Smith '08: DeFazio considering race; decision in May

The Eugene Register-Guard has a scoop - having once decided against a Senate campaign, Congressman Peter DeFazio is re-considering his decision.

Courted by the Senate Democratic leadership and flattered on some political blogs - including DailyKos - Rep. Peter DeFazio on Monday said he is reluctantly considering a run for the Senate in 2008.

He's mostly worried about raising the money, not any political considerations.

But DeFazio, D-Ore., is hesitant to commit, citing a distaste for raising the millions of dollars he'd need in order to unseat Smith. It's the same reason he gave in past years for declining a run for governor or for other statewide office.

"Maybe if I won the lottery - but I don't buy lottery tickets. I don't see any immediate solution to that conundrum," DeFazio, 60, said at his Eugene office on Monday.

DeFazio said he could not count on the national Democratic Party for the money he would need should the leadership persuade him to run. "The courtship is very different from the reality when people run for the Senate," he said.

And his timeline?

DeFazio said he would make his final decision about a U.S. Senate run next month.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • (Show?)

    Shorter DeFazio: "Put my name on that $5mil check, sign it, and then we can talk, Chuck..."

  • (Show?)

    Who can blame him for not wanting to raise the $10 plus million it would take to challenge Smith? The sad news is the DNC promising the moon to candidates then not following through with the bucks. Any bets on who would replace DeFazio if he does run and wins a seat in the Senate?

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    DeFazio knows how to play hardball with the Repugs. And he could blow the smug cover off Gordon Smith's "moderate" mask and reveal the deception. That said, he has to want it, more than he wants to return to his safe seat in the House.

  • Senate 2008 Guru (unverified)

    As I mention on my blog:

    DeFazio says he is "reluctantly" considering a bid as he sees the necessary fundraising as a potential impediment, but that could just be a nudge to the DSCC that he would go in if they stepped up their support for him.
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    Paulie... First, note that DeFazio will get replaced whether or not he wins. He has to give up the seat to run, since they're on the same ballot.

    That said, there are a number of excellent Democrats that could run and win in that seat. On my list: State Reps Arnie Roblan, Chris Edwards, Phil Barnhart, State Senator Vicki Walker, Mayor Kitty Piercy, State Supt Susan Castillo, and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury.

  • spicey (unverified)

    Note to Pete - please, stop with the reluctance. You want everyones' support, esp. financially? you've got to declare! We'll find the money, and perhaps in this one, you won't need to match Smith's $'s. He's an idiot, and more and more are against him. You haven't raised a cent and already you've beaten him in the current poll... So, declare, and let's get started!

  • Greg (unverified)

    Isn't Steve Novick running?

    I thought I heard that somewhere?...


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    paulie, did you mean the DSCC and DCCC? I was under the impression that the DNC was staying out of individual races to work on party building and leaving the races to the congressional committees (which I think is the correct strategy, incidentally).

    I'm still not sold on DeFazio's commitment to the race. We don't need someone (regardless of how much we like their politics) who's going to "reluctantly" go after this seat. Smith, unless he unexpectedly drops out to pursue other interests, is going to fight hard for this seat and he's a talented politician we should not underestimate. We need someone who wants this seat and will put in the countless hours hitting the pavement, phoning the donors, lining up endorsements, and everything else that running a state-wide campaign entails.

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    "I also like the fact that DeFazio is a realist, understanding that national party promises of support can dry up once he is a candidate and does something they don't like."

    Kos 4/3/07

  • EM (unverified)


    Also possible replacements for DeFazio's seat: Peter Buckley, John Kitzhaber, ... Bill Clinton for that matter.

    If DeFazio resigns his seat before the election, the Guv has the option of selecting a replacement. And that person doesn't have to live in the Congressional District (or Oregon!)

  • Tamerlane (unverified)

    Personally, I'd like to see Rep. Blumenauer run. If he made a serious go at it, I find it hard to see how he wouldn't win, given the current landscape here in Oregon. Moreover, there's no danger of his seat in the House being a serious draw for a Republican challenger were it to open up. It seems like people have been indicating he won't run, but I don't recall the Congressman himself saying anything. Is there something we can do to nudge the guy, tell him it's time to take that next step?

  • US Constitution (unverified)

    EM, the Governor cannot appoint a United States Representative. The US Constitution allows only direct election of Representatives. This means vacancies must be filled through a special election.

    The Consitution does allow states to determine how to fill a US Senate vacancy, however, and many states allow their Governor to appoint.

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    Posted by: Greg | Apr 3, 2007 10:53:39 AM

    FWIW, Steve told me directly he would announce his candidacy if no big-name Dems throw their hat in the ring. He said he would announce (or not) on the 15th, though I have read elsewhere that has changed to the 18th.

    I also got the impression from our conversation, that Steve would gladly bow out and throw his full support to a qualified Dem candidate (i.e. a DeFazio, Earl, etc.)

  • Phil Jones (unverified)

    Ron Saxton for Oregon State Congress!

  • (Show?)
    Ron Saxton for Oregon State Congress! Posted by: Phil Jones | April 03, 2007 at 02:23 PM

    Oregon State Congress?

    What is that?

  • Jack Roberts (unverified)

    The Fourth District has been tracking Republican for some time, Congressman DeFazio's personal popularity here to the contrary notwithstanding. It went for Bush twice and for Gordon Smith three times (including against Wyden).

    If DeFazio runs for the Senate, Republicans will probably pick up the 4th District. And Gordon Smith will be nowhere near as easy to beat as a lot of you seem to think. It seems a lot of Democrats are thinking the way Republicans did after 1994, when anger at a sitting President was misinterpreted as a permanent partisan poltiical sea change.

    Nonetheless, my hope (and my prediction) is that DeFazio will stay in the house precisely because he now has substantial influence there, particularly on transportation issues which he really cares about and on which he is extremely knowledgeable and effective. I don't believe he will want to trade that in for a 50-50 chance to become the 61-year-old freshman junior senator from Oregon.

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    Jack, it may not be permanent, but there is a definite partisan sea change occurring. Reference Pew, which has Republicans plummeting to just 35% of the electorate compared to 50% for Democrats...and Rasmussen, which has the GOP off several points since 2000, down to 31.5%.

    The 4th, like all districts exacept the 2nd, is trending blue both in votes and population. I think there's little worry of Democrats losing the seat in the very favorable environment of 2008.

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    Posted by: Jack Roberts | Apr 3, 2007 3:34:19 PM

    Bush BARELY won District 4 in 2004 by just 5,407 out of some 425,000 odd votes cast in the district, and Wyden destroyed the King in the district in 2004. The GOP brand is being damaged and damaged hard in the district. Kulongoski beat Saxton by almost three times the amount Bush squeaked by with, and that with some 11,000 odd less voters (off Presidential election in 06).

    I think you underestimate both DeFazio's chances if he were to run against Smith, and underestimate a Democratic replacement in OR-04 to replace DeFazio if he ran for the Senate.

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    Is this going to be a one pony race? Will the primary be a mere formality?

    I hope Mr. Novick runs regardless of what DeFazio decides. We don't need a cornation for a primary. That happened once before.

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    In case you were wondering where his web site was. The full site is forthcoming.

  • LikeDefazioALot (unverified)

    As much as I like Peter, and at one time very much wanted him to make the Senate run, I have to agree with a couple of folks here that we are much better served now with him in the House. And no one who likes Peter could wish the grind of a Senate race on him after all he has done for Oregon in getting where he is now. And the thought of having to support a "big name", but genuinely useless candidates like Bradbury to keep the seat for "Democrats" leaves me cold.

    Although I'm a bit leary, I am coming around to the thought Novick would be an important candidate. None of the rest of our elected delegation we hear about as potential candidates is even remotely close to genuinely being Senate-quality. Even if they did win, they clearly won't be there in the clinch when it matters as Ron has not been much of the time all these years. (How's that bankruptcy bill supported by much of the Oregon delegation working for all of you? Looking forward to being compelled to pay through the nose to private insurers for health care insurance if Ron gets his way?) The hard, cold, fact is that the influence rating for our delegation is solely based on years of longevity, because almost all of them haven't done anything resembling genuine leadership in Congress.

    Although I'm sure the last thing Steve wants are supporters who have those views, at the same time those views lead me to think that Steve, as an outsider in a sense, might bring some needed backbone and seriousness into the debate over the issues. Unfortunately, Steve might have a difficult time raising the funds for a race if he pursues a campaign in which he says what Democrats need to say.

    Steve, in my view your decision to run should not at all be conditioned on whether a big name Oregon Democrat runs. You should decide solely on whether you have the desire and stomach to fight the fight for true Democratic values that needs to be fought and show the big name Democrats why they are little more than names. Smith will stand a good chance against all of those folks once the campaign settles back into typical, vacuous Oregon campaign style in which the lack of substance causes a certain characterless personality style to carry most of the weight with Oregon voters. After all, he has gotten a lot of Democratic votes, most of the Republican votes, and a healthy slice of non-affiliated votes in the past for precisely for that reason.

  • Bill McDonald (unverified)

    I say let Steve Novick take Senator Smith on. After the last 6 years, I want the smartest people we can find.

    DeFazio would make it Peter and Gordon, and though the campaign will definitely be "A World Without Love", I like Steve's chances of winning better.

  • josh (unverified)

    I believe Jack is right on the 4th falling into republican's hands. I think those of you who live in Portland need to understand, the 4th is much more than just Eugene. Is Eugene blue, of course it is, but not by as much as you would believe. Afterall, the city council make-up is split with Mayor Piercy holding the tie-breaking vote. A strong republican would do well in Linn, Douglas and possibly Coos County and much of Lane County. If that person splits up Eugene enough the republican's win. After the 2004 vote, the major swing area for a republican to win is North Eugene and Springfield. I can think of two very strong republican candidate's from those respective area's that could definately win the 4th if Peter decides to run for the senate.

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    Quick question: Is there any public financing available for DeFazio? Could he run a Tom Potter-style campaign, where he only accepted donations of up to, say $500? If he did so, are there any matching funds available, or would he have to rely entirely on those small contributions?

    I would absolutely love to see Oregon's next Senator win with such a fundraising strategy, just to prove once and for all whom they really represent.

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    I believe Jack is right on the 4th falling into republican's hands.

    Is the Democratic bench in Eugene/Springfield so thin that retaining the 4th CD is such a no-hoper?

    From an outsider's perspective, it seemed as though the anti-Bush sentiment was high enough to even be a factor in the state senate race down there. Is there reason to suppose that voters will have changed their tune on that by 2008 for a congressional race?

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    Quick question: Is there any public financing available for DeFazio? Could he run a Tom Potter-style campaign, where he only accepted donations of up to, say $500?

    There is no public financing for congressional races, and winning a contested seat in the U.S. Senate, a race that will probably cost the winner $7 - $10 million, by limiting onesself to $500 contributions would make a difficult task all but impossible.

    Rep. DeFazio is wise to avoid jumping into this race without concrete assurances that the DSCC will back him 100%.

  • verasoie (unverified)

    FWIW, I just noticed that is already taken, although it has been since 2005 so I'm not sure what that means, perhaps some foresight on the part of an electoral prognosticator. is already taken too...

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    The Consitution does allow states to determine how to fill a US Senate vacancy, however, and many states allow their Governor to appoint.

    But not Oregon. Here, we elect our Senators - even in the case of vacancy. See Packword, 1995-96.

    Jack, there's no official count of presidential votes by congressional district - at least in Oregon. You'd have to add 'em up county by county, and precinct by precinct for split counties.

    Not sure where you got your number, but according to the Almanac of American Politics, John Kerry won the Fourth Congressional by a slim margin of 188,479 to 187,292.

    Which doesn't change your point at all. It's a swing district - and would be hotly contested if the R's had a good and well-funded candidate.

    Jack, would you consider running for the GOP nomination for Congress - in the event that Peter DeFazio runs for another office in 2008?

  • (Show?)

    italicJack, would you consider running for the GOP nomination for Congress - in the event that Peter DeFazio runs for another office in 2008?italic


  • josh (unverified)


    That is not what I am saying at all. In fact, Peter Sorenson is probably salivating at the idea of running for the 4th. I believe Kari mentioned several possible candidates to run as well. What I am saying is the 4th is more than just Eugene. In fact the senate race you are referring to was basically won in one precinct, and that was the Whitaker neighborhood in Eugene. I believe Jim Torrey won the majority of precinct's but got wiped out in this one that gave Vicki the victory. Again, I am suggesting a strong republican candidate that could do well in North Eugene and Springfield could clearly win the 4th.

    You may not know the political landscape down here but I gave you a hint on the two particular swing area's of the 4th on who a possible republican candidate could be.

  • (Show?)

    Posted by: Kari Chisholm | Apr 3, 2007 10:10:25 PM

    The rough numbers I used up-thread were adding county totals. Josephine and Benton are the only split counties in the OR-04, I just used the entire county counts for both.

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