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Senator, rival stake familiar claims.

Byline: DAVID STEVES The Register-Guard

PORTLAND - The first debate between Republican U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith and his Democratic challenger, Bill Bradbury, hewed closely to the path their campaigns have taken.

Smith liberally dropped names of Democrats he's teamed with in the Senate to push legislation with broad bipartisan themes - prescription drug coverage for seniors, health care for poor children, tough penalties for hate crimes and government caps on runaway energy prices.

Bradbury tried to raise doubts among those in a studio audience and at home watching the televised debate as to how closely Smith really reflects Oregonians' values, given his anti-abortion views, support for the Bush administration's attempt to circumvent Oregon's doctor-assisted suicide law, and what the Democrat portrayed as Smith's poor record on the environment.

The debate, telecast by Portland TV station KGW, brought the two candidates to the debating stage for the first time. Their second and final debate is set for Wednesday in Medford.

Bradbury, the Oregon secretary of state, seized the opportunity to return fire in a way he's been unable to do in the campaign's larger battlefield: the TV ad wars.

Smith, whose campaign war chest dwarfs Bradbury's, has financed a rolling barrage of TV commercials - some positive reflections on Smith's own accomplishments in his first six-year term, others critical of Bradbury's tax votes as a state legislator and his decision to log portions of his private timberland a decade ago.

Bradbury cited an endorsement editorial on his behalf from the Medford Mail-Tribune newspaper, which he quoted as saying Smith's attack ads have been "disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst."

"I think that's a tragedy to have a U.S. senator running that kind of campaign," Bradbury said.

Smith said he's proud to run a campaign that informs voters about the differences between himself and his opponent on pocketbook issues.

"I have cut taxes for everyone. He has raised taxes for everyone," Smith said. "Don't you want to know that?"

The sharp exchange contrasted one of the evening's lighter moments. As the two candidates were waiting for the debate to begin, Bradbury looked over his shoulder at a TV monitor to spot one of Smith's attack ads.

"Hey!" he said with a laugh, gesturing at the TV, as the Smith commercial accused him of pushing unwanted taxes and hypocritically logging his own land while advocating preservation of old-growth timber on public forests.

Smith looked up, saw it was his attack ad that sparked Bradbury's outburst and the studio audience's laughter. He smiled slightly and quickly returned his eyes to his notes.

But a few minutes later, when yet another Smith ad appeared - this time a positive one focusing on the Republican's own work - both candidates let their gazes linger on the TV monitor.

The Smith campaign, after shopping around to the news media a story about Bradbury's logging of two 20-acre parcels on second-growth timberland he owned in the early 1990s, has used the resulting headlines to run TV ads criticizing Bradbury.

Smith defended the ads, saying his mother taught him that "if you live in a glass house, you shouldn't throw rocks. And it seems to me that that's what you're doing."

Bradbury retorted that his clearing of 40 acres was done in a way that protected wildlife habitat and area watersheds and was consistent with his long-held views that private forests should be managed for timber, but in a sustainable way.

And while his own forest practices met or exceeded all legal requirements, he pointed out that Smith's food processing plant in Umatilla County polluted area waters so badly that it led to the second highest environmental fine in Oregon history.

"I think there's a very clear choice here between Sen. Smith and myself when it comes to the environment," he said.

The two candidates also weighed in on national and international issues. Asked about "ballistic fingerprinting" to help police trace bullets to specific weapons and their owners - an issue brought to the forefront by the Washington, D.C., area sniper attacks - Smith said "we ought to study it. I don't think we ought to implement it unless we know it does any good."

Bradbury did not address the question, but criticized Smith's reluctance to cross the National Rifle Association, which endorsed Smith.

On the recently passed congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the two candidates disagreed.

Smith, who voted for the resolution, was quick to point out that he was joined by such Democratic colleagues as Hilary Rodham Clinton of New York and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. And he said the best means of "achieving peace is to demonstrate strength" as a way to pressure Hussein to allow unfettered access to United Nations inspectors enforcing the international ban on Iraq's manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction.

Bradbury differed, saying the type of military attack on Iraq authorized by Congress would harm U.S. efforts to work with Arab nations and other countries on a multinational war on terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I think that coalition gets blown apart if we attack pre-emptively and unilaterally," he said.


Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury (right) participates in a debate with U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., on Monday in Portland. INSIDE Gubernatorial debate: Candidates spar over the handling of Klamath Basin / 3D
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Title Annotation:Politics
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Oct 22, 2002
Previous Article:City/Region Digest.
Next Article:Regional Roundup.

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