Smith '08: Senator Alan Bates "seriously considering"

AlanbatesThe Ashland Daily Tidings reports that State Senator Alan Bates (D-Ashland) is "seriously considering" a run against Senator Gordon Smith.

State Sen. Alan Bates, ending weeks of speculation, said Wednesday that he is “seriously considering” seeking the Democratic nomination to face U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith in 2008, challenging the Republican’s positions on the Iraq war and health care reform.

Bates is a doctor, and has been actively working on health care reform at the State Legislature.

“Health care is the biggest crisis facing our nation,” said Bates, a physician, in a lengthy interview with The Daily Tidings. “In the last eight years, with Republicans in control of the House and Senate and the presidency, nothing happened on health care reform.”

What about Iraq?

On the war: Bates, an Ashland Democrat, said that Smith, 54, made “a huge error in judgment” when he voted to give President Bush authorization to use military force to depose former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but then changed his position mercurially amid faltering public support for the war.

“I know he’s apparently changed his position on the war, but many of us from the very beginning were opposed to the war,” Bates said. “When you’re at that level you have a responsibility to know what you’re doing; be very careful of your votes.”

The 62-year-old Bates, who served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1967, said recently that the war in Iraq is “unwinnable” as was the Vietnam War. He added, U.S. troops remain in Iraq for “no discernable reason.”

Previous BlueOregon coverage that included Senator Bates is here and here.

His campaign website is here and his official website is here. His health care reform plan is here.

Update: The Ashland Daily Tidings has expanded its original story, including some words on strategy and timing from Dr. Bates:

Acknowledging that he does not have the campaign infrastructure that Smith has, Bates said, "I would be a dark-horse candidate, but I do bring some things to the table: I'm a rural Democrat, a 30-year family physician in Southern Oregon and I volunteered to go to Vietnam."

Bates said he will formally announce whether he will run a few weeks after the end of the legislative session, sometime this summer. "Right now, my family is my key consideration in this," noting that he has a wife and a 10-year-old stepson at home.

Now that Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio are out of the picture, will we start seeing more stories like this? Who else should be considering a run? Discuss.

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    Of course, the article's assertion that this is "ending weeks of speculation" is silly. In fact, it's ramping up the speculation.

    The speculation will end when he either jumps in the water or jumps out of the water. Dipping ones' toe in the water doesn't "end the speculation".

    That aside, I suspect that we're about to see a bunch of these sorts of stories. We've moved beyond the Waiting for Guffman part of the process and now the rest of the field can openly consider the race.

    An advance note to all the people who will surely say, "But why not get 100% behind the one candidate who is already in?"

    • More candidates is better. A vibrant but positive primary is a good thing. I know the grizzled old veteran hacks don't like 'em (they "waste" money) but in the new age of celebrity politics, there's no substitute for the buckets of free media that comes with a contested primary.

    • While DeFazio and Blumenauer were considering, there were two strategies available to everyone else: Get in early or wait. Both are valid. Steve chose one, everyone else chose the other. Let's see how it shakes out.

    • We're still 18 months out. It's certainly not too late for a candidate to get in. I'll be worried come Thanksgiving, but not now. July is plenty early.

    • The argument that suggests that everyone should immediately support the first candidate to get in is a silly one. Steve's great, but just because he moved first doesn't mean everyone else should get out. What is this, a U.S. Senate race - or calling "shotgun!" on the front seat of Mom's minivan?

    (Full disclosure: Steve Novick is a personal friend. I'll happily support his candidacy. I talk to him at least twice a week about his campaign, though I'm not working for him yet.)

  • jallen (unverified)

    He'd be a little old for a freshman senator, but I'd happily slave away for a few months to get him into office. It'd be nice to have an elected state senator in the race, from outside of the metro area. State senators can be good candidates for higher office.

  • Walpurgis (unverified)

    I think Senator Bates is great. I've met him on more than one occasion and if he decided to run, he'd have my backing.

    Having said that, I would be concerned about his run. Either: a) He wins, and his State Senate district goes Republican... or b) He loses, and we just spent $5 million that could have elected a crazy amount of House Democrats.

    I kinda don't want to "waste" an officeholder on this one... but with all due respect to Novick (who has my full support and will soon have some of my money), there's something to be said about having held office.

    So what about the former officeholders?

    · John Kitzhaber: Obvious, but probably not running.

    · Les AuCoin: I've heard his name thrown in... I dunno how I feel about the guy, but any thoughts?

    · Charlie Ringo: One of my enviro heroes, lives in Central Oregon now.

    · Bill Clinton: If his wife moved to New York to run, perhaps he might not think it such a bad idea to move to Oregon to run. Can somebody get in touch with this guy?

  • JMG (unverified)

    Just give us a date, Senator. When will you announce or not?

    Glad you're considering it, you appear to have a lot of positive attributes for the race, and people like me who are getting behind Novick might well conclude that we should switch horses--if and when there's another horse in the race.

    But don't dawdle--announce a date certain for your decision, and keep it. You owe Novick and the rest of us that much; if you dawdle and dither and then decide to bow out, you will have harmed our chances to unseat Smith, and that's reprehensible.

    I suggest that Independence Day '07 would be a fitting moment for anyone "mulling it over" to get in or get out for good, because Oregon needs and deserves Independence from Gordon Smith more than anyone needs or deserves additional time to mull it over.

    At some point, you have to pull the trigger, or get out of line. First test of any candidacy: are you decisive enough to get in the race without playing little "maybe I will, maybe I won't" games. All candidates in by July 4, 2007 pass the test.

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)

    I've had the honor of interviewing Sen. Bates several times over the last few years (and probably will later on this week about budget stuff), and would fully support his candidacy. Sen. Bates' biggest strength is that he wins elections pretty easily in a mostly Republican area. Part of his local appeal is that people remember him as a doctor. There are many Republicans in Jackson County who vote for him because he delivered their child or helped treat them at some point or another. As a doctor, Sen. Bates is a good point man on health care, which is a good thing for a Democrat to be. In fact, it's hard for me to call him Senator Bates, because around here, he's Dr. Bates. Most of the times I've interviewed him, it's been at his office between patient visits and with the stethoscope still around his neck. For me, a moderate Republican, Sen. Bates is a very reasonable alternative to Gordon Smith. I'm not inclined to vote for Novick, though, and I think if he runs, a lot of Republicans currently dissatisfied with Smith would hold their noses and vote for him anyway. Sen. Bates would have a much better chance of peeling off a good chunk of moderate Republican votes, where Novick would not.

  • whitelabcoat (unverified)

    I'll vote for him as long as he doesn't use the word Panacea in his announcement speech.

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    The grizzled old hacks might have a point about wasting money in a primary if the candidate is already well-known across the state.

    If Novick's biggest problem is that he's never run for office and the electorate doesn't know him then a seriously contested, but positive, primary is one of the better things that can happen to his candidacy. It's hard to get anyone's attention if you are running uncontested.

    Handle the primary well and by November you can have voters thinking of you as an old friend rather than merely as that annoying stranger who keeps interrupting their favorite TV show.

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    Five million? This race is going to cost a lot more than that.

    Let's get some rampant speculation going here, folks. I am going to be doing an interview with CQ Weekly today or tomorrow and I need some sound bites!

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    FYI: This post has been updated, since the Daily Tidings updated their story.

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    The Jackson County Democrats are more than ready to hit the ground running for State Senator Alan Bates. It's no secret down here that Bates can run and run hard, against Gordon Smith. The best part for us, if Smith defeats him, Bates will still retain his state senate seat.

    Political campaigners on the national level have been sniffing around for a couple of months hoping Bates will throw his hat in the ring.

    Paulie Brading Chair, Jackson County Democrats

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    Paulie, do you see Bates having appeal outside of his district though?

    Not saying he doesn't, but do you see his success centered in the Ashland centric district (which is more liberal than Portland metro) "transferable" if you will to other rural distracts and counties where they don't know him from John Doe?

  • ellie (unverified)

    I wouldn't anticipate an announcement until after the legislative session is over. If they actually end on time, JMG's suggestion of 07/04/07 as an official date is not a bad one.

    The prospect of Bates' candidacy is exciting. He's a strong but thougtful leader and I would fully support his campaign. His insights on health care would be a definite asset and his prior military service should appeal to those who still define "patriotism" through yellow magnetic stickers.

  • LT (unverified)

    Don't think Dr. Bates is "Ashland-centric" as I know people living in other parts of Jackson County who might be patients or if not say "EVERYONE knows Dr. Bates!"

    With regard to those mentioning AuCoin, please read

    It is time for someone who hasn't run for US Senate before, and I think Dr. Bates would be great.

    As it says in the post,

    Acknowledging that he does not have the campaign infrastructure that Smith has, Bates said, "I would be a dark-horse candidate, but I do bring some things to the table: I'm a rural Democrat, a 30-year family physician in Southern Oregon and I volunteered to go to Vietnam."

    Those things sound good to me. Steve is a bright guy, but so far the folks I know who support him are all political activists. Before someone jumps on that remark, I just think a Portlander has something to prove downstate. I agree with jallen, Scott J., Paulie.

    A Novick/Bates primary where issues were debated would generate more publicity than an uncontested nomination. And people telling their friends "I like --- because" would be the kind of word-of-mouth advertising money can't buy.

    Talk to those you know who aren't the slightest bit political. See what THEY think of Gordon Smith, and if they'd be more likely to vote for the rural doctor who is a legislator, or the activist with the "strong left hook". A friend called today and asked the names of people who are running for US Senate. She liked the "strong left hook" slogan, but didn't really know anything about either Novick or Bates.

    The most important thing about this is to keep the primary a POSITIVE campaign. If Novick and Bates are both to be on the ballot, some thought should be given to planning a unity event of some kind at the end of May 2008 or beginning of that summer. I've worked on such events in past years. They do a great job of introducing the nominee, building positive energy, helping volunteers for the primary candidates get to know each other as allies, and motivating folks for the general election.

  • JMG (unverified)

    Good for you, LT. That's the kind of thinking we need. I have no objection to vigorous primaries--I think the idea that they "waste money" is simply more of the tired Defeatocratic thinking that produces Joe Liebermans (As if getting party activists and primary voters, the most active and involved folks of all, to know you could ever be a waste of time.)

    I don't know beans about Bates but, as you say, a vigorous primary provides the press with something to cover besides Gordito; so long as all contestants agree to hit above the belt and to make it a contest about which one can turn ON the most voters, which means keeping the role of the campaign consultants on a tight leash. What I'd really like to see is for all Democratic contenders to agree, going in, that no one can work for them who isn't willing to work for the eventual winner, regardless of which one that is. We need campaign staff to know that they might be having to deal with any pollution they put into the campaign from the other side ... kind of a strong incentive to keep it above the belt.

    (Consultant = a word created from merging "Con," as in a grift or scam, with "insult"; motto: "If you're not part of the solution, there's good money to be made prolonging the problems.")

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    I'll tell you right now that my work for Steve won't keep me from working for whoever is our nominee after the primary. I want to see Smith sent packing to Pendleton, and doing so is going to take time, effort, and money from every one of us.

    I think focusing on Smith, what you'd do in the Senate, etc. is the best way to win the primary campaign. I think the names we're hearing who are interested, or have already said they'll run, are all intelligent and politically savvy enough to know that any negative items will just be thrown back at the nominee by Smith & Co. We saw enough of that in the 2004 presidential campaigns.

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    some thought should be given to planning a unity event of some kind at the end of May 2008 or beginning of that summer.

    How about in August 2007 instead. A unity event - in advance... not after.

  • LT (unverified)

    Thanks JMG.

    Even some of the most hotly contested primaries in previous decades featured unity events after the primary (not to mention some of the staff/volunteers having friends working for another candidate).

    This is why I think we lost the 1992 and 1996 November elections for US Senate. The attitude of the nominee's campaign was "we won the primary, you owe us unquestioning allegiance". NO! In a state where people are allowed to register outside a major party anytime they wish, telling them that all good Dems give unquestioning support to the nominee is not going to result in people using their spare time to campaign for that nominee!

    And Ted K's "running against 2 Republicans" crack hurt him more than it hurt anyone else. Had he not realized he had to ASK for votes rather than demanding them, the result might have been different.

    I've been to unity press conferences and other events. 3 of us politically active women (1982?) met in someone's kitchen and made gallons of spaghetti sauce for a unity spaghetti feed event for some major election (may have been Congress). It was a really fun event. There were events after the 1984 convention to mobilize the troops to work together--the nominee was not the candidate who won the Oregon primary, but Mondale and Ferraro came to Portland and met with people who had not supported him in the primary. Those of us who hadn't been delegates for Mondale were given VIP passes for the Portland joint appearance and speech. We didn't carry Oregon for Mondale, but by golly some of the same people were involved 4 years later when we carried it for Dukakis!

    THAT is what I think will win the election, no matter who is nominated.

    I think JMG's idea should be adopted for all contested primaries: "What I'd really like to see is for all Democratic contenders to agree, going in, that no one can work for them who isn't willing to work for the eventual winner, regardless of which one that is."

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    Great idea. By then I'd imagine everyone interested in running will have announced since they're going to need some time to raise funds and such.

    If the date calculator works right, July 25th is 300 days out from the primary election on May 20th. November 2 is 200 days out. And Feb 10 is 100 days out. There will likely be an event around Feb 10 since the DNC likes to do events that are a 100 days out from an election.

  • Oh Please! (unverified)

    Political campaigners on the national level have been sniffing around for a couple of months hoping Bates will throw his hat in the ring.

    Paulie, if you've been in the game for any time at all, you know that "campaigners at the national level" don't "sniff around" "hoping" someone will "throw their hat in the ring."

    If by national campaigners you mean DSCC types, they are aggressive, pushy and don't waste time on speculators. Which is exactly the way they should be.

    Exhibit A is the DSCC poll they released publicly showing DeFazio up on Smith. That was a direct attempt to force him into the race. He hemmed and hawed and wrung his hands over the pros and cons. But he was the best candidate, so they did everything they could to cajole, and then shame, him into making the run.

    Frankly, this Bates thing couldn't be more amateurish. If you're serious about running, you 1.) get your donors together, 2.) you meet with your consultants, 3.) you test support among key elected allies, and 4.) you let someone else push your candidacy while you coyly act as if you hadn't given it a thought.

    Silly? Yes. But running a statewide campaign for federal office involves more than calling up the Daily Tidings' Salem stringer to say "Hey, what about me?! Why isn't anyone talking about me?!?!"

    A run against a not-unpopular sitting U.S. Senator is as prime time as they come. And let's face it, after this senseless little display of vanity, it is clear Doc Bates is not ready for prime time.

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)

    I think this election will end up being a 'anybody but Smith,' affair by the looks of it.

  • Sid Anderson (unverified)

    John Tester of Montana was a state Senator... and he overthrew crusty old Conrad Burns who had been a long time fixture in the US Senate. There's no reason a good state senator like Bates or anyone else couldn't beat Smith.

  • EndOfSession (unverified)

    Bates isn't going to do anything until after this session but I think he's going to run and that is all dependent upon health reform this session. This is most likely why he teamed up with AARP so closely this session against John Kitzhaber's bill. Already he's trying to get the senior vote around the state. Not sure if he can take out Smith when people feel that his seat could be vulnerable? Thoughts on this?

  • Bad pun (unverified)

    Just as long as you don't call him "Master"...

  • Garlynn - (unverified)

    Not knowing anything about Senator Bates, except that he serves in the State Senate and has a (D) behind his name (and has won in Southern Oregon), I think he would be an interesting candidate for the primary, simply because as a State Legislator, he will be done with the legislative session soon, and could then presumably devote himself full-time to the campaign.

    I'd like to know more about his positions first, however, before choosing to support him. For instance, learning that he does not back Kitzhaber's Archimedes Movement is extremely disturbing to me, and since he is a doctor, would along probably be excuse enough for me to not vote for him.

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    Just so folks realize that you're comparing apples to oranges - John Tester wasn't just a State Senator. He was the President of the Montana Senate.

  • Cathy Shaw (unverified)

    There is so much great thinking within these pages. Yes, a contested primary only helps—and for all the reasons Kari noted. It is simply the best way to activate, energize and lock the base for the general. Candidates, who try to lock the base while simultaneously campaigning to convince moderates to reject a known incumbent, face avoidable difficulties remedied in large measure by a contested primary.

    Although some say an earlier vs. later announcement is more appropriate, a timeline that puts the genesis of a campaign sometime in September, when students and parents return home from vacations, is just fine. Indeed, a summer announcement can be completely lost. Because the 24/7 news cycle has ramped up the national scene, that does not mean we should follow; it is still very early and this is a big decision for anyone to make.

    Of Novak and Bates, they’re both great with each bringing different strengths and weaknesses. Although I do not know Steve well, I do know Bates and he will never go after a democrat in a race. How do I know that? Because, he won’t attack a republican opponent either; never has, never will.

    Before all of you roll your eyes and say that anyone refusing to go negative is an “amateur” or doesn’t know the game, I would suggest reading Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s book entitled: Everything You Think You Know About Politics…And Why You’re Wrong (A New Republic Book, 2000).

    As for Bates’ state senate seat, he is mid-term. However, should the planets line up, and Bates decides to run and indeed receives the nomination, a democrat must be appointed to fill the remainder of his term until the next election. Problem is the Jackson County Board of Commissioners makes that appointment (usually from a list presented by the party’s central committee) and it is anyone’s guess what they will do. Remember it was two out of three of these commissioners who closed all 15 of our public libraries and did so proudly, I might add.

    Finally, as to where democrats will fall in a General Election, I have tracked swing voters in three counties: Multnomah, Jackson and Lane. In these three counties, I found that republicans tend to swing whereas democrats tend to undervote. (Republican swing in Multnomah County was also an adjunct note in a study of “roll-off” with vote-by-mail.)

    Given the heat on the current administration, I think we can count on democrats, as well as many republicans, who will be anxious to re-send a message to Bush that he apparently did not receive in 2006.

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    Garlynn wrote "For instance, learning that he does not back Kitzhaber's Archimedes Movement is extremely disturbing to me, and since he is a doctor, would along probably be excuse enough for me to not vote for him."

    Garlynn, have you investigated the comprehensive, statewide medical plan that Senators Alan Bates and Ben Westlund are backing (initiated by Senate Bill 329, and referred to as the Healthy Oregon Act)?

    I don't yet know enough about the relative benefits of the Archimedes Movement and Healthy Oregon Act to have any comparative analysis (would love to see it though, if anyone does). But, to dismiss Senators Bates' plan out of hand, as you do, seems premature. I'm as big a Kitzhaber fan as anyone here in Oregon, yet if we've got multiple serious efforts at comprehensive medical reform under consideration here in Oregon - and we do - I think they should be considered on their merits, not their associated personalities.

  • oreguy99 (unverified)

    Here is a little something on Bates healthcare plan......

    Bates pushes health care reform By Chris Rizo Tidings Correspondent

    SALEM — After holding dozens of town hall meetings and putting thousands of miles on his biodiesel-powered Volkswagen Passat crisscrossing the state on his Hope for a Healthy Oregon Tour, state Sen. Alan Bates is forging ahead with arguably one of the most ambitious legislative undertakings of the past decade.

    Following months of lengthy discussions with physicians, patients, insurers, industry leaders and policymakers, the Rogue Valley Democrat said Wednesday that the universal health care proposal that he and Democratic state Sen. Ben Westlund of Bend are proposing is a prescription for a healthier Oregon.

    "It's coming together as we hoped it would. It's a road map to a system where everyone will have health insurance," said Bates.

    Bates is a primary care physician. Before being elected to the state Legislature, he served on the landmark panel that developed the blueprint for what later became the Oregon Health Plan, which provides insurance to the state's poor.

    Under the Bates-Westlund plan, Oregonians, including 600,000 uninsured, will have access to medical care in an easy to navigate system, according to Bates. Insurance premiums will be less expensive for business owners to purchase for their employees. And, doctors will operate in a health care system where providing low-cost preventive care will be at the heart of their practices rather than performing costly high-tech procedures because patients lacked treatment early on.

    "Getting people to quit smoking cigarettes — that's something we don't do," Bates said. "But, if you go without medical care for 20- or 30 years and have high blood pressure, then we'll give you a kidney transplant and a heart bypass or stents if you need it. It just doesn't make sense."

    Eighteen-page Senate Bill 327 would redirect what is already being pumped into Oregon's health care system to establish a state-run insurance entity, overseen by a new seven-member regulatory board, the Oregon Health Trust, to establish, among other things, the benefits package and the amount the system will pay physicians and other care providers.

    Bates is quick to point out he is not trying to bring Canadian-style socialized medicine to Oregon. It would not be a single-payer system, he explained. "We're not ending insurance as we know it."

    Local lawmakers who support the plan include Republican Reps. Sal Esquivel and George Gilman of Medford, Bill Garrard of Klamath Falls and Democrat Peter Buckley of Ashland.

    A separate proposal before the state Legislature was introduced by the Archimedes Movement, led by former Gov. John Kitzhaber, a physician. Senate Bill 27 would pool state and private money with federal Medicare payments.

    Kitzhaber's is a more difficult proposal to enact because using money from seniors and the disabled would take an act of Congress. The plan is sketched out in Senate Bill 27.

    Taxpayers, Bates said, are in essence already financing health care for the uninsured in the form of expensive emergency room visits and late-stage treatment, so new taxes would likely not be sought to finance the plan.

    At Ashland Community Hospital, for instance, five percent of those admitted to the hospital are self-paying and likely uninsured, compared to 18 percent in the emergency room, according to spokeswoman Carolyn Johnson.

    At Providence Medford Medical Center, one of the region's two comprehensive medical facilities, of the 27,423 emergency room visits in 2006, 13 percent were from patients who had no health insurance, said public relations coordinator Lauren Van Sickle.

    Business leaders say the current system is beset by bureaucracy and rapidly rising insurance premiums that businesses are increasingly unable to afford.

    Ashland Chamber of Commerce executive director Sandra Slattery attended one of Sen. Bates' barnstorming town hall meetings in Ashland on March 23.

    "I have to commend him for tackling a very difficult issue for the state. This is a gigantic problem for everyone, not just businesses," Slattery said.

    While the chamber has not taken an official position on the bill, she said, providing health care benefits that are affordable is of concern to many small business owners, many of whom say they are often forced to choose between offering their employees a higher wage or providing them comprehensive health care coverage.

    Paying for health care benefits for the chamber's six employees, she said, represents a "significant" budget outlay that grows each year.

    "No matter where you go in the state, businesses are struggling to provide health insurance to their employees," she said.

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    Please don't copy and paste whole articles. Instead, post a link to the original source. Thanks.

  • Garlynn - (unverified)

    Perhaps I should explain the rationale behind my statement:

    Health care reform in Oregon is a huge task. Kitzhaber's movement, the Archimedes Movement/We Can Do Better/Senate Bill 27, ultimately will set up a show-down between the State of Oregon and the Federal Government over how all federal money related to health care is disbursed to the State.

    In this show-down, it will be absolutely essential that our Congressional Delegation, including both of our Senators, be on board and fully supportive.

    Therefore, it would be foolhardy to elect a Senator, especially one who would, as a Doctor, be well-respected, if they were not on-board with the Archimedes Movement plan.

    It's not at all about personality. It's about rallying together behind a really good concept and making health care reform happen the right way.

    Bates' plan is a good start, but ultimately it will run out of funding and not be successful unless Kitzhaber's plan to challenge federal health care funding policy is followed to a successful conclusion.

    At least, that's my analysis.

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