Heading for the finish line

Staff photo by E.J. Harris<br> Sen. Gordon Smith and his wife, Sharon, pass out candy to kids Friday in front of the Republican headquarters on Main Street in Pendleton.

Gordon Smith was in good spirits late afternoon Friday as he greeted ghouls, goblins and local supporters for about an hour in a final push for a third term in the U.S. Senate. Smith drew a steady crowd outside the local Republican Party headquarters in downtown Pendleton as he and his wife, Sharon, handed out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Smith started the week with a bus tour out of North Bend, then through the Portland area, down Interstate 5, over to Baker City and finally to Pendleton. On election night, Smith will be at the Benson Hotel in Portland.

Recent polls show Smith is in the race of his Senate career against Democrat Jeff Merkley, who also wrapped up his tour of Oregon this week. Constitution Party Candidate David Brownlow could prove a spoiler for Smith, as polls show 3-5 percent of voters support him, a margin Smith could need come Tuesday.

Smith said he knows the race will be tight, but voters don't always end up giving much to third-party candidates. Still, he said he will need rural voters to help offset what he could lose in the Portland area and Willamette Valley. Smith also didn't hesitate to guess what the final outcome would be, but he was practical about what could happen.

"This seat isn't mine - it's owned by the people of Oregon," he said, adding if voters want Merkley, that would be their choice, but he would feel sorry for Oregon.

Smith also took the time to address issues that came up from his short phone interview Tuesday on the Lars Larson radio talk show. During the interview, Smith pushed the campaign strategy that "one-party dominance, a blank check, no checks and balances could be a very unfortunate thing for our country."

Smith was talking about what would happen if voters elected Democrat Barack Obama to the White House along with enough senators to give the Democrats the 60 they would need to be filibuster-proof.

Oregon Democrats took Smith's comments to mean he would obstruct Obama's agenda. Smith countered that wasn't what he was driving at.

"I have never been an obstructionist for the sake of obstruction," Smith said.

Rather, Smith said his point was Congress makes better laws when all the filters and brakes are in place and legislation goes through its due process. That way, Smith said, laws become more centrist and don't hold a hard party-line ideology.

Smith also said he would oppose legislation resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine, a policy of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that required the holders of broadcast licenses to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was equitable and balanced.

In June, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talked about a Democratic push to give the doctrine new life. But Smith said in practical terms the doctrine would affect talk radio and dictate what broadcasters could say. He equated it to the government telling a newspaper's editorial board what it could write about.

"It's not American," Smith said, "it's not consistent with the First Amendment right of free speech."

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