After 16 Years in Politics, State Sen. Kate Brown Has a Wealth of Success Stories to Choose From: Standing Up for Domestic Partnerships for Gays and Lesbians, Legislation Ensuring Voters Can Easily Track Political Campaign Contributions, Being the First Woman to Head the Majority Party in the Oregon Senate

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Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

After 16 years in politics, state Sen. Kate Brown has a wealth of success stories to choose from: standing up for domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians, legislation ensuring voters can easily track political campaign contributions, being the first woman to head the majority party in the Oregon Senate.

Instead, chatting with some young Democratic operatives working the phones in a bare-bones downtown office, she goes back to the beginning.

It was her first campaign for office, and her opponent, a three-term incumbent, outspent her 2-to-1. Despite those odds, Brown won. But here's the thing: She squeaked by with just seven votes.

"Your work really counts," she told the campaign workers. Then she grabbed a stack of pages listing Lane County voters, sat down in front of a phone and spent two hours calling them herself.

Brown, whose Senate district includes northeast and southeast Portland, may be the seasoned veteran in the race for secretary of state, but it doesn't buy her much in the realm of name recognition, said Jim Moore, political science professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

"Kate Brown is known by people who follow state politics, and we know in Oregon that's pitifully few," he said.

Brown has built connections throughout the state and there are people who can talk knowledgeably about her, Moore said. That only gives her a slight edge over Republican Rick Dancer, who has face recognition in the TV viewing area of his former employer, KEZI, but not the political connections. "He's got to introduce himself to the entire state," Moore said.

With two weeks to go in the campaign, the window for both candidates to get their message out may be narrowing. They have yet to blanket the airwaves with ads marking other heated races, such as the Eugene mayoral contest or the fight between incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, to say nothing of the presidential race.

If the past is any indication, they may have waited too long, Moore said. In the closing weeks of the 2004 general elections, there were so many political ads running in some markets it was impossible to buy air time, he said.

While Brown has raised significantly more money than Dancer, most of it was spent in a hotly contested primary. The two campaigns have about $160,000 cash on hand.

Brown, like Dancer, campaigns with a daily regimen that includes travel across the state to rallies and speaking engagements, radio and TV interviews, debates with her opponent, and the tedious chore of calling likely voters.

Brown said she's done it before. In the final two weeks of the primary, she, her campaign staff and volunteers, called 20,000 voters, she said.

In the two hours she spent on the phone in Eugene on Wednesday, she dialed close to 120 numbers, and spoke with about 50 voters, getting a range of responses, from a meandering bitter diatribe against Obama, to a curt "I'm getting all my information from the voter's pamphlet."

Mostly, she left voice-mail messages offering a thumbnail version of her campaign.

Earlier in the day, at a Democratic forum luncheon in Salem, she reminded the audience of some of her career highlights and described her goals as secretary of state.

Brown says she wants to see more young people engaged in politics and promised a vigorous effort to connect with students even before they're of voting age. …