When asked whether he will criticize or attack Smith's record, Kulongoski replied, "No, I will not be doing that."
Kulongoski's stance is similar to that of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whose close, across-the-aisle relationship with Smith has received national attention.
Wyden's chief of staff, Josh Kardon, said Thursday that Wyden will continue his practice of supporting Smith's Democratic opponent without criticizing Smith. Kardon said part of Wyden's general policy is not to engage in negative campaigns against anyone.
Kulongoski has worked with Smith since the '90s, when Kulongoski was Oregon's attorney general and Smith was president of the state Senate.
"The reality is that whenever I have called Sen. Smith, he's always answered, and I'm going to continue to do that this next year," he said.
He also praised Smith's image in the state.
"What (Oregonians) tell me more than anything is not about issues. They like him. They think he's a good person." […]
"The biggest disadvantage he has right now is, I do believe there is a shift in the body politic nationally and the movement toward Democrats," he said.
"Biggest disadvantage." That's generous.
Over at Loaded Oregon, TJ is absolutely right (although I think he may overestimate the value of the Blunt/Nemcova analogy). He's apoplectic, but he's right: There's no need for TK to declare open war on one of his state's two U.S. Senators, and no one expects him to--but for the love of Mike, doesn't he get it? Smith is no friend of the Governor's base, or of his pet issues. He's parted company with Oregonians again and again on everything from taxes to Iraq to working wages to physician-assisted suicide. Smith is a highly vulnerable Republican from a bluer-by-the-day state when the Senate is in Democratic control by a single vote (and that vote, heaven help us, may be Lieberman's).
Professional courtesy, Senatorial courtesy, etc., is fine. But Democrats need to stop cutting the Repubs unnecessary slack. Need to recognize how wide the gap is between "courtesy" and "enabling." Need to realize it's not about niceness, it's about the record. Need to stop listening to the David Broders of this world. Need to stop looking for reconciliation with a party that screwed them and defamed them at every opportunity for the last twelve years, ran the country into the ground, and are only being slowed down slightly in this pursuit now because their failed policies and politics are coming home to roost like the ending of a Hitchcock movie.
This is not about red meat. It's about reacting to the truth and the danger in letting the obfuscators continue ignoring it to retain any semblance of power. It's about saying "No I will not personally defame Senator Smith, who has given his life for public service--but I will support the Democratic nominee because I don't believe we can continue the road we are on, and Republicans in the Senate are still voting to back the President and his failed policies. The things that Oregonians want for their state and their country, Democrats are showing that they are the party to help make them happen. So yes I do think Senator Smith has to be held accountable for the job he's done, and when voters compare the record I'm sure they'll make the responsible choice."
There is a great expanse of as-yet-unexplored territory between "engaging in a negative campaign against anyone" and "pointing out the obvious facts on record," facts that we presume justify the positions Kulongoski and Wyden themselves take on the issues. Senator, Governor, gear up--time to do some exploring.