Is Steve Novick unelectable?

CanhewinSince Steve Novick wrote his "If I Ran" cover story in Willamette Week, much of the blogosphere has had positive reaction and discussion.

But is Steve Novick the best candidate?

Or does the outpouring of support merely reflect a hunger to defeat Senator Gordon Smith?

This week, Willamette Week ran a letter to the editor by Jonathan Lett - with his view that Steve Novick is unelectable. An excerpt:

Steve Novick's diatribe "If I Ran" was hard hitting, on point, and shows why he would be unelectable if he ran against Sen. Gordon Smith in 2008. Any progressive, even if they were not fully informed of Senator Smith's evil ways that Mr. Novick listed, was never going to support or vote for Smith. ...

In Mr. Novick's world in 2008, he would passionately list the many evils of Sen. Smith, rallying progressives to the cause while the rest of the state sees Sen. Smith putting on his moderate electable sweater.

In Lett's view, we should find an electable moderate - who wouldn't be perfect, but would help produce a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate:

As [New York Sen.] Charles Schumer proved last November, you need Democratic senatorial candidates that appeal to each state's independents and moderates to win a national majority. You do not get 100 percent of your agenda, but then again you no longer live under a Republican Senate and House and—if we reach out in 2008—nor under a Republican presidency. ...

Please put your passion into getting progressives behind candidates so that we achieve a Democratic majority of 60 in the Senate to prevent filibusters from conservative elements, which would allow the more progressive House leadership to move the agenda forward.


  • paul h (unverified)

    Theres no general rule about these things, and the one-dimensional political spectrum is not very useful. Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester, and Jim Webb were all strong populists who won in reddish states in 2006, but they did so by fitting their state well (Tester appealed to libertarians in MT, Webb to military voters in VA). Similarly, Casey's pro-life positions helped in PA, home to lots of Catholic "Reagan Democrats" -- economically liberal and socially conservative. They all reached out beyond the Democratic base in different ways. A strong progressive could easily win in 2008, or could be crushed by Smith, depending on how the issues are framed and how they fit the state, and how they can appeal outside Portland.

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    Paul Wellstone is probably rolling over in his grave right about now.

    Chalk one up to the nattering nabobs of negativism. Thanks Jonathan.

    Run Steve Run

  • cwech (unverified)

    I agree with Paul h, while Jonathan Lett is certainly correct that anyone who is going to beat Smith would need to appeal to the independents and moderates in order to defeat an incumbent like Smith, there's no forumula for how to appeal to independents and moderates, a number of different formulas worked in 2006 giving every faction of the Democratic Party plenty of examples to say "see!? thats how you win independents and moderates!" Lett seems to make the DLC assumption that only a centrist can attract those voters, which makes the strange assumption that independents and moderates vote as a block. I think almost any ideology based "electability" standard is probably crap. Its almost never about the laundry list of positions the candidate holds but rather about the way they interract with the citizens of their state and how well they can grab hold of the kinds of basic feelings that make Montanans who they are or Virginians who they are, or Oregonians who they are.

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    Aside from the fact that I can't figure out which of the positions for which I attacked Smith are positions Lett thinks are popular (tax breaks for multinationals? undermining the minimum wage?), we all need to look closely (closer than I have yet) at how Sherrod Brown won in Ohio -- Brown is as progressive as the day is long. 87% ACLU, 95% LCV, down the line. That doesn't mean Steve Novick personally is electable (although I think Tester shows that having fewer than ten fingers is a plus), but certainly you can elect progressives. (Heck, look at DeFazio in a swing district.) I'm still too incompetent to figure out how to post links properly, but check out, if you can,

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    Sherrod Brown won because he had enough juice in Ohio to raise the $9 million he needed to remain competitive with Mike DeWine, who raised $14 million.

    My question to you is this: Where can I send a check?

  • Jesse B. (unverified)

    This idea that a Progressive is unelectable is a joke, especially in Oregon. I'm not even sure if this guy read the entire article. Wasn't the point of Steve's article that there really was no "moderate sweater" for him to put on anymore? I think his voting record is proof of that.

    This is exactly why Smith is able to get away with his masquerade as a moderate, because people like Jonathan Lett perpetuate this myth that Progressives can't get elected in Oregon.

    I don't think it matters how far left the Democratic candidate is, once they go out there and start talking about how Gordon Smith, even now, continues to vote for this war, they're going to win.

    Let's make it someone progressive who does it.

  • LT (unverified)

    Brown won in Ohio partly with his own strength and partly because the DSCC cleared the way for him in the primary.

    It seems to me that if Steve really thinks about running, he should find audiences somewhere in rural Oregon (coastal community, farm country along the I-5 corridor, E. of the Cascades, etc.) where he can speak to Rotary, or some civic group like that and gauge where the audience stands. Do they like his issues, do they like his presentation, etc. Speaking to county parties and answering questions would be one gauge, but speaking to civic groups might give more clue to the attitude of the general population.

    It has been said that Ron Wyden does better than many Democrats in rural counties because he is genuine, he listens, he doesn't try to be something he is not--that a guy from Portland wearing a business suit, engaging in dialogue with citizens and keeping his promise to have a town hall meeting in every county every year goes over better than someone from a city showing up in cowboy boots and making a big splash but being out of touch with local sentiment. Check out in 2004 how Wyden did county by county compared to Kerry.

    How well can Steve work a room and ask strangers for their vote? Has he ever tried that before? How many people does he know who live in small towns? If people in small towns met him, how would they rate him on the "cares about people like me, understands my problems" scale?

    Once I was substituting in a rural school because the teacher was taking a the winning teams to meet the governor --champion girls and champion boys. When the students returned, I asked what they thought of the governor (Kitzhaber). One said "It is OK to wear cowboy boots and jeans to the office with a suit jacket, but someone needs to tell him that if he is going to do that, he needs to wear boot cut jeans". My point is that locals may see things differently and can decide what is important to them without a politician or activist telling them what is important.

    In that great Watergate book HOW THE GOOD GUYS FINALLY WON, Jimmy Breslin tells the story of how Tip O'Neill realized that Watergate was over and Nixon had lost support out in the country. He'd promised to campaign in the home district of any congressman supporting impeachment, so he ended up in Wyoming speaking to a civic group. Bottom line: when he got to the part of the speach on impeachment, he took out prepared remarks because he said the subject was too serious to do otherwise. When he saw heads nodding as he spoke, he knew Nixon had lost the folks out in the heartland, and it was all over but the actual voting.

    My point is this: if Steve wants to run, he should give some speeches at small town civic groups and find out what kind of reception he gets.

    And bear in mind that if people are tired of Smith being slick on so many issues (after 10 years, is the the "career politician" he warned us about in Jan. 1996?), even the E. Oregon "base" might be less solid than some realize. As a friend said recently, if Gordon has a "ton" of money and people are really steamed about what he has done, he might need 2 or more tons of money ---and would he be able to raise that much?

    On the question of money, what the DSCC finally does will have a lot to do with anyone's success. And for all we know there might be other candidates who decide to run. Packwood, after all, was a legislator when he ran against Wayne Morse. He said he decided to do it when he thought he knew the odds were long, but that he knew what the odds were.

  • BobTucker (unverified)

    So I guess we just need to prop of Bruggere again? That seemed to work well before. Bob Kerry's approach failed. If he's not electable, we'll take care of that in the primary. I think he just might be electable.

  • IndependentAndy (unverified)

    I don't know much about Novick, but I understand the writer's point. The further to left the D's candidate is, the less likely I'll be to vote for him. You guys need a viable alternative to Smith, not someone as far left as Smith is right.

    And Bruggere? What a joke. The guy was a paper suit trying to buy an election. It always amazes me of the ego someone must have to think they can go from never holding an elected office to one of the most powerful offices available. Where do people come off thinking they can do that? Oh, sorry Mrs. Clinton.

    I will never vote for someone running for Governor or Senator who has never held a lower office. Bruggere should have been running for school board or city council to get some experience.

  • Jessica (unverified)

    I though Novick's WW article was great. I think Novick's great. If we really don't think he's electable then who do we think is?

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    My question to you is this: Where can I send a check?

    Me too.

  • KC Card (unverified)

    Just the sheer joy of watching Steve Novick debate Gordon Smith is reason enough to make this happen. Where do I donate?

  • Bert S. (unverified)

    LT's advice seems right on.

    I say go for it.

    Get to rural parts and find a way to say what people there know: The R's don't have workable solutions that will answer people's needs in an effective way. Describe the solutions without getting wonkish. Don't pretend to be middle of the road. Don't bash government to try to score points. You wouldn't pull it off, and beside things are too broken for that to make any sense to anyone. Show how your proposals work for rural people ... and be authentic.

  • jami (unverified)

    anyone who uses the word "electable" after it was used to anoint well-intentioned-but-marble-mouthed john kerry loses 10 of 10 possible cred points.

  • Jessica (unverified)

    My worry is that this is a replay of the Pete Sorenson thing, except Sorenson was an elected official. A guy with enough friends to give him confidence, but without crossover appeal in places beyond that.

    Seems that Steve should be working to recruit someone with a chance to win, someone with natural crossover appeal and maybe even warmth.

    Steve's positions might be good, but I don't know that he'd have broad appeal. Steve is great, but in Washington County...?

  • Michelle (unverified)

    I'm sorry to hear that some think that being smart as hell with extensive legal and legislative experience makes a person unelectable. Maybe Steve should...learn how to process frozen vegetables?

    No matter who the Democratic candidate is, we cannot let Smith get away with the moderate ruse again. Smith is no moderate, and he has the record to prove it. Smith enabled this corrupt, incompetent administration for years, and he continues to do so by refusing to even debate the troop surge. He has been duplicitous with the voters ("Bush's policies may be criminal!" - but don't demean the (R) President with even a non-binding resolution.) He is a founding member of the new filibuster-of-the-week club. Smith voted to rescind habaes corpus, he voted to allow confessions obtained through torture to be used as admissible evidence. He gave this delusional President the power to declare American citizens "enemy combatants" for "giving aid and comfort to the enemy" and jail them indefinitely with no charges and no access to counsel. He swiftboated John Kerry from the Senate floor. If we let him get away with calling himself a moderate, instead of the rabid partisan he is - then we suck and it won't matter who our candidate is.

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    Charlie Rose asked Chuck Schumer last week about precisely the same list as paul h started this discussion with: Sherrod Brown, John Tester, Jim Webb.

    Schumer had a very direct answer: "we picked them, and we picked them because they demonstrated an ability to talk to the masses."

    LT had a very convincing comment a while back about why Bob Kerrey's DSCC screwed up so bad when they "picked" Tom Bruggere - he didn't know how to, or understand the value of, talking to people.

    So far, it seems Schumer hasn't turned his attention to Oregon - he identifiedNew Hampshire, Colorado, and Minnesota as the most vulnerable Republican seats in '08.

    But my question is this: if DSCC money decides to come this way, is Oregon ready to consider the idea that Schumer's DSCC is not Kerrey's DSCC? Or are there people here working on a national level, to prevent some kind of local-vs.-national Democratic party showdown?

    Like last time, I ask this question mainly for my own edification. I have an opinion,but it isn't a very informed one (yet.)

  • THartill (unverified)

    A good response from LT

    Civic and charity groups have way more power than most realize. And for this reason stay the hell away from Russell Sadler. They have connections in every community that run deep. They always vote and make sure everyone they know does also. If you speak at a small group of 20 people at a Kiwanis or Rotary luncheon, you are really speaking to 200 or more because the word gets out.

    And for gods sake don't call for more taxes. Wipe out the Bush tax cuts to balance the budget, but leave it at that. If the budget can still not be balanced, either make programs more streamlined/accountable or start cutting. I don't make much over minimum wage and I pay $3,500 a year in taxes and that's just what is taken out of my paycheck without factoring the taxes disguised as fees that I have to pay on an every day basis.

  • Michelle (unverified)

    "Other well-funded GOP senators include Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who had $2.7 million banked, and Oregon’s Gordon H. Smith, who had $2.2 million cash on hand as he prepares for a potentially threatening re-election bid in his politically competitive state.

    CQ Politics, Feb 2007

    Leans Republican (not "Republican Favored" not "Safe Republican")

    Maine (Susan Collins) Minnesota (Norm Coleman) New Hampshire (John E. Sununu) North Carolina (Elizabeth Dole) Oregon (Gordon H. Smith)

    CQ Politics January 2007

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    people like Jonathan Lett perpetuate this myth that Progressives can't get elected in Oregon.

    Yup. I have two words for people who subscribe to that notion.

    Ron. Wyden.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    A couple notes: The Left is not going to vote Smith - not ever, but, you could offend them.

    There is a whole lot of Oregon, who exactly is Steve Novick? I read his post. So? I'd say the same things and I'm not about to even discuss it. Does anybody outside a narrow area know who he is? That's a real disadvantage against the "moderate image" machine.

    If you take a 25-30% in 02 CD, you've got a huge hole in your State vote, especially considering some of the other Western "reddish" counties. If you're unknown here, getting votes is real tough.

    I'm not advocating a "red" Democrat, I'm looking at some kind of name recognition factor.

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    As to the questions about whether Novick can appeal to rural Oregonians, I agree that his first impression is more New York than Cottage Grove. But he IS from Cottage Grove, and surely he can still speak the language.

    By "the language" I mean being able to relate from experience what it's like to be overshadowed by the bigger cities, knowing that the loss of a few good jobs is a profound and lasting ouch in a small town, etc.

    He's not warm and fuzzy, but he's funny as #$%^ -- and that's disarming everywhere.

    I'll pitch in for the boots if it takes boots to win. I think he has the rest of what it takes.

  • Jesse B. (unverified)

    Thank you, Kari.

  • Don Beal (unverified)

    Four or five years ago the Oregonian did an excellent front page write up on Novick. The guy has passion and commitment. Those qualities sell a candidate. I'm not great with computers. I wish Blue Oregon could dig that Oregonian piece out.

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    The comparison Jessica made between Novick and Pete Sorenson is way off. Novick is intelligent, admired, practical and sane.

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    Steve is electable. If Defazio can win in his district, Novick can win in the state. A lot of people wanted Defazio to run for this position and believe that he is electable yet he is one of the most progressive reps in Congress.

    Steve is fast on his feet and hard to dislike. I bet that he goes over well in the small towns. It won't take long for him to get well known. Steve always provides the media with the zinger one liner that they love to put on the news or in the story. He can get well known fast.

    The issue is Smith. He has not been seriously challenged and I suspect that a a slight tap from a steel claw will let the air out of his balloon. Times they are a changing.

  • Garrett (unverified)

    Who cares if he's electable. I like his positions and if I read his article the right way he's more than willing to defer to a bigger name Democrat. The problem is we don't have a Dem w/ a big enough name with the rocks to go up against Gordo right now. Kitzhaber won't do it, DiFazio won't do it, Blumenauer won't say anything but he's got a safe house seat so I bet he won't run, Bradbury hasn't said anything...if Novick is the guy willing to go 1 on 1 with the flip flopper Gordo...sign me up. We need a candidate who can raise the money and start jabbing at Gordo now while he's in the news pretending to be a moderate. If Novick is willing to be that guy I'll send a check tomorrow.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    Steve would be a great candidate and a great Senator.

    The truly unelectable Democrats are the ones who try to be vaguely liberal without being "too confrontational." Steve's smart, articulate and funny and if he spends his campaign unashamedly calling bullshit on Gordo, people of all political stripes will turn out to vote for him.


    PS. to "Anonymous": if you want to smear Peter Sorenson, at least sign your name. Then perhaps we can all judge whether your record of good work on behalf of the people in this state comes anywhere close to Pete's.

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    Steve is fast on his feet and hard to dislike. I bet that he goes over well in the small towns.

    You're right John, he does go over well in small towns. Steve came to Monmouth this last year. We hope he comes a few more times in 2008.

  • Friend of Steve (unverified)

    I love and respect Steve Novick and if Earl were to give up his seat, I would endorse Steve in a second for CD#3, but U.S. Senate? I'm sorry to rain on the parade but Steve would never get over 40% statewide. He worked for Diane Linn for christ sake. That alone will generate a barrage of negative ads to suppress his numbers in the Metro area. Add to that his very public leftest positions and his lack of public accomplishments since moving back to Oregon will doom his campaign. The GOP will dump a million bucks in ads to "define" Steve as a crazy liberal before he has the opportunity to hold his first fundraiser. Like everyone else, I would love to see Steve debate Gordon Smith. He would win the debate, but he wont win the election.

  • Zak J. (unverified)

    What kind of "moderate" should we run? According to the Oregonain SMITH is a moderate. If we buy that, it would naturally follow that anyone more liberal than Smith would be labeled in the press as a wild-eyed radical.

    But of course that's nonsense. The Republican leadership since 1994 has driven their party so far to the right that even editorial boards have lost perspective on where the true middle is. Part of defeating Smith, and the current crop of extremists who still run the Republican party, will require a sustained effort by all of us to redefine what moderate even means. On a true number line from extreme right to extreme left, Novick is squarely in the middle.

    I refer anyone looking for pointers on where the true middle is to re-read Molly Ivins fine 2006 piece, Demos need to grow spine, which reminds us of the following:

    • 65% of Americans want single-payer health care
    • 86% favor raising the minimum wage
    • 60% favor repealing Bush's tax cuts
    • 77% favor doing "whatever it takes" to protect the environment

    The list goes on, read it. But the point is this: the Republican party and its local affiliates are extremist and out of touch. And so is Gordon Smith. Keep hitting on that point and we will win.

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    Yup. I have two words for people who subscribe to that notion.

    Ron. Wyden.

    An even better example is Peter DeFazio, who is one of the more liberal members of the House (which is by turns more liberal than the Senate) and is re-elected bi-annually in a purple district.

    One of the most important factors in progressives getting votes in rural districts is the degree to which they pass the culture test. John Kitzhaber was a Southern Oregon, jeans-wearin, fly-fishin, cowboy boots local. His politics put him on the far left (even on the other side of DeFazio) and yet he seemed like "one of us" to folks in his native Douglas County. If a guy like Steve Novick wants to get elected, he must appeal to those swing voters in rural districts.

    Of course, you can't do this falsely. I always wondered if the moment John Kerry went goose "hunting" was the moment he lost the election. You can't fake authenticity.

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    Let me preface by saying that I don't intend in any way to demean Steve or make his physical characteristics into a dispositive factor for whether people should support him...but reading "Friend of Steve's" comments I wonder just how easy it would be for the state GOP to trash him. Their tendency can often be to appeal to opinions about someone's appearance or mannerisms as a way to discredit opponents. What was done to John Kerry is an excellent example, but Mike Dukakis also got lots of flack for being short and less than herculean in his demeanor.

    Point being, that MO would run into problems against Steve, IMO. Many sensitive people--particularly most women, I speculate--would tend to recoil if they thought that opponents were "picking on the short, crippled guy." Steve's manner feeds right into it--he's self-deprecating, open about his physical features, and thus unlikely to take any bait.

    The people afforded "victimhood" are most often those who refuse to claim it in the face of such attacks, and in a personal smear campaign--or even a vigorous political policy attack-- against Steve I can easily see it backfiring. People may even support Steve as a way of burnishing their own self-image about how open-minded and able they are to "see people for who they are, not what they look like."

    Little Joe gets Time for Kids at his school, and this week's is all about the presidential candidates. I asked who he thought he liked best, and he said Barack Obama, because he wants to see a black man be President. I told him that many of us would in fact like to see that such a barrier can be broken--but it would be an insult to Obama to vote for him just because he's black.

    Yet, while I'd never pull the lever for an African American (or anyone) I thought was unqualified, I can admit that--given my impression of Obama and Edwards as fairly equal on political merit--the idea of taking that giant step forward in racial equality is enormously appealing. My speculation is that the idea of voting for a non-Adonis, partially disabled candidate might trigger a similar response in some people, who may allow their affirmative rejection of stereotypes and prejudice to drive their perceptions of the candidate's political qualities.

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    Don Beal,do you mean this piece from 1999, in which Novick skewers one of Bill Sizemore's anti-tax initiatives?

    LABOR-LOVING, LATTE-LIBERAL PANTYWAIST CRIES WOLF Oregonian, The (Portland, OR) June 6, 1999 Author: Jonathan Nicholas

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    "I'm sorry to hear that some think that being smart as hell with extensive legal and legislative experience makes a person unelectable. Maybe Steve should...learn how to process frozen vegetables?"

    I think that is about right. People vote for the person, not the issues. Steve's positions on the issues are shared by thousands of Oregonians, what makes Steve the standard bearer?

    For many people legislative and legal experience are not high recommendations. They are looking for people who have experience with the same problems they face every day. Small business owners want someone who has had to make a payroll. Blue collar workers want someone who has had to punch a timeclock. Executives want someone who has demonstrated they understand the economics of local industries.

    Ron Wyden or Elizabeth Furse were progressives. But they were elected with similar backgrounds as leaders of non-profit advocacy groups. Paul Wellstone had already run one previous statewide campaign, he had a record of personal accomplishment outside politics and he got very lucky with his opponents missteps.

    As far as I know, Steve is a political professional who approaches issues from that perspective. He has no record of legislative accomplishments he can point to where he put those issues into play. And he has no other record of accomplishment outside politics. That is not a winning background. Being witty is entertaining, but its not going to get you elected to the United State Senate.

    Frankly, I think people who encourage Steve are doing him a disservice. His time, energy and talents are better used elsewhere. What does he have that Brugerre didn't, except empty pockets?

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    Frankly, I think people who encourage Steve are doing him a disservice.

    Making any sort of assumption that Novick will make his decision based on the "encouragement" of a bunch of commenters on a blog seems belittling.

    I'd guess that most of us, (including Steve) are clear regarding our importance or lack thereof in the greater scheme of things.

    The most we can hope to do is to offer potential candidates a cross section of progressive and (yes Coyote) conservative opinions about that candidate's chances. It ain't a poll, it's closer to an Everyman's Think Tank.


    I'm reminded of an old Barbara Jordan quote re the Perot candidacy:

    "The republic will not fall..........

  • Patrick (unverified)

    I don't know how electable or not he is, but I think this pandering to the middle thing is a waste of everyone's time. If the race comes down to a republican and someone who looks, sounds and acts like a republican, why the hell will anybody vote for the copy?

    Sure, most of the people on here will vote for anyone other than Smith, but I think that we'll have better luck pulling moderate and independent voters by getting a candidate that stands for something rather than simply standing against the incumbent- if you don't believe me, ask John Kerry how well his campaign went in 2004.

  • djk (unverified)

    Steve's been pretty open about the fact that he'll step up if nobody else does, and that he's waiting to see if one of the heavy-hitters steps forward. But from where I sit, he's a strong B-list candidate, and if nobody else from our A-list steps forward, I'd say he can win.

    No, he doesn't have Bruggere's money. But he's got brains and passion and energy and connections, and a lot of Democrats who want to knock out Smith and will rally behind someone they can believe in. If Novick declares by, say, May or June, he'll have well over a year to raise money for the 2008 summer/fall campaign. He'll also benefit from a national funding drive by progressive groups like MoveOn to knock off weak Repubicans.

    So nobody outside of political activists knows his name today. Big deal. If he secures the Dem nomination, by October of 2008 he'll be a household word.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Making any sort of assumption that Novick will make his decision based on the "encouragement" of a bunch of commenters on a blog seems belittling.

    I wasn't referring just to people here. And suggesting encouragement from any source isn't encouraging to a potential candidate is naive. The reality is that its not Steve's positions on issues that make him unelectable, its that he doesn't have the personal accomplishments required.

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    The reality is that its not Steve's positions on issues that make him unelectable, its that he doesn't have the personal accomplishments required.

    I guess I'm confused about what "personal requirements" are required. Graduated from college at age 18? Check. Harvard Law School graduate? Check. Took on polluting corporations at Love Canal? Check. Considered such an expert on tax policy that reporters statewide regularly consult with him before publishing their stories? Check. Smart, funny, able to connect with all kinds of people? Check.

    What else does he need?

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    he doesn't have the personal accomplishments required

    When did accomplishments matter in this country? Look at our President!! He went from third rate baseball team owner to Governor of Texas to President of the United States!

    It's what makes this country great, that anything can happen to anyone.

    Steve has worked constantly for issues that matter to all Oregonians. He's been a thorn in Bill Sizemores backside.

    Is it fair to say he has none? So he doesn't have any experience in elected office. When was that such a bad thing?

    He should be encouraged to run, to form a message that can appeal to a wide range of Oregonians, that can stand for values we can be proud of. Then let the voters in the primary decide if he can take Smith on in the General Election...besides, if he's the only one that raises his voice and runs, we better damn ready to fight for him, just has he has fought constantly to defeat these horrible ballot measures like 48, for us.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    First of all, regarding Don Beal's question about The Oregonian article, they ran a Monday profile cover story on Steve sometime in the last year or so that mentioned his desire to someday run for the 3rd CD. Steve was also widely mentioned in a Sunday O article about taxation in OR compared to other states that ran sometime after the '04 election.

    In that article, I believe, Steve was mentioned as being a self professed lover of higher taxes. Although that is admirable and candid public policy, it is not a great political line. Because of that public position, and his lack of name ID, Steve is probably not high on the elect able list. Remember, Bill Bradbury, s statewide office holder who ran a decent campaign, lost to Smith by 20%. Granted, '02 was not a good year for Dems, but could Steve (or anyone) make up that gap?

    Kitzhaber and DeFazio maybe could, but they aren't running. I think someone like Peter Courtney with some name ID and proven appeal to a swing county (Marion) might have s hot. If Steve runs, he will help drive the debate on issues, and will built up name ID for a possible run for the 3rd CD, but his chances of winning are slim. Paul Wellstone was one in 1,000, and he won in 1990 largely because his Jewish opponent foolishly accused Wellstone of not being a good Jew right before Election Day, and it backfired big time.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Harvard Law School graduate? ... Took on polluting corporations at Love Canal?

    Where is Love Canal? Upstate New York. Where is Harvard Law School? Cambridge Massachusetts. How do these tell anyone in Oregon that Steve cares about them, understands their problems and will represent their interests in Washington?

    Considered such an expert on tax policy that reporters statewide regularly consult with him before publishing their stories?

    Who was the last guy that got elected for his knowledge of federal tax policy? Probably George Bush - "Read my lips. No new taxes." A real in-depth analysis reflecting a detailed understanding of the tax code. People don't vote for people because they know anything about public policy. They vote for people because they understand their problems and interests.

    What else does he need?

    Has he raised kids? Has he had to meet a payroll. Does he know how to make money processing peas? What are his life's accomplishments that show he shares the background, values and concerns of the typical moderate voter in the suburbs or the rest of the state of Oregon?

  • Anon (unverified)

    Yes, Ross Williams, we are all just a bunch of backwater, ignorant hicks here in Oregon. We are incapable of understanding the prestige of Harvard, the importance of Love Canal, etc. We find smart and educated people threatening, right? And everyone who lives in Oregon was born here. It's not like people who used to live on the east coast moved here and brought their knowledge and affinities, now is it.

    Now Gordon Smith - it's so easy to see how he really cares. He cares so much he wears $2000 suits to impress us. He care so much he has a $1,000,000 collection of golf clubs so as to elevate the esteem of our state. Yes, Sen. Helmet Hair fits right in at every modest diner he comes across. Sen. Helmet Hair understands the problems of everyday voters. He shares their interests. He likes to fly around the country in corporate jets, just like they do.


  • JohnH (unverified)

    If Steve is really too progressive, I expect that Chuck Schumer and the DLC will take care of it by finding someone that suits their agenda. I would be disappointed if Steve decided to step aside. I'm fervently pro-choice, particularly when it comes to primary elections.

    If Smith can pretend to be a moderate, why can't a progressive depict himself as moderate, particularly since polls show that most Americans espouse a lot of progressive positions?

  • LT (unverified)

    A little reality check. Look at the places where Wyden got more votes than Kerry, and think about how those Wyden / Bush voters would decide on Novick/Smith. Do you know any of those people, or any Bush/Hooley voters? If not, how can you know their decision process?

    I would believe Steve Novick goes over well in small towns if I saw him speak to a small town (Monmouth, Cottage Grove, whatever) Rotary or other civic group and saw with my own eyes what kind of impression he made.

    A Republican friend and I trade predictions before every election. So I sent him the link to this topic. His response was that it may be too early to predict 2008 US Senate but, "I know Steve Novick quite well and I can't see how he would be a formidable challenger to Gordon Smith..."

    If those of you who are gung ho for Steve Novick really want to get a reality check, talk to your friends who aren't Blue Oregon regulars. That Republican friend you know from somewhere. Your next door neighbor. Your dentist. Parents of your children's friends. That sort of folks. That would give you a better idea of name familiarity and other support--suggest they read the Willamette Week story or one of the Steve Novick topics here if they've never heard of Steve.

    The election will not be decided by those who blog, but by those who now say "2008? Didn't we just finish an election?"

    Lots of wisdom here from Chuck, Jeff, and Friend of Steve.

  • Anon (unverified)

    Doesn't it mean something that Steve chose to return home to Oregon, when he could have been a fancy-pants lawyer in New York? He returned to get in the trenches and fight for ideals he believes in, at home?

    I also don't think it's the case that Steve so much wants to run - he wants someone to run and to start putting himself or herself out there. Although I think he would be great. I would really dig into that campaign. I would never feel that kind of enthusiasm for Hillary - because I don't see that enthusiasm from her. I see dogged drive and determination to win, and I like that she won't take crap from people. "She didn't stay home baking no damn cookies!" But my ideal candidate is someone who wants to go to Washington because he or she believes that the system should be fair, it can and should work for everyone. An idealist. I know, crazy.

  • (Show?)

    Steve Novick here weighing in to say that Grant is right in a way: if I really had told the Oregonian that I loved taxes, as the Oregonian implied, I'd have no businesses running for Senate. I did correct the record in a quite furious letter to the editor immediately afterward, and the reporter is well aware that I never said any such thing - and if Smith uses that article in a campaign the reporter might wind up being called upon to confirm that fact. But the article was no help, true enough. It took my advocacy for honesty about taxes, for letting peoplle know that most taxes pay for popular things, and made it "loves taxes." But I'm banking that one article suggesting that I said something I never said is not a disqualification. I'd slash the heck out of taxes for everyone but people who make over $300,000 tomorrow, if we could do so without endangering Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and national security. As to small towns, if this happens, I'll go to lots of 'em, and if the kids in Creswell High School whom I watched do presentations on the "balance the state budget" exercise that we developed at Citizens for Oregon's Future are any indication, people in small towns are as prepared for honesty about fiscal issues (for one thing) as anyone else. I will also spend a lot of time shaking hands in Washington Square Mall, Clackamas Town Center and other SUBURBAN venues.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Doesn't it mean something that Steve chose to return home to Oregon, when he could have been a fancy-pants lawyer in New York?

    What does it mean? You want to make the case that a Harvard legal education is a good sign that someone can connect to the problems of typical Oregonians? I suggest you take a list of the folks that came out of Harvard law school and didn't become a "fancy-pants lawyer in New York." Its a long list with nothing much in common than that they are smarter, and I suspect mostly a lot richer, than the rest of us. And that has never been a qualification for office in Oregon or anywhere else.

    Gordon Smith didn't run for office tauting his sports car collection. He ran as the guy who returned to Pendleton, saved his family business and built it into a major employer. And as a guy who had a record of public accomplishment that made him the leader of the State Senate.

    So what is Steve Novick's personal story? Maybe I missed something, but it seems to be mostly as a professional political operative. Anyone can run for public office. They can do the "animal" club circuit and ride in parades and shake hands. Getting elected is an entirely different matter. They can take stands on issues and read speeches about them. The audience doesn't really care who did the analysis or wrote the speech. What they want to know is that the candidate's life reflects an ability to represent their interests to the other elected officials in Washington.

    Gordon Smith is going to be very tough to beat. Steve's problem is not his stands on issues, its that he has very little else to run on. And issues are pretty thin gruel to sustain a campaign on.

  • LT (unverified)

    THartill -- Thanks for the compliment, but what do you have against my old friend Russell Sadler?

    If you don't like his opinions, say so--but I really admire all he knows about Oregon history and politics.

  • realist (unverified)

    He's not electable. Why? The way he looks. Short and squeaky. Not to be an asshole, but, well it's true. Votes happen not only on content, but also on persona.

  • (Show?)

    realist said: He's not electable. Why? The way he looks. Short and squeaky. Not to be an asshole, but, well it's true.

    You mean you tried not to be?

    We've had people in wheel chairs, missing limbs, we've got a guy in now with seven fingers. We've got fat, short, tall, skinny. That's just totally absurd that Steve wouldn't get in because of his physical appearance. I don't even know what to else to say on that point.

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    Dear Ross Williams,

    Issues are "thin gruel" for a campaign? Do you hear yourself? Fine - let's just concede democracy to the swiftboaters and be done with it.

    Obviously you do not think that overcoming adversity and succeeding in the world is a "personal accomplishment" worthy of admiration. Many will disagree with you there. I find it to be quite a compelling "personal story". More compellng than freezing peas, in any event.

    Gordon Smith is not going to be able to run on family business/frozen peas this time. He's going to run on corporate jets, right-wing voting record, habitual filibusterer, and Bush-enabler. His record in the Senate is undistinguished - the NYT called him a "back bencher".

    No matter who the Democrats run, that person will be subject to the best smear campaign that money can buy. So it's really pointless for us to reject candidates based on the forseeable attack - the attack is coming no matter who it is.

  • (Show?)

    Thanks LT

    For the record, I am frequently invited to give talks to civic groups like Rotary, county medical societies, annual banquets, etc. in places like Pendleton, LaGrande and Coos Bay as well as Eugene and Portland.

    Audiences are always curious, often disagree, never hostile. They realize my job is to share things they need to know, no what they want to hear.

    And THarthill right. They tell their friends about it. That's why they ask me back.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Issues are "thin gruel" for a campaign? Do you hear yourself?

    Yeh. I do. I don't thinks a campaign has been successful on "issues" for a very long time. Issues are important for what they tell you about a candidate's values. But no one is voting for people based on their understanding of the tax code. I know that is a shock to people who spend their lives talking about issues, but most of us already know who we are voting for.

    He's going to run on corporate jets, right-wing voting record, habitual filibusterer, and Bush-enabler.

    I doubt it. He is going to run on his seniority and his ability to bring home the bacon. He's going to run based on his knowledge of Washington and his understanding and advocacy for the interests of Oregon. The national campaign, war, social security etc, may make Smith vulnerable. But whoever runs against him better be able to convince people s/he has the experience to deliver and has some personal qualities that make them more attractive than Smith.

    Obviously you do not think that overcoming adversity and succeeding in the world is a "personal accomplishment" worthy of admiration.

    Are you saying overcoming a disability makes one qualified to be a United States Senator? Would you choose your doctor based on that? How about your accountant? Your lawyer? Or would you be more interested in knowing that they understand your health needs, the kind of business you run or specialize in the area of law you need?

    I don't know everything about Steve's background, but he needs to have a story of public accomplishment that reflects both an interest and the ability to represent Oregon's interests in Washington. I don't see that.

    So it's really pointless for us to reject candidates based on the forseeable attack - the attack is coming no matter who it is.

    Whatever vulnerabilities there are will be attacked. And every candidate has some and there will be research, focus groups and polling to identify the ones that can be used to greatest effect. The question is what strengths does the candidate have to withstand those attacks.

    That's just totally absurd that Steve wouldn't get in because of his physical appearance.

    What is totally absurd is to suggest that it isn't a factor. It shouldn't be, but the world isn't the way we want it to be. The fact is people make judgments on appearances.

  • Don Beal (unverified)

    Thanks for recalling the Oregonian piece for me. I now recall that I was upset about the Oregonians treatment of Steve and was glad he responded with a letter. I read a lot of the progressive blogs everyday and I feel certain that Steve would become a "netroots" favorite in a heartbeat. I don't think I could say the same for any other candidate mentiioned so far. Others would be supported but not nearly as much.

  • Mid-Valley Guy (unverified)

    I love Steve Novick. He would trounce Gordon Smith (or just about anyone else) in a debate.

    But Steve Novick cannot win statewide. The evidence:

    Every candidate who has been elected state-wide in Oregon during the last 15 years (or more) was already an elected official before they ran state-wide. Ted Kulongoski, John Kitzhaber, Barbara Roberts, Bill Bradbury, Hardy Myers, Randall Edwards, Jim Hill, Susan Castillo, Stan Bunn, Dan Gardner, Gordon Smith, Bob Packwood, and Mark Hatfield all came out of the Oregon Legislature. Ron Wyden came out of the U.S. House.

    NO ONE HAS BEEN ELECTED STATEWIDE IN OREGON IN AT LEAST 15 YEARS WHO HAD NOT FIRST WON ANOTHER MAJOR OFFICE. Tom Bruggere, Ron Saxton, and lots of failed Republican candidates for AG, Treasurer, Superintendent, Labor Commissioner, and U.S. Senate are the poster children for failure, since they had never served in the Legislature or Congress.

    Let's look at the Oregon Legislature and the Oregon delegation to the U.S. House, determine which Democrat can win in swing counties like Clackamas and Marion, and then get busy defeating Gordon Smith.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)


    Steve's lack of a compelling personal story is really just a symptom of his underlying inexperience. He has never run for office. And that means he has never been tested, in lots of different ways, by the rigors of running for office. No one, including himself, knows how he will stand up to those pressures. Or how his personal story will stand up. Putting up a completely untested candidate against Smith would likely be throwing away a real opportunity.

    For instance, if I understand Steve's involvement with Love Canal, ten years ago he was the EPA's "lead counsel" during the settlement of a 17 year old lawsuit to recover some of the federal costs of cleanup. He has spun that well, but you have to wonder what happens when someone starts asking questions about how critical his involvement was to the outcome. Will that spin unravel? As far as I know, the central responsibility for litigation is usually at the Justice Department, not with agency attorneys.

  • Clackamas Dem (unverified)

    I agree that elected experience is key if we are going to take down Gordon Smith.

    How about Senators Kurt Schrader or Rick Metsger or House Majority Leader Dave Hunt? They have each demonstrated that they can win electorally-important Clackamas County -- and have proven appeal to swing voters.

  • THartill (unverified)

    Russell on Charity:

    Charity, for all its importance, is not designed to help the poor. Charity is deliberately designed to make the well-to-do feel good about themselves during seasons we are supposed to “help others.”

  • anon2 (unverified)

    We have been pretty nice to Steve here. We don't want to do friend-bashing, and we surely don't like G. Smith. But this has gone a little far. I fear Steve's self-focus and desire to raise his name identification could make it less likely for another candidate to enter the race.

    His positions aren't the problem. Steve hasn't really shown significant leadership skills beyond advocacy. And forget the Wellstone comparisons. Paul W. was an organizer. I pain anyone to find a bunch of people who Steve has engaged in the process.

    Writing cutting blog posts and being a mouthpiece for political consultants and labor is not a qualification for the US Senate. It's not clear that he a man for elected office. He's more for commentary and criticsm. Gifted criticism, to be sure.

  • (Show?)

    For instance, if I understand Steve's involvement with Love Canal, ten years ago he was the EPA's "lead counsel" .... As far as I know, the central responsibility for litigation is usually at the Justice Department, not with agency attorneys.

    FYI, Steve was at the Justice Department - not EPA. I may be partly responsible for that misimpression, because I used to think he had been at the EPA. Who knows where, when, or how many times I said it to folks casually, but I was mistaken.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)

    I had planned to stay out of this debate, but today someone posted yet another in this string of "insurgent candidates to run," so I'm gonna post.

    (Full disclosure: I'm a big Novick fan, and have urged him to be an invited speaker at several events.)

    Three things have been said in this string that are crap.

    (1) First off all, the coment about physicality was not only bigoted but stupid. That wouldn't hold him back in the least. Indeed, Steve stands out in a meaningful way that's in fact an asset.

    (2) Second of all, the idea that someone with progressive values couldn't win is also just wrong. The person needs to be not mobbed-up, and needs to reach beyond a small portion of the population, but to say that someone without a constantly triangulating political compass can't win I think is actually 180 degrees wrong.

    (3) Third, the idea that only an elected political insider can win is also of the mark. Not only Paul Wellstone, but also Wayne Morse in our own state. They are rarer -- most of the people with the itch to run statewide have already had the itch to run or something else -- but it's surely not out of the question.

    I think Novick would an an intriguing candidate -- and certainly not one to be dismissed.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Not only Paul Wellstone

    What is crap is saying Paul Wellstone was not a "political insider". He had already run am unsuccessful statewide campaign for state auditor as the officially endorsed DFL candidate.

    More to the point, comparing Steve Novick to him is absurd. Wellstone had spent nearly 20 years helping to build and train a cadre of young organizers all over Minnesota that were at the center of almost every social movement in the state (as well as several other states). In fact, he was so closely identified with them that they were often referred to as "Wellstone Groupies".

    First off all, the coment about physicality was not only bigoted but stupid.

    It is neither. It is just plain fact that people are more likely to vote for someone they find physically appealing. That may be bigoted, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.

    Second of all, the idea that someone with progressive values couldn't win is also just wrong.

    I hope you are right. But beating Smith is not going to be easy for anyone. The more a candidates "values" are reflected in positions that appear extreme to moderate voters, the more difficult it will be to convince people that they can represent their interests.

    Lets be clear - anyone "can" win. Smith could be caught in bed with a 12 year old boy two days before the election. But it would be better to have a candidate who can win without Smith self-destructing.

  • Thinking Ahead (unverified)

    Interesting about the 20 year organizing thing and the "groupie" thing regarding Wellstone.

    So, if we're looking for Oregon's Wellstone, maybe it is in fact Jefferson 10 years or so.

  • Ron Buel (unverified)

    Steve Novick is a formidable candidate. I agree with Jefferson that Steve need not worry about his disabilities, about being "too progressive", nor about running for statewide office without being previously elected.

    I think Novick himself correctly identifies, above, that the Willamette Valley suburban voters are the swing voters in this state. How he does in small towns is unimportant -- that's not where the vast majority of swing voters are in Oregon. I just see Novick coming out of a school of politics that focuses on polls, negative advertising, media spin, and is anchored in "the attack" not "building community." Smith provides a nice target, but without building an organization that hits suburbanites on their doorsteps, not Novick and not anyone else has much of a chance against the chameleon Gordon. For one thing, whoever runs as a D will be badly outspent. Secondly, Smith has proven he is an attractive campaigner, no matter what you think of his politics, and I hate them.
    Presumably, Novick could raise a certain amount of money from his labor friends, maybe enough to overcome his lack of name familiarity. Not a chance is what I would say if this were a Governor's race. But for U.S. Senate against Smith in 2008, with a progressive base that is energized by the presidential race, a new face has a chance.
    The question is whether Novick can figure out what it takes, and put together the organization on the ground that it requires. Sorenson couldn't figure it out -- what he had to do organizationally, that is. Bev Stein and Amanda Fritz built organizations, but didn't know how to employ them.

    <h2>Novick will have to play against type to get there. I would bet a lot of money he won't build and employ the organization it will take, that he doesn't know how, that he simply doesn't understand grass roots organization or value it sufficiently. Steve will move to his comfort zone, and you don't take out a Republican perceived-as-moderate, incumbent Senator in Oregon by attacking and spinning and reading the polls correctly. (Incidentally, we can all agree that Steve would eat up Gordon in a debate, but there are unlikely to be debates that will be watched by swing voters). You can't win when you are NOT a familiar face, and you are badly outspent, and you lack a record of accomplishment in Oregon to sell, AND, most importantly, when your basic skills are attacking, not building an organization that makes a difference on the doorstep.</h2>
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