Oregon Paper Projects Dem to Win Senate Seat

Victory there gives party 57 seats, with 3 races still undecided
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 5, 2008 10:17 PM CST
In this April 4 file photo, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley takes part in a debate in Portland, Ore.   (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)
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(Newser) – Democrat Jeff Merkley has won a tight race for the Senate in Oregon, keeping alive his party's hopes of attaining a filibuster-proof goal of 60 seats, the Portland Oregonian reports. Merkley defeated Republican incumbent Gordon Smith to give Democrats their 57th seat. Three other races are undecided and will remain so for awhile—Georgia's going to a runoff, Minnesota to a recount, and Alaska is counting absentee ballots.

If Democrats take them all, they get 60 and—in theory at least—better prospects of passing legislation. (The number includes two independents, including Joe Lieberman.) In Oregon, Merkley is not yet claiming victory, nor is Smith conceding. But Merkley leads by 4,000 votes with about 80% of returns counted. Most of the remaining counties lean heavily Democratic, giving the Oregonian confidence to project Merkley the winner.