Sunday, April 27, 2008

An Actual Senate Primary Endorsement

OK, despite my reluctance to do so and despite my lack of belief that what I have to say carries any weight what so ever, I'll endorse a Senate candidate. Before I get to that, I want to be clear that I'm alright with either candidate winning and I'll go distances to help the winner; all they have to do is ask. Oregon has a surfeit of riches in this campaign and that is why I've kept myself quiet.

Jeff Merkley is a personable, intelligent, and accomplished legislator and has good policy points. He is not Democratic Lite or any such adjective. He has put together a campaign and endorsement list that is enviable and he can beat a Gordon Smith. What Jeff is not, is a sharp edged innovative candidate. That in my mind is the only telling deficit in comparison with Steve Novick. And it is why I'm coming out on Steve's side in this tussle.

Partisans on both sides have had harsh things to say about each and a couple times the candidates have been a bit harsh, but on the candidate's end this has been pretty darn gentlemanly. Some of you unofficial partisans have shown an inability to shut up or to think about working with others, I don't hold you against the candidates, but you are doing harm within the Party and you need to think about it. There is no way that either of these men are not a vast improvement over Gordon Smith and discouraging the other's supporters from your's is stupid.

Steve Novick has shown from early age that nothing stops him, that he fights and he fights smart. I don't discount that sometimes his edginess gets the better of good judgement in a statement, but this will not be an issue with Gordon. The fake moderate guise Smith takes on every six years needs to be punctured and that done repeatedly. He needs to be taken to task in very real terms and not allowed to wriggle out of it. This is going to take a bit more than gentle handling and House decorum. Here's the nub of what I expect, I expect this fight to continue, to be taken right to the US Senate floor and a damn gauntlet thrown down in DC. I'm sick of business as usual and that is going to take a real hard nosed Senator. All of my affection for Jeff Merkley does not assure me of that, I don't think he is weak willed or a go along to get along sort, but I also do not see that hard edge that I see in Novick.

I have had a chance to spend personal time with both of these men and my admiration for both has not diminished over time. Steve gained a slight edge with me, then, that I've never publicly acknowledged in the interests of staying non-committal, but that edge has continued and gained ground. Much of this endorsement is emotion based, a feeling rather than hard facts. I'm alright with that because while the facts about Gordon are clear and available, there is also that emotional nonsense that he's played to appear a moderate. Without an emotional reason, many voters won't stop to look. Without an emotional content behind it, taking a fight to the Senate floor isn't going to happen.

The Comment section is open and is un-moderated and I won't interfere except in very extraordinary circumstances, but I also encourage you to take to heart the blurb in the Comments box. Have fun, I expect to get grief.


KISS said...

Jeff Merkley has left me cold with his Faux Ethics reform. He made sure that the reform is pure BS.
Steve Novic is probably a gun-grabber but he gets our issue does not make a candidate not worth while.

Chuck Butcher said...

My personal conversations with Steve give me no reason to believe he's a "gun grabber." I should have something from both campaigns on that issue pretty soon, I should have had it before now.

Stephanie V said...

Thank you, Chuck! You know I have been supporting Steve all along and hoping that you would see your way clear to doing the same thing. I'm thrilled to see you declare your support for him.

I also completely agree with your analysis re: what it takes to go after Gordon Smith. If anyone can do it, it's Steve.

verasoie said...

Hey Chuck,

I have to say that I am strongly for Merkley, mostly because I believe that he has the experience and credibility to take on Gordo. This fall, with Obama at the helm, I think there will be a significant Democratic tide, and all it will take is a credible candidate to defeat Smith. Novick, in my eyes, does not have that credibility, as he has never held elective office, and I don't believe that people will elevate him to the Senate when all he has to offer is "edginess." Merkley has the track record to take on Gordo, and in this climate, we don't need someone with gimmicks, but with solid credentials.

Chuck Butcher said...

Yes but, Verasoie. I seem to remember some pretty enthusiastic support for me from you. While Speaker of the State House is pretty hard to trump for legislative experience Novick's resume is scarcely blank in that respect. I'm doubtful how much weight it would carry versus Smith. But what you note is something to consider at ballot time.

The Blog world has made considerably more noise on this election than is wise and some things have been exaggerated quite a bit, Novick is not an empty gimmick anymore than Merkley is spineless or a DLC tool. Both these guys are real assets to Oregon.

maloney said...


Thanks for being a force for sanity in the Senate Primary election. Your words near the beginning of the campaign, once the HR2 stuff came up, helped a lot of us (I think) keep perspective on things. I know I tried to keep myself from getting overly sensitive about things.

Great to have you, officially, on board. This train is going to straight to DC!

Zak J. said...

I see in the last debate Novick mentioned a "contractor from Baker" he's been talking with lately. Wonder who that is? : )

If you get his ear again, you might mention how misguided his support is for banning firearms in National Parks.

Zak J. said...

Here's a source for that, by the way, Loaded Orygun:

Novick supports firearms ban in National Parks.


Torrid said...

Zak, that's incorrect. He supports the current ban on LOADED weapons in national parks--a ban instituted during the Reagan administration, in fact.

Also, I think to say that Novick is just a "gimmick," when he has a strong history of political accomplishment redounding directly to the benefit of Oregonians, is an attempt to unfairly represent him, IMO.

Anonymous said...


your thoughtfulness is appreciated and a much needed departure from the often hollow vitriol and senseless tit-for-tat seen on BlueOregon and elsewhere when this race comes up. That being said, I disagree with your choice.

The Dems have two very interesting candidates to choose from to take on Smith this year. Merkley has the edge when it comes to demonstrating a track record legislating on progressive issues that have delivered tangible benefits for Oregonians, while, by all accounts Novick appears to have a more enthusiastic base of supporters. What quality may be of most use in the closed Democratic Party, may not be of the same importance to the broader electorate, which includes significant numbers of non-affiliated voters and hopefully many Republicans looking for change.

A history of delivering results for Oregon families will be critical in the General Election, where Smith will have a long list of things he's accomplished in his current role in the US Senate that won't be easy to discount. We can point to Ron Wyden's incessant bi-partisan hand-holding with Smith over the last 12 years as a real problem for any Dem. trying to unseat Smith. But Merkley will have a real edge here for people to compare and contrast records on.

Sending Steve - who has no elective experience or track record as a public official, and who can easily be painted by the Republican attack machine as out of the mainstream - to take on Smith feels too much like the strategy is a 'hail-mary' pass in the closing seconds of the 4th quarter.

There's just too much at stake to cross one's fingers and hope Novick's style and story will be enough to carry the day, no matter how enthusiastic his die-hard supporters are.

Merkley has a record to stand on that will provide a clear contrast to Smith in ways that Steve just can't match. As you noted, for die-hard Democratic voters, Merkley's been no slouch when it comes to progressive victories and policy positions. He has been a fighter and will take the fight to Smith, and to the US Senate.

To continue the football analogy, with Merkley we'll be starting in much better field position, and with a better set of plays and strategies to work with than the old hail-mary.

Larry said...

"Zak, that's incorrect. He supports the current ban on LOADED weapons in national parks--a ban instituted during the Reagan administration, in fact."


Howz a gun ban on LOADED weapons different than a ban on unLOADED weapons?

Maybe that is the KEY to bridging the big divide 'tween guns vs no guns battle... Everybody can have guns anywhere, at anytime, just as long as they are unLOADED. And the 2nd Amendment says nuttin 'bout bullets, just 'arms'.

Keep yer damn right to bare arms, just as long as they are unLOADED!

verasoie said...

Hey Chuck,

Good to hear from you. Yes, I was an enthusiastic supporter of yours, and I would be this time to if you were in a position to run against Walden, but alas, that is neither here nor there, although your point is well taken.

Simply put, I thought you were the best of the four who were running for the nomination against Walden last time. But, if there had been someone who combined your salt-of-the-earth grittiness with some more established experience in electoral office, say a county commish, I probably would have thought them a stronger candidate than you, because of their greater credentials.

That's why I'm for Merkley. He's a great progressive, and he has the experience to credibly challenge Smith (they have equivalent positions prior to the Senate run, Senate pres. vs. Speaker of the House). Novick, as much as I admire his tenacity, offers very little experience in such matters. But don't believe me, he himself proves it by running gimmicky advertisements. If he had solid experiences to run on, he would highlight his accomplishments, like Jeff has. However, he has quite few, and anon 3:17 explains much better than I how he won't measure up to Smith in the general. Remember, we're not running against Jesse Helms here, Smith actually covers his tracks well by doing some things to help his constituents, so it'll take someone with an established track record of the same, not just promises a la Novick, to effectively challenge him.


Chuck Butcher said...

"Chuck for..." owes BlueOregon a note of thanks for a plug.

Chuck Butcher said...

I hope you're not trying to make me feel good, best of not much is a kinda back handed compliment. ;)
I noted up front that Jeff is an accomplished legislator, it's up to Steve to make his case that his experience in the Salem halls counts for something as well. If he hasn't convinced you, he needs to do a better job.

Not to compare to Jeff, but GWB's executive office experience in TX didn't lead to a good 1st four and his executive experience in the WH haven't lead to a stellar 2nd four. I prefer judgement and attitude to experience in a contest of those. That is why I came down on Novick's side and I noted that it was a narrow thing.

I don't have hard feelings or even a critique of people who come down on Jeff's side of this, there are plenty of good reasons to do so and some of them have been noted here and I've gotten some more in back channels. I've said what tipped the balance for me, that's what an endorsement is and I've made sure as I could that it was even handed and encouraged the same here - and it has been, thanks to all of you.

Kevin said...


I have to say that I am genuinely surprised by this endorsement given how many times you have challenged me (never the other way around) about my being NAV instead of a Democrat.

During the WWeek endorsement interviews Steve Novick bluntly and clearly stated a preference for Independent John Frohnmayer.

Please, don't take my word for it. You need look no further than the website of the Independent Party of Oregon to see what Novick has done for them.

Jeff Alworth said...

Chuck, if Steve wins the primary (I think that's a fair longshot, but more on that in a moment) support like yours will be valuable. You're to the right of both Merkley and Novick, and culturally, Novick could use a few friends outside the metro area.

My surprise is not that you find Steve's fighting spirit attractive. This is a hallmark of your political style. Rather, given your desire to oust local boy Smith, I'm surprised you opted for the guy who is going to have very long odds of winning the support he'll need outside urban areas. He doesn't have to take Baker County, but he can't lose it by 80%. To win, a Dem must hold the standard Dem counties and not lose too badly in rural counties. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about how he'll pull it off. (That's not a rhetorical flourish, either--since you're our man in E Oregon, I am actually VERY interested in your take on this race after May 20.)

Chris Lowe said...

Chuck, thanks for a thoughtful endorsement, which I agree with more or less word for word, including your acknowledgements of Jeff Merkley's strengths and your wise comments to blogosphere partisans, which some at least seem to be following although they seem to have been wasted electrons on others ... oh well.

Larry, Pat Paulsen ran his 1968 campaign on a "ban bullets, not guns" platform -- tag line was "this should satisfy those who like the the thrill of hunting ... imagine the thrill of sneaking up on a bear with an unloaded gun."

Zak, the point TJ is making, I think, is that Steve is not advocating changing the present situation, as the phrase "banning guns" might imply (I am not sure if there is an actual proposal to ban them altogether, or if this issue arises because of efforts to repeal the Reagan rule/law).

I have to say that this issue genuinely perplexes me. A cousin-in-law of mine was a sheriff's deputy up in Concrete, WA a few years ago, and she and one forest service cop were the only law enforcement for a large area of national forest that went up to the Canadian border & hence was a smuggling route with lots of nasty types around, many Russian immigrants at the time, often armed and also dangerous (she got her nose broken by a miscreant fist at the end of a bared arm once, still arrested the goon and still supports the right to bare arms ;->). I know that a national forest's not the same as a national park, but I think the issues about self-defense in isolated settings are similar.

But I don't know what my cousin-in-law would say on the question. She certainly would see the legitimacy and force of the self-defense issue, as do I. But I'm not as clear how that might balance out in her mind in terms of having the violation available as a tool for arresting a criminal &/or having probably cause to discover evidence of other crimes. Nor am I sure whether she'd park law officers' risks likely to be raised or lowered if the gun ban were lifted.

Of course there are civil liberties aspects of treating loaded guns as in effect a proxy crime to catch other crimes & also put at risk of arrest folks not committing any other crime or violation.

One aspect of this is enforceability of the ban. If it's largely a dead letter because of lack of enforcement personnel, so it has litle utility in arresting armed people committing other crimes, that seems a strong point for the self-defense case.

Another question I have has to do with the history here. What was the aim (so to speak) of the Reagan rule? Anti-poaching? Added law enforcement tool? What wat the problem it was supposed to address (assuming that the Reagan admin wasn't going around gratuitously imposing gun restrictions esp. in rural area)? Has that problem actually been reduced by the ban?


Even further off the subject, my captcha word looks like a cartoon villain laugh: mbwuanh [hanh hanh hanh]. A random letter generator omen about bad guys in the woods and on the range?


Thanks again for raising the content to noise ratio on the Senate race, Chuck, and keeping our eyes on Gordon whatever our disagreements about the best way to get there. Beating up on each other or on one another's candidates when each has a strong case certainly is not that best way.

Oh, and I'd vote for you if I lived in Baker or you lived in Portland (heaven forfend) even if you thought I was too soft on gun control -- I don't vote single issue on that either or make it a litmus test.

Chuck Butcher said...

In actuallity I am probably well to the left of any electable candidate. The 2nd A certainly doesn't make me right of anybody, if people pay attention to my "whys". Illegal hiring doesn't put me right of anybody, it puts me squarely in the camp of the little guy, including the disenfranchised serf class created by it (illegals) and dead set against the racism engendered by economic warfare. I don't agree with either candidate on certain issues, I always expect that.

How does either candidate win in E OR in a General? They win by making clear who and what G Smith is and how they are different. The reality is probably that the best they can hope for out here is to minimize the damage, the break down is beginning to look like 3D/4R and 2I/4R, and the I's are a bit more pink than baby blue. If a candidate picks up 50% of I and all D that makes it even.

Getting those I's is going to take being rough on Gordon, he is at least as entrenched as Walden. I've said I think Novick will be more effective at it. Look, I stayed in the 2CD Primary only because I thought I'd be most effective at creating a contrast to Walden and creating a certain sense of outrage. Steve isn't me, but you also can look to see how Democrat as usual worked out last time in 2CD. The biggest obstacle is that this is an incredibly expensive place to campaign.

Chuck Butcher said...

The Frohnmeyer comment was at least unfortunate, though he also stated he'd support Merkley. What prompted it I don't know.

Keith Quick said...

Chuck, what is that joke you tell about piss running down your neck?

I enjoyed hearing it on the campaign trail in 2006.

Chuck Butcher said...

You understand tinkle down economics when the back of your neck gets warmly wet.

Jeff Alworth said...

Thanks, Chuck. When we get a candidate, I'll be looking toward you for more.

By the way, I wish every voter held this view:

"I don't agree with either candidate on certain issues, I always expect that."