U.S. Democratic Senate candidates Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick, both competing for the chance to replace Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) in the Senate, made a stop at SOU Monday to talk with students and community members about their campaign platforms.
Though both men share differences on several political issues, there is one thing Merkley and Novick do have in common: their desire to unseat Smith in the next election.
"I’m running for U.S. Senate because we need to make fundamental changes in our country. And Gordon Smith has been taking us in the wrong direction," said Merkley on his campaign flyers.
Novick’s ads sport similar gimmicks. "Politics as (un)usual. That’s what it will take to defeat Gordon Smith," referring to Novick’s 4-foot-9-inch stature and left hook for a hand. His ads call himself, "Gordon Smith’s worst nightmare."
Currently, Merkley is favored to win in the Oregon primary in May and go on to challenge Smith for the Senate seat in November. However, Novick, the self-proclaimed underdog, has caused a stir among voters with his unusual ad slogans. Campaign flyers state, "Everyone knows a fighter needs a strong left hook," and his first video ad reached more than 7,000 views on Youtube.com in the first 72 hours. The video intentionally drew attention to his height when Novick concluded the ad by stating, "I don’t look like a typical politician, but I won’t act like one either. I will fight for the little guy."
A graduate of the University of Oregon at age 18 and Harvard Law at 21, Novick is the senior project manager for Pyramid Communications, a consulting firm that works for nonprofit organizations, tribal and other public sector clients.
At SOU, Novick stood and spoke to audience members about his causes. "It bothers me that we’ve added three trillion to the national debt in the last six years." He explained that to stop compiling national debt, policies of tax cuts for the wealthy must be reversed, and there needs to be an evaluation of "misplaced spending priorities."
"If we are going to avoid bankruptcy, we need to bring the American people into the game. A huge percentage of Americans think the budget is spent on welfare and foreign aid," Novick said. "Most money goes to social security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the national debt."
In addition, Novick advocated affordable higher education, national health care coverage "for every American," affirming civil rights for all, implementing a timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and beginning a "revolution in how we use and produce energy-renewable power sources and energy-efficient appliances and buildings."
"In my life I have been extremely lucky, and you have to learn to trust your luck," Novick said to the crowd. "We can build a better America by remembering who we once were."
In contrast to Novick’s speech, Merkley stood in the Stevenson Union and let students and community members come to him with questions and comments.
"I wanted to connect with the students," Merkley said. "They have the most at stake in the future."
Students addressed him with a wide array of questions from textbook costs to immigration reforms. However, according to Merkley, the top three things SOU students have the most concern for is the war in Iraq, global warming and increasing education funding.
"I’m interested in the rising cost of tuition and any measures being taken to decrease that cost," said student Kelli Liverpool, a junior accounting major.
Several Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group members also let their concerns be heard by holding signs that said, "What’s your plan for global warming?"
Merkley’s plan consists of "setting a 25 percent renewable energy national standard by 2025 and incentives to cities for the reduction of climate change emissions," according to his campaign Web site, www.jeffmerkley.com.
As the current speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives and former weapons analyst for the Pentagon, Merkley’s platform is to strengthen education, reform trade agreements to include enforceable labor and environmental standards, secure health care for all Americans and end the war in Iraq with a "laid out five point path for stability that will redeploy American combat troops and engage the Iraqis in rebuilding the country."
Merkley holds degrees from Stanford University and Princeton University. He was born in Myrtle Creek, Ore.
For more information about the candidates and their platforms, go online at www.jeffmerkley.com and www.novickforsenate.com .