Nontraditional politician Steve Novick is running an insurgent campaign for the Senate in Oregon.
When Steve Novick, the maverick Democratic candidate for United States Senate, stands in a living room in Portland, Oregon, the first thing you notice about him, naturally, is the hook. Born missing an arm and both calf bones, Novick wields a stainless-steel hook in place of his left hand, and stands well below five feet tall. And if this weren't an obvious enough deviation from the standard political mold, his clothes are rumpled and his hair is a formless mop. "I'm Steve Novick," he begins, "and I'm running for Senate because the country's going to hell in a handbasket and somebody's got to do something about it."The audience on this night-about a dozen of the kind of political junkies who have cocktails with candidates eight months before the primaries-twitters, and at first isn't clear whether they're laughing because they agree with the man or because the spectacle is so odd. Yet before long, Novick, mixing knowing self-satire with unvarnished outrage, manages to gather the room to his side. This group of hard-boiled politicos begins to think that electing Novick could indeed be a good idea. And not just because it would be awesome-in an Age-of-Irony-meets-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean way-to have a senator with a hook for a hand.A 44-year-old attorney (he was the lead counsel on the Love Canal case), with a long track record as a liberal activist in Oregon state politics, Novick delivers a straight shot of idealism. "I was raised to believe that we can't tolerate a society that only works for white people, rich people, or straight people," he says to the gathering. "We should only accept a society that works for everyone." He breezes through his ideas on capital-gains tax reform and universal health care. He promises to cosponsor the tough Sanders-Boxer global-warming bill, and that he'll try to make it easier for workers to unionize. On every issue, he speaks with a straightforwardness that would give most campaign consultants apoplexy. The crowd loves it. When Novick's on his game, his appearance-call it "nontraditional"-is charisma personified. And he's not above using that hook as a selling point, either. "We'll shamelessly exploit it whenever we can," he says. "Our T-shirts say ‘Hooked on Novick.'"
|Our T-shirts say ‘Hooked on Novick.'|
|The Oregon Democratic primary between Novick and Merkley will take place on May 20, 2008.|