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August 20, 2008

Oregon Senate race focuses on furniture

In a Oregon Senate race that has featured its share of charges and countercharges on taxes, energy and foreign policy, it’s striking that the two candidates’ latest back-and-forth centers on furniture.

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) has already aired two attack ads accusing his Democratic opponent, state House Speaker Jeff Merkley, of spending too much money on a state Capitol renovation project, including buying $2 million worth of furniture.

Now the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is returning fire with a response ad that cites newspaper reports calling the ads “ridiculous” and “desperate.” The ad then accuses Smith of supporting money for Iraqi reconstruction and tax breaks for oil companies.

The Democrats’ decision to respond directly to the furniture ads suggests that they may be having an impact on Merkley. But in a race where Smith has distanced himself from the national Republican brand (including his party’s nominee) and much of his party’s agenda, it’s almost out of necessity that he has to focus on furniture.