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The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper, endorsed Mr. Smith, praising his independence and calling him “no slave to the GOP agenda” and noting that “Merkley has thus far showed no inclination to express his independence from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party’s line on anything of importance.”

Mr. Smith supported the Bush tax cuts and a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. At the same time, he has worked with Democrats and broken with Republicans on key votes.

Despite his pro-life stance, he supported stem-cell research. He co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, to expand hate-crimes protections to gays. He voted against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He reversed his earlier support for the Iraq war and has since called for the removal of U.S. troops.

Mr. Smith has also worked closely with Oregon’s senior senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, issuing joint press releases and holding town meetings together. The Republican cited his relationship with Mr. Wyden in early campaign ads, although Mr. Wyden has made it clear that he backs his fellow Democrat.