United States Senate election in Oregon, 2008

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United States Senate election in Oregon, 2008
Oregon
2002 ←
November 4, 2008 → 2014

  Jeff Merkley.jpg Gordon Smith official portrait.jpg
Nominee Jeff Merkley Gordon H. Smith David Brownlow
Party Democratic Republican Constitution
Popular vote 864,392 805,159 92,565
Percentage 48.90% 45.55% 5.24%

Oregon 2008 US Senator.svg

County results

U.S. Senator before election

Gordon H. Smith
Republican

Elected U.S. Senator

Jeff Merkley
Democratic

The 2008 United States Senate election in Oregon was held on November 4, 2008. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith decided to seek re-election. Smith was the only Republican Senator from the west coast (excluding Alaska) and the only Republican holding statewide office in Oregon. He was opposed by Democrat Jeff Merkley, the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, and David Brownlow of the Constitution Party of Oregon. Merkley won by a narrow margin, with Smith not conceding until two days after the election.[1] Merkley became the first Democrat to win this seat when it last went to the Republicans in 1966.

The race was the most expensive in Oregon history. As of late October 2008, advertising related to the race exceeded $27 million, outstripping the $15 million spent on a 2007 tobacco tax ballot measure and the $14.7 million spent in the gubernatorial election of 2006.[2] This was one of the most competitive races during the 2008 United States Senate election.[3]

Democratic primary[edit]

Candidates[edit]

Campaign[edit]

In the Democratic primary, although Democrats held all statewide offices in Oregon there was no clear Democratic challenger; former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber indicated early on that he was not interested. In January 2007, while the campaign was still in its infancy, Portland lawyer and political activist Steve Novick wrote a lengthy critique of Gordon Smith's record in the Portland Willamette Week.[4] The article outlined a strategy to beat Smith, who Novick argued was actually more vulnerable than appeared. On April 18, 2007, Novick formally announced his candidacy for Senate.[5]

By the end of May, both Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio had announced they were not interested in entering the race, depleting what was considered by many the "first-tier" list of candidates for the position leaving Democrats searching for more candidates.[6] With no high-profile Democrats in the race, it was believed by that the most likely candidates would come from the state legislature. Since the legislature was still in session at the time it was considered unlikely that any prominent lawmakers would jump into the race until the end of June or later. Of those, Jeff Merkley, then Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives was considered to be the most likely to challenge Smith due to rumors that he had been in talks with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC),[6] which is often thought vital to winning a Senate race against a sitting incumbent.

The rumors that Merkley was being courted by the DSCC were confirmed when it was reported that he had traveled to the East Coast to discuss a possible run at the invitation of Senator Charles Schumer of New York, who as chairman of the DSCC was in charge of recruiting possible challengers to take on Smith.[7] Around the same time, State Senator Alan Bates from Jackson County was reported to be contemplating running for the Democratic nomination. Eventually Bates decided against running[8] and on August 1, 2007 Merkley filed papers, officially entering the race.[9]

Merkley and Novick gave back-to-back speeches at the yearly summit of the Democratic Party of Oregon in Sunriver. There Novick threw a political jab, challenging Merkley's statements that he had been an opponent of the war from the start by pointing to his support of a Republican-drafted non-binding resolution in 2003, two days after the invasion began, that praised President Bush for the invasion of Iraq and the efforts of the troops and prayed for their safety. The critique drew noticeably negative reactions from the crowd and Merkley won a straw poll at the summit, 103 to 50 for Novick.[10]

Merkley went on to dismiss the criticism, pointing out that Legislative resolutions carry no force of law and are only statements of principle, that a legislator could freely pick and choose which parts of the resolution to support, and that he made clear that "you stand up and clarify what parts you're supporting and what parts you're opposed to and I did that more clearly than any member on the floor of the House."[10]

By the end of November 2007, six Democratic candidates had filed papers to run for the seat: Novick, Merkley, Candy Neville a real estate agent from Eugene, retired mental health counselor David Loera of Salem, Roger Obrist retired construction worker of Damascus, Oregon, and perennial candidate Pavel Goberman of Beaverton.[11] Some pointed discussions ensued among the candidates over a debate schedule and formats.[11]

On January 22, 2008 four of the Democratic candidates had their first debate in Pendleton, Oregon hosted by the East Oregonian newspaper.

Merkley went on to defeat Novick and the four other candidates in the Democratic primary on May 20, 2008.[12]

Results[edit]

Democratic primary results[13]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jeff Merkley 246,482 44.82%
Democratic Steve Novick 230,889 41.98%
Democratic Candy Neville 38,367 6.98%
Democratic Roger S. Obrist 12,647 2.30%
Democratic Pavel Goberman 12,056 2.19%
Democratic David Loera 6,127 1.11%
Democratic Write-ins 3,398 0.62%
Totals 549,966 100.00%

Republican primary[edit]

Candidates[edit]

Results[edit]

Republican primary results[13]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Gordon Smith (inc.) 296,330 85.41%
Republican Gordon Leitch 48,560 14.00%
Republican Write-ins 2,068 0.60%
Totals 309,943 100.00%

General election[edit]

Candidates[edit]

Major[edit]

  • Jeff Merkley (D), Speaker of the State House
  • Gordon Smith (R), incumbent U.S. Senator

Minor[edit]

Predictions[edit]

CQ Politics had rated the race as 'No Clear Favorite'.[15] In September the The Rothenberg Political Report considered it a 'Lean Takeover'.[16] As late as October 2008, The Cook Political Report still considered it a 'Toss-Up'.[17]

Polling[edit]

Source Date Smith (R) Merkley (D)
Rasmussen Reports October 30, 2008 46% 49%
Survey USA October 26, 2008 42% 49%
DHM October 25, 2008 40% 45%
Rasmussen Reports October 14, 2008 47% 47%
Survey USA October 12, 2008 41% 46%
Survey USA September 23, 2008 42% 44%
Rasmussen Reports September 15, 2008 46% 45%
DHM September 14, 2008 42% 39%
Rasmussen Reports August 7, 2008 50% 44%
Survey USA August 4, 2008 49% 37%
Rasmussen Reports July 15, 2008 41% 43%
Rasmussen Reports June 11, 2008 47% 38%
Rasmussen Reports May 7, 2008 45% 42%
Rasmussen Reports March 25, 2008 47% 34%
Rasmussen Reports February 19, 2008 48% 30%
Oregon Live December 19, 2007 39% 12%
SurveyUSA November 5, 2007 48% 39%
Riley Research August 20, 2007 38% 19%

Results[edit]

Overall[edit]

Results[edit]

United States Senate election in Oregon, 2008[18]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Jeff Merkley 864,392 48.90% +9.30%
Republican Gordon H. Smith (inc.) 805,159 45.55% -10.66%
Constitution David Brownlow 92,565 5.24% +3.52
Write-ins 5,388 0.30%
Majority 59,233 3.35% -13.25%
Turnout 1,767,504
Democratic gain from Republican Swing

County results[edit]

Although Smith carried all but seven of Oregon's 36 counties, one of the counties he lost was Multnomah County, home to Portland. Ultimately, Merkley's 142,000-vote margin in Multnomah, his home county, proved too much for Smith to overcome; it was more than double Merkley's overall margin of 59,100 votes.

County Smith  % Merkley  % Brownlow  % Others  %
Baker 5,662 66.37 2,203 25.82 652 7.64 14 0.16
Benton 17,933 40.23 24,911 55.89 1,567 3.52 163 0.37
Clackamas 92,780 49.97 83,558 45.00 8,851 4.77 479 0.26
Clatsop 7,939 44.48 8,795 49.28 1,062 5.95 52 0.29
Columbia 10,679 44.44 11,166 46.46 2,091 8.70 95 0.40
Coos 14,838 49.72 12,621 42.29 2,319 7.77 67 0.22
Crook 6,436 64.31 2,735 27.33 804 8.03 32 0.32
Curry 6,679 55.86 4,410 36.88 843 7.05 25 0.21
Deschutes 41,108 53.78 31,024 40.59 4,113 5.38 197 0.26
Douglas 29,969 58.63 17,387 34.02 3,626 7.09 130 0.25
Gilliam 699 64.66 302 27.94 78 7.22 2 0.19
Grant 2,821 74.12 748 19.65 232 6.10 5 0.13
Harney 2,574 71.98 755 21.11 242 6.77 5 0.14
Hood River 4,070 42.68 5,045 52.90 403 4.23 18 0.19
Jackson 49,225 50.53 41,828 42.94 6,071 6.23 296 0.30
Jefferson 4,788 59.26 2,705 33.48 564 6.98 22 0.27
Josephine 22,790 56.30 14,153 34.97 3,409 8.42 125 0.31
Klamath 19,241 67.51 7,005 24.58 2,152 7.55 104 0.36
Lake 2,697 74.79 668 18.52 234 6.49 7 0.19
Lane 66,936 37.52 103,631 58.09 7,393 4.14 449 0.25
Lincoln 9,464 40.78 12,097 52.13 1,598 6.89 47 0.20
Linn 27,047 54.29 18,403 36.94 4,180 8.39 192 0.39
Malheur 7,355 73.21 2,218 22.08 469 4.67 5 0.05
Marion 62,560 51.71 49,626 41.02 8,359 6.91 441 0.36
Morrow 2,751 68.57 988 24.63 266 6.63 7 0.17
Multnomah 95,950 27.25 242,518 68.87 12,410 3.52 1,284 0.36
Polk 18,718 53.53 13,906 39.77 2,195 6.28 147 0.42
Sherman 685 66.96 277 27.08 54 5.28 7 0.68
Tillamook 6,516 50.44 5,540 42.89 826 6.39 36 0.28
Umatilla 17,933 71.74 5,948 23.80 1,068 4.27 47 0.19
Union 8,230 67.13 3,329 27.15 676 5.51 25 0.20
Wallowa 3,226 74.20 940 21.62 177 4.07 5 0.11
Wasco 5,762 51.96 4,586 41.36 718 6.47 23 0.21
Washington 106,114 46.53 111,367 48.84 9,886 4.34 678 0.30
Wheeler 509 64.35 212 26.80 68 8.60 2 0.25
Yamhill 22,475 53.10 16,787 39.66 2,909 6.87 155 0.37

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Esteve, Harry; Crombie, Noelle (6 November 2008). "Jeff Merkley plunges into his new job in the U.S. Senate". Politics & Elections (The Oregonian). Retrieved November 6, 2008. 
  2. ^ Mapes, Jeff (23 October 2008). "Outside interests snag airtime". Local news (The Oregonian). Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  3. ^ Phillips, Kate (13 June 2008). "G.O.P. Leader Maps Senate Elections" (Blog). The Caucus. The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  4. ^ Novick, Steve (31 January 2007). "If I ran" (Guest article). Cover story (Willamette Week). Retrieved May 6, 2007. 
  5. ^ Chisholm, Kari (18 April 2007). "He's in: Steve Novick takes on Gordon Smith." (Blog). Open Discussion. BlueOregon. Retrieved December 20, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b Moore, Scott (24 May 2007). "Senate, Anyone? Democrats Search for a Candidate" (Article). News: City. The Portland Mercury. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  7. ^ Cain, Brad (29 June 2007). "Oregon speaker looks at taking on GOP senator in 2008" (Article). The Associated Press. KGW News. Retrieved December 22, 2008. [dead link]
  8. ^ staff (23 August 2007). "Golden out of race" (Article). News briefs. Eugene Weekly. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  9. ^ staff (1 August 2007). "Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley Files to Run for United States Senate" (Press release). Campaign website. Jeff Merkley for Oregon. Retrieved December 21, 2008. [dead link]
  10. ^ a b Mapes, Jeff (7 October 2007). "Novick jabs at Merkley on Iraq vote" (Blog). Mapes on politics. The Oregonian. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  11. ^ a b Esteve, Harry (26 November 2007). "U.S. Senate race: Democrats debate debates" (Article). Politics & Elections. The Oregonian. Retrieved December 22, 2008. 
  12. ^ Walsh, Edward (2008-05-21). "Merkley scores chance to take on Smith". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2008-05-21. 
  13. ^ a b http://oregonvotes.org/doc/history/may202008/results/us.pdf
  14. ^ "Constitution Party of Oregon". Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  15. ^ Race Ratings Chart: Senate CQ Politics
  16. ^ 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 29, 2008
  17. ^ 2008 Senate Race Ratings The Cook Political Report, October 9, 2008
  18. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/2008election.pdf

External links[edit]