Golden quits JPR —

Jefferson Public Radio talk-show host Jeff Golden of Ashland is considering a run for U.S. Senate.

While insiders said he is interested in the Democratic contest, Golden downplayed the speculation Monday, saying "it's too early" and "no firm decision has been made" on whether he will run.

A member of Golden's inner circle, who insisted on anonymity, said Golden's campaign announcement would unlikely come before September, if at all.

Paulie Brading, chair of the Jackson County Democratic Central Committee, said Monday that she has heard of Golden's political aspirations "from a variety of people," including Golden.

The Democratic National Senatorial Committee, she said, has done extensive polling in the state in hopes of finding a candidate to unseat Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon, the GOP's only West Coast senator.

Golden, 57, an author and host of JPR's weekday radio show "The Jefferson Exchange," was a Jackson County commissioner from 1987 through 1990.

He was the target of an unsuccessful recall attempt spearheaded by logging interests in 1989, and was married to former longtime Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw, now an A-list Democratic strategist in Southern Oregon.

Golden left the county executive board in 1990 to run for state Senate, narrowly losing to fourth-term Republican incumbent Lenn Hannon of Ashland.

Soon after, he took a job as chief of staff for then-state Senate President Bill Bradbury, D-Bandon. Bradbury is now secretary of state, Oregon's chief elections officer.

Pointing to a column published Sunday in the Mail Tribune where Golden reflected on sustainable logging practices and the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, Brading said he has "some interesting takes on the state of Oregon."

In his regularly appearing column, Golden wrote: "The people who work in the woods, sawmills and plants that manufacture engineered building materials will thrive longer on a sustained flow of smaller logs than on a short-term flush of large old growth. If we didn't learn that lesson in the 1980s and '90s, we weren't paying attention."

A fundraising plea on behalf of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters quotes Golden as saying, "Envisioning a greener Oregon is a pleasant way to pass the time, but it's not much more than that without practical tools for anchoring our goals in public policy."

In addition to writing several books, including "Forest Blood," a novel set amid the Northwest timber wars, and a political nonfiction book entitled, "As If We Were Grownups," Golden appeared in the 2003 feature-length documentary, "The Same River Twice," which chronicles a mostly naked 35-day rafting trip that Golden and 16 others, including Shaw, made in 1978 down the Colorado River.

The movie, which looks back at five of the rafters some 20 years later, could become a political liability to the Stanford alum since footage makes strong references to Golden's marital infidelity &

issues that Shaw said are now water under the bridge.

Word that Golden is reviving his political career and is testing the political waters began months ago, before state Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, announced that he is "seriously considering" entering the race.

"Jeff is very smart, hardworking (and has) a strong political core," said Shaw, a Bates' strategist since 2000. "Obviously, this could put me in a difficult position if Senator Bates and Jeff both decide to run."

Also interested in running in the May 2008 Democratic primary is businesswoman Eileen Brady, who co-founded New Seasons Markets, a Portland-based chain of seven natural food stores.

Should Golden jump into the race, he would challenge attorney Steve Novick and businessman Ty Pettit of Portland, both of whom have formally launched campaigns.

The Democratic victor will challenge Smith in the November 2008 general election.

"I'm just so happy that there are so many people considering running against Gordon Smith," Brading said.

The presumed candidates &

Oregon's Democratic congressional delegation &

have all said they are not interested in challenging Smith, and neither are statewide Democratic officeholders, including the governor, state treasurer, the secretary of state or the state superintendent of schools.

covers politics for the Ashland Daily Tidings. He can be reached at csrizo@hotmail.com.