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SENATOR Wayne Morse (D-Ore.) may be involved in the political fight of his career. Some polls show this most outspoken of Senate doves running as far as twenty-five percentage points behind his Democratic primary opponent Robert Duncan. Ex-Congressman Duncan came within a small cluster of votes of beating Senator Mark Hatfield in 1966.
No hard and fast rules will determine the outcome of the race. Oregon has a deep tradition of voter independence from party loyalty. Large scale patronage and machine politics are as far from its political processes as the Eastern cities spawning such tactics are from this state's easygoing towns.
Both Duncan and Morse are articulate, persuasive campaigners. Each is hard-working an any activity. Morse will be 68; Duncan, 48. Morse's under-dog position is ascribed to a number of factors, especially his position on Vietnam, his efforts to curb certain recent national strikes, his endorsement of Hatfield against Duncan in 1966, and his frank, sometimes blunt statements about a variety of matters.
Morse antagonized the International Machinists Union by working to stop their national strike against the airlines in 1966. Its leaders have pledged money and workers against Morse this year. Despite his strongly pro-labor record in the Senate for over twenty years, many other labor leaders say they will back Duncan who is also a labor supporter.
Senator Morse created deep resentment among many Democrats by endorsing Republican dove Mark Hatfield for the Senate in 1966 over Democrat Duncan. Morse said he wanted a dove elected regardless of party. Since Hatfield won by less than 2 per cent, a number of Democrats feel Morse deserves no party support in a Democratic primary, and indicate they will work against him.
A number of political commentators discount the polls, saying that Morse will win when the primary is held in May. They say he has been in the public eye for over 35 years and is very well known across the state. he is expected to have a well-financed campaign with money coming in from doves all over the country as well as from long standing Oregon supporters. His opponents will attack this outside influence in an Oregon election. Duncan, however, will have the same financial difficulties that he had in 1966.
MORSE'S very independence may be an asset in the end. Many Oregonians say they do not agree with what Morse says, but that they are proud to be represented by such an outspoken individualist. Such Oregonians see Morse as a maverick Senator representing a maverick state.
Recently Lister Hill, chairman of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee, announced his retirement. If re-elected, Morse will succeed him. Since that committee handles most education, labor, and poverty programs, Morse will emphasize the importance of his seniority as a source of power for Oregon. This situation may create the view among some Oregonians that regardless of their feelings toward the men, the state's best interests would be served by retaining the incumbent.
Both men have had dynamic careers in public office. Morse was the youngest law school dean in the U.S. when he rose to that position at the University of Oregon in 1930. During the 1930's and World War II he achieved national prominence through his activities in labor negotiation and the War Labor Board.
In 1944 he successfully challenged the incumbent Senator in the Republican primary and won election to the Senate against the Democratic nominee later that year. In 1950 he won re-election as a Republican, but in 1952 he broke with the Republican party to form a one-man Independent party in the U.S. Senate because of his opposition to the candidacy of Dwight Eisenhower.
In 1954, as an Independent, he stood up for 22 consecutive hours to filibus- ter against the Eisenhower Administration's policy on coastal oil reserves, which Morse considered a great give-away of public resources. Eisenhower's program was defeated.
The 1954 national elections gave the Senate Democrats, led by Lyndon Johnson, a 48-47 majority. If Morse had given his one vote to the Republicans, a tie would have resulted and Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon would have been able to cast the deciding vote in favor of Republican control of all Senate committees. Morse, however, cast his vote for Democratic control and thus made it possible for Lyndon Johnson to become majority leader.
In 1956 and 1962 Morse ran as a Democrat. He was the only man in American history who had successfully run for the Senate as both a Democrat and Republican.
DUNCAN is an outstanding trial attorney. As a state legislator he was the first man in history voted Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives for two consecutive legislative sessions. He served in Congress from 1962 to 1966 where he had a strong liberal voting record on domestic issues. He was among a handful of Representatives voting against the House Un-American Activities Committee. He spurned sure re-election to run against Mark Hatfield, the popular Republican Governor, for the U.S. Senate.
Before the general election in 1966 Hatfield had clearly stated a dove position on Vietnam. Duncan was convinced that Hatfield's stand on Vietnam had disturbed enough voters so that a hawkish Democart could possibly defeat this seemingly unbeatable Governor. Hatfield retreated to a more ambiguous stand. This, plus Morse's endorsement, may have pulled out his narrow victory.
The bitterness of the Democratic primary may cause the losing faction to stay home on election day in November or to vote Republican. The primary winner might find himself the final loser.
The Republicans, however, are not in any solid array either. There is a split between hawks and doves just as on the Democratic side. Senator Hatfield has indicated that he prefers a dove as the Republican nominee, but he has not found any promising dove candidate yet.
The popular incumbent Republican Governor Tom McCall, an ex-TV newscaster, was a possibility. U.S. Senate Republicans offered him $50,000 in campaign funds. He has a proven ability to draw Democratic voters in a state where they outnumber Republicans 500,000 to 400,000, and would have been a heavy favorite over either if the Democrats came out of the primary bitterly divided. Fortunately for the Democrats, he has said he will keep to his 1966 campaign promise to serve a full, four-year term as Governor.
Most Republicans want to avoid a primary election fight within their own ranks. They may focus on Robert Packwood, a talented 35-year-old legislator who has quietly cultivated support among progressive Republicans over the last few years. He is considered a liberal but his views on Vietnam are ambiguous. Packwood says the United States has a legal and moral right to be in Vietnam, but condemns the Administration for not developing a long-range plan for leaving. Since he is little known and has not run a state-wide campaign before, he must hope for deep division among the Democrats as the foundation of victory.
Thus, Oregon may find that, as in the ancient fable, the young lad has run off with the bacon while the two giants pummel each other for possession
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