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Novick Discusses Union Votes, IRS, $20 Bills During U. Oregon Visit

This story was written by Robert D'Andrea, Oregon Daily Emerald
University alumnus and United States Senate candidate Steve Novick made his second campaign visit to the University of Oregon campus Wednesday to talk to College Democrats.

State Sen. Vicki Walker, who is running for secretary of state, was advertised to appear at the forum but couldn't make it because of a scheduling conflict.

Novick is running against Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley in a primary contest for the Democratic nomination and a shot at Republican Gordon Smith's Senate seat. Political pundits expect next November's Senate race to be one of the most competitive in the nation and the most expensive Senate race in Oregon history.

Jake Weigler, Novick's campaign manager, said plans to organize a debate between Novick and Merkley are moving "slowly." Weigler said he wants the two to have a couple of debates in Lane County, but "it takes two to tango."

Novick started his speech by recalling how he ended up enrolled in the university when he was 14 because schools closed in Cottage Grove. He graduated from the university after three years in 1981 at the age of 17.

"I was very proud that Ronald Reagan got a worse reception at the U of O campus than anywhere else he campaigned in 1980," Novick said to applause.

The candidate went through the bullet points of his campaign: opposing the war in Iraq, reducing federal debt, slowing down global warming. He said once he is in the Senate he will sign on to the Sanders-Boxer Global Warming Act, a wide-ranging bill to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Novick also said he would support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would penalize employers who fire workers trying to organize into unions, and support any Democratic attempts at healthcare reform.

He also talked about bills he would introduce should he make it to the Senate, including one to replace Andrew Jackson's picture on the $20 bill with one of Sitting Bull.

"Andrew Jackson happens to have been a criminal," he said. Jackson sent Native American tribes of the Southeast to Oklahoma and one-third of the people died along the way, he said.

"The parts of Oklahoma to which they were sent most people wouldn't voluntarily go," he said to laughs from the less than ten people in the crowd.

Novick would also require the IRS to send a thank-you note with tax returns explaining where tax dollars go.

"The reasons the Republicans get away with mindless anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric at this point is that they convince too many people that all of your taxes go to welfare, waste, fraud and abuse," he said.

He said two-thirds of tax dollars are spent on Medicare and Medicaid, social security, and defense.

"It would revolutionize politics in America," he said.

Novick has never held an elected office, but has a long resume as a lawyer and activist. He was chief of staff to Democrats in the Oregon Senate, he worked as a policy director for Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and worked for a nonprofit that opposed the ballot initiatives of anti-tax activist Bill Sizemore.

After giving his speech, Novick took questions from the students in attendance.

Ben Rudin, a self-described libertarian Democrat, challenged Novick on the Employee Free Choice Act. Rudin asked why secret ballots needed to be taken away from union employees.

Novick said that if employers know the time and place of a secret ballot election they have plenty of opportunities to pressure employees and skew the results.

With a signed ballot, Novick said, "if somebody beats you up until you sign your card then that's illegal and you can go after people for it."

Rudin persisted. "It's just the idea that they're presenting it right in front of you telling you, 'sign this,'" Rudn said of signed ballots. "You're being pressured into doing it from everyone around you."

Novick said either way there is pressure from bosses to not vote for unionization. Rudin said that with a secret ballot bosses don't know how individuals vote.

"Theoretically that's right," Novick said, "but they're going to know how everybody voted and they'll take it out on everybody."

Rudin told the Emerald he is a Novick supporter.

"He doesn't dodge questions," Rudin said. "Someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is not your enemy."

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© 2007 Oregon Daily Emerald via U-WIRE