Oregon state Speaker Jeff Merkley squeaked out narrow victory over attorney Steve Novick Tuesday in the Democratic Senate primary, keeping alive Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumers (N.Y.) streak of picking the candidate he wants and shepherding him to victory.
Also Tuesday, the open 5th district saw 2006 nominee Mike Erickson beat state GOP Chairman Kevin Mannix to earn the Republican nomination, while state Sen. Kurt Schrader beat former gubernatorial aide Steve Marks to earn the Democratic nod.
With most precincts reporting, Merkley, a heavy favorite early on to defeat Novick and the clear choice of the Democratic establishment, appeared to win a hard-fought campaign by a 45 percent to 41 percent margin. Oregon is a vote by mail state, and nearly all counties were reporting as of early Wednesday morning according to the secretary of states office.
Merkley now moves on to a general election contest with incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith (R). Smith easily defeated nominal opposition in the GOP primary, winning that contest with 85 percent of the vote. Smith is one of the DSCC’s top targets this cycle, and Smith has already attacked Merkley in TV ads. The race should be competitive until the end.
In the competitive 5th district, which is being vacated by retiring Rep. Darlene Hooley (D), Erickson survived an 11th hour attack on his anti-abortion rights credentials by Mannix. Erickson was winning that contest 50 percent to 45 percent with most precincts reporting.
On the Democratic side, Schrader, the preferred candidate of the Democratic establishment and the unofficial favorite of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, easily defeated Marks. With most precincts reporting, Schrader led Marks 53 percent to 19 percent.
David M. Drucker