United States Senate election in Oregon, 1996

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United States Senate election in Oregon, 1996
← 1990 November 5, 1996 2002 →
  Gordon Smith official portrait.jpg No image.svg
Nominee Gordon Smith Tom Bruggere
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 667,336 624,370
Percentage 49.8% 45.9%

Oregon Senate 1996.svg
County results

Senator before election

Mark Hatfield

Elected Senator

Gordon H. Smith

The 1996 United States Senate election in Oregon was held on November 5, 1996. Incumbent Republican United States Senator Mark Hatfield decided to retire after thirty years in the Senate. Oregon State Senate President Gordon H. Smith, who had run for the Senate earlier that year, won the Republican primary, while businessman Tom Bruggere won a contested Democratic primary. The contest between Smith and Bruggere was one of the toughest that year, but ultimately, Smith was able to keep the seat in the Republican column and defeated Bruggere by a narrow margin.

Democratic primary[edit]



Democratic primary results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Tom Bruggere 151,288 49.61%
Democratic Harry Lonsdale 76,059 24.94%
Democratic Bill Dwyer 30,871 10.12%
Democratic Jerry Rust 27,773 9.11%
Democratic Anna Nevenich 16,827 5.52%
Democratic Write-ins 2,150 0.70%
Total votes 304,968 100.00%

Republican primary[edit]



Republican primary results[1]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Gordon H. Smith 224,428 78.06%
Republican Lon Mabon 23,479 8.17%
Republican Kirby Brumfield 15,744 5.48%
Republican Jeff Lewis 13,359 4.65%
Republican Robert J. Fenton 8,958 3.12%
Republican Write-ins 1,532 0.53%
Total votes 287,500 100.00%

General election[edit]


This was the second Senatorial race for Gordon Smith in 1996; he had previously lost to Ron Wyden in the special election to fill Bob Packwood's seat.

Both candidates spent heavily from their own resources. Bruggere won the Democratic nomination with $800,000 of his own money in the primary race,[2] and was one of 134 candidates for the U.S. Congress to finance their own elections in excess of $50,000 in that cycle.[3] Smith had already spent $2.5 million of his own money earlier that same year in an unsuccessful effort to defeat Democrat Ron Wyden in the 1996 special election to replace Bob Packwood, who had resigned.[2]

Shortly after their respective primary victories, the rivals met for a highly publicized lunch, and agreed to run issue-oriented campaigns. However, in the final weeks of the campaign, Bruggere supporters ran advertisements alleging a pollution problem with Smith's frozen foods business, which the Smith campaign characterized as a breach of that agreement.[2] A Boston Globe profile highlighted their similarities as corporate candidates with minimal political experience.[2]

In the general election race, most Oregon daily newspapers endorsed Smith over Bruggere.[4] The race was close, with neither side claiming victory for several days after the election, as absentee ballots were tallied. After all votes were counted, Smith won by 4 percentage points.[5] It was the last of the 1996 Senate elections to be determined; overall, the Republicans gained two seats in the Senate, increasing their majority from 53 to 55 seats.[6]


United States Senate election in Oregon, 1996[7]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Gordon H. Smith 677,336 49.80% -3.89%
Democratic Tom Bruggere 624,370 45.90% -0.29%
Reform Brent Thompson 20,381 1.50%
Pacific Green Gary Kutcher 14,193 1.04%
Libertarian Stormy Mohn 12,697 0.93%
Socialist Christopher Phelps 5,426 0.40%
Natural Law Michael L. Hoyes 4,425 0.33%
Write-ins 1,402 0.10%
Majority 52,966 3.89% -3.60%
Turnout 1,360,230
Republican hold Swing


  1. ^ a b http://oregonvotes.org/pages/history/archive/may2196/other.info/ussen.htm
  2. ^ a b c d Wilkie, Curtis (October 1, 1996). "Dignified contest slips a bit; race for Senate takes lower road into negativism". The Boston Globe. 
  3. ^ Cass, Connie (July 21, 1996). "More and more candidates financing own campaigns". The Seattle Times. 
  4. ^ "Most Oregon dailies pick Smith over Bruggere". The Columbian. November 3, 1996. 
  5. ^ The Associated Press (November 9, 1996). "GOP Oregon Senate seat - Tycoon wins close race to succeed Hatfield". The Chicago Tribune. 
  6. ^ Dewar, Helen (November 9, 1996). "Smith wins tight Oregon Senate race". The Washington Post. 
  7. ^ http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/1996election.pdf