Golden might challenge Sen. Smith

ASHLAND — Jeff Golden, a radio talk show host and former Jackson County commissioner, said he might run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Gordon Smith.

"I am thinking about it," said the 57-year-old Ashland resident, who has been the soft-spoken talk-show host on Jefferson Public Radio for 10 years.

Golden is the second Democrat from Southern Oregon to contemplate challenging Smith, viewed by many Democrats as vulnerable because he had been a staunch supporter of the Iraq war until last year. Oregon Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, also is considering a run for Smith seat.

Before he makes his decision, Golden said he's got to figure out whether he can afford to resign his position with JPR and undergo the likely dredging up of his past.

"I'm no saint, like everybody else," he said. "I would have to think about getting everything ripped open during the campaign."

Golden said he'd prefer campaigns to be about issues, but more often they become a horse race, a race that he thinks is too long since the election won't be held until November 2008. The primary to decide Smith's Democratic challenger will be in May 2008.

"There's a ton of considerations," he said.

Golden said he was approached to run by state Democratic Party officials, but he said they didn't want him to disclose their names.

Candidates who already have announced their campaigns include Portland attorney Steve Novick and Ty Petit, a Portland businessman.

Golden's been in the Rogue Valley for 35 years, has written several books, was chief of staff for then Senate-President Bill Bradbury and ran for state Senate against Lenn Hannon.

He said his decision to run won't be based on whether Bates decides to enter the race.

While he holds respect for the state senator, Golden said, "Our perspectives on what has to happen are different enough not to keep me out of the race."

Golden didn't want to discuss his opinions on issues at this point because he feared it would make him sound like a candidate.

Paulie Brading, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democratic Central Committee, said it's exciting to see two people from Southern Oregon care enough about what's happening at the federal level to even contemplate running.

"There are real issues with how Gordon Smith has voted," she said.

She said Bates brings a strong resume and has become well-known around the state, promoting health-care reform recently with Sen. Ben Westlund, D-Tumalo.

She said of Golden, "I think he's probably got a lot of soul searching."

Issues that could haunt Golden during the campaign include a 2003 documentary, "The Same River Twice," about a 34-day nude rafting trip down the Colorado River in 1978.

Cathy Shaw, an Ashland campaign strategist who was married to Golden and has worked on Bates' election, said, "If they both decide to run I'm in trouble."

While she would have trouble choosing between the two men personally, Shaw said she thinks Golden has more of an uphill political battle and has more to lose if he decides to run, particularly a job that he loves with Jefferson Public Radio. Golden also hasn't held political office for 20 years, said Shaw.

Shaw said both men have wider recognition than some people might think.

Golden's radio show is popular in Lane County and Bates makes frequent trips throughout the state and is known for his support of the Oregon Health Plan.

Bates, she said, has more conservative leanings than Golden and has more political experience.

"Against Gordon Smith, I think Alan Bates has the best chance," she said.

Shaw said it should be a fun race to watch if Bates and Golden become candidates, but she said based on her knowledge of the men, "There will be no negative campaigning in the Democratic Party in the primary."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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