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GOP Picks Former Lawmaker to Replace Cooley

Politics: Bob Smith, who retired from Congress two years ago, will be the party's candidate for Oregon district. Controversy had dogged the incumbent.

August 25, 1996|From Times Wire Services

BEND, Ore. — Republicans at a special nominating convention Saturday overwhelmingly chose former Rep. Bob Smith to replace disgraced Rep. Wes Cooley as their candidate for Congress.

Smith, 65, had represented the 2nd Congressional District for 12 years before retiring two years ago. He was selected by a 55-25 vote over Perry Atkinson, general manager of a Christian radio station in Medford, to face Democrat Mike Dugan, the Deschutes County district attorney, in the November election.

The convention was scheduled after Cooley withdrew as a candidate under intense pressure from the state's Republican leadership because of questions surrounding his military service and his marriage.

Cooley, a rancher who served one term in the state Senate before his election to Congress, has been battered by allegations he lied about his Korean War record and by questions about whether his wife improperly received widow's military benefits after their marriage.

Conceding he had no chance to win reelection, Cooley announced on Aug. 6 that he would withdraw from the race to avoid the possibility that a "liberal politician" would win the seat. He had faced no opposition in the May primary.

Smith, a former rancher, had been reluctant to return to Congress. As an enticement, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) promised to restore Smith's seniority and make him chairman of the Agriculture Committee. Smith also said he thought he was the only Republican candidate who could beat Dugan.

"I have a passion to run, a passion to win and a passion to serve," Smith said.

The mostly Republican district stretches from Idaho to the southwestern corner of Oregon.

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