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Oregon Votes, Obama Wins

This story was written by Robert D'Andrea, Oregon Daily Emerald
Sen. Barack Obama won the Oregon primary Tuesday night and now has a majority of the pledged delegates in the race for the Democratic nomination.

His rival Sen. Hillary Clinton won Kentucky by more than 30 points earlier Tuesday, but Obama came back and won Oregon with 62 percent of the vote in partial returns.

"Tonight, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States of America," Obama told supporters in Iowa.

Obama sought to ease tensions within the party and look toward facing likely Republican nominee John McCain in the fall. Obama told supporters in Iowa he and Clinton "see eye-to-eye" when it comes to electing a Democrat in November.

Unlike recent contests, polling of Oregon voters for television networks and the Associated Press found neither race or gender was a significant factor in the vote.

"We are white working class voters in this state," said Tony Kaminski, a member of the University's College Democrats, referring to a recent controversial remark from Clinton about white voters supporting her over Obama.

"I don't think she can say that anymore," Kaminski said.

State Representative Chris Edwards did not dismiss Clinton's candidacy after the results were announced.

"The race isn't over until one of them has the required number of delegates," Edwards said while watching election returns at the Lane County Fairgrounds. He said the prolonged primary season has benefited Oregon because it increased voter registration and brought national attention to local issues such as county timber payments.

"Both candidates had to step up and say they would support our plight here in Oregon," he said.

Republican Secretary of State nominee Rick Dancer said, "I think Obama (has) done a lot to get people involved and thinking about what we're doing here, and I think that's great. I am voting for McCain."

McCain won the Republican primary, defeating his only remaining challenger Congressman Ron Paul, 85 percent to 15 percent. In Lane County, Paul took more than 13 percent in early returns.

Lynn Moracco, a University alumna and staffer at the Oregon Bus Project, said she worked with the ASUO to register more than 1,500 new voters on campus.

"Youth turnout is really up right now," she said. The Bus Project, which "hosts zany forums to learn about candidates and policy issues," according to its Web site, is aiming to get 6,000 statewide to vote in the general election.

University senior Leah Severino voted for Clinton, but was not surprised by Obama's victory because "it's been projected for the last three months."

"If Obama's on the ticket for the general election, yes, I will vote for him because I want a Democrat in the White House," Severino said.

In the other closely-watched federal contest, Jeff Merkley won the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Sen. Gordon Smith. With an estimated 85 percent of votes counted, Merkley took 45 percent, Steve Novick garnered 41 percent and Eugene real estate broker Candy Neville had 7 percent.

"We thought we were going to stick it to the man but as usual, the man stuck it to us," Novick said in his concession speech.

Neville said she hopes voters support Merkley because "Gordon Smith needs to be done so that we can get some fresh air and progress." However, Neville decried out-of-state funding that went to the Merkley campaign as money that could have been spet against Republicans.

"That any of that money was spent on negative ads against a Democrat really bothers me," she said. "That's politics as usual, and that's not good enough."

Dancer said Oregonians should support Smith because both Smith and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden hold seats on the Senate Finance Committee.

"You don't want to trade off that kind of power and influence," he said.

Merkley's campaign claimed victory in the race via e-mail, writing he would "send George Bush and Gordon Smith into retirement," just before he made a victory speech in Portland.

"If you want to change Washington D.C. and set a new direction for America, then join our fight to deliver hope and opportunity to every single American," Merkley said in prepared remarks. "If you want more of the same - an agenda scripted by the most powerful special interests - then Gordon Smith is your man."