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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oregon Animal Advocates Come Through

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama split primary wins in Kentucky and Oregon last night, but their contest was not the only one with national implications. Democratic voters in those two states also chose their party’s candidates for U.S. Senate, setting the stage for competitive races against Republican incumbents this November.

In Kentucky, wealthy businessman Bruce Lunsford easily won the right to challenge U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the general election. And Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley edged out liberal activist Steve Novick for a spot on the ballot against U.S. Senator Gordon Smith, the lone Republican senator on the west coast.

Merkley_3 The Humane Society Legislative Fund had endorsed Merkley in the primary, and it was one of only two Senate primaries we’ve waded into so far in 2008. (The other is the reelection of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg who faces a primary challenge on June 3.)

As House Speaker, Merkley has been an active supporter of path-breaking animal protection laws in Oregon. His leadership at the state level has resulted in the first legislative ban on cruel confinement of breeding pigs in tiny gestation crates on industrial factory farms, and an upgrade of the anti-dogfighting law in the wake of the Michael Vick case which toughened the penalties for the bloodthirsty psychopaths who attend dogfights and finance the criminal enterprise with their admission fees and gambling wagers. 

Animal welfare advocates rallied for Merkley in Oregon, and HSLF alerted thousands of Democratic voters in Oregon that Merkley was the choice for animal protection. With 85 percent of the votes counted last night, Merkley led Novick by 45 percent to 41 percent, a margin of about 18,500 votes. We congratulate Jeff Merkley on his primary victory, and extend our thanks to Oregon’s animal advocates who made a difference in this tight race.

In primary elections, a small number of voters typically exert enormous influence on the outcomes. Animal advocates should continue to watch these primary battles closely, and continue to put the humane treatment of animals on the political map.

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