Kerry wins strong victory in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. – Democratic presidential contender John Kerrywon a convincing victory over President Bush Tuesday in Oregon, atraditionally Democratic state that Republicans had tried hard towin this year.

With 70 percent of the vote counted, Kerry had 670,831 votes -or 54 percent – to Bush’s 569,596 votes, or 46 percent.

Elsewhere on the ballot, Oregonians approved measures to ban gaymarriage and force governments to pay people when regulationsdecrease property value or to waive the rules. Voters were split onanother measure to place a $500,000 limit on “pain and suffering”medical malpratice awards.

And Democratic Congressman David Wu won a strong re-electionvictory over GOP rival Goli Ameri, who ran TV ads highlightingallegations of sexual misconduct against the three-termincumbent.

As occurred across the country, emotions ran high amongOregonians over the presidential race.

By late Tuesday afternoon, a long line of cars had formed at theMarion County elections office in south Salem as last-day votersarrived to drop off their ballots.

Among the drivers was Barbara Nugent, 48, a city governmentadministrator who waited patiently to cast her ballot for Kerry,whom she said would be more focused than Bush on helping workingpeople.

“I’m worried about the growing gap between the haves andhave-nots in this country,” Nugent said. “Bush represents theelitists. He only cares about them.”

A few minutes later, Salem dentist Robert Lee arrived to dropoff his ballot, and said he had voted to re-elect Bush. Lee said hefavors Bush’s aggressive stance against terrorism.

“I think John Kerry would take more of an appeasement approachtoward the terrorists,” Lee said. “And I don’t think that approachis going to work.”

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their GOP surrogatesheavily courted Oregon voters for several months, but during thelast week of the campaign the president focused his re-electionefforts on Florida and other tossup states with more electoralvotes.

Republicans decided to make a big push to win Oregon’s sevenelectoral votes in this year’s election after Bush came within6,765 votes of defeating Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 election,giving Gore the win with less than 1 percent of the vote.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, at an election night gathering,said Oregon’s struggling economy was probably the key factor inBush’s defeat in the state.

“The Bush economic plan has not paid off in terms of family wagejobs for our state,” said Wyden, who easily won re-electionTuesday. “There is just a world of economic hurt all over ourstate.”

Oregon Republican Chairman Kevin Mannix said while Bush’s lossin Oregon was a disappointment, the state played a strategic rolein Bush’s national campaign.

“We had a mission to stay in the game until the end and forceKerry to continue to use his resources in Oregon,” Mannix said. “Wedrew fire from Oregon. He could not take Oregon for granted.”

Determined to keep Oregon in their column this year, Democratsjoined with independent pro-Kerry groups in a successful drive toregister thousands of new voters and help the Democrats maintaintheir registration edge over Republicans.

Consumer activist Ralph Nader failed to qualify for the Oregonballot this year. The 2000 election in Oregon likely wouldn’t havebeen as close if Nader hadn’t taken 5 percent of the vote.