle Times, "DelBene quits state job, enters 1st Congressional District race"

Huffington Post, "Democrats see Chance of Taking Back the House"

New York Times, "A murder at Paradise"

Seattle Times, "Lawmakers seek to ban smoking in cars with children" 

Oregonian, "Record number of unclaimed dead in 2012 cremated"


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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