This is a difficult post to write.
So far, the campaign between Steve Novick and Jeff Merkley has been a clean one. Hard-fought, especially in blog comments, but between the two campaigns it's generally been a clean race.
But this week, something's happened and I feel it's important to let you know about it. I don't usually write about my client work, but I'm so disappointed in my friends at the Novick campaign that I'm going to share it with you. (David Steves broke the story on the Eugene Register-Guard's blog here, but the Novick campaign hasn't told him the entire story.)
On Tuesday, the Merkley campaign got an email inviting Jeff Merkley to an endorsement meeting this Saturday for the Portland chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America.
Four days notice is pretty tight for an endorsement meeting, but that was only the first red flag.
The email was sent by the "State Coordinator" of the Progressive Democrats of America.... Liz Kimmerly. Who is Liz Kimmerly? She's a senior staffer for the Novick for Senate campaign.
That's right: The endorsement process by which the PDA would endorse a U.S. Senate candidate is being organized by the staff of one of the candidates. (I've posted a copy of the email after the jump.)
I'm a big fan of the PDA (and a friend of radio host Thom Hartmann, a member of their national advisory board.) So, the Merkley campaign asked me to find out from the national organization if this "endorsement" is for real. So, on Wednesday, I called Tim Carpenter - the executive director of the PDA.
Thankfully, the national Progressive Democrats of America had nothing to do with this. Tim told me that he didn't know that Liz Kimmerly was working with the Novick campaign, nor that she had called for an endorsement meeting. Tim told me "that's not how we do things here". He also told me that Liz was an "overenthusiastic volunteer" who clearly hadn't read the instructions for PDA endorsements -- which include a written questionnaire prior to the interview, and 30 days notice to all local PDA members about the interview meeting.
One more thing: He told me the Portland chapter was only created "48 hours ago". That's right, folks: the Novick campaign not only sought to bamboozle the Merkley campaign, but they were bamboozling the Progressive Democrats of America -- setting up a shotgun chapter of a national organization in order to get their endorsement.
Novick's operatives are so desperate for their first organizational endorsement that they tried to fake one. This is pathetic. And it's sad. Steve Novick is a good man and a great activist, and he deserves better from his campaign. Steve Novick himself would never condone these sorts of dirty tricks. He needs to figure out who on his campaign is responsible, and remove them from his operation.
Before all the Novick partisans here at BlueOregon jump all over this, ponder this: What if the Jeff Merkley campaign had set up a sham organization and an endorsement meeting in the space of a week? You'd all be outraged. And rightly so. We'd have a nuclear meltdown on our hands. As I said, I know Steve Novick is a better man than this. I'm confident that Steve will do the right thing and eject the rogue operative(s) responsible from his campaign.
As for the Progressive Democrats of America, I'm excited that the national wants to start a local chapter. I told Tim Carpenter that I'd gladly help them get off the ground and get organized. If we're going to defeat Gordon Smith, we need a strong local chapter, and the strong involvement of the national PDA in Oregon. That's what makes this so sad: If Novick's operatives had their way, they'd have destroyed the local reputation of the PDA in order to win a cheap shotgun endorsement that's not worth the paper the press release is printed on.
Late today, Liz Kimmerly notified the Merkley campaign (and the Novick campaign, haha) that the Saturday meeting would be simply an informational meeting - rather than the "endorsement" meeting she'd planned before. Funny - that only happened after the Register-Guard started asking questions.
Stay tuned. I'll keep you posted.
Here's the original Tuesday email, printed in full...
Subject: Progressive Democrats of America Endorsement
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2008 12:27:58 -0800
To: steve[at]novickforsenate.org, jeff[at]jeffmerkley.com, candy[at]candyneville.com
I'm writing to let you know that the Portland chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America will be meeting on Saturday, January 19th to decide on its endorsement for Oregon's US Senate race. You are all welcome to state your case and will be given a 10 minute window to present yourselves to the chapter. Please remember that this will also be a regular business meeting for the chapter and you will need to stick to your time limit.
The address is 131 NW 2nd Ave. Mixing and mingling will begin at 6:30 and the endorsement part of our meeting will begin at 6:45.
Your Participation is Appreciated,
Progressive Democrats of America
And the one on Thursday from Liz Kimmerly:
To: [email protected]; jeff[at]jeffmerkley.com; candy[at]candyneville.com
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 1:09 PM
Subject: Progressive Democrats Meeting for Saturday
This is just a reminder for our Saturday meeting of the Progressive Democrats of America. If you have not replied to me with an RSVP, please do so soon. If you can not appear, you are welcome to send someone to speak for you.
Progressive Democrats of America
And the final one today, after the Register-Guard started asking questions. (Emphasis mine):
Subject: Progressive Democrats Meeting for Tomorrow and Next Month
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2008 12:03:42 -0800
To: steve[at]novickforsenate.org, candy[at]candyneville.com, jeff[at]jeffmerkley.com
Please note that not all candidates have responded to me in regard to Saturday's PDA meeting. We will be holding our endorsement vote during next month's meeting. You are still welcome to participate in tomorrow night's meeting. See email below.
By Kari Chisholm
Jan. 18, 2008