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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 11, 2008 5:46 PM. The previous post in this blog was How not to run a school cafeteria. The next post in this blog is Good night, 9/11. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not a second time

Last time around, I voted for Gordon Smith. He seemed like a level-headed, moderate guy, and his opponent's campaign was so weak that it didn't speak to me at all. And so I flexed my independence muscles and blackened the circle for old Gordo.

This time around, I was hoping that Steve Novick would get the Democratic nomination to run against Smith, but it went instead to the Salem establishment's candidate, Jeff Merkley. After the primary, I opined that Merkley didn't have a chance -- that not enough voters knew him, he would be badly outspent, and Smith would tout so many achievements from his 12 years in office that Merkley would get lost in the brilliant halo around the incumbent's head.

It hasn't turned out that way. Smith's campaign has turned relentlessly, hauntingly negative, with TV ad after TV ad painting a black hat on his opponent. Jeff Merkley raised taxes. Jeff Merkley cut funding for home care for old people. Jeff Merkley wasted money on furniture for his office. Bad, bad, bad Jeff Merkley. After two full terms in the Senate, this is the best case Smith can make for his re-election? It's kind of creepy.

Today comes word that Smith is punking out of debating Merkley in front of the Portland City Club. And the normally staid club can't contain its outrage:

City Club of Portland is widely recognized for conducting fair, open and carefully formatted political debates. The Club is the most experienced at hosting debates of any forum in Oregon. All candidates appearing at City Club debates are treated equally and with respect. Questions to debaters are asked only by a panel of City Club members and are not allowed from the audience. No audience expressions of support or opposition are permitted. An impartial person is chosen to moderate the debate. Questions are closely timed and are prepared to be balanced and expository.

City Club believes that the race between Sen. Smith and Rep. Merkley deserves full exposure to as many Oregon voters as possible. The City Club's Friday Forum live audience usually exceeds 400 for political debates, reaches more than 15,000 public radio listeners statewide, and is distributed on cable television. As such, City Club finds Sen. Smith's decision to be disappointing and regrettable. Over the many decades that City Club has hosted political debates, it has been highly unusual for a candidate to refuse a Club debate invitation.

"Disappointing and regrettable," indeed. You can tape those labels onto Smith's entire campaign, actually. With few friends among the Republican Party leaders and many political assassins to his far left, Smith needs us folks in the middle to avoid an atrocious upset. Running negative ads all evening long and dissing the City Club aren't going to help.

Comments (29)

I also voted for Smith last go-round. I also think his ads are creepy. I will also flex my independence muscles this election.

Only an honorably brave man, Jack, can openly admit being fooled before and voting for Gordo.

And only a bravely honorable man won't get fooled again.

By all means, withhold your vote from Señor Smith. But don't reward More-of-the-same Merkley. If you're tired of the Constitution being trampled and want to send a message to the Democratic "Leadership" (like for example, "Don't screw around with our Democratic primaries") then

Reject the Coalition of the Willing to Wait and

Join the Blank Vote Initiative.

www.BlankVote.org

Running negative ads all evening long and dissing the City Club aren't going to help.

On the other hand, Jeff Merkley's campaign is coming off as terribly boring.

God, I wish Steve Novick had won the primary. You just know he would have been stirring things up in a big way right about now.

I would be shocked if more than 20% of the City Club membership is registered Republican. Ditto for the general election likely voters in Multnomah County this November.

Plus, Gordo is the incumbent: it's never good strategy for an incumbent to go face-to-face with a lesser known challenger if they can avoid it.

There's nothing but downside risk for an incumbent Republican at a City Club debate: the audience is simply too partisan and any upside (i.e. local television exposure) can be more safely achieved elsewhere.

Have you ever been to a City Club debate Mister Tee? They're very nonpartisan, heck Tom Cox is on their board...

Uh, no they're not. The questions are inevitably loaded against the Republican or conservative idea. The City Club has never endorsed a conservative ballot measure. They are as non-partisan as the Oregon Education Association.

Arguably the City Club debate that had the most impact on a Senate race occurred 40 years ago when a fresh Bob Packwood bested a tired Wayne Morse. That debate was critical in Packwood beating Morse by just a few thousand votes.

The City Club's membership is open to anyone and probably reflects the general population of Portland. Maybe Republicans who yearn for an "old-boy network exclusive club" are turned off by the club's open admission policies. I have been a member for 12 years and served on some study committees, including one that favored some privatization of government services. I would like to point out that City Club research has also rejected a number liberal ballot measures, such as one a few years back on universal health care.

Most conservative ballot measures are poorly written, unconstitutional and never spell out the costs of the consequences of the measure. I think most Oregonians, not just members of the City Club, are hip to the shenanigans of Sizemore, Mannix, Loren Parks and Don McIntyre.

Gordo's refusal to debate shows that he's running scared. It also shows he has nothing to say. It's really a wonder he wants to be in the Senate, since during his entire term in office, he has sponsored no significant legislation.

Gordy and Jeffy have one thing in common. Both love to be extravagant when spending the public's money.

Love the furniture guys.

Jeffy is true and blue. Can he see beyond Multnomah county?

What's Gordy? Anything that sends him back to DC.

Vote Merkley, You know what you've got, like him or not.

Don,

I've attended several City Club debates, forums, and even a few mixers. I was a member for two years, and decided to let my membership lapse when they came out in favor of "VOE" without so much as a vote of City Club members.

VOE was (and remains) an unmitigated disaster, as evidenced by Sam Adams (incumbent commissioner and VOE supporter) going to court to disqualify his only legitimate competitor from participating in Voter Owned Elections. That's some fine democracy you've got there, Sammy.

Like voter pawned elections, the City Club is a liberal sham dressed up in non-partisan drag that only only pass in the Peoples Republic of Portlandia.

Can't we just write in Steve Novick? He should have won the primary, maybe he can win the general.

Merkley's ads are half truths, too. Merkley is in the pocket of the union thugs who want to strong arm everybody into joining their unions. Card checks is an attempt to spread Detroit's suffocating labor protectionism across the country and across industry. Both Merkley and Nobama are for this form of competitiveness decay. Throw in late term abortion, and I'd rather vote for RINO Smith. Or, maybe this is yet one more race which should have the None-of-the-above choice.

Bob, you're missing the nightly right-wing troll videoconference...

As much as I don't like Smith, I sure wouldn't choose to replace him with a Merkley.

At least Smith seems to be aware of why Morse lost to Packwood.

I voted for Gordon last go around and wont do that again. Merkley is no better in my opinion so canidate blank will get my vote.

My prediction is Merkley wins, Gordon has done a lot of things to piss off his base and don't have their unwavering support. It doesn't help his cause to run adds mentioning how much Dem support he has.

Anybody else see Smith's 'Merkeley has bit off more than he can chew' ad? Comic gold. Kinda dirty, but comic gold. I'm wondering who the guy was that asked Jeff about Georgia?

I look at what is good for Oregon and the big picture. Smith a being a moderate having seniority and key committee membership even as a minority party member will be able to influence critical legislation such as the wilderness plan with Wyden and DeFazio. Merkley as a freshman on the other hand if elected will have as much clout in the Senate as the cloak room clerk.

Whether you like Merkley or not, voting Smith out of office might open up that seat for someone you do like in 2012.

On the other hand, the allegation that Smith Foods and associated family-owned companies employ illegal immigrants, reported in the current issue of Willamette Week with a followup in yesterday's Oregonian, may also do the job. These allegations probably have something to do with Smith's backing out of the City Club debate.

Like it or not, Merkley is the choice. Do not waste your vote as the troll-types suggest. Smith needs to step off and reflect on lacking courage needed to support his convictions if they're not just political ploys. The R's could care less about his kumbaya with the Dems and Obama. They know if re-elected he will continue to toe the party line. He's a party guy.

Darrin is correct. Smith is toast because his conservative base has had enough. No more votes for RINO's. A moderate is nothing more than someone who has no core values and waits to see which way the wind is blowing before doing anything.

The suggestion that Smith's tenure means more pork than Merkley might generate, is the old politics. With a Dem. controlled legislature the end of earmarks is likely in our future. This "reform" will make tenure much less beneficial.
Who do you think would be more willing to vote to eliminate "earmarks"?
Smith or Merkley?
Which candidate would be more likely to filibuster earmark reform?
Smith or Merkley

If you believe for a moment that Merkley wouldn’t go along with Blumenauer and DeFazio voting earmarks for light rail and trolleys I have a bridge I want to sell you. How about the article in the O this morning about our congressional delegation pushing for federal highway money for Oregon? Earmarks baloney, they are only earmarks if they go to someone else.

They know if re-elected he will continue to toe the party line. He's a party guy.

Which party line? This statement right here shows you have no idea what you're talking about.

I agree with Mr. Benton, you've lost your sense if you think Merkley is going to vote to eliminate earmarks. There are far too many liberal pet projects in this state that couldn't fly without the use of federal earmarks.

I voted for Gordo in '02 as well. And for the same basic reasons Jack cites here. Actually, I've never voted against Gordo for Senate, including when he lost to Wyden.

Although Jack and I disagreed over the Merkley/Novick choice earlier this year, it's pretty clear that we were both looking for an alternative to Gordo this time around.

I suspect that many Oregonians are similarly disenchanted with Gordo not living up to the moderate image he has so carefully crafted.

Bringing money back via our Congressional delegation isn't necessarily a bad thing. Under the "interstate commerce" clause in the Constitution, it is a legit thing for members of Congress to be involved in. Indeed, they have a Constitutional obligation to do so.

The problem with earmarks is two-fold.

1. The "earmark" system is badly flawed and lacks transparency.

2. Congress has, IMO, a serious obligation to do a cost/benefit analysis (and use it to justify their decisions) which is arguably at the core of why the present system is so broken. The "bridge to nowhere" being a classic example of the system failing.

But make no mistake about it... Congress has a legit role to play in doling out federal funds for the public good.

The knee-jerk opposition to earmarks is every bit as wrong-headed as the "pork" they (legitimately IMO) oppose.

Earmarks for Oregon good. Earmarks for other states bad.

How I would love to write-in Novick. I seriously don't know anyone that voted for Merkeley.

Earmarks are bad, period. They are slipped into legislation without being vetted. Appropriating funds to projects subject to advice and consent is the way funds should be directed to projects. Any method that evades debate by our representatives is anti-democratic and will be relegated to the trash heap by either candidate, at least if you believe them. Funding for worthy projects will be expended because of the value inherent in them, not the tenure and guile of their sponsor.


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