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Bradbury wages uphill campaign as fill-in for Kitzhaber

October 11, 2002, Friday
By Charles E. Beggs, Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press State & Local Wire
Salem, Ore

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, Gordon Smith's challenger in the U.S. Senate race, wasn't the first choice of Democrats who wanted to unseat the freshman Republican senator this fall.

Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber was the first choice, but he declined to get into the race.

Bradbury has lagged in the polls in a battle against the well-heeled Smith campaign, but insists he still has a chance of winning.

"I very strongly believe when Oregonians are given a clear choice between who's accountable to them and it's shown he doesn't represent them on a number of issues, I can win," Bradbury said. The tall, gregarious secretary of state was born in Chicago and grew up in the Midwest and Pennsylvania. He attended Ohio's Antioch College. As part of a college work-study program in communications, he moved to the West Coast to work for a public broadcast network television station in San Francisco.

He moved to Oregon in 1971 to become co-owner and cook at a seafood restaurant in Bandon on the southern coast. He went back into broadcast journalism after the restaurant was sold and from 1976-80 worked as a reporter and news director for television stations in Eugene, Portland and Coos Bay.

Bradbury began his political career in 1980 by winning a state House seat that had been held by a lawmaker named John Kitzhaber, who gave up the seat to run for and win election to the state Senate.

Bradbury and now-governor Kitzhaber became good friends and both went on to serve 14 years in the Legislature. Bradbury advanced to the Senate and served there as majority leader and one term as Senate president.

A dedicated outdoorsman, Bradbury quit the Senate in 1995 to become executive director of For the Sake of the Salmon, a nonprofit organization working to restore Northwest salmon runs.

Bradbury has been afflicted for more than 20 years with a mild case of multiple sclerosis. He says the disease at times affects walking and if he stands for long periods but otherwise causes no major probelms.

Bradbury got a head start on his first run for statewide office when Kitzhaber appointed him secretary of state in 1999 to fill a vacancy. He was elected to the state's second-highest post in 2000 and is in the middle of a four-year term, so he'll keep the job if he loses the Senate race.

Despite being heavily outspent and trailing in voter surveys, Bradbury insists he has a shot at swinging the contest his way.

"We've known from the beginning we would be outspent," Bradbury said in an interview.

"The point of our campaign is to offer Oregonians a credible alternative of a person who seeks to represent their views. We're offering a very clear choice."

Smith had amassed more than $5 million by mid-summer for his campaign, with Bradbury by then barely managing to reach the $1 million mark.

A poll conducted from Oct. 2-6 by the Oregonian and KATU-TV showed the GOP senator leading 55-34 percent.

Smith has invested in a steady drumbeat of television advertising, much of it attacking Bradbury's votes for tax increases and spending as a legislator.

"Bradbury's problem has been with the money managers in the Democratic Party," said Bill Lunch, an Oregon State University political science professor.

"For a long period Smith had almost uncontested control of the ads on television," Lunch said. "The dominant way to reach uncommitted voters is TV advertising, and it's very expensive.

"Viewers who might have otherwise been attracted to Bradbury simply weren't hearing from him," Lunch said.

Much of Bradbury's criticism of Smith has accused the millionaire frozen-food business owner of being out of touch with concerns of most folks and with Oregonians' clearly held views on issues.

Bradbury singles out the state's unique doctor-assisted suicide law, which voters twice have approved and which Smith opposes.

He also mentions Smith's opposition to abortion while "Oregon is clearly a pro-choice state."

"It's critically important we have elected officials who are accountable to the people. Smith has chosen to ignore the will of Oregon voters," Bradbury said.

Differences with Smith on other major issues include Bradbury's opposition to President Bush's war powers resolution involving Iraq and the senator's vote to allow nuclear waste storage in Nevada.

Smith touts his alliances with the state's senior senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, on some issues as a model of bipartisan cooperation. Bradbury says that's mostly for show and that citizens need to consider voting records.

"It's great they have lunch every Thursday, but how often do they vote together?" Bradbury said. "It's important no matter who the senators from Oregon are. It's critical they work together."

He said Wyden and Smith have voted differently on more than 400 key votes in the past six years.

"They cancel each other out way more than they help each other," Bradbury said.

© Copyright 2002, The Associated Press State & Local Wire