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U.S. Senate hopeful makes stop in Forest Grove for forum at Milky Way

Town talk - Democrat Steve Novick fields questions on everything from gay marriage to green buildings during a Pacific University roundtable
by: Chase Allgood, Steve Novick (far left), who is running against Gordon Smith for a seat in the U.S. Senate, fields questions from audience members during a forum at the Milky Way in Forest Grove.

Steve Novick, like Barack Obama, has positioned himself as the Democratic candidate for change. Vying for the chance to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith in November, Novick says his primary opponent - state Rep. Jeff Merkley - is a bright and decent guy, but also a traditional, political insider.

It's much like Obama's critique of Hillary Clinton.

But while Clinton has been able to blast Obama for a lack of specifics, Merkley will have a tough time turning those tables on Novick, who stopped by Forest Grove last Thursday during a discussion hosted by Pacific University's Politics and Law Forum.

During his town hall appearance at the Milky Way, Novick was full of specifics - from the downside of high health insurance deductibles (they discourage poor people from seeking care until they're really sick) to the options for reducing carbon emissions (tougher energy efficiency standards in building codes could whack off 28 percent of our nation's carbon footprint).

He unequivocally supports gay marriage ('even if it costs me this election, which I don't think it will') and wants to get our troops out of Iraq ('though it won't be all peaches and cream').

Throughout the evening, he lived up to his billing as the defender of the 'little guy,' a tired claim that gets a new twist from a candidate who stands just 4-foot-9.

Novick, who grew up in Cottage Grove, was born without the fibula bones in his legs. He also was missing his left hand, which explains another campaign slogan: 'Oregon needs a fighter with a strong left hook.'

During much of the evening, however, he focused on the economy in general, and health-care costs in detail.

Novick blasted President Bush for waging an expensive war without requiring most Americans to make any sacrifice. He noted that during World War II, President Roosevelt imposed several restrictions on public consumption and raised taxes on the rich.

Rather than rebel, Novick said, the country came together.

In the U.S. Senate, Novick said, he would support a similar path, limiting tax deductions for pharmaceutical companies, changing the way physicians are compensated and putting people to work building a power grid based on renewable energy.

'If we want to rebuild this country, if we want to make health care affordable, if we want to be a leader on global warming, then there's a price to be paid,' he said. 'And I think the people are ready.'