Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, really, really wants to be president. He’s enough of a realist, however, to recognize that his chances of winning are slim, and he’d like to hold on to his Senate seat as well, in case things don’t work out.
Winning a third term in the Senate might be nice for Merkley, but in those circumstances it’s far from nice for Oregon voters. We deserve a senator who wants the Senate seat as much as Merkley wants to be president.
There have been hints about Merkley’s ambition for over a year now, and he’s done nothing to squelch them. Rather, he’s ramped them up in a variety of ways, from visiting New Hampshire to creating political action committees.
Among the most important, he’s talked with Oregon lawmakers to see if they’re willing to change a state law barring a candidate from running for more than one “lucrative” office at a time. Both the Senate and the presidency are considered lucrative. Unfortunately for Merkley, change is unlikely. That doesn’t prevent him from running in presidential primaries in other states, however, and running for the Senate in Oregon. It’s an idea he has yet to dismiss.
Oregonians should expect more from a U.S. senator. We may be a relatively small state but surely we deserve a candidate whose interest in Oregon and Oregonians goes beyond our value as a stepping stone to higher office or as a safety net if presidential ambitions don’t pan out.
If Merkley wants to be president, fine. He should do everything in his power to get the job. First on his list, however, must be a public announcement that he won’t seek re-election to the Senate. That way Democrats, Republicans and others can look for candidates who really want the job.