This is how one homestate newspaper editorial described the U.S. Senate candidate: “…he suffers from multiple sclerosis, which makes it difficult for him to walk long distances. Nonetheless, he maintains a cheerful, laid-back demeanor — the prototypical ‘happy warrior.'” The same editorial discussed how the candidate represented “the kind of progressive politics that appeal to a broad spectrum” of voters, noting that, “He has consistently championed green issues such as salmon (protection), renewable energy and a ban on offshore oil drilling. He’s pro-choice. He supports assisted suicide. He opposed the Iraq resolution and backs the Patients’ Bill of Rights. He is a staunch defender of gay and lesbian rights. He has the blessing of local labor.”
The newspaper is not located in Minnesota and the “happy warrior” candidate with a touch of MS and a penchant for progressive politics is not the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone.
Rather, the editorial in question is an endorsement of Oregon U.S. Senate candidate Bill Bradbury, which appeared in Portland’s popular Willamette Week newspaper two days before Wellstone died in a Minnesota plane crash. As in Wellstone’s first Senate race, a 1990 challenge to Minnesota Republican Senator Rudy Boschwitz, Bradbury is not being given much chance to upset Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith. Yet, just as Wellstone did in 1990, Bradbury is using a combination of edgy progressive politics, grassroots organizing and good humor to get his challenge on the radar.
Bradbury, a friend of Wellstone’s, is getting a boost from anti-war activists in Oregon and across the country.
Last-minute contributions from thousands of opponents of the Bush administration’s approach to Iraq have given Bradbury, Oregon’s elected Secretary of State, extra money for a final television advertising push. The Democratic challenger has used the money well, closing out his campaign with a much-discussed television commercial that features the candidate picking up an huge white megaphone and asking: “Is Gordon Smith listening to Oregon?”
That ad highlights stark policy differences between the two candidates on hot-button issues such as abortion rights. But the surprise element is Bradbury’s criticism of Smith for supporting President Bush’s demand for blank-check authority to launch a unilateral attack on Iraq. Democratic strategists in Washington — as well as Democrat leaders in the House and Senate — have told Democratic candidates to steer clear of the war issue in order to avoid being accused of disloyalty to the president. But Bradbury is having none of it. In his advertisement, in debates and at campaign stops across Oregon, he has argued that Smith’s vote in favor of the Congressional resolution on Iraq was out of synch with the sentiments of mainstream Oregonians.