Okay, he’s been running for one-and-a-half months now, but Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley officially kicked off his bid to unseat U.S. Senator Gordon Smith today in the heart of Democratic Oregon. Flanked by a number of Oregon’s banner progressives–among them former Gov. Barbara Roberts, Commissioner Sam Adams and Rep. Diane Rosenbaum–Merkley talked eloquently about his background and moved quickly into the many reasons why he should replace Senator Smith in the United States Congress.
The Boundary was lucky enough to snap some pictures at the well-attended event. The signs and banners, with their emphasis on the handsome logo of Oregon, were particularly photogenic.
Commissioner Sam Adams didn’t waste any time making friends in the U.S. Senate race by endorsing Jeff Merkley.
And then Merkley himself arrived on the new flagship RV, which is painted in the campaign’s constellation of blue and green (sorry, didn’t get a picture of that…yet).
The speech by Merkley, presumably one of his first as a Senate candidate, roused the audience to the usual levels of cheering and sign-waving that you’d expect from a candidate in mid-July of the election year. He made it clear that Oregon’s representation in the Senate is essentially nullified–94% of the time Senator Ron Wyden casts a progressive vote, Senator Smith cancels it out by voting the other way. On trade issues, labor issues, environmental issues, protection of civil liberties, fair taxation, universal health care, it’s true that Wyden leads Oregon and the nation forward in the Senate while Smith drags his weight behind in resistance to change. And it’s time to cut the dead weight and move forward.
That’s exactly what Merkley and the House Democrats accomplished in late 2006 and 2007. They beat 4 incumbent Republicans to take the majority, and with Jeff Merkley as Speaker accomplished every single item on the progressive Roadmap for Oregon’s Future. That’s a lengthy laundry list of reforms, including contraceptive equity, adequate funding for schools and universities, health care transparency and a plan for health care reform, freedom to work for unions, creating the rainy day fund, recognizing civil unions and passing anti-discrimination legislation, capping payday loan interest rates, and a package of innovative environmental bills. Standing behind Merkley during his speech were five of his colleagues–Reps. Tobias Read, Diane Rosenbaum, Chip Shields, Larry Galizio and Suzanne Bonamici.
Perhaps his best quote of the night: “You can only mess up so many times before it’s someone else’s turn”.
If you live in Medford, Roseburg, Eugene, or Corvallis, it’s your turn to see the touring Jeff Merkley campaign kickoff tomorrow. And on Wednesday, the campaign RV rolls into Newport, Lincoln City and Salem with the candidate aboard.
But starting in Southeast Portland is certainly a nod to the left wing of the party, and judging from the turnout in front of the Our Oregon headquarters tonight, it’s fair to sat that Merkley’s has a good share of that constituency supporting him. Now on to that bastion of progressivism–Medford!