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Candidate Hopes His Creole Music Sways Voters

Bruce Broussard may be part of a crowded field of no-name GOP contenders vying today for the chance to take on popular Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.). But that hasn’t dampened the ebullient former Christmas tree farmer’s optimism one bit.

Asked about the state of his primary bid, Broussard chuckles. [IMGCAP(1)]

“Mine’s over,” he says. “I’m the Senator.”

The 65-year-old consultant, who lives on a two-story house boat at Jantzen Beach near Portland — where he spends much of his free time fishing for sturgeon and salmon — is also the host of no less than three talk shows. They include a cable access program broadcast in the Portland metro area and a weekly seniors’ hour on Oregon Public Radio (for several years prior to moving full-time to the houseboat, Broussard owned a small Christmas tree farm in Sandy).

Broussard’s long-shot Senate bid hardly marks his first time on the hustings. During the past 30-some years since arriving in the Beaver State, he has run unsuccessfully for everything from Portland City Council to governor.

“I’ve been well-seasoned, if you will,” he shrugs.

Oregon political analyst Jim Moore compares the Broussard bid to a New Yorker with “a strange cable show” deciding “that’s my launching pad for my campaign.”

“Basically, nobody watches it,” Moore says.

But former Oregon Gov. Victor Atiyeh (R), who has known Broussard for about 20 years, remains optimistic about his chances in the primary and against Wyden, praising him as “a well-rounded person” and “a really good guy.”

“I already voted for him,” says Atiyeh, who in most cases refrains from making primary endorsements.

Broussard, along with rancher Al King, is considered one of two nominal frontrunners in the six-way primary battle. But despite King’s endorsement by The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, Broussard claims he still holds the advantage.

“I do not see Al on the campaign trail,” he says.

To date, Broussard’s campaign has been largely limited to the old-fashioned shoe-leather approach — there has been little paid advertising, polling or direct mail on the part of the GOP Senate field. Instead, Broussard, who says he has retained some campaign staff on a consultant basis, has “been out and about the state” knocking on more than 500 doors.

Despite having just a few thousand dollars on hand, Broussard plans to capitalize on a network of cable-access hosts to broadcast his message throughout the state during the general election.

“They’re looking for shows, and I plan to talk,” he says.

What’s more, Broussard, a Vietnam War veteran, has already procured a stripped-down Chevy van he plans to adorn with the stars and stripes and his slogan: Making Oregon whole. Prior to the general election, Broussard says he will use the vehicle to tour the state with his three-man Creole band — the Louisiana-born Broussard plays the rub board and speaks fluent Creole — doling out deep fried turkey and good times at every stop.

He also hopes to draft members of the Young Republicans to drive a fleet of 36 Broussard for Senate campaign vans — one for each of Oregon’s counties — “around [each] county on an ongoing basis and hand out material during lunch and on Sundays in front of churches.”

Despite the widely held view that Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) has no intention of significantly helping to elect Wyden’s eventual GOP opponent, Broussard said he expects to meet with Smith within a few weeks of his anticipated primary victory today.

“He’s got to endorse me,” Broussard asserts. “Either he’s a Republican or he’s not.”

And while even Broussard enthusiasts like Atiyeh concede the race against Wyden will be an uphill battle, the former governor says it’s not beyond the scope of the possible that come Nov. 3, Oregonians might wake up to the reality of a Sen.-elect Broussard.

“I’ve been in politics long enough to know that anything can happen,” Atiyeh says.

The socially conservative Broussard has been at the forefront of the battle over same-sex marriage ever since the Multnomah County Commission — whose jurisdiction includes Portland — ignited a minor firestorm earlier this spring when commissioners gave the go-ahead to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses. A circuit court judge halted the process in late April, but whether the roughly 3,000 licenses that were granted will be officially recognized by the state remains under review.

Broussard filed a lawsuit in the Oregon Supreme Court “challeng[ing] the whole process at Multnomah County,” and though it was thrown out, he says he plans to appeal.

On economic issues, Broussard opposed Measure 30, the proposed $1.2 billion tax increase rejected by Oregon voters earlier this year. But he is not your standard doctrinaire conservative: He has voiced support for a national health care system, and maintains on his Web site that all Oregonians are entitled to “routine preventative medical care.”

As for his Democratic opponent, Broussard says that the last thing the state needs is a “professional politician.”

“Go home, retire,” Broussard counsels Wyden, who has served in Congress since 1981. “Come on rest. Eat some turkey.”

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