United States Senate election in Oregon, 2008
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. 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. This was one of the most competitive races during the 2008 United States Senate election.
- Jeff Merkley, Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives
- Steve Novick, attorney
- Candy Neville, real estate broker
- Roger Obrist, construction worker
- Pavel Goberman, perennial candidate
- David Loera, doctor
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. 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.
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. 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), 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. 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 and on August 1, 2007 Merkley filed papers, officially entering the race.
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.
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."
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. Some pointed discussions ensued among the candidates over a debate schedule and formats.
|Democratic||Roger S. Obrist||12,647||2.30|
|Republican||Gordon Smith (inc.)||296,330||85.41|
- Jeff Merkley (D), Speaker of the State House
- Gordon Smith (R), incumbent U.S. Senator
- David Brownlow (C), at its statewide nominating convention on June 7, 2008, the Constitution Party of Oregon named him as its Senate nominee.
CQ Politics had rated the race as 'No Clear Favorite'. In September the The Rothenberg Political Report considered it a 'Lean Takeover'. As late as October 2008, The Cook Political Report still considered it a 'Toss-Up'.
|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%|
|Republican||Gordon H. Smith (inc.)||805,159||45.55%||-10.66%|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
Although Smith carried all but eight 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.
- List of United States Senators from Oregon
- United States Senate elections, 2008
- Oregon Senate elections, 2008
- 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.
- Mapes, Jeff (23 October 2008). "Outside interests snag airtime". Local news. The Oregonian. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
- Phillips, Kate (13 June 2008). "G.O.P. Leader Maps Senate Elections" (Blog). The Caucus. The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
- Novick, Steve (31 January 2007). "If I ran" (Guest article). Cover story. Willamette Week. Retrieved May 6, 2007.
- Chisholm, Kari (18 April 2007). "He's in: Steve Novick takes on Gordon Smith." (Blog). Open Discussion. BlueOregon. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
- Moore, Scott (24 May 2007). "Senate, Anyone? Democrats Search for a Candidate" (Article). News: City. The Portland Mercury. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
- 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.
- staff (23 August 2007). "Golden out of race" (Article). News briefs. Eugene Weekly. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
- staff (1 August 2007). "Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley Files to Run for United States Senate". Campaign website. Jeff Merkley for Oregon. Archived from the original (Press release) on November 27, 2008. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
- Mapes, Jeff (7 October 2007). "Novick jabs at Merkley on Iraq vote" (Blog). Mapes on politics. The Oregonian. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
- Esteve, Harry (26 November 2007). "U.S. Senate race: Democrats debate debates" (Article). Politics & Elections. The Oregonian. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
- Walsh, Edward (2008-05-21). "Merkley scores chance to take on Smith". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
- "Constitution Party of Oregon". Retrieved 2008-09-25.
- Race Ratings Chart: Senate Archived October 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. CQ Politics
- 2008 Senate Ratings The Rothenberg Political Report, September 29, 2008
- 2008 Senate Race Ratings Archived November 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. The Cook Political Report, October 9, 2008
- Elections Division from the Oregon Secretary of State
- U.S. Congress candidates for Oregon at Project Vote Smart
- Oregon U.S. Senate race from Congress.org
- Oregon U.S. Senate race from CQ Politics
- Oregon U.S. Senate race from The Green Papers
- Oregon U.S. Senate from OurCampaigns.com
- Oregon U.S. Senate race from 2008 Race Tracker
- Campaign contributions from OpenSecrets.org
- Smith (R-i) vs Merkley (D) graph of multiple polls from Pollster.com