Writings and observations

Senate scorecard

After all the demurrals earlier in the season, the recent pile of interest expressions – in the Oregon Senate race – abruptly makes the field look a lot different than it was a month ago. Or is it different?

Maybe not so much. Let’s run through the Democratic field of interest, in running against Republican Senator Gordon Smith, and see what emerges.

bullet Steve Novick. The one public figure who was running a month ago and running now, with financial yardsticks of interest coming up soon. (He’s raising money – passed $100,000 about a month ago. Where is he now?) [UPDATE See also the comments below, but we’ll note here as well Novick’s campaign announcement this morning – Monday – that he has raised upwards of $190,000; a very decent amount for this stage of the cycle. He also notes some recent campaign hires, experienced types such as new campaign manager manager Jake Weigler, who departed as Governor Ted Kulongoski’s deputy communications director to take the job.] More than just “declared,” he’s out there campaigning – his web site lists a bunch of appearances, statements and the like. And daily increasing the catch-up space for anyone yet to jump in.

bullet Ty Pettit. The other Democrat in the race, though barely mentioned and, his web site aside, barely visible, though he’s been out there for a long time. (The few headlines on his web site all date from 2004, and mainly in support of John Kerry.) He has an interesting business background, but points to no active political work.

Novick is the only major figure to jump into the pool – Pettit’s barely visible candidacy seldom draws even a mention. Here, in no particular order, are some of the others who have emerged as testers of water temperature and depth, with a few notes on prospects. (Not included: Others who’ve been mentioned in the past, such as Senator Ben Westlund, who either have rejected the idea or have done nothing to encourage the idea of a run in the last couple of weeks. Not that one of them might not have a change of heart, either.)

bullet Alan Bates. We’ve discussed this before: Bates would enter as a solid candidate with a base and a style from outside the Portland area – a real advantage – and a good statewide network through his professional and legislative connections. He also has major new health care legislation, just passed, to tout. How interested? Hard to say. He seemed to have a nice boomlet a month ago, but nothing has sustained it since. One plus: He was last elected to the Senate in 2006, so 2008 would be mid-term – he wouldn’t have to put his state Senate seat (which in the Medford area Democrats could lose without him) at risk to run.

bullet Jeff Merkley. The last year has been a constant up for the new House speaker, not least the last week or so – presiding over half of the most successful Oregon legislature in a couple of decades. In one sense, the political timing could hardly be much better – little wonder New York Senator Charles Schumer, in charge of Democratic Senate recruitment, is interested in him. (Remember, as some people have pointed out, that Smith was Merkley’s legislative counterpart – state Senate president – when he won his U.S. Senate seat.) But to run for the U.S. Senate, Merkley would have to give up his state House seat and the speakership gavel – an incredible leap of faith. His expressed desire to not simply write off the Senate option is understandable, but for now we’ll figure Merkley will rather stay where he is.

bullet Paul Evans. Something of an out-of-nowhere possibility, but intriguing, and like Merkley recently on Schumer’s meeting schedule (though with indications that he’s not Schumer’s first preference). The down side is that in his one partisan race so far, last year against state Senator Jackie Winters, he lost, although running a very strong campaign. (Noted: The district is Republican-leaning, and Winters is well liked and well established there.) That said, Evans impressed quite a few people during his run, and drew a lot of enthusiastic statewide Democratic backing. He was a skillful candidate and his story was compelling: An educator and volunteer fire fighter twice elected mayor of Monmouth, Evans has been sent on repeated reserve missions to the Middle East, including once during the last days of the 2006 campaign. He could be a fascinating matchup against Smith. Prospects for running? Evans in an e-mail: “For the foreseeable future, I will continue to try and make a difference from where I am at.” But who knows?

bullet Kate Brown. The outgoing – in both senses of the word – state Senate majority leader has been both played up and played down. Her statements seem to indicate that a run for something next year looks more than possible, but the Senate likely isn’t it.

bullet Jeff Golden. Not well known around Oregon but very well-known around Medford, Golden is a former Jackson County commissioner – a figure of some controversy from then, but out of office and off the ballot for a long time – and more recently a public radio talk show host. He apparently is serious enough that he’s leaving the hosting job, and he clearly has some local support, but mark this one overall as a question mark.

bullet Eileen Brady. The co-founder (with her husband) of New Seasons Markets and a former vice president at Ecotrust, she has history of working for political figures (as in fundraising) but hasn’t run before herself. Willamette Week said in its June 8 edition that she has been thinking about such a run for half a year. She was, at least at that point, also (like Merkley and Evans) scheduled to meet with Schumer. And she apparently has, famously, a web address reserved (password-protected now, no less). But since early last month, there’s been little public followup. Does it add up to a candidacy? Hard to read.

Okay. That should get the roster more or less in order.

At least for a day or two . . .

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2 Comments

  1. torridjoe said:

    Novick got over 190K for the quarter, which I think is 90K in 4 weeks, since he announced 100K after 6 and has been in it 10 weeks of the quarter, total. For someone of his stature (no pun intended) he is doing well at this stage of fundraising. You’re right to say that the entry bar for non-system candidates (ie Merkley and Brown and to some extent Bates) is widening compared to Novick. He’s also hired Ted’s deputy communications guy and someone from Hardy Myers’ team.

    It started as a prospect, but it’s now very definitely a reality–the guy is running to knock off Smith. And he’s got the blueprint.

    July 2, 2007
  2. torridjoe said:

    I mean to say anyone OTHER than Merkley and Brown, perhaps Bates…those guys can access funds quickly Steve probably can’t. But for people like Golden and Brady and Evans they’re suddenly down two large to the underdog. It will be very interesting if no one climbs in over him, stature-wise–he might end up clearing the field below him if he can continue raising.

    July 2, 2007

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