The two leading candidates in the Oregon Democratic U-S Senate primary traded barbs in a debate today Friday. Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick are competing to be their party’s choice to take on incumbent Republican Gordon Smith. Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman reports.
The debate at the Portland City Club was the first time Merkley and Novick faced off one-on-one. The two Democrats both supported universal health care, preserving timber county subsidies, and pulling troops out of Iraq.
But they went on to criticize each other’s campaign tactics and styles. Merkley is speaker of the Oregon House. He brought up several Novick blog postings in which Novick lampooned presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Merkley: "I keep trying to picture you going to Senator Obama or President Obama and saying, 'I’ve called you a special interest fraud, be please help me with those timber payments for Oregon.'"
Novick concedes some of his comments were deliberately over-the-top. But the Portland political consultant says it shows that he’s not afraid to criticize fellow Democrats when he feels they’ve compromised their principles.
Novick: "Sometimes in expressing my passionate criticism of specific policies, specific votes that Democrats have cast, I have certainly been undiplomatic."
There are four other Democrats in the race. The winner of the May 20th primary will take on incumbent Gordon Smith. The Pendleton Republican far outpaces any of the Democrats in fund-raising and name recognition.