With the polls all predicting huge Republican victories today, I can't help but think back to 1994.
I was the government editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, which happened to be home to the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In that powerful post, Tom Foley had secured plenty of bacon for Eastern Washington. Heck, his name should have been on a new, 80-mile, four-lane stretch of U.S. Highway 395 that had previously been head-on collision alley.
But Foley was a Democrat, and the folks back home were caught up in
the national insurrection against a federal government solidly
controlled by the donkeys. Arguably the most powerful man in the U.S.
Capitol was opposed by a political rookie, a Spokane attorney named
The Republican challenger was likeable in his aw-shucks naivete. I
helped organize a Foley-Nethercutt forum at the newspaper in the fall of
'94, and Foley had all the polished answers in a year when polished
answers weren't going to cut it. Nethercutt just said he'd help sort
things out when he got to D.C. Brilliant.
Come Election Day, the locals swapped all of Foley's power, all that
pork, for a newcomer who swore he was no career politician and would
serve no more than three terms if elected and then twice re-elected.
Congressman Nethercutt later broke that promise, but that's another
Some of those voters may have been under the wildly mistaken
impression that if he beat Foley, Nethercutt would become the new
speaker of the House. I was reminded of that bit of political lore
recently by Del Norte's own congressman, Mike Thompson.
You know the guy. A powerful Democrat with a reputation for taking
good care of his district. The one being challenged by a Republican
newcomer, Loren Hanks.
I'm not implying that Foley's fate now awaits Thompson. California's
First Congressional District is far more Democratic than Eastern
Washington. If Thompson loses today, it'd be a sign of an even more
profound Republican revolution than the one that sent Citizen Nethercutt
off to D.C. and made Newt Gingrich the speaker of the House.
If you're one of those people who uses Crescent City water but can't
vote on the issue of whether it should remain fluoridated, blame the
city's leaders of yesteryear.
For some reason the city expanded its utility infrastructure -
including water and sewer lines - without the usual insistence that the
areas to be served had to first be annexed into the city limits.
So now we have a situation where only a few hundred voters are
eligible to decide an issue affecting thousands. And, for that matter,
we have two layers of local government - the city and the county - when
one might be so much more efficient.