Gordon Smith Draws an Early Opponent

Ty PettitOne of the signs of a weak incumbent is when opponents start coming out of the woodwork long before the election cycle.

Senator Gordon Smith already has his first announced opponent: Ty Pettit is the president and CEO of Microhelix, Inc. -- and is active with the DPO and part of a group of business leaders who supported Kerry for President. He's online at pettit4senate2008.com.

At this point, it's early to start picking favorites for the Democratic nomination - for an election that is more than two years away. But it's a good sign.


  • 401K Watcher (unverified)

    Yeah and my Microhelix stock is kicking so much @ss right about now. Talk about an Enron-like sprial. Nothing like another Tom Bruggere to disappoint us.

  • Schlappy (unverified)

    Come on 401K...Maria Cantwell's RealPlayer stock took a dive after she was elected, so don't be too bitter. Lucky for her happy hour at the Politiki doesn't cost that much, but I hear her staff usually picks up the tab anyway.

    "Weak Incumbent?" Uh huh, I'm sure Mr. Pettit has Gordon Smith quaking in his Ralph Lauren britches.

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    Ty is a really good guy, and although he's new to politics, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    He's currently in charge of the DPO's efforts to attract business interests to the party's Democratic Business Council. I'd include a link, but true to DPO form, they've been so busy since June of '05 when they made it official, that they've yet to get anything up on the DPO website about this other than a single line announcing the formation.

    Sounds like the DPO's Rural Caucus (only slower). Maybe EF Hutton's been speaking over there on ninth street.

    Ty was also active in Business Leaders for Kerry which morphed into Oregon Small Business for Responsible Leadership (OSBRL), a non-partisan progressive group.

    Full disclosure: the wife took a shot at working with the DPO during the Kerry Campaign and the frustration with the glacial pace of the creaking party apparatus, led her to go independent. She got with around 500 likeminded businesses from around the state and focus on working with Paige Richardson and the Kerry campaign because they were doing things besides squeezing donors for their last nickle and drawing elaborate org charts. Hence OSBRL

    Anyhow, Ty's campaign may be a reach. I'm sure that if the Big Boys and Girls start to perceive any weakness around Smith, Ty will have some opposition from various current office holders in the '08 primary. But despite his recent arrival to Oregon politics, this moderate didn't just fall off of the turnip truck. If he mounts a strong sustained effort, he could make it very interesting for lots of us.........

  • Eric Berg (unverified)

    I sat in on a panel on economic development at the most recent Engage Oregon conference sponsored by the Oregon Bus Project. Pettit was a panelist and impressed me. I'm interested in learning more about him, and his vision for Oregon, the US, and the world (The 'vision thing' is what present and wannabe US Senators should be articulating.).

    Nonetheless, "Tom Bruggerre" was one of the first thoughts I had, too. It seems to me the Democratic Party tries too hard to rely on 1) the rich and/or 2) a celebrity to run for high office. Aren't there more millionaire US Senators who have 'D'rather than an 'R' behind their names?

    As a general rule, I'd rather the Party Powers That Be spend just as much time recruiting and supporting the next Paul Wellstones to run for the US Senate as the next Herbert Kohls.

  • Jesse O (unverified)

    Tom Bruggerre came within a whisker of winning. I'd be happy for him to run again.

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    Enjoyed working wih Ty while assisting the Oregon Business Leaders for Kerry. I was impressed with his ability to handle the media, he can think on his feet while a TV camera is in his face. He speaks plainly, with a clear message, giving the impression he is very much his own person. I observed him asking lots of questions while remaining open to a variety of points of view with the Oregon Business Leaders for Kerry group.. He indicated his strong interest in the Senate race in 2004. Gordon Smith has dissappointed this Oregonian way too many times. Welcome Ty, and good luck.

  • LT (unverified)

    Paulie, you give me hope that Ty is more skilled than Tom Bruggere--although I reserve judgement until I see whether he is the sort of candidate who interacts with voters rather than just inflicting ads and slogans on them. Does he understand veterans issues and a whole host of other issues which matter to ordinary Oregonians?

    Eric B, I totally agree with your last paragraph. The "Kerrey Millionaire" campaign of 1996 which recruited the sort of people you speak of didn't have any success if memory serves.

    Jesse O, how do you define losing by a whisker?

    I define it as when my friends who didn't know for several days whether they won or lost, or losing by 1000 votes or less, or losing in a recount (one friend lost by 61 at the legislative level, one by 707 at the Congressional level, one by 330 statewide). According to the Official Abstract of Votes, the margin between Smith and Bruggere was 52966. The number of people who voted, but for someone other than Gordon or Tom, was 58524. I was one of the 20381 who voted for Brent Thompson, a city councilman from S. Oregon who did the "radical" thing of answering every question I asked him after a friend introduced us.

    For those who don't remember the Senate campaign 10 years ago: There were 3 gentlemen who ran in the 1996 May Sen. primary who were able to discuss detailed proposals on a variety of issues. The Oregonian (think it was them) did a series where they asked the candidates about a specific issue (like health care). Each of the 3 gentlemen talked about it in detail that went on for several paragraphs in the story. At the end of each story would be the line "Bruggere had no specific proposals", which I thought should have been the headline.

    But HEY! The guy had enough money to outspend his nearest opponent in the primary by 10-1 and the next opponent by 100-1, so why wasn't everyone happy with the short slogans? He had powerful friends (DSCC would have been more honest if they'd openly endorsed him, but they did basically what was done to Paul Hackett except less openly).

    Perhaps people were worn out by the Jan. special election, I don't know. It was hard to drum up interest among people who said "I thought we just elected a new Senator".

    In the fall, Bruggere ran on "I fought a war, I founded a company, I'm not Gordon Smith" and Democrats were supposed to accept that and not ask any questions incl. "Why do you oppose that bill Wyden co-sponsored?". It was late fall, I had finally gotten hold of someone at the campaign office who actually knew something about issues. He told me Tom did not support a campaign finance reform bill Wyden co-sponsored. But when I saw Bruggere he was silent when I asked him to his face about that bill and his stance on it. The 2 staffers with him yelled at me for asking a question, but that was OK because they were backing a DSCC favorite?

    I was a registered Indep. by that time and stayed as one until a 21st century primary I wanted to vote in. I am the sort of old campaign veteran who'd gotten disgusted and left politics, who Howard Dean brought back into party politics. His book YOU HAVE THE POWER has the exact opposite message from the 1996 "money is all that matters and only professionals know how the game is played" attitude.

    Jesse O, if you ever talk to Tom B. you might tell him to study up on issues and also have someone tell him that with his complexion he should always wear dark suits--light gray makes his face look even paler than it normally is. But you see, there were those in 1996 who said even such constructive criticism was an attack, as in "You're only saying that because your friend lost the primary".

    Some friends and I have been having an email debate based on TA's topic about not needing a unified message. This is one excerpt from someone I have known for decades : it is not at all coincidental that the Dems lost the House and the Senate when the paid political operatives took over. The "political professionals" may be just the ticket for those who think of themselves as Republicans (not to be confused with Lincoln, T. Roosevelt or even Mark Hatfield), a group that would gladly be led off a cliff. Most of us who call ourselves Democrats really distrust those who try to tell us how to think.

    There is a very important major debate going on among Democrats. Do we pick people who someone is sure will win and just tell Democrats they should support the chosen candidate or leave the party (where--to Westlund's campaign?)?

    Or do we build support from the ground up and have candidates who are willing to engage in dialogue (as I saw Jim Hill do at Marion County Democrats when he spoke and answered questions in a room of 60 people)?

    Yes, the second option is more work. But I'll serve notice right now, I will support candidates of the second variety, but I will permanently re-register Indep. (after the presidential primary if I could have an impact--if the nomination isn't decided before the Oregon primary) before I will obey the mentality of "be a good Democrat and support our candidates without asking any questions".

  • jami (unverified)

    supporting kerry instead of bush in '04 is a good start, far as i'm concerned. i look forward to hearing more about this guy.

  • Alice (unverified)

    I'm not sure I'd be bragging about holding the top job at Microhelix: the stock traded (briefly) above $10/share and now it's worth 40 cents. A lot of investors lost money, and some of them were Oregonians. Granted, much of the company's decline came before Ty started working there, but campaigning on "President & CEO" (of a "penny stock") credentials is not going to help him much in Oregon, even as a Democrat.

    Wouldn't it make sense to run for the State Senate (or even County Commissioner) first? Gordo has a few years of experience and seniority: sure makes fundraising a lot easier.

    Must proof website...I counted three typos on the "About Ty" page, and that was just a casual read. If you run for the U.S. Senatate can't website have transposed with words missing. Unless he's dyslexic, in which case I apologize for my insensitivity.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    I like Ty Pettit. I've spent enough time around him to know that he asks smart questions at the right time and when he has something to say it is to the point and intelligent. He has good physical presence and good speaking voice. He also has enough sense to start preparing the ground well ahead of the election, a drum I started beating last fall...and then filed in February...

    Thanks Chuck

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    Glad to see that Ty is running. He was chair of Republicans for Kerry in 2004, and made a lot of sense when I heard him speak during the campaign.

    For those of you who missed it today, the Republicans blocked an up-or-down vote on Senator Kerry's amendment to remove drilling in ANWR from the budget. After Kerry's Amendment was killed, Smith voted with the 51-49 majority in favor of the budget.

    This was a clear vote by Smith in favor of drilling in ANWR as other Republicans who voted against the budget cited ANWR as a basis for their vote (DeWine, Chafee).

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    Wouldn't it make sense to run for the State Senate (or even County Commissioner) first? Gordo has a few years of experience and seniority: sure makes fundraising a lot easier.

    Smith self-financed in his first campaign, and if your logic were valid, it would never make sense to challenge an incumbent.

  • Frank Lee (unverified)

    Do you really need to be a successful businessman to run as a D? Ron Wyden never ran a business. Ron Wyden never even passed the Oregon bar exam! I really don't think the value of the stock in the company matters.

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    All Right! I'm glad someone has thrown their hat in the ring and it's not too soon to start getting behind him and get things going. Go Ty!

  • Alice (unverified)

    Visitors to Ty's website are greeted with the below introductory sentence:

    Hello I'm Ty Pettit, President and CEO of Microhelix, Inc. a small publicly traded medical device manufacturer here in Portland.

    I'm not suggesting you have to be a "successful businessman to run as a D". Rather, I wonder why he would make his occupation such an integral part of his message when it's kind of like saying you own the "largest Krispy Kreme Donut franchise in Portland, Oregon" or that you "managed Enron's Internal Audit Department." Hardly any bragging rights there.

    Is this really how you want to define your credentials to serve in the most elite legislative body in the United States? As the head of a franchise that has suffered bad press and ignominy as it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy? Maybe the Enron example is extreme, but the history of Microhelix is going to be rich cannon fodder for anybody who wants to discredit Ty's resume: does it make sense to highlight it so prominently right out of the gate?

    Salvador, to answer your direct question: NO, it never makes sense to run against an incumbent U.S. Senator. Not without raising $50 or $60 million dollars first. If he spends less than $5 million, then it is an expensive ego trip, nothing more.

  • Alice (unverified)

    One more item worth mentioning: Ty Pettit became a Democrat in August 2004 here's the relevant post from the Republicans for Kerry website (you'll have to scroll down to the 8th paragraph, which reads):

    Ty Pettit, president and chief executive of a medical device company in Portland, Ore., recently switched to the Democratic Party after 30 years as a Republican. His complaints include the deficit, Iraq and the president's stances against abortion and stem-cell research.

    "The party of George Bush needs to be challenged," Pettit said.

    At the risk of sounding cynical, maybe Ty was reading the tea leaves of electability in a blue state, and decided he ought to become a Democrat if he was going to run for office.

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    No tea leaves. Ty's personal tragedy of the loss of his wife was cause for introspection and reflection.

  • Alice (unverified)

    There is nothing like a death in the family to make you reevaluate the big questions in life, like:

    Spirituality and God Relationships with friends and family Meaningful work Party Affiliation Blue socks or black Scrambled or fried Equal or Splenda, etc.

    I am very sorry for Ty's personal loss. That said, I find it hard to believe that would motivate him to leave a 30 year affiliation with the Republican Party. Changing political parties is not something commonly associated with the grieving process. Granted, I've never met the man, but it seems like electability might have figured into the equation.

  • Andy N (unverified)

    It never ceases to amaze me that rich people (from either major party) think they can buy Senate seats. What doesn't this guy run for city council or the school board where he can get some real-life public service and governmental experience before he asks us to vote him into one of the highest offices available?

    I'm all for getting new people into politics...heaven knows we need them. But not in the highest offices available. I've sworn off voting for people like this guy. He doesn't deserve my vote just because he has run a successful company.

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    anyone else hoping that this is the race Kitz is looking forward to? i could really enjoy 2008 working to elect Kitz & a Dem president.

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    I am very sorry for Ty's personal loss. That said, I find it hard to believe that would motivate him to leave a 30 year affiliation with the Republican Party.

    Since he's a moderate businessman, I doubt that Ty left the Republican Party. I suspect that the Republican Party left him.

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    I'll write in Keaneau Reeves before I'll vote for Kitzhaber and Jessica Simson before I'll vote for Hillary.

    As far as Ty's potential opponents, there are at least a couple of seasoned, sitting politicians that want that seat, so Ty's very smart to start early. The only way he won't get massacred in the primaries is if he has a huge war chest and good name recognition before the others make up their minds.........

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    No implied insult to Keaneau Reeves.

  • Kitzhaber for President (unverified)

    i could really enjoy 2008 working to elect Kitz & a Dem president.

    Of course, that could be the same thing.

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