Merkley: Before the Speakership

Jeff Alworth

Note: This is the second of a three-part series of posts on the possible candidacy of Jeff Merkley for US Senator.  Earlier, I wrote about his job as speaker, and next I'll look at likelihood of his winning.

The only real qualification for becoming a US Senator is finding enough people to vote for you.  On a more substantive level, however, Senators are among our most powerful public servants.  They are charged by the Constitution with the power to try the President for impeachment.  They alone have the authority of "advice and consent" which authorizes them to approve the President's nominations, including those to the federal courts.  They also approve treaties.  As the "deliberative body," the Senate tends to work more slowly, and, perhaps owing to its approval powers, tends to be more authoritative on matters of defense and foreign policy.  So voters tend to expect more of their candidates for Senators, and want to know they have the qualifications to manage these august tasks. 

If Jeff Merkley decides to run for the Senate against Gordon Smith, voters will scrutinize his record carefully, and they'll be surprised and impressed with what they find.

Foreign Policy and Defense
After the President, Senators are expected to understand and have had experience with matters of foreign policy.  It is one of the most important line items on any resume.   For those who just know Merkley as a state legislator, they will be surprised to learn that he has an impressive background:

Jeff earned his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and pursued his Masters Degree in Public Policy on a full scholarship at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He was selected as a Presidential Management Intern in 1982. He tackled various assignments in the Office of the Secretary of Defense including coordinating a committee on technology transfer, developing a computer model to study the proposed “small ICBM,” generating a verification strategy for theater arms agreements, and assisting the US delegation to NATO. Jeff then served Congress as a budget and policy analyst in the Congressional Budget Office, generating studies on the nation’s options for strategic weapons.

More than most state legislators, Merkley has had a substantial background in national defense and foreign affairs. Not all international experience is limited to defense, and here Merkley has experience as well.  He also served as president for the World Affairs Council and remains a trustee.  The Council  was created to broaden understanding of international affairs, and in his involvement with the organization, Merkley interacted extensively with world leaders and delved into the issues confronting their countries. We live in a global world, and Merkley has the experience to step into a role where he would be dealing with trade, global environmental issues, international relations, and defense.

Executive Leadership
I explored Merkley's job as Speaker of the Oregon House in my previous post, and this is the best evidence of what kind of leader he'll make. But there are other important data points.  Before he ran for the legislature, he held two executive positions in Oregon (in addition to the World Affairs presidency), beginning in 1991 as Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity:

At Habitat he coordinated community volunteers to build homes for sale to low-income families. He also started the Walk for Humanity, launched development of the Habitat Home Building Center, and initiated a pilot project for “YouthBuild” in which gang-affected youth learn construction and life skills while building homes in their own neighborhoods.

Following his turn at Habitat, Jeff served as Director of Housing Development at Human Solutions, where he worked to create affordable housing complexes. While there, he launched Oregon’s first Individual Development Account (IDA) program to help low-income families save money to buy homes, attend college, or start businesses.

In some ways, I was more impressed with this background than I was his work in Defense Department.  Executive experience in legislators is a valuable commodity.  It provides leaders with a real-world understanding of how things get done, and underscores his reputation as a pragmatist. 

Political Leadership
Liberals are often instinctively mistrustful of politicians who are good fundraisers, but this is a naive view.  Fundraising is critical to winning elections, but more than that, good, effective politicians must be able to inspire the kind of enthusiasm that leads to donations.

One of Merkley's most important, but least publicly-visible, accomplishments was his work heading FuturePAC, the campaign committee for the Oregon House Democrats.  In the fall of 2006, very few insiders thought taking back the House was a possibility.  There were a number of reasons Dems managed to pull upsets in long-shot races, but it's safe to say they wouldn't have without FuturePAC and Merkley's leadership.  Everything he was able to accomplish as Speaker was predicated on his success as head of FuturePAC.  This included not only his fundraising work for the PAC, but the recruitment and support of candidates who ultimately made the difference.  The candidates he helped recruit were not only electable, but considered the strongest class in over thirty years

These behind-the-scenes roles are sometimes invisible to the electorate, but they're actually among the most important roles politicians play.  It demonstrates the kind of worker he is (a guy who works hard, even when the camera's not rolling), the kinds of people he inspires (strong leaders and hard workers), and the style of leadership he'll employ (a pragmatic, transparent, little-D democratic style).

If you were to build a Senate candidate from the resume up, you'd create a candidate with a background like Jeff Merkley has: defense/international background, executive leadership experience, and a long list of political accomplishments.  It's the kind of experience people will respond to and which Smith will find difficult to impugn. 

The big question people will have isn't whether he's qualified--with this resume and his achievement as speaker, it's clear he is.  It's whether he can win.  He can, and I'll take that up in my last post.

  • Super DEM (unverified)

    Holy crap i had no idea!!!! I just thought he was a supper smart lawyer guy with a great heart. it turns out Merkley rocks some serious credentials. Yeah he can win against Smith. smith is as slippery, trickey, dishonest, and evil genous like as they come but if the progressive community of oregon stands up and fights smith wont stand a chance. This is our race to loose and if we loose it will be on our shoulders.

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    Actually, not a lawyer at all - a policy analyst.

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    I don't know. At this critical time in our nation's history, should we really be electing someone with such scant frozen vegetable experience? Once again, the Blue Oregon kids just don't get it.

  • LT (unverified)

    Patton, you are such a wit! Remind me of a couple songs from 40 years ago: Jolly Green Giant (with a voice in the background interspersing names of veg as in "you've heard about the jolly green giant (corn)...) and another one titled "My Favorite Vegetables".

    Super Dem, I think you mean the race is ours to LOSE, and you were too loose in your use of the letter O.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    It's really discouraging that no top-tier names have entered the race against Smith. And by top-tier I mean well-known candidates such as former Governors or past/current US reps.

    Let's move away from campaigning for a minute and face the fact that Smith is extremely "moderate appearing" and comes across as reasonable. By that I mean he doesn't come across as a madman like Conrad Burns of Montana or a nutty racist like George Allen of Virginia.

    Both Burns and Allen were beaten by somewhat low-profile candidates. Tester, who beat Burns, was a state Senator. And Webb, who beat Allen, was a former Reagan appointee. But both had the advantage of totally deficient opposition: from Allen and his "Macaca" moment and Burns and his attacks on his own state's fire fighters. And Tester, at least, began his campaign in April of 05.

    Merkley is a nice guy. But he can come off as a bit wonkish. No doubt advanced degrees and ivy league education mean he is well suited for the task: but such doesn't always translate into votes. Smith comes across as a simple blue collar man: eastern oregon, blue collar business, blue collar schools... man of the people.

    Look, I want Smith to lose. But I want him to lose almost solely because he is GOP. Sure, he flip-flopped on ANWR and other environmental things... but such is par for the course for just about any politician. It's difficult to muster up bad things to say against the guy... he isn't a crazy old coot like Stevens, a raving nutter like Inhofe, or even a dyed in the wool corporatist like former senator Slade Gordon. He's a genial guy who is more like the Packwoods and Hatfields of yore.

    Al Franken may win against Coleman simply because Coleman is so dull, because his seat was formerly owned by extremely liberal Wellstone, because that race will get lots of national attention, and because Minnesota is a bit weird when it comes to elections (e.g., Jesse Ventura).

    A Merkley-Smith race won't get much national attention, let alone lots of Kos and grassroots support. You have a relatively strong candidate in Smith... not necessarily in numbers (popularity or money), but in terms of his genialness, his ability to present an everyman, blue collar image, etc. And you don't have a grassroots buckaroo Tester/Webb type in ivy league Merkley.

    I'll do what I can against Smith, for sure, but I don't see him being beaten with this current crop of names... and neither do the national Dems as yet.

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    Smith comes across as a simple blue collar man: eastern oregon, blue collar business, blue collar schools... man of the people.

    Huh? Gordon Smith of the five-thousand-dollar suits, the Ferrari, the white Mercedes, the million-dollar golf-club? (And no, not a country club - a single putter.)

    There are lots of things that make Gordon Smith attractive to voters on the surface -- but make no mistake, they know he's a multi-millionaire. It exudes from his pores.

    A Merkley-Smith race won't get much national attention, let alone lots of Kos and grassroots support.

    Care to wager a pitcher of beer on that?

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    I gotta agree with Kari. There's not so much as a whiff of blue collar about Gordon Smith.

  • East Bank Thom (unverified)

    Peter: Smith comes across as a simple blue collar man: eastern oregon, blue collar business, blue collar schools... man of the people.

    Kari: Huh? Gordon Smith of the five-thousand-dollar suits, the Ferrari, the white Mercedes, the million-dollar golf-club? [...] make no mistake, they know he's a multi-millionaire.

    The mistake Kari makes is discounting the reality that folks like Smith and Bush can and do indeed come off as folksy "men of people" to a significant number of swing voters. Rather than discounting Peter's observation, take it at face value and recognize the need to disabuse such voters of the notion, not by simple contradiction, but as a focused and spirited campaign to paint Smith as a rich, out of touch with the people, part of the problem not the solution, soon to be ex-Senator.

    I voted for Smith in '02. All i want to say with that is i know something about swinging ;-)

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    I'd like to refocus this conversation a bit - away from the usual partisan yammering and to the substance of Alworth's post.

    Question: How will voters react to news that Jeff Merkley was a nuclear weapons analyst in the Reagan Pentagon? To be sure, he was a PMI - which is a decidedly nonpartisan program - but will his background in defense make his critique of the war more credible... or anti-war lefties be skeptical of him?

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    Painting Smith as some rich guy won't work, not least because Americans have elected lots and lots of rich folks, and Americans don't fault people for having money. Nor do they fault people for spending it on particularly gauche American activities like zipping around in a Ferrari or an expensive boat fishing. (Compare this to, say, Kerry's windsurfing.)

    Smith is genial and comes across as moderate... hell, he IS moderate by the standards of other GOPers. He has the perception of man of the people... from Eastern Oregon, kid killed himself, worked in a decidedly unglamorous family owned business. People can relate far more with those things. Perhaps even more than, say, being able to take time off work to do things for Habitat for Humanity, a decidedly Portlandish type organization.

  • East Bank Thom (unverified)

    To the extant that it's an issue at all (as opposed to the red meat issues of the war, immigration, healthcare and impeachment) i'd guess that Merkley's Pentagon experience would be a net plus amongst all the larger constituencies. Speaking as a (not for any) anti-war lefty*, i tend to gravitate towards anyone with military or veterans' affairs experience, recognizing the (bullshit) common perception that Dems are wimps. [The leadership of the present Congress failing to reverse the course of the war or hold Bush & Co. accountable for their high crimes doesn't help matters.]

    *my previous admission not withstanding. Gordon Smith was receiving the endorsement of the HRC (gay rights lobby) at the time, and it seemed prudent to have Republican representation in Congress, seeing as the GOP was enjoying a monopoly on power.

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    Perhaps even more than, say, being able to take time off work to do things for Habitat for Humanity, a decidedly Portlandish type organization.

    Um, Jeff Merkley was the executive director at Habitat - not a part-time volunteer. And, "Portlandish"? Really, an organization rooted in its Christian ministry?

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    In regards to Merkley's biography:

    A "nuclear weapons analyst in the Reagan Pentagon" is pretty un-noteworthy compared to, say, Jim Webb being Secretary of the Navy. It's not a minus. But it's certainly not a plus, especially if the thought is that it will somehow give him anti-war cred because of his "wartime" experience.

    The Habitat for Humanity thing... not sure how well that will play outside of Portland. HFH obviously has an uber-liberal aura, not least because of Carter, but also because it seemingly is something very "Portland".

    Look, to me at least, to take on a sitting GOP Senator in a historically conservative state (though obviously far less now), the Dem candidate almost has to "play to the right", either in biography or positions. Tester was a family farmer who did illegal butchering on the side; Webb was a pugnacious pro-gun veteran.

    Both also held decidedly liberal positions, but they had a certain charming red-necky pastiche that caught both national attention (money) and independent voters locally.

    Merkley has a great biography... for a State Rep or State Senator. But it is far too liberal for something bigger: lives in Portland, extremely liberal voting record, worked for liberal non-profit, worked for another liberal non-profit, the "world affairs council", that was founded by the United Nations... and I wouldn't try to hype the fact that he worked as an analyst in the defense department into something bigger than that.

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    Peter, your principle concern is clearly electability. One component of electability--and one that Steve Novick has had to battle fiercely--is background and preparation. It sounds to me like you think the only thing that preps a candidate to be a US Senator is having been either a US Congressman or Governor:

    And by top-tier I mean well-known candidates such as former Governors or past/current US reps.

    Leaving aside the obvious irony of the statement--Smith himself was elected out of the state legislature--what exactly is the evidence for this? If Merkley raises five million and gets national support, the question of name recognition isn't going to be a factor. Then people will look on what he's done.

    Every criticism you offer is based on some assumed bias rural Oregonians hold and seems like fairly rank assumption ("HFH obviously has an uber-liberal aura, not least because of Carter, but also because it seemingly is something very "Portland".) I'll get into the electability issue soon, but the question I wanted to answer here is this: "Has Jeff Merkley's background convincingly prepared him for the US Senate." I'd love to hear how you think the answer to that could be anything but "yes."

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    It seems that you and Kari really want to clamp down on discussion in this thread to JUST whether or not Merkley is prepared for the Senate, and not about Smith, and not about electability.

    If that's what we're focusing on, then, yes, Merkley is well-prepared for the Senate.

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    Let's not say "clamp down" but rather just point out that you're asking questions that Alworth will address in part three of his three-part series.

    I think there have been a gazillion electability and punditry threads here at BlueOregon, but hardly any on the question of whether Merkley is prepared to be in the Senate.

    I'll leave you with this one last thought, to whet your electability obsession... (and might pre-emptively win me that pitcher of beer.) From the Rothenberg Report, a leading national pundit:

    Based on recent polling numbers, national Democrats view Smith as a top target, even above some of his vulnerable colleagues such as Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

    Take that, Mr. "A Merkley-Smith race won't get much national attention". :)

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    Every single Democrat in the state legislature is probably capable of stepping up and serving Oregon with distinction if somehow that person were to become a U.S. Senator.

    Jeff Merkley is clearly such a person. I'm not sure why anyone needs convincing of that.... certainly not to the extent of a three part hagiography here.

    Further, any Democrat from the legislature would be a major improvement over Smith, again of course including Merkley.

    The question is: is he the best we can do?

  • james Mattiace (unverified)

    How is Speaker Merkley, or anyone else from the second tier, a better candidate than Steve Novick?

    Look, if we're going to wage a quixotic campaign then there really isn't anyone better than the current declared candidate. Merkley should use his "foreign poiicy" and "defense" experience to defend Oregon from foreign California developers who want to destroy our land use laws. The best way to do that is keep or expand the 31-29 majority in the Oregon House.

    I am having trouble wrapping my head around the concept that barring a Defazio/Blumenauer/Kitzhaber candidate, anyone could do the job better than Novick. Why is this community and the DNC still slapping Steve in the face?

    Speaker Merkely in '08? Hope so. He's the best there is for THAT job.

    James Mattiace

  • verasoie (unverified)


    I and many here believe that someone who has experience with elected office, like Merkley, are more credible challengers and ultimately more electable than Novick, as much as we admire him for his policy work. Any of them would be great replacements for Smith, but they have different likelihoods for getting there.

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    James: The DNC does not endorse or fund US Senate candidates, period. That isn't what they do.

    I am a Steve Novick fan, but there are a number of reasons that Merkley is a better candidate (as opposed to just being qualified for the job in the event that he wins). Not only has he won election and re-election himself many time, but he orchestrated a truly historic takeover of the Oregon House. I don't see how Novick (while he is a genius with a background of working hard on issues I care about) can make the same claim.

    Another thing I don't see is anyone on this site "slapping Steve in the face." Who is doing that? Steve Novick is great, but the fact remains that he has never run for office and has thus far turned in sub-par fundraising numbers. It may be that Novick is a winning candidate, but to imply that 1.5 years before election day it is wrong to even consider other candidates is the real slap in the face.

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    Oh, and maybe you want to "wage a quixotic campaign," but I want to beat Gordon Smith. Whether the nominee be Merkley, Novick or someone else, you are selling them short by assuming this will be some sort of longshot campaign. Smith is one of the most vulnerable incumbent Senators in the country, and this is a Presidential year. I hope our candidate has more confidence than you do.

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    It's worth noting that Steve Novick is encouraging the Speaker to get into the race.

  • LT (unverified)

    As far as how anyone is treating Steve Novick....

    Yesterday I was talking with a young woman who was my guest at a speech by Steve Novick last month. Say what you will about blog comments, the primary and the general will both be decided by the folks who don't spend all their spare time on politics.

    This young woman and I were in a room with several other people and when I mentioned the speech last month (in connection with whether she would be coming to the same group to see a different speaker this month), she said, kind of as an aside and with a chuckle, "Steve Novick is funny'.

    No, I didn't ask follow up questions, and have no idea exactly what she meant by that. But which is more powerful, blog comments or someone not involved in politics making a remark like that to friends?

    There is a choice to be made about the US Senate primary. It is about how Democrats behave towards other Democrats. On one end of the spectrum (which I consider the wise end) there is the 2006 2nd Cong. District primary where all candidates treated each other with respect and debated issues.

    On the other end of the spectrum is the 1992 US Senate primary which ended in a recount. The atmosphere was so toxic that I heard for years from friends who just didn't get involved because it was too nasty. Among other things, one candidate was running partly because of deep disagreements with the other candidate's voting record. And, as the nominee in the previous US Senate election, this candidate and his supporters thought he had the perfect right to run again. The other candidate had been in elective office for many years and had accumulated many friends over those years. There were some nasty commercials by that second candidate (about as positive/ issue oriented as the Swifty ads of 2004 against Kerry), and some "why on earth did he vote that way?" rhetorical challenges by the first candidate. The Oregonian had a feature that year where a box of a few inches square on the front of the Metro section would feature a pithy remark every day (along with a small picture, name and title of the person speaking) by someone involved in politics. One day there was the campaign manager of the 2nd candidate who was saying "we're trying to be positive while the other side is throwing spitwads" (or words to that effect). Some people thought the ads and some of the other parts of the campaign were not the sort of thing that would strike the average voter as "positive". In the end, there were lots of people who were involved in the primary who refused to be involved in the general election based on a bad taste from the primary.

    Deliberatly, no names were used in the above story. I was one of the recount observers that year, and I believe that the positive, issue oriented approach of the 2006 2nd Cong. District campaign with all those debates is the way to go.

    What is unwise is rhetoric like "Why is this community and the DNC still slapping Steve in the face? "

    I saw Steve Novick speak last month. I am still not a decided voter in the primary which is still something like 10 months away. Does that mean I am "slapping Steve in the face"?

    If someone thinks that, they need to grow up. I got an email from a friend of mine who strongly supports Steve but also expects a contested primary. I think that friend has the right idea of the way to defeat Gordon Smith in 2008.

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    What's insulting to Steve Novick is not the mere idea of a contested primary -- it's the heated and increasing desperation with which some Democrats are trolling for another candidate to create that primary contest.

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    Stephanie, what you call "increasing desperation" others might call "interest and excitement in who we might have to choose from."

    We've got a great chance to beat Smith, and close to a year to contemplate who best represents our effort to do so. We don't all KNOW Novick. Wanting other candidates to choose from is no insult. If Novick were a well-established candidate who'd previously run statewide, and his campaigning style, character, intelligence, and effectiveness were known quantities, then perhaps the desire to see other options could be interpreted as a reflection on him. But that isn't the case. Saying "I'm not sure about Novick" is not the same as saying "I'm sure I don't want Novick."

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    A political primary is not a coronation. It's an opportunity to make a case for why you should be the person who best represents your political party in the general election.

    Based on his comments here on Blue Oregon, where he welcomed Jeff Merkley into the race and invited him to tour the state and debate, town hall style, it seems apparent that Steve Novick understands this.

    Why should his supporters feel threatened, when clearly the candidate does not?

    I'm going to support the candidate who most represents my values and who has the strongest chance of defeating Gordon Smith in the fall.

    Whether that candidate is Jeff Merkley, who appears to be ready to announce; John Frohnmayer, who may announce later in the summer; or Steve Novick; is an open question in my mind.

    These candidates have the next several months to prove their mettle. I'll be watching closely, before making my decision whom to support, and I hope that others will as well.

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    I disagree that Merkley is prima facie the more "electable" candidate, particularly in 2008--but I echo Novick himself and others here who welcome Jeff into the race. Oregonians deserve the choice, and I have no doubt those two will elevate the primary discourse. (My personal feeling is that Novick is better suited to take the campaign to Smith in an aggressive but humorous way, but that's for the general).

    This series does seem a bit like an intentionally generous introduction to Merkley's candidacy, however--and I don't blame people for assuming that's what it is.

  • Pavel Goberman (unverified)

    US Senator Schumer (NY), Member of NCCC is making selection who could run for US Senate. Smith, Merkley or other garbage. US Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 3 says that no one shall be US Senator or hold any office who does not support the Constitution of the USA.

    Mr. Wolfson, you will be a Featured Speaker at Washington County Democrats Central Committee on 07/25/07 meeting. This committee violates the Constitution of the USA, Freedom of Speech, does discrimination and retaliation against me: does not invite me to talk as a Candidate for US Senate (I live in Wash. Co.). It is a real face of morons in Dem. Party. The Chair Lupita Maurer is a toy in hands of democratic sharks. Democrats and Republican, with help on corrupted media are afraid me: they are responsible for political prostitution and for blood of our soldiers in Iraq.

    Pavel Goberman - Candidate for US Senator

    It is a copy:

                District Attorney Hermann                               Pavel Goberman - Candidate for US Senator 
                                                                                     P.O. Box 1664
                                                                                     Beaverton, OR 97075
                 DEMAND TO INVESTIGATE VIOLATION OF THE CONSTITUTION:                  07/14/07

    Washington County Democratic Central Committee (WCDCC) invites Steve Novick as Speaker, but does not invite me as Featured Speaker on it's meeting on 07/25/07. It is a violation of the Constitution of the USA, it is a discrimination, conspiracy and retaliation against me and violation of my Freedom of Speech as a Candidate for US Senate. I demand from you, District Attorney Hermann, to investigate crime of WCDCC.

    Pavel Goberman

    It is a copy of my mail:

                               DISCRIMINATION AND CONSPIRACY:                                  07/13/07

    Washington County Democrats Central Committee, Chair Lupita Maurer, promotes Steve Novick: give him an opportunity to talk as Featured Speaker, as a Candidate for US Senate, on July 25 meeting, but does not invite me, does not give me an opportunity to talk. It is a violation of the Constitution of the USA, it is violation of laws of FCC and FEC, it is a discrimination, conspiracy and retaliation against me: it is a federal crimes.. How low are the Wash. Co. Democrats: violating own Rules, Platform, Principles, ByLaws and the Code of Ethics. What a garbage, a gang of parasites, not convicted yet criminals in Democratic Party: no Faith, no Integrity.

    Pavel Goberman - Candidate for US Senator.

    Copy: PRESS RELEASE: 01/19/07

    To the People and the Media:

    We the People, let us stop political prostitution, stop selling our country by politicians!

        Federal Elections Commission   Pavel Goberman - Candidate (D, but honest) for 
        Oregon Secretary of State                            US Senator in 2008   FEC ID C00412700
                                                               "Stop Political Prostitution!",  Cand. ID # S4OR00065
                                                                 P.O. Box 1664
                                                                 Beaverton, OR 97075
                                                    [email protected]    [email protected]

    P.S. Copy in File, Washington County Attorney, Copy to FEC, Copy to FCC, media and etc. P.G.

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    Nobody said anything about feeling "threatened."

    What concerns me is the desperate trolling.

    If Jeff Merkley, Eileen Brady, or WHOEVER has a strong desire to run against Gordon Smith, then by all means, any such person or persons should get into the race. But if they don't have that "fire in the belly," then it is not a service to ANYONE (least of all them or their families) to twist their arms.

    Also, a word about "electability:" in the past I have made the mistake of choosing a candidate to support based upon my perception of the candidate's "electability." This can result in favoring candidates with great resumes (e.g. Bob Kerrey) over candidates with heart, verve, and the ability to connect with voters (e.g. Bill Clinton). NEVER AGAIN.

  • James Mattiace (unverified)

    Ditto Stephanie's comments above and further above.

    And I'd like to clarify my earlier comment. I meant DSCC not DNC, whoops. And as a small example of the back of the hand treatment, check out their analysis of the race here No mention that someone has already filed. Another example is that no mention was made of Novick in any of the posts until I brought it up. (other than jeff alworth's quick reference)

    It is clear that this community is going to keep casting about for a more viable candidate in the "informal primary" and keep forgetting that we've got one already. Just be sure not to take your eye off the real ball - maintaining or increasing the 31-29 majority in the House, and controlling the Secretary of State office. The national dems will keep screwing it up regardless of their numbers, but we have a chance to make Oregon whole again.

    Who cares who runs for US Senate? They're not going to win anyway. (oooooh major party foul there eh?) But Steve will bring some great energy and issues to the table. And quite possibly he'll influence down ticket. And if its Merkley instead of Steve, I'm fine with that too. Both are great guys with important agendas.

    But you know, there are a heck of a lot more important issues facing us in the May primary (Mayoral and city council races, county commissioners, Secretary of State primary) Lets hitch up our boots and spend some energy and money on those races.

    And with that, I'm done.

    James Mattiace

  • verasoie (unverified)

    Hey Pavel,

    Great to hear from you, and welcome! I love checking out your candidate biography in the voter's pamphlet, it sure beats the staid resumes that are typically found there. What a hoot, I look forward to learning more about your platform to "energize Oregon" as a member of the US Senate. Rock on!

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    I loves me some Pavel. :)

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    I loves me some Pavel. :)

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    Dammit. It was there, then it wasn't, then it apparently was. And now it is...again.

    Which led to the even less helpful this...

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    I've read the comments on the first two of Jeff Alworth's articles on Jeff Merkley as a Senate candidate with great interest. For background purposes, (1) I gained somewhat close experience with Merkley last year as one of the non-targeted candidates for the state House, and (2) I used to be able to talk with Smith and know a bit about how he got himself elected.

    There are two important questions about Merkley (JM) that havn't gotten much attention so far. Who knows anything about him outside of Multnomah County and does it matter?

    This much I know about who knows JM -- any candidate for the state House last year knows that he is a courageous, sincere, and intelligent Democrat who knows what's right without anyone having to prompt him. We also know that he was there for each of us when we needed him.

    Beyond the candidates, the DPO campaign committee, of which I'm a member, intends to improve on the work of Future PAC. It's probably just as well that we don't go into detail on that in this forum but suffice it to say that we can make a difference in the Senate race among others -- it's all a matter of market share.

    Does it matter who knows about JM outside of Multnomah County right this moment? I think it does a bit but I also think that the JM campaign can improve the picture.

    Gordon Smith had the same problem, let us remember. He was in exactly the same kind of political position that JM is and just about as much recognition for that position as JM does now. However, Smith had two huge networks behind him -- his church and his party. Nevertheless, Dan Lavey and the people behind Smith knew they had to have about 35 percent of the vote in Multnomah county and similar percentages in Eugene. They barely made it.

    I think Gordon is out of luck this time because of his flip-flop positions on Bush, Cheney, the war, Republican corruption, and civil liberties.

    We have the ability to deny Gordon the winning market share in the crucial population centers. Merkley may not have a whole church behind him but he does have Democrats and a lot of the NAVs. Together, we can insure that Smith's market share in population centers declines below the crucial 35 percent range and that Smith's market share outside the population centers retracts.

    Lee Coleman

  • LT (unverified)

    Thanks Lee.

    And I think one way to win market share is to admit that in some ways Dan Lavey was very smart. He was the first person I ever heard say something along the lines of "the fastest growing party is no party at all".

    People who are not partisans are concerned about consistency,(Gordon all over the map on Iraq, for instance) but more interested in solutions. Anyone who has left an employer who provided health insurance and needed to navigate the COBRA maze, for instance, would be willing to listen to ideas on health care. I talked with someone in a company call center today (in another state) who in the course of the conversation said health care is too complicated and why can't we have a simple system like Canada?

    If Jeff is as smart as I think he is, he'll be able to talk about such everyday issues as health care in a way that shows concern for the problems and knowledge of details, and deflates spin.

    And Gordon is now someone with a US Senate voting record and a record of public statements--which he wasn't in 1996. If Democrats can run campaigns as smart as the Wyden Jan. 1996 and Smith fall 1996 campaigns, they have a good shot at defeating Gordon.

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    Gordon Smith has "come out of the closet" so to speak and has spoken at a DC meeting of Log Cabin Republicans. This should be interesting news to hard right fringe conservatives. If anyone has email addresses for such types (e.g., Marilyn Shannon), please send them to me at LincolnDem (on AOL) and I'll see to it that they get the Log Cabin press release with Gordon's cheery words for gays and lesbians.

  • anon (unverified)

    Comforable white, corporate-leaning, liberals who pontificate about their service to "gang-affected youth" are the problem with our party. Merkley's resume as you present it reads more like a dilettante than anything else, and his service as Speaker proves no different. And by the way, you inflate his resume by omitting that he was Director of the PORTLAND Habitat For Humanity, a considerably less lofty role than DIrector of Habitat For Humanity. You also did not note that Human Solutions is a Multnomah County organization that developed a relationship with the PDC during his tenure under that bizarre Clinton regressive DLC view, cited by WWeek in their 1998 endorsement, that "Merkley sees subsidized housing as a Band-Aid solution that ultimately disempowers the families it's trying to help." What are the actual results of his "People's Investment Opportunity"? Web searches turn up little except mentions of this in his 1998 campaign literature.

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    I thought you were running against David Wu in the primary? Or are you running for everything again?

    Also: Get Fit! Get Energized!

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