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Oregon win increases Democrats' edge in Senate

Oregon win increases Democrats' edge in Senate

Democrat Jeff Merkley has ousted Republican Sen. Gordon Smith in the northwestern state of Oregon, a victory once considered unlikely against a moderate incumbent who had highlighted his efforts to work across the aisle in hopes of surviving a wave of anti-Republican sentiment.
Smith's loss _ the first for an incumbent Oregon senator in 40 years _ means Democrats are poised to have at least 57 votes in the Senate next year. He had been the last Republican standing in the three mainland Pacific Coast states.
Smith spokeswoman Lindsay Gilbride said the senator called Merkley on Thursday morning to concede. By then, about 82 percent of the vote had been counted and Merkley led by more than 40,000 votes.
The margin had been closer before more vote totals started coming in from Multnomah County, which includes the liberal city of Portland. A flood of votes Oregonians delivered on Election Day have kept election workers tallying ballots for days.
For Merkley, it was a remarkable personal victory. The state House speaker and policy wonk from east Portland was far from the first choice of national Democrats looking for a challenger to Smith.
For Smith, the election represented a stinging rejection by voters of his political strategy. He ran TV ads touting his work with Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy and other prominent Democrats on issues such as alternative energy.
Merkley countered with a TV ad featuring Obama directly urging Oregonians to vote for Merkley. It was the only TV ad Obama had done for another candidate this year, showing the importance that national Democrats placed on the Oregon race.
There will be at least 55 Democrats in the Senate, plus two independents who align with them. The outcomes of three Senate races remain uncertain: A runoff election is to be held in Georgia, a recount is scheduled in Minnesota, and thousands of ballots remain to be counted in a close race in Alaska.
Merkley, 52, planned an appearance Thursday morning to claim victory, and Smith planned a press conference in the afternoon.
A year ago, most observers doubted that Merkley could defeat the better-funded Smith. Merkley turned the race in his direction with millions of dollars from national Democrats and a campaign blitz that took him to 100 communities around the state.
Merkley told crowds that Smith was a Bush Republican who was more interested in bailing out Wall Street than helping people on Main Street.
He's the first Oregonian to oust an incumbent senator since Republican Bob Packwood ousted Democratic Sen. Wayne Morse in 1968.


Updated : 2021-10-23 20:22 GMT+08:00