Novick the best choice for Senate

There's some sentiment that U.S. Senate candidates Jeff Merkley and Steve Novick are political peas in a pod &

virtually indistinguishable from each other on policy issues. That's true in a number of areas for the two Democrats from Portland who hope to take on Sen. Gordon Smith in November.

But there are some significant differences, both in style and stance, and that's why we're endorsing Novick for the Democratic nomination.

Both candidates bring impressive credentials. Merkley holds a master's degree in public policy from Princeton; Novick a law degree from Harvard. Merkley has been a national security analyst for the federal government, a legislator and, most recently speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. Novick (who graduated from college at the age of 18 and from Harvard law at 21), worked for the Justice Department, successfully carrying the case for the Love Canal plaintiffs, and has worked as a policy wonk for a long list of liberal groups and politicians.

They are both likely to be described as Portland liberals and both generally support the principal tenets of the Democratic Party. They both differ considerably from Smith on most issues.

But there are differences between Merkley and Novick as well. Merkley speaks in measured, careful tones and prides himself on his ability in recent legislative assemblies to garner consensus. Novick is, well, a bit more of a flame-thrower. He speaks his mind, which is refreshing, if sometimes a bit dangerous, for a politician.

There are some telling policy differences as well. Merkley supported a legislative move to restrict illegal immigrants' access to driver's licenses; Novick opposed it. Novick would push to eliminate the $100,000 income cap for paying Social Security taxes, requiring the wealthy to continue paying into the system, and would increase capital gains taxes; Merkley does not support either idea. Novick says we must have a "firm and swift" exit from Iraq, even if that results in a spike in bloodshed in that country; Merkley says the "responsible plan" is to begin removing troops immediately and remove U.S. troops from combat roles within six to 12 months.

We think both Merkley and Novick are qualified candidates and both are capable of unseating the only remaining Republican senator on the West Coast. But Novick brings a spirit and focus to the campaign that is refreshing and we have no doubts that he would carry that same fearless approach to Congress. We endorse Steve Novick for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate.

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