Gordon H. Smith

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Gordon Smith
Official portrait of Gordon Smith
United States Senator
from Oregon
In office
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2009
Preceded byMark Hatfield
Succeeded byJeff Merkley
Chair of the Senate Aging Committee
In office
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
Preceded byLarry Craig
Succeeded byHerb Kohl
President of the Oregon Senate
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byBill Bradbury
Succeeded byBrady Adams
Member of the Oregon Senate
from the 29th district
In office
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byScott Duff
Succeeded byDavid Nelson
Personal details
Gordon Harold Smith

(1952-05-25) May 25, 1952 (age 71)
Pendleton, Oregon, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseSharon Smith
RelativesMilan Smith (brother)
Tom Udall (cousin)
Mark Udall (cousin)
EducationBrigham Young University (BA)
Southwestern Law School (JD)

Gordon Harold Smith (born May 25, 1952) is an American politician, businessman, and academic administrator who served as a United States Senator from the state of Oregon. A Republican, he served two terms in the Senate from 1997 to 2009. On September 18, 2009, he was appointed president of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). As of 2024, he is the last Republican to represent Oregon in the U.S. Senate.

Early life and family[edit]

Smith was born in Pendleton, Oregon, to Jessica (Udall) and Milan Dale Smith on May 25, 1952.[1] Smith's family moved to Bethesda, Maryland during his childhood, when his father became an Assistant United States Secretary of Agriculture. He was involved with the Boy Scouts of America and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.[2] Smith is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). After graduating from high school, Smith served for two years as an LDS Church missionary in New Zealand.

Smith then went to college at Brigham Young University, received his Juris Doctor from Southwestern University School of Law, and became an attorney in New Mexico and Arizona. He moved back to Oregon in the 1980s to become director of the family owned Smith Frozen Foods company in Weston, Oregon.[3]

Smith and his wife, Sharon, adopted three children in the 1980s, including two sons (Morgan and Garrett) and a daughter (Brittany). On September 8, 2003, Garrett, then a 21-year-old college student majoring in culinary arts, died by suicide. Smith wrote a book entitled Remembering Garrett, One Family’s Battle with a Child’s Depression.[4] In 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, authorizing $82 million for suicide-prevention and awareness programs at colleges.[5]

Smith is also a member of the Udall political family. His mother was a cousin of the late Representatives Mo Udall (D-AZ) and Stewart Udall (D-AZ), and Smith is a second cousin of Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Tom Udall (D-NM). He is a double second cousin of both of them, as their great-grandparents were a pair of brothers and a pair of sisters who married. All three of them were candidates for Senate in the 2008 elections. Smith was the only Republican and incumbent senator of the group, and the only one of the three to lose his electoral bid. Smith's brother, Milan Dale Smith, Jr., is a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006. Smith is a member of the board of directors of the International Republican Institute.[6] In 2010, another second cousin, fellow Republican Mike Lee of Utah, was elected to the Senate.[7]

On March 31, 2012, Smith was called as an area seventy in the LDS Church.[8] He was released from this assignment in August 2022.[9]

Early political career[edit]

Smith entered politics with his election to the Oregon State Senate in 1992, and became president of that body in 1995. Later in 1995, he ran in a special election for a Senate seat vacated by the resignation of Bob Packwood, but was narrowly defeated in the January 1996 special election by then-Congressman Ron Wyden. Smith carried all but eight counties, but could not overcome an 89,000-vote deficit in Multnomah County, home to Portland–far exceeding the overall margin of 18,200 votes.

U.S. Senate[edit]

Smith during his first term in the Senate
Smith watches as President George W. Bush signs the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act on October 21, 2004


United States Senator Mark Hatfield, a fellow Republican, announced his retirement later in 1996. Smith became the first person to run for the Senate twice in one year. This time he won, easily defeating Lon Mabon (whose organization, the Oregon Citizens Alliance, had previously endorsed Smith over Wyden) in the Republican primary[10] and Democrat Tom Bruggere in the general election by a close margin. Before his election, Oregon had not elected a senator from the eastern part of the state since 1938.

Smith was re-elected in 2002, defeating Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury by 57% to 39%.

Smith's approval rating was 52 percent, with 38 percent disapproving.[11]

Political positions[edit]

In 1996 Smith was endorsed by the conservative political activist group the Oregon Citizens Alliance in his race against Wyden. After losing that initial race for Packwood's seat, Smith then renounced the OCA endorsement and won in his subsequent race for the seat being vacated by Senator Hatfield.

In October 1999, Smith was one of four Republicans to vote in favor of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The treaty was designed to ban underground nuclear testing and was the first major international security pact to be defeated in the Senate since the Treaty of Versailles.[12][13]

Smith is pro-life,[14] and in 2003 he voted in favor of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, legislation that prohibits the intact dilation and extraction procedure.

In 2006, he voted to pass another controversial bill, this time crossing party lines to vote for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. The measure, which would have expanded federal funding of stem cell research to cell lines extracted from embryos discarded during fertility treatment, became the first bill to be vetoed by President George W. Bush. Smith is one of 19 Senate Republicans who voted for the measure.

In January 2006, Smith began circulating a draft of the Digital Content Protection Act of 2006.[15][16] The legislation would grant the Federal Communications Commission the authority to authorize a technology known as the broadcast flag. This technology would enable the producers of television programming to ensure the programs cannot be recorded by viewers in their homes, for instance using a digital video recorder or onto recordable DVDs.


Smith is often described as politically moderate, but has strong conservative credentials as well. In a 2007 web video, Smith refers to "the values that make us Republicans, that make us conservatives".[17]

Smith is a member of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, and a February 2006 National Journal congressional rating placed Smith in the exact ideological center of the Senate.[18]

However, Smith is described as a moderate Republican by GovTrack.us,[19] and throughout 2006 Smith voted with Republican leader Bill Frist (TN) 82 percent of the time.[20] Based on five senate votes in 2006, the abortion rights advocacy group NARAL gave Smith a score of 15 percent on abortion rights (100 percent being a completely pro-choice score.)[21] For votes cast in 2006, Smith received a 14 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters (out of a possible 100 percent).[22] Smith's votes have run contrary to widespread public sentiment[clarification needed] on several issues, notably minimum wage[23][24][25][26] and the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.[27]

Smith was also a key advocate for embattled conservative Trent Lott's return to a leadership post within the Republican Party in 2006. Lott had resigned his position as Senate Republican Leader in 2002, following controversy surrounding his perceived support of Sen. Strom Thurmond's (R-SC) segregationist politics. After the party lost control of the Senate in November 2006, Republicans elected Lott to the post of Minority Whip (the second-highest Republican position in the Senate.) During the closed-door election, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) nominated Lott for the position. Smith then seconded the nomination and delivered a supportive address before casting his vote.[28] Lott defeated Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in a 25 to 24 vote.[29]

War in Iraq[edit]

In October 2002, Smith voted in favor of authorizing military force against Iraq, an important step in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion.[30] Smith was one of several Republican Senators for whom political concerns have clashed with party loyalty on the subject of the war in Iraq near an election year.[31]

In December 2006 Smith spoke out against the war for the first time, after having voted in support of it four years prior.[32] Smith said that to continue the current policy in Iraq "may even be criminal".[33]

Several weeks after stating his opposition to the occupation of Iraq, however, Smith declined to sign onto a bipartisan resolution to oppose Bush's plan to escalate troop levels in Iraq by 21,500,[34] prompting questions about the sincerity of his opposition to the continued US military presence in Iraq.[35] Smith cited the controversial nature of the word "escalate" in defending his choice. The bill's sponsors have since changed the word to "increase." Smith expressed support for the bill, but subsequently voted to prevent it from being debated by the full Senate.

In March 2007, Smith was one of only two Republicans to vote for a resolution aimed at withdrawing most American combat troops from Iraq in 2008, the other being Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. The vote was 50 for to 48 against.[36] Smith said in July 2007 that he would vote for a bill authorizing a timeline in which to leave Iraq. He was one of three Republican senators, the other two being Hagel and Olympia Snowe of Maine, to support the Levin Amendment (S.AMDT.2085) to the 2008 Defense Authorization bill (H.R.1585) that would begin a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.[37] Smith was willing to cross party lines in support of bills for withdrawing troops from Iraq.[38]

In a private meeting with LDS Church leaders in 2009, Smith said that he supported the Iraq War because he "felt the Lord’s hand in it".[39] He told the church leaders that he believed that the introduction of the "rule of law" would help the LDS Church spread into the Middle East.[39][40][41]

Gay rights[edit]

Smith supported legislation expanding hate crime laws to encompass crimes against gays, and, with Senator Ted Kennedy, introduced such legislation in every Congress. As a result, he was one of a few Republican senators supported by gay rights groups in the United States, including the Human Rights Campaign. Smith also stood up in each Congress to talk about a separate hate crime as an illustration of why improved hate crime legislation was necessary, and had additional crimes published in the Congressional Record each day that Congress was in session.[42][43]

Gay rights groups have expressed disappointment at Smith's support for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, which would define marriage as between a man and a woman.[44]

Leading up to the 2006 midterm elections, Smith joined Senate Democrats to introduce legislation that would guarantee homosexual employees of the federal government domestic partnership benefits.[45]

Committee assignments[edit]

Smith chaired the Special Committee on Aging until Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007.

Smith served on the following Senate committees: Commerce, Science and Transportation, Energy and Natural Resources, Finance, and Indian Affairs.

He was the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on International Trade and Global Competitiveness.

Electoral history[edit]

2002 election[edit]

The 2002 Oregon United States Senate election was held on November 5, 2002 and was the first time Smith ran for re-election as senator. Smith easily defeated underfunded Democratic challenger, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury in the general election. He carried all but one county in the state, Multnomah County, home to Portland.

2008 election[edit]

In Smith's second bid for re-election he faced State House Speaker Jeff Merkley.[46] Smith earned 40% favorable and 20% unfavorable ratings in a December 2007 poll. Smith's office characterized the relatively low numbers as a reflection on Congress in general; a spokesman for Steve Novick's campaign (Novick lost to Merkley in the primary) suggested that the public was frustrated with elected officials and looking to outsiders to effect change, and Merkley's campaign highlighted Smith's shifts in position on the war in Iraq.[47] The result was too close to call for almost two days. Ultimately, Merkley was declared the winner by 49% to 46%, with 5% going to David Brownlow, a Constitution Party candidate. While Smith carried all but six counties, he could not overcome a 142,000-vote deficit in Multnomah County.

In 2008, Smith's double second cousins, Democrats Tom and Mark Udall (see above), also ran in U.S. Senate elections, in New Mexico and Colorado respectively, and both won their races.


Senate elections in Oregon results: 1996 (special), 1996–2008 (general)[48][49]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1996 Ron Wyden 571,739 48% Gordon Smith 553,519 47% Karen E. Shilling American Independent 25,597 2% Gene Nanni Libertarian 15,698 1% Vickie Valdez Socialist 7,872 1% Lou Gold Pacific 7,225 1%
1996 Tom Bruggere 624,370 46% Gordon Smith 677,336 50% Brent Thompson Reform 20,381 1% Gary Kutcher Pacific 14,193 1% Paul Mohn Libertarian 12,697 1% Christopher Phelps Socialist 5,426 <1% *
2002 Bill Bradbury 501,898 40% Gordon Smith 712,287 56% Dan Fitzgerald Libertarian 29,979 2% Lon Mabon Constitution 21,703 2% *
2008 Jeff Merkley 864,392 49% Gordon Smith 805,159 46% David Brownlow Constitution 92,565 5% *

*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1996, Michael L. Hoyes of the Natural Law Party received 4,425 votes and other minor candidates received 1,402 votes. In 2002, minor candidates received 1,354 votes. In 2008, minor candidates received 5,388 votes.

Post-Senate career[edit]

In the aforementioned private meeting with LDS Church leaders in 2009, Smith shared information he said "may be classified" about Iran's nuclear program. (Smith's spokesman has since stated that none of the information shared was, in fact, classified.) Smith also mentioned instances in which he had pushed officials of various international governments to allow an increased LDS missionary presence in their countries.[41]

Smith was named as president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters on September 18, 2009 and began his tenure with the trade association on November 1, 2009. Since then, Smith has led the association's lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission regarding issues affecting the television and radio broadcast industry. These issues include voluntary incentive auctions of broadcast TV spectrum, efforts by record labels to institute a performance fee on local radio stations for music airplay, and retransmission consent rules. Broadcast industry executives have credited Smith's leadership with improving NAB's lobbying clout and influence.[50] In October 2012, Smith was named as one of Washington's top lobbyists by The Hill.[51] He was named Radio Ink‘s Radio Executive Of The Year in 2018.[52]

On March 31, 2012, Smith was called as an area seventy, an ecclesiastical leadership position, in the LDS Church.[53]

Smith has announced his retirement from the NAB, effective January 1, 2022. He will be replaced by NAB’s Chief Operating Officer, Curtis LeGeyt.[54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gordon Harold Smith". Ancestry.com. Archived from the original on April 14, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  2. ^ "The Congress and Scouting". Fact sheet. Boy Scouts of America. Archived from the original on March 7, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2006.
  3. ^ "Oregon's United States Senators". Oregon Blue Book (online edition). Salem, Oregon: Oregon Secretary of State. 2007. Archived from the original on December 11, 2018. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  4. ^ George, Christy (April 21, 2006). "Senator Gordon Smith on his Son's Suicide". Oregon Territory. Oregon Public Broadcasting. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  5. ^ Text of Senate Bill 2634 Archived 2007-08-26 at the Wayback Machine, July 9, 2004
  6. ^ International Republican Institute web site, accessed July 16, 2010. Archived April 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Lee Davidson (October 24, 2010). "Senate race: Mike Lee ready to ride Senate roller coaster". The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on September 15, 2013.
  8. ^ "Church calls leaders". Salt Lake Tribune. March 31, 2012. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
  9. ^ "31 Area Seventies Have Been Released" Archived August 27, 2022, at the Wayback Machine, Church News, August 26, 2022.
  10. ^ Kinsey-Hill, Gail (November 7, 1996). "After earlier defeat, Smith successfully moves toward center". The Oregonian.
  11. ^ "Results of SurveyUSA News Poll #12956". SurveyUSA. November 20, 2007. Archived from the original on December 20, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  12. ^ Schmitt, Eric (October 14, 1999). "Defeat of a TreatyThe Overview – Senate Kills Test Ban Treaty in Crushing Loss for Clinton; Evokes Versailles Pact Defeat". New York Times. Archived from the original on April 14, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  13. ^ Dewar, Helen (October 14, 1999). "Senate Rejects Test Ban Treaty". Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 27, 2018. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  14. ^ "CNN Crossfire transcript July 19, 2001". CNN.com. July 19, 2001. Archived from the original on November 22, 2005. Retrieved February 13, 2007.
  15. ^ "New Senate Broadcast Flag Bill Would Freeze Fair Use" (Press release). Electronic Frontier Foundation. January 20, 2006. Archived from the original on October 22, 2016. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 3, 2006. Retrieved February 6, 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "Gordon Smith: I'm a conservative". Loaded Orygun. Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  18. ^ "The Centrists" (PDF). The Oregonian. February 25, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 27, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2007.
  19. ^ "GovTrack: Gordon Smith". GovTrack.us. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved February 12, 2007.
  20. ^ Kosseff, Jeff (January 9, 2007). "Oregonians in Congress: not so independent". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved February 11, 2007.
  21. ^ "Congressional Record on Choice by State: Oregon". NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation. Archived from the original on December 13, 2006. Retrieved February 13, 2007.
  22. ^ "Gordon Smith: Environmentalist?". Archived from the original on November 9, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2007.
  23. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Archived from the original on April 3, 2018. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  24. ^ "109th Congress, 2nd session, Senate vote 179 – Congress votes database – washingtonpost.com". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 30, 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  25. ^ Bunster, Mark (July 10, 2006). "Gordon Smith's voting record". The Oregonian.
  26. ^ Palmer, Susan (July 1, 2004). "Smith hears of challenges facing area's poor". The Register-Guard.
  27. ^ Christie, Tim (January 18, 2006). "Assisted suicide upheld". The Register-Guard. Archived from the original on November 2, 2023. Retrieved June 30, 2007.
  28. ^ Eve Fairbanks (December 18, 2006). "Whip it Good". The New Republic. Archived from the original on January 10, 2007. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  29. ^ Kosseff, Jeff (November 17, 2006). "Smith supported Lott's leadership bid". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on December 14, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  30. ^ none (October 11, 2002). "Question: On the Joint Resolution (H.J.Res. 114)". United States Senate. Archived from the original on January 22, 2018. Retrieved August 30, 2008.
  31. ^ Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman (February 5, 2007). "Resolution will test GOP senators' mettle". The Concord Monitor. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2007.
  32. ^ Editorial (December 9, 2006). "Gordon Smith changes his mind". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
  33. ^ Judd (December 9, 2006). "Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR): Bush's Iraq Policy 'May Even Be Criminal'". thinkprogress.org. Archived from the original on January 12, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
  34. ^ "GOP senator drafting alternative war resolution". CNN. January 18, 2007. Archived from the original on January 21, 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  35. ^ "BlueOregon: Smith: Senate Resolution Too Inflammatory". Archived from the original on January 21, 2007. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  36. ^ Toner, Robin (March 15, 2007). "Senate Rejects Measure for Iraq Pullout". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 21, 2013. Retrieved March 15, 2007.
  37. ^ "With Iraq Amendment Blocked, Reid Sets Defense Bill Aside for Now". New York Times. Archived from the original on March 25, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  38. ^ Zeleny, Jeff (March 28, 2007). "SENATE SUPPORTS A PULLOUT DATE IN IRAQ WAR BILL". New York Times. Archived from the original on October 22, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  39. ^ a b Reed, Brad (October 4, 2016). "Leaked video: Republican Senator supported Iraq War so he could spread Mormonism to the Middle East". Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
  40. ^ Canham, Matt (October 2, 2016). "Leaked videos show Mormon apostles discussing political influence, gay marriage, marijuana and more". The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  41. ^ a b Goodstein, Laurie (October 6, 2016). "Leaked Videos Pull Back Curtain on Mormon Leadership". The New York Times. Archived from the original on March 16, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  42. ^ "Matthew Shepard Act". Congressional Record. 153 (7). April 18, 2007. ISBN 9780160871184.
  43. ^ "Local Law Enforcement Act of 2001". Congressional Record. 149 (1). January 9, 2003. ISBN 9780160768132.
  44. ^ Barnett, Jim (July 10, 2004). "Smith will support same-sex marriage ban". The Oregonian.
  45. ^ "Partner benefits proposed for federal workers". The Advocate. September 27, 2006. Archived from the original on November 2, 2023. Retrieved September 29, 2006.
  46. ^ Walsh, Edward (May 21, 2008). "Merkley scores chance to take on Smith". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on May 30, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  47. ^ Esteve, Harry; Jeff Mapes (December 8, 2007). "Governor, lawmakers get their lumps in poll". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on June 9, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2008.
  48. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on July 25, 2007. Retrieved August 8, 2007.
  49. ^ "Oregon Special Election Official Results". Oregon Secretary of State. Archived from the original on August 22, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2007.
  50. ^ Kang, Cecilia (February 12, 2011). "Ex-senator Gordon Smith now represents broadcasters as voice for free, local TV". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 22, 2016. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  51. ^ "The Hill's 2012 Top Lobbyists". October 31, 2012. Archived from the original on February 26, 2013. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  52. ^ "Congratulations Gordon Smith". December 25, 2018. Archived from the original on February 1, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  53. ^ "New Area Seventies" Archived November 22, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, Church News, April 22, 2012.
  54. ^ "Gordon Smith Honored for a Lifetime of Leadership | Radio & Television Business Report". May 27, 2021. Archived from the original on June 19, 2021. Retrieved May 27, 2021.

External links[edit]

Oregon Senate
Preceded by President of the Oregon Senate
Succeeded by
Brady Adams
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for
U.S. Senator from Oregon (Class 3)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Republican nominee for
U.S. Senator from Oregon (Class 2)

1996, 2002, 2008
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Oregon
January 3, 1997 – January 3, 2009
Served alongside: Ron Wyden
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Aging Committee
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Senator Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Senator
Succeeded byas Former US Senator