There’s a fascinating US Senate race going on in Oregon, where Republican incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith is viewed as eminently vulnerable, and two progressive Democrats are vying for the right to challenge him. Jeff Merkley is the Oregon Speaker of the House, an affordable housing advocate and former Congressional Budget Office analyst. Steve Novick is a successful environmental attorney, the US Justice Department’s lead counsel on the Love Canal cleanup settlement, a political consultant and activist, and a victorious opponent of Bill Sizemore, Oregon’s version of Tim Eyman. Both are passionate public advocates who rose from modest means to earn Ivy League educations and impeccable progressive credentials. Both appeal to Oregon’s netroots, for example, dividing my friends Carla and TJ over at Loaded Orygun. Both would surely serve the citizens of Oregon better than the Republican incumbent. I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and chat with both candidates, and find it really tough to take sides.
Forced to wager on the outcome, I’d guess the odds substantially favor Merkley, the more establishment candidate with better access to money and endorsements, but as always Novick is determined to make his perceived weaknesses his greatest strengths. Standing at four-foot-something, with a metal hook in place of a left hand, Novick’s promise to “fight for the little guy” is both ironically self-conscious, and, well, believable. No, Novick certainly doesn’t “look like the typical politician,” and in this anti-status quo year, it will be interesting to see if his promise not to “act like one” can catch on with voters enough to overcome Merkley’s inherent advantages.
I genuinely like both candidates, but I love this ad, which started airing today in Oregon. In the end, Oregon Democrats will likely make a decision as to which man is best able to beat Smith in November; if the Novick campaign continues in this theme, and manages to defeat the better financed Merkley, it will say a lot about the mood of this year’s electorate.
Moments after posting I discovered an email notification that the Novick campaign had purchased an ad on HA. Just thought I’d mention it since I suppose the timing might look suspicious.