On the trail

  Congressional races in Montana are heating up. Brian Schweitzer, the Democrats' maverick Senate candidate, is still well behind two-term Republican incumbent Conrad Burns, but he's made some small gains in recent polls. Schweitzer, a mint farmer from Whitefish, defends small-scale agriculture and criticizes rising health-care costs. Over the last year, he has shepherded busloads of Montana senior citizens to Canada and Mexico to pick up cheaper prescription drugs across the border.


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Republican Rep. Rick Hill will soon retire from Montana's only House seat, and the race to replace him is close. The contest between Democrat Nancy Keenan and Republican Dennis Rehberg is attracting some national attention, since a Democratic victory could affect the balance of power in the House.


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Idaho residents are conscientious voters, but they might not be as enthusiastic this year. Almost half of the state Legislature races are uncontested; Republican Lt. Gov. Butch Otter is considered a shoo-in for Helen Chenoweth-Hage's House seat; and Idaho hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. "It will be potentially one of the most boring elections we've had in our history," Boise State University political scientist Jim Weatherby told the Idaho Statesman.


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Things look a bit more exciting in Washington state, where two Democrats are battling for the chance to challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Slade Gorton. In their first televised debate on Sept. 10, state insurance commissioner Deborah Senn and former U.S. representative and high-tech executive Maria Cantwell spent most of the time attacking Gorton. Though their positions on the Snake River dams (HCN, 12/20/99) have been unclear in the past, both Senn and Cantwell stated their opposition to breaching.


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Oregonians are well known for bickering over ballot initiatives, and this year is no exception. Measure 7, championed by Bill Sizemore of Oregon Taxpayers United, requires compensation for landowners when laws and regulations reduce the value of their property. Oregon officials say the initiative could cost state and local governments almost $4 billion a year.


* Michelle Nijhuis
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