DPO Chair issues statement on party unity

Editor's note: The following statement was sent by Meredith Wood Smith, the state chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon, to the county party chairs across the state. We've reprinted it in full.

Dear Chairs,

In the last couple days we have been receiving a lot of questions about how to deal with the contested primaries. Specifically the Presidential campaign has really heated up and the Senate Candidate Steve Novick's comments about supporting Independent Candidate John Frohnmayer in the General Election have generated a lot of controversy.

Novick Article: [link]

The following talking points are what we have been using and might be helpful for you:

"If there was one thing that came out of our 2008 Platform Convention this weekend was that we know that we have to be unified as a party in order to win in 2008.

President Bush and U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith have taken our country in the wrong direction. To change direction, our first priority is winning back the White House and creating an impenetrable majority in the U.S. Senate. To get there, we need to unite behind our Democratic Nominees.

Ultimately only a coalition for change will bring about the change we seek in Washington D.C. We urge Democrats to pledge to unify around the eventual nominee, and work for a better America.

To support a third party candidate-and thus make it more likely that candidate stays in the race-merely makes it easier for Gordon Smith to win re-election and continue his support of the Bush-McCain agenda. That agenda will lead to 100 more years in Iraq and more special interest control in Washington, DC."

I hope this is helpful. Although there is frustration, we need to remember that the only way we win is by working together!

Meredith Wood Smith
Democratic Party of Oregon Chair


Discuss.

Comments

  • Runtmg (unverified)
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    While unity is important, I think that what is important is that the candidates have a spirited fight. I don't mind disunity during the primary. However, whoever wins and more importantly whoever loses must close rank behind the party.

    The Novick-Merkley fight is becoming increasingly bitter, my hope is that regardless of who wins or who loses that everyone get's after it for the winner.

    We will see how this all shakes out!

  • Jack Sullivan (unverified)
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    However, whoever wins and more importantly whoever loses must close rank behind the party.

    Which is exactly Meredith's point, and why Steve's comments were so troublesome for the party.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    When asked, Jeff Merkley immediately responded that he'd support the next most-viable Democrat, Steve Novick, if he were the nominee.

    That's because Jeff Merkley is intently focused on the overall goal: to defeat Gordon Smith in November.

    We all know that Frohnmayer doesn't have a shot at winning; he can only play the spoiler in this race.

    That's why all good Democrats must immediately get behind the nominee on May 21. And yes, that includes the candidates running to be that nominee.

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    Thanks, Jack. I know that Steve will welcome Jeff's support.

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    In 2005, Republicans in the U.S. Senate were working hard to overturn filubuster rights that protect minority voices. Two of the most helpful people to fight that effort here in Oregon were Steve Novick and John Frohmeyer. I respect Frohmeyer a great deal, but will be voting for our democratic nominee. As will Novick, even if the nominee is Merkley. I know Novick will support the democratic nomineee, btw, from his statement, "I will support the democratic nominee."

    My personal view of this race is that there's a lot of bad blood between about 30 people or so. But overall, this is relatively tame. I don't think we're anywhere near approaching where Ohio Democrats were in the Sherrod Brown vs. Paul Hackett race. Many in the netroots were initially disappointed after Hackett's heavy-handed exit, but Brown ended up winning with a unified party and ended up one of the most progressive members of the U.S. Senate.

    Gordon Smith, at least on some level, has a gift for bringing people together.

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    Meredith's way off base here, seeing as how Steve Novick has made NO comments about supporting Frohnmayer in the general election. She's been caught peddling the same false meme as Kari and the rest of the Merkley hit squad. Very disappointing reaction from folks who are supposed to stay out of the primary race.

  • Jack Sullivan (unverified)
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    You're a piece of work, torridjoe.

    Just nine minutes ago, on the other thread, you wrote:

    And he hasn't waffled on who would be best after himself--Frohmmayer. You say there's no question Merkley is a better choice than Feohmmayer; it appears Novick disagrees, along with perhaps many thousands of Ds and NAVs.

    Try and keep up, at least with yourself.

    (But based on your typos, it seems that you're spinning out of control.)

  • Bob (unverified)
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    Can someone post a transcript where the word "Frohnmeyer" comes out of Novick's mouth?

    Looks like the DPO is trying to stir up support for Merkley while badmouthing Novick to county chairs.

    Way to go, party unity!

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    Bob,

    You don't need a transcript. You can listen to Steve Novick say it on the video clip Kari posted Here.

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    the typos are because I'm using a thumb keyboard with very sensitive autocorrect and tiny keys. Sorry about that.

    But you'll have to explain the contradiction in preferring a candidate, and yet voting for the Democratic nominee. I won't be voting for John Edwards, but I prefer him. see how that works?

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    And of course The Independent Party of Oregon is crowing about Novick's statement.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    I won't be voting for John Edwards, but I prefer him. see how that works?

    Well, John Edwards won't be on the ballot anyway here in Oregon. Furthermore, even if he were, I doubt you'd be able to vote for him, as I've heard you're not a member of the Democratic Party. See how that works?

    Novick's the one who has contradicted himself. He thinks Frohnmayer is the better man for the job, but he'll grudginly hold his nose and vote for Jeff Merkley if he's the nominee.

    That's hardly the kind of 'closing ranks' that we Democrats and progressives will need to do in order to defeat Gordon Smith.

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    Jack, you get it now! Novick can't vote for Frohm in the primary either! See how hypotheticals work?

    As has been pointed out already, it's not a contradiction, it's voting strategically to avoid the worst outcome.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Bob, it's in the YouTube video, but maybe you don't have speakers or something?

    Interviewer: Speaker Merkley, if you could not vote for yourself, who would you vote for? Merkley: I'd vote for Steve. Interviewer: And Steve, who would you vote for? Novick: I'd vote for John Frohnmayer Interviewer: He's not in this room. (very long silence) Novick: I have a very hard time answering that. Interviewer: You're going to have to make a hell of a lot harder decisions when you're on the floor of the Senate. (extremely long silence) Novick: I'd wait several weeks, because I'd want to see if Speaker Merkley continues to run the kind of campaign that he's run against me. If he's planning to attack me, as his poll already has, as a pro-tax advocate, to continue to attack me for a 1998 comment about Ralph Nader, to attack me as ... Interviewer: Ok, given what you know now. Novick: Given what I know now? Um, I would vote for Candy Neville. Interviewer: You like John Frohnmayer? Novick: I think John Frohnmayer, with all due respect, has presented a thorough discussion of the major issues facing the country, and his positions are extremely progressive. Interviewer: Is this another example of your willingness to throw away a vote, just as you have with Ralph Nader in the past? Novick: I was saying, I am in the race, I, uh, I was interpreting it as who is my preference. If, once ... I will vote for the Democratic nominee. But if I could vote for the person who is best qualified other than myself, I would vote for John Frohnmayer. But after the nomination is determined, I will vote for the Democratic nominee.

    When he says, "I'd wait several weeks," if he didn't mean "after the election," what did he mean? I think he said something stupid and changed his answer.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    Posted by: torridjoe | Apr 15, 2008 3:51:10 PM

    Ah, TJ, but here's the rub. Novick was pressed into explaining his choice of Frohnmayer by the WW editors. And then he started talking about the General Election. He said he'd wait a few weeks if Merkley got the nomination, and then make a determination.

    Novick: I was saying, I am in the race, I, uh, I was interpreting it as who is my preference. If, once ... I will vote for the Democratic nominee. But if I could vote for the person who is best qualified other than myself, I would vote for John Frohnmayer.

    We won't be able to close ranks if we have a failed candidate for the nomination out there saying "But John Frohnmayer is better." That's not going to defeat Gordon Smith.

    In order to close ranks, we can't be talking about how great John Frohnmayer is. And that's what Novick was doing here, talking about the Democratic nominee (if it's not him) versus Frohnmayer.

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    I can tell you what it means--it means until it's clear whether Merkley will run with the attack ads he was testing.

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    We won't be able to close ranks if we have a failed candidate for the nomination out there saying "But John Frohnmayer is better." That's not going to defeat Gordon Smith.

    Happily, the failing candidate has already indicated that he will support Novick.

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    Novick has never said he will vote for Frohnmayer in the General Election. The questions asked were hypothetical. I hate hypothetical questions - my husband always likes to ask ones and I always refuse to answer.

    I've transcribed the comments below. Anywhere there is a ... it means that either the person was interrupted or changed their train of thought. I did not drop parts of sentences.

    1:08:34

    WW: Steve - who would you vote for?

    N: I'd vote for John Frohnmayer.

    WW: He's not in this room.

    N: I have a very hard time answering that.

    WW: You're going to have to make a hell of a lot harder decisions standing on the floor of the Senate.

    N: I'd wait several weeks because I'd want to see whether Speaker Merkley continues to run the kind of campaign that he's run against me. If he's in fact planning to attack me as his poll already has as a pro-tax advocate, to continue to attack me for a 1998 comment about Ralph Nader, to attack me as... {interrupted}

    WW: Ok, given as you know now.

    N: Given as I know now, I would vote for Candy Neville.

    [Candy Neville is asked the same question. She answers Steve Novick "because he doesn't promise what he doesn't give and he's honest."]

    WW: Why Frohnmayer? Why not another Democrat?

    N: I think that John Frohnmayer, with all due respect, has presented a thorough discussion of the major issues that are facing the country, and his positions are extremely progressive.

    WW: Isn't that, isn't that just another example of your winning to throw away a vote as you did with Ralph Nader?

    1:10:32

    N: I would say that I am in the race. And I would say, if... I thought, I was interpreting it as what was my preference. If what's... I will vote for the Democratic nominee. But if I could vote for the person that I think is best qualified other than myself, I would vote for John Frohnmayer. But after the nomination is determined, I will vote for the Democratic nominee.

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    jack, where on earth do you see novick saying hed wait until after the primary to decide?

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    Even if Steve Novick is the nominee--and that's becoming a bigger 'if' because of this controversy--how is he going to eat his words that Frohnmayer's positions are 'extremely progressive' and that he has presented a 'thorough discussion of the major issues', and most damningly, that he 'prefers' Frohnmayer to Democrats?

    Case in point: the Independent Party of Oregon's publicity of Novick's Frohnmayer support.

    That just makes Frohnmayer more of a spoiler factor, and the fact that the IPO is crowing about it probably means he's not going to drop out.

    I agree with Chair Wood-Smith 100%. "To support a third party candidate", especially through stating one's 'preference', "merely makes it easier for Gordon Smith to win re-election and continue his support of the Bush-McCain agenda."

  • James X. (unverified)
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    TJ: And then he would decide whether to vote for Frohnmayer, who's only on the general election ballot, or Neville, who could theoretically be on either ballot, or Merkley? How would he vote for Frohnmayer on any ballot but the general election ballot, when he says "I'd vote for John Frohnmayer?"

    I really think the better angle here is to just say he said something stupid and will not under any circumstances vote for a third-party candidate.

    I also think he made an awful mistake on an easy question, and that at this point it might be helpful for him to go into "serious mode," ditching the quirky ads and instead reassuring people that he's ready to be a US Senator. I'm not an expert, though.

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    In terms of ability to think under the glare of a camera goes, it's obvious from watching that exchange that Novick is the least capable out of the four candidates sitting at the table. Everyone gave concise, focused answers which cogently followed from what the actual question was. Novick alone seemed confused and befuddled.

    As the WW interviewer told Novick: "You're going to have to make a hell of a lot harder decisions standing on the floor of the Senate."

    That point is very relevant. The partisan bickering can get tense at times in the Senate and Oregon would be ill served by a Senator who can't think on his feet while simultaneously avoided the dreaded foot-in-mouth disease.

  • Jack Murray (unverified)
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    TJ, from the transcript:

    Novick: I'd wait several weeks, because I'd want to see if Speaker Merkley continues to run the kind of campaign that he's run against me. If he's planning to attack me, as his poll already has, as a pro-tax advocate, to continue to attack me for a 1998 comment about Ralph Nader, to attack me as ...

    So he'd wait several weeks, implying that he's make up his mind right after the primary when the Merkley-Novick primary is through. Several weeks from the date of this remark about Frohnmayer would pretty much place us after the primary.

    Furthermore, John Frohnmayer's name won't be anywhere on any May primary ballot. His name will only be on the General election ballot. So Novick couldn't possibly vote for Frohnmayer until after the primary, at the general.

    That's why his remark about preferring Frohnmayer to the eventual Dem nominee is so troubling.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    I'm not a party as home team, rah-rah-rah sort of guy, but I think Novick should have more careful about his remarks, even if he does think Merkley is the third or fourth best candidate running against Smith. Asking for a party's nomination does suggest a certain etiquette, which includes supporting that party's nominee, whoever that turns out to be.

    Since Merkley is a decent Democrat by most anyone's standards, I conclude that Steve has been personally wounded by the Merkley campaign. How justified is that pique? I don't know. If Merkley follows through on the Novick as tax-lover polling, then I'll know Novick is justified.

  • BulahJo McCallaster (unverified)
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    I'm a big Novick supporter. And although I agree with Civiletti on his remarks, we all know that Merkley's campaign has done a push poll on Novick. If they've paid for it, they'll use it.

    Novick is justified. Merkley was the bottom of the barrel when he was "selected" to run. Novick was already running a good campaign.

    Merkley shouldn't have gotten in. We're going to lose him as speaker, but ambition is what it is. He's running a terrible campaign with respect to tactics and message. I saw his first ad tonight and frankly, was shocked. It just looked cheap.

    Meredith is straddling here to keep the party unified and it's not an enviable job.

    I think Steve has an excellent chance of winning the whole tamale. Frankly, I think he has a better chance of beating Smith than does Merkley.

    Although I'd vote for Merkley if he should get the nomination, one has to wonder if Frohmeyer was a Dem, how many progressive people would vote for him based on his position on the issues. I think that was where Steve was coming from. Merkley is far, far too much of a compromiser. When the issues are easy, that is when it's easy to take the lead on an issue. When the issues are more difficult and complex, he shies away from them.

    Go Steve!

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    BulahJo wrote: "When the issues are easy, that is when it's easy to take the lead on an issue. When the issues are more difficult and complex, he shies away from them."

    You're wrong. Merkley has consistently and repeatedly reached out to the LGBT community, seeking our input on legislative issues impacting our lives throughout his tenure in Salem.

    Gay rights is anything but an "easy" issue, and Jeff Merkely has assured Oregon GLBT leaders of his readiness to serve as a lead advocate on our issues in the U.S. Senate. Given he's already done so in the Oregon House, there's a track record by which to believe him.

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    "Gay rights is anything but an "easy" issue, and Jeff Merkely has assured Oregon GLBT leaders of his readiness to serve as a lead advocate on our issues in the U.S. Senate. Given he's already done so in the Oregon House, there's a track record by which to believe him."

    He won't help you get married, however. That's between you and God, sorry.

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    Leo,

    I challenge you to find anything this unequivocal in Jeff Merkley's public statements. This is from Steve Novick's website.

    Freedom to Marry I realize that I disagree with many Oregon voters on this issue, and that taking this position just might cost me the election. But I cannot accept the state telling a loving, committed same-sex couple, “you have no right to get married.” The Declaration of Independence says that we all have the right to “the pursuit of happiness.” I believe that to be true to that principle, we need marriage equality.
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