? vs. Gordon Smith
Oregon is "blessed" this coming election with one of the top-tier Senatorial elections with the coming expiration of Gordon Smith's present term in office. We will be getting a lot of attention (and a lot of money) thrown our way. We will also be getting a lot of mud.
I remain uncommitted on the question of who should run against Smith. I donated money to the draft DeFazio effort a few months back and was disappointed when he didn't jump into the race. I was despairing for a while that no serious contender would be found for Smith's seat. Despite predictions that Smith is vulnerable, I still think that claims that he is an easy knock off are naive at best.
I wasn't all that impressed by Steve Novick when I met him. I'm sure he has a stellar background and would make a much better Senator than Smith. But he didn't wow me. I couldn't help but feel that his was a candidacy that would quickly turn our top-tier race into an also-ran. I just didn't feel that Novick would be taken seriously as a candidate.
I have yet to meet Jeff Merkley but what I see so far impresses me. Probably what impresses me most is that the last session of the Oregon legislature achieved some impressive progressive victories. As is so clearly demonstrated by the more lackluster performance of the national lege, just having a Democratic majority in both houses is no guarantee that great things will happen. It also requires a strong leadership that knows how to marshal the forces available (and, admittedly, a Democratic Executive who will sign onto most of the legislation you are trying to pass). Jeff Merkley corralled one of the Houses impressively towards some major victories, even managing to bring some Republicans along for the ride.
If we have a Democratic President in 2009 and retain our majorities in both houses, then progressive legislation will take progressive leadership and Merkley shows that he has that kind of leadership.
Other things to like about Merkely:
* His web site proudly proclaims himself a "Democrat for U.S. Senate". Its hard to build positive brand identification when the brand isn't advertised.
* He endorses impeaching Gonzalez. The question of impeachment, with respect to Bush or Cheney, is still up in the air for a lot of Democrats. But I think removing Gonzalez from power should be a minimal position of the party.
(Note: this isn't an endorsement of Merkely. Just my opening foray into this race. Endorsements may come later, but it is much to early to commit myself right now.)