The most interesting candidate for the congressional seat now held by Earl Blumenauer is not the gay dude with the moussed coif. It's the short fella with the hook for a left arm.

The Nose admittedly knows diddly about politics. But it doesn't take a Karl Rove to look past the recent publicity given the candidacy of Sam Adams, the longtime aide to Mayor Vera Katz, and instead see Steve Novick.

Novick hasn't officially announced as yet. That will wait until Blumenauer gets off the picket fence and runs for mayor in 2004, a move most expect within a couple of months. Then Novick will join Adams and an expected five or six others in a joust to fill one of the nation's more solidly Democratic congressional seats.

Why has Novick captured the Nose's attention? Maybe it's his plain-spokenness. "Bush and [House Majority Leader Tom] DeLay are doing to the country what Bill Sizemore tried to do to the state: They're bankrupting America with tax cuts for the rich. "

Or maybe it's his résumé: Oregon native, U of O grad, Harvard Law. Big law firms in San Francisco and New York. U.S. Justice Department's environmental-enforcement division. Lead counsel in the eventual Love Canal lawsuit, in which the feds won $129 million against Occidental Chemical. Back to Oregon to be the issues director for Tom Bruggere's failed U.S. Senate campaign (and, later, Ted Kulongoski's successful bid for governor). Caucus administrator for the Senate Democrats in Salem, policy advisor for Multnomah County Chair
Diane Linn and then legislative coordinator for the Oregon Department of Education.

Along the way, Novick found time to run the Center for Informed Citizen Action, which ran successful campaigns against Sizemore's initiatives and issued innovative reports illustrating exactly where tax dollars go.

Maybe it's just his energy and intellect; Novick gives you the feeling that he will never be outworked or outstudied. Add to that a Howard Dean-like combativeness and the punchline skills of a sitcom writer. The Nose gets the sense that Novick is the kind of guy who follows his convictions--damn the consequences. He's certainly not afraid to depart from liberal orthodoxy. "I'm not a pacifist," he told a Nose colleague. " I'm not opposed to having the strongest military in the world. The First Gulf War had some appeal: expelling invaders through international force." This war? "An oil grab and public-relations gimmick, sold on false pretenses, which is now producing $4 billion a month's worth of chaos."

Now, what about the hook? Novick says he has been without an arm since birth. "It's amazing how little it matters. Oh, it's hard to buy an ice-cream cone and get change--but it's convenient for pulling out an oven rack." He also is missing fibulas in both legs, which contributes to his
4-foot-9-inch stature.

To which Novick, as for everything else, has a ready response: "All politicians claim to be for the little guy...."