Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick are locked in a tense primary fight over who will have the privilege of beating Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) this November. I have heard both candidates speak and I have watched Jeff in action as Speaker of the Oregon House. At various points in the campaign I have leaned one way or another. I was extremely impressed with Jeff's ability to pass gay rights legislation with a one vote majority. When I heard Steve talk he had a fire in his voice which made me know he was eager to go to bat for progressive causes.
When I found out that Steve had called Obama a sellout and a fraud I was frustrated with him. I have been an Obama supporter since he announced his campaign, calling on Americans to rise above the politics of division, to stop blaming gays and immigrants for our problems, and to start working together for progressive change.
Even after these comments surfaced though, I was still on the fence. But then Novick said that in an ideal world he would rather vote for a former Republican who is running as an Independent than vote for fellow Democrat Jeff Merkley. That is when Steve Novick became dead to me.
No media outlets appear to have picked this story up yet. In an interview with the Willamette Week editorial board all of the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Oregon were asked who else in the room (there were only Democrats) they would vote for if they could not vote for themselves. Every other Democrat in the room named a fellow Democrat in the room. Steve Novick, however, said he would vote for former Republican, Independent candidate John Frohnmayer.
When pressed by the editorial board to name a Democrat in the room Mr. Novick remained silent for about 15 seconds, choosing to attack Speaker Merkley, finally saying that he would support Candy Neville who has about as much chance of winning the primary as I do.
Speaker Merkley, on the other hand, showed class by saying that he would vote for the only other viable candidate, Steve Novick.
The video of the comments is of the entire interview process and Kos will not let me embed it. I would wait until someone has cut the video and put it on youtube, but for the junkies among you the exchange starts a bit after minute 68. You can check it out at Blue Oregon.
I have transcribed the crucial part of the exchange:
Moderator: Speaker Merkley, if you could not vote for vote for yourself, who would you vote for?
Speaker Merkley: I'd vote for Steve. [gestures to Novick who is sitting next to him]
Moderator: Ok, Steve, who would you vote for?
Steve Novick: I'd vote for John Frohnmayer.
Moderator: He's not in this room.
Steve Novick: [15 second pause] I have a very hard time answering that, um...
Moderator: You're going to have to make a hell of a lot harder decisions when you are on the floor of the Senate.
Steve Novick: [30 second pause]
If you want to see Novick attack Speaker Merkley after the 30 second pause, you can watch the video. I am not going to give him air time. When the moderator pressed Mr. Novick "Why Frohnmayer, why not another, why not a Democrat?" Novick layed out his support for Fronmayer.
In fairness to Steve, he did finally realize that he had made a mistake and he clarified that although he preferred Frohnmayer, we would grudgingly vote for the Democratic nominee. Novick may think that this gets him off the line, but saying that a former Republican, turned Independent, is actually a better candidate than the likely Democratic nominee is beyond the pale. He may say that he will not vote for Fronmayer, but he just helped Frohnmayer pick up a lot of votes.
Like Daily Kos, I support Democrats. This is the equivalent of Hillary Clinton dropping out of the race and saying that although she'll vote for Barack Obama, she likes Michael Bloomberg better. Steve Novick, you're dead to me. This May, I will be proud to cast my ballot for Democrats Barack Obama and Jeff Merkley.