The 2008 senate race in Oregon took a turn for the more interesting when House Speaker Jeff Merkley joined former Department of Justice litigator Steve Novick in the Democratic primary to decide who will unseat Oregon's junior senator, Gordon Smith. Described by both candidates as a competition among friends, Oregonians will have the luxury of evaluating the goods already achieved by these fine men, as opposed to choosing between the lesser of two evils.
With a 100+ in attendance this evening at the monthly meeting of Multnomah County Dems, Merkley talked up his Myrtle Creek roots and his millwright father as well as his recent accomplishments in Salem; a smoking ban in bars, the expanded bottle bill and domestic partnership for gays and lesbians.
A short question and answer period allowed Speaker Merkley to touch on health care, biofuels and impeachment. On the latter issue, he expressed the desire to "continue to be educated" but said his "energies have to go into bringing [the troops] home from Iraq."
For his part, Steve Novick welcomed the prospect of a competitive primary.
I look forward to an inspired primary where each of us makes our case for why we must replace Gordon Smith and presents our respective visions for Oregon and America. And I propose a series of joint appearances across the state with Jeff and any other candidates that enter the primary to let voters make up their minds.