Friday, May 25, 2007

We're Not Crazy; Novick IS Viable

Not that anyone said we were crazy, but many do labor under the belief that Steve Novick's candidacy for Senate is still just a placeholder, or a lopsided losing enterprise should he win the nomination more or less by default. This is unfair to Steve in the main, but at the same time you can't blame convention for providing the conventional wisdom, and the number of people who have been sent to the Senate without any previous elective or appointed service is mighty small.
Where we have made the evolved leap is in dismissing Novick's chances simply on the basis of that frame. If Oregonians find out who he is and like what he says, there's no fundamental reason why he can't win, no literal barrier to it happening. And call it spin if you like, but there is a distinct possibility that his non-politician approach to politics will serve as an advantage rather than a defect. In any case, it's wrong to focus on strategic considerations above the very simple test voters should apply: is he/she the best available serious candidate?

There is a standard for "serious," of course, and it's fairly subjective. Ty Pettit is not a serious candidate in my mind, as nice a guy as he might be. Whoever runs on the Constitution Party line, they're not serious either. But as Novick is going for the Democratic nomination, he's serious as long as he's got a plausible chance to win it--and it's not just us for whom Novick's campaign has shown strong signs of plausibility.

First up is the Ashland Daily Tidings, which continues to cover Alan Bates' possible entry into the race. I was contacted about the race again, and (forgive me) had this to say:
Torrid Joe, editor of the left-leaning blog Loaded Orygun, says it is indisputable that Smith is politically vulnerable, and said there is nothing wrong with a crowded primary field vying for his seat. "A full competition is a good thing," he said. "It brings the issues to the fore."

Joe said while he "can't find anything wrong" with Bates, he is throwing his support behind Novick because he is not a cog in the "mainstream political machine," as Bates is inherently, being a member of the state Legislature.

"People are hungry for something else," he said.
This is the point I was making above--the times just seem right for the candidate who doesn't remind people of the politicians they've grown to hate (not that people hate Bates personally). But beyond my speculations on the Oregon zeitgeist, party people and strategists are taking his run seriously:
[Jan] Waitt, who is the precinct organizer for the [Jackson] County Democratic Party, said Novick might be a more formidable opponent to Smith given his Portland connections and keen intellect.

She said Novick, a former Justice Department lawyer, has the "wit to maybe outsmart" Smith, who is known as an aggressive and experienced campaigner.

Bates and Novick would both make "excellent candidates" to go against Smith, said Sue Densmore, a 2004 Democratic candidate for the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and president of a public relations firm in Medford that bears her name.

A primary race between Bates and Novick, she said, would be "hard to call."
That's got to be mighty encouraging to Steve, as he plots his summer tour of the state to drum up excitement--rural areas are receptive, and Democrats there are willing to consider fighting for him. Also encouraging has to be the re-evaluation by Ridenbaugh's Randy Stapilus:
The nascent Steve Novick campaign for the Senate picked up some useful support this week. During an interview on the Thom Hartmann talk show on KPOJ, the host disclosed he had donated to Novick’s campaign and urged listeners to do likewise, as some evidently did. Not a bad early hit.

Today, he picked up backing from a clutch of Oregon attorneys, a substantial group - a useful starting point. Not everyone in the Democratic sector, apparently, is holding back and waiting for a better-known figure to enter the Democratic contest against Republican Gordon Smith next year.


Novick could become an intriguing mix of political tough and personal appealing. Over lunch Tuesday he outlined some of his campaign steps so far and some of his campaign subject matter, the issues substance, and is nothing if not clear about that. His campaign rhetoric can come across, as indicated in the quote above, as take-no-prisoners. But Novick personally did not seem hard-edged; he may emerge as a likable personality with an unusual and compelling story. This isn’t a given. Novick doesn’t, in some ways, sound or act like a candidate. (You still get a feeling that you’re talking to a very savvy political pro, more than a candidate.) But that may come; as he settles into the role of candidate, probably will.

Leading to the other factor: Time. Novick is getting started early, he’s the only one who has, and time is a real, valuable, currency in campaigns. A better-known candidate entering this race in, say, late summer may turn out to be behind the curve. Novick is pulling his race together, and after a certain point other candidates may find themselves too far behind.

Two months ago our snap thought about the Novick campaign was that it was an interesting effort in the absence of a “bigger/better known” candidate, who probably would soon own the field. Looks now entirely possible that in the months ahead Novick may become that candidate.
The bigger the snowball we pack now, the faster it will roll when the new year comes around and the election process begins in earnest. If you want to add some snow, donate through LO's ActBlue page, so Steve knows where it came from. And better yet, become involved and take charge of your government--go to to see how you can help.