1992 United States Senate election in Oregon

Last updated
1992 United States Senate election in Oregon
Flag of Oregon.svg
  1986 November 3, 1992 1996 (special)  
  RWPackwood.jpg Les Aucoin official.jpg
Nominee Bob Packwood Les AuCoin
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote717,455639,851

1992 United States Senate election in Oregon results map by county.svg
County results

Packwood:     50-60%     60-70%     70-80%

AuCoin:     40–50%     50–60%

U.S. senator before election

Bob Packwood

Elected U.S. Senator

Bob Packwood

The 1992 United States Senate election in Oregon was held on November 3, 1992. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Bob Packwood won re-election to his fifth term. As of 2021, this is the last time the Republicans won the Class 3 U.S. Senate seat in Oregon.



As the election season got underway, analysts from both major parties predicted that Packwood would have one of the toughest seats to defend in what was anticipated to be a volatile election year. [1] Packwood was regarded as one of the nation's "most powerful elected officials" [2] with "extraordinary political instincts." [3] But the state's largest newspaper, The Oregonian, had described AuCoin (Packwood's presumed main challenger) as having "persistence, imagination and clout [that] have made him the most powerful congressman in Oregon and one of the most influential members from the Northwest." [4]

Democratic primary


For AuCoin, however, first came the Democratic primary. He faced Portland attorney Joe Wetzel and Bend businessman Harry Lonsdale in what became a "brutal, bitter" [5] contest. [6] Lonsdale, who had run a close race against incumbent Mark Hatfield for Oregon's other Senate seat in 1990, emerged as AuCoin's principal rival; Wetzel, who criticized Packwood and AuCoin as long-term, ineffective members of Congress, [7] trailed throughout the race, and was not invited to an April debate sponsored by the City Club of Portland. [8] Lonsdale took on "the Les AuCoin-Mark Hatfield-Bob Packwood coalition" as his primary cause, stating "I consider Les AuCoin a good man who has been corrupted by PAC money over the years". [9]

In a race the Seattle Times called "as negative as many voters can remember," [5] Lonsdale attacked AuCoin as "corrupt" [5] and tied to the timber industry. [10] Lonsdale's environmental credentials also came under scrutiny, [11] and AuCoin noted Lonsdale's reversal of support for nuclear power and belated opposition to the re-opening of Trojan Nuclear Power Plant. [12] AuCoin turned accusations of undue influence back on Lonsdale, pointing out that his company (Bend Research) had received millions in federal defense contracts. [13]

Even during the primary, Packwood and AuCoin traded barbs on various issues. [14] Packwood joined Lonsdale in criticizing AuCoin for his involvement in what was reported as a rash of check-bouncing among members of Congress; AuCoin characterized the issue as a series of mistakes, rather than gross abuses. [15] In what was believed to be an unprecedented move, Packwood attempted to influence the Democratic primary's outcome by running television ads against AuCoin. [16]

Ultimately, the results of the Democratic primary were so close that an automatic recount was triggered. [16] AuCoin held a news conference on May 23 in the South Park Blocks stating he would wait for the recount, but the margin was currently 248 votes in his favor. [17] On June 18, over a month after the primary election, AuCoin was certified as having won by 330 votes. [18] Upon conceding the race, Lonsdale pondered mounting a write-in campaign, reiterating that Oregon needed an "outsider" in the Senate. [19] [20]


Democratic primary for the United States Senate from Oregon, 1992 [21]
Democratic Les AuCoin 153,029 42.18%
Democratic Harry Lonsdale 152,69942.09%
Democratic Joseph Wetzel31,1838.87%
Democratic Bob Bell23,7006.53%
Democratic miscellaneous1,1940.33%
Total votes361,805 100.00%

Republican primary


Packwood had gone through a divorce in 1991, and his ex-wife threatened to run against him amid mounting concerns about his "eye for the ladies." The socially conservative Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) was at the apex of its statewide prominence with 1992's anti-gay Measure 9 and its newly formed American Heritage Party (AHP). The group endorsed Republican challenger Joe Lutz, who had run against Packwood in the past on a family values platform; but Lutz soon withdrew, announcing a divorce of his own. As early as January, the OCA considered backing former gubernatorial candidate Al Mobley as an independent or as a member of the AHP. [22] [23] Mobley ultimately decided in mid-August not to run, stating that he could not bear the idea that he might be responsible for causing AuCoin to be elected. [24] Packwood's most significant challenge thus came from little-known conservative Medford attorney John DeZell, who campaigned on the family values issue. [25] Packwood cruised to victory over DeZell and several other candidates.


Republican primary for the United States Senate from Oregon, 1992 [26]
Republican Bob Packwood (incumbent) 176,939 59.10%
Republican John DeZell61,12820.42%
Republican Stephanie J. Salvey27,0889.05%
Republican Randy Prince20,3586.80%
Republican Valentine Christian10,5013.51%
Republican miscellaneous3,3971.14%
Total votes299,411 100.00%

General election


By the end of June, when the recount was complete, AuCoin was nearly out of campaign funds; Packwood entered the general election race with $3.2 million [27] [28] and was ranked sixth nationwide among Senators raising funds outside their home state during the 1990–1992 election season. [29]

AuCoin opposed weakening the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to erase the Northern Spotted Owl's impact on the timber industry, but Packwood ("one of the timber industry's chief allies," according to Oregon State University political scientist William Lunch [30] ) assailed "environmental extremists" and introduced legislation to convene a presidential cabinet committee to exempt the endangered owl from the ESA. [31]

In September, Packwood pulled ads that had falsely criticized AuCoin for missing votes while speaking to special interest groups. [32] By October, Packwood had raised $8 million, [33] spending $5.4 million more than AuCoin, and leading all Senate incumbents. [34] Yet that fall, the two candidates were in a dead heat, with Packwood continuing to criticize AuCoin on attendance, his House bank account and the spotted owl, and AuCoin echoing the campaign of popular Presidential candidate Bill Clinton by accusing Packwood of favoring the wealthy over the middle class. [35]

The outcome of the bruising race was too close to call on election night, but on the following day, Packwood emerged as the winner with about 52% of the vote to AuCoin's 47. In his victory press conference, Packwood endorsed AuCoin for Secretary of the Interior in the Clinton administration. [36] [37] When told of Packwood's comments, AuCoin responded by saying "I think that's real special." [38]


General election results [39]
Republican Bob Packwood (incumbent) 717,455 52.14%
Democratic Les AuCoin639,85146.50%
Independent Harry Lonsdale5,7930.42%
Total votes1,376,033 100.00%
Republican hold


Magnifying the controversy of the race was a decision by The Washington Post to delay until after the election coverage of its year-long investigation into detailed claims of sexual abuse and assault made by 10 women against Packwood. [40] [41] [42] [43] The paper ultimately published the story two months after election day. Oregon's largest daily newspaper, The Oregonian , did not break the story either, despite its own investigation and its congressional correspondent being subjected to Packwood's advances. The paper's editor would later admit to having been less than aggressive in pursuing the story due to concerns about "…ruining a man's career." [44]

A group of Oregon voters battled Packwood lawyers in briefs before the Senate Rules Committee in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the panel to refuse to seat the senator on the grounds of election fraud for lying about the abuses. [45] The senator admitted to the acts in 1994 and resigned after the Senate Ethics Committee censured him for his conduct in 1995. [46]

AuCoin was considered for Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of the Army in the new Clinton administration, though he was not offered either post. [47] When news of Packwood's resignation broke, AuCoin stated that he would not come out of retirement to run for the seat. He also stated that he would not engage in professional lobbying, but was criticized the next year for becoming the chairman of the government relations practice group in the law firm Bogle & Gates. [48] [49]

See also

Related Research Articles

Bob Packwood American politician

Robert William Packwood is an American retired lawyer and politician from Oregon and a member of the Republican Party. He resigned from the United States Senate, under threat of expulsion, in 1995 after allegations of sexual harassment, abuse and assault of women emerged.

1992 United States Senate elections

The 1992 United States Senate elections, held November 3, 1992, were elections for the United States Senate that coincided with Bill Clinton's victory in the presidential election. Both parties swapped a pair of seats, resulting in no net change in partisan breakdown.

1990 United States Senate elections United States Senate elections in 1990

The 1990 United States Senate elections were held on Tuesday, November 6, 1990. The Democratic Party increased its majority with a net gain of one seat from the Republican Party. The election took place in the middle of President George H. W. Bush's term, and, as with most other midterm elections, the party not holding the presidency gained seats in Congress.

1986 United States Senate elections

The 1986 United States Senate elections was an election for the United States Senate in the middle of Ronald Reagan's second presidential term. The Republicans had to defend an unusually large number of freshman Senate incumbents who had been elected on President Ronald Reagan's coattails in 1980. Democrats won a net of eight seats, defeating seven freshman incumbents, picking up two Republican-held open seats and regaining control of the Senate for the first time since January 1981. The party not controlling the presidency gained seats, as usually occurs in mid-term elections.

1980 United States Senate elections

The 1980 United States Senate elections coincided with Ronald Reagan's victory in the presidential election. Reagan's large margin of victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter gave a huge boost to Republican Senate candidates, allowing them to flip 12 Democratic seats and win control of the chamber for the first time since the end of the 83rd Congress in January 1955.

1974 United States Senate elections

The 1974 United States Senate elections were held in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Richard M. Nixon's resignation from the presidency, and Gerald Ford's subsequent pardon of Nixon. Economic issues, specifically inflation and stagnation, were also a factor that contributed to Republican losses. As an immediate result of the November 1974 elections, Democrats made a net gain of three seats from the Republicans, as they defeated Republican incumbents in Colorado and Kentucky and picked up open seats in Florida and Vermont, while Republicans won the open seat in Nevada. Following the elections, at the beginning of the 94th U.S. Congress, the Democratic caucus controlled 61 seats and the Republican caucus controlled 38 seats.

1966 United States Senate elections

The 1966 United States Senate elections were elections on November 8, 1966 for the United States Senate which occurred midway through the second term of President Lyndon B. Johnson. With divisions in the Democratic base over the Vietnam War, and with the traditional mid-term advantage of the party not holding the presidency, the Republicans took three Democratic seats. Despite Republican gains, the balance remained overwhelmingly in favor of the Democrats, who retained a 64–36 majority. These were also the first elections held after enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Les AuCoin American politician

Walter Leslie AuCoin is an American politician and the first from the Democratic Party to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Oregon's 1st congressional district, since it was formed in 1882. The seat has been held by Democrats ever since.

The Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) was a conservative Christian political activist organization, founded by Lon Mabon in the U.S. state of Oregon. It was founded in 1986 as a vehicle to challenge then–U.S. Senator Bob Packwood in the Republican primaries, and was involved in Oregon politics from the late 1980s into the 1990s.

2008 United States Senate election in Oregon

The 2008 United States Senate election in Oregon was held on November 4, 2008. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith sought reelection to a third term. Smith was the only Republican Senator from the West Coast and the only Republican holding statewide office in Oregon. He was opposed by Democrat Jeff Merkley, the Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, and David Brownlow of the Constitution Party of Oregon. Merkley won by a narrow margin, with Smith not conceding until two days after the election. Merkley became the first Democrat to win this seat since 1960.

Bruce Starr

Bruce Starr is an American politician and businessman in Oregon. A Republican, he served two terms in the Oregon House of Representatives before winning election to the Oregon State Senate in 2002. There he joined his father Senator Charles Starr and they became the first father-son team to serve at the same time in Oregon's Senate. Bruce had previously been a member of the Hillsboro City Council, and was re-elected to the Senate in 2006 and 2010, but lost a bid in 2012 to be the Oregon Labor Commissioner.

Richard O. Eymann American politician

Richard Oswald Eymann was an American businessman and politician in the state of Oregon. A native of Alberta, Canada, he served as an airman during World War II and then graduated from Dartmouth College. Eymann moved to Oregon where he would serve as a Democrat in the Oregon House of Representatives, including one session as Speaker.

1996 United States Senate election in Oregon

The 1996 United States Senate election in Oregon was held on November 5, 1996. Incumbent Republican United States Senator Mark Hatfield decided to retire after thirty years in the Senate. Oregon State Senate President Gordon H. Smith, who had run for the Senate earlier that year, won the Republican primary, while businessman Tom Bruggere won a contested Democratic primary. The contest between Smith and Bruggere was one of the toughest that year, but ultimately, Smith was able to keep the seat in the Republican column and defeated Bruggere by a narrow margin.

1974 United States Senate election in Oregon

The 1974 United States Senate election in Oregon was held on November 5, 1974. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Bob Packwood won re-election to a second term. Betty Roberts was chosen to replace former U.S. Senator Wayne Morse, who won the Democratic primary but died before the general election.

1980 United States Senate election in Oregon

The 1980 Oregon United States Senate election was held on November 4, 1980 to select the U.S. Senator from the state of Oregon. Republican candidate Bob Packwood was re-elected to a third term, defeating Democratic state senator Ted Kulongoski and Libertarian Tonie Nathan.

1986 United States Senate election in Oregon

The 1986 United States Senate election in Oregon was held on November 8, 1986. Incumbent Republican Bob Packwood ran for re-election. U.S. Congressman Jim Weaver received the Democratic nomination. A populist Democratic congressman from Eugene, Oregon, he was a darling of the environmentalists. Weaver supported the Oregon Wilderness Act of 1984. Packwood was confident despite the popular opponent, because had more money and a better campaign organization. After winning the party nomination, Weaver was the subject of a House Ethics Committee probe into his campaign finances, and withdrew his candidacy. Rick Bauman was selected to replace Weaver on the ballot, and lost handily to Packwood.

Harry Lonsdale

Harold K. Lonsdale was an American scientist, businessman, and former politician. A Democrat, he ran for United States Senate in the U.S. state of Oregon three times, losing twice in the primaries and once as the Democratic candidate, losing in the 1990 general election to incumbent Mark Hatfield. In 2011 Lonsdale sponsored a research challenge to determine the origin of life on Earth.

1990 United States Senate election in Oregon

The 1990 Oregon United States Senate election was held on November 6, 1990, to select the U.S. Senator from the state of Oregon. Republican candidate Mark Hatfield was re-elected to a fifth term, defeating Democratic businessman Harry Lonsdale.

1966 United States Senate election in Oregon 1966 U.S. Senate election

The 1966 Oregon United States Senate election was held on November 6, 1966 to select the U.S. Senator from the state of Oregon. Incumbent Senator Maurine Brown Neuberger did not seek re-election. Held during the escalation of United States involvement of the Vietnam War, the race was between Republican candidate and incumbent Governor of Oregon Mark Hatfield, who opposed the war, and Democratic congressman Robert B. Duncan, who supported the war. In an unusual move, Oregon's other Senator, Democrat Wayne Morse, who also opposed the war, crossed party lines to endorse Hatfield, who won in a close election, his first of five terms in the United States Senate.

2014 United States Senate election in Oregon

The 2014 United States Senate election in Oregon took place on November 4, 2014 to elect a member of the United States Senate to represent the State of Oregon, concurrently with the election of the Governor of Oregon, as well as other elections to the United States Senate in other states and elections to the United States House of Representatives and various state and local elections.


  1. Ulrich, Roberta (December 21, 1991). "Demos, GOP look to the West for vote gains". The Oregonian.
  2. "Bob Packwood". Willamette Week. September 16, 2009.
  3. Egan, Timothy (September 9, 1995). "Packwood Is Leaving As a Pariah In His State". The New York Times.
  4. The Oregonian, June 13, 1988.
  5. 1 2 3 Matassa, Mark (May 18, 1992). "Great political lineup in Oregon primary, but it's not the NBA – is voters' mood a pregame show for Washington?". The Seattle Times.
  6. Mapes, Jeff (December 31, 1991). "Senate aspirant proposes restoring tax deductions". The Oregonian.
  7. Hortsch, Dan (January 30, 1992). "U.S. Senate candidate urges tax law reforms". The Oregonian.
  8. Duin, Steve (January 28, 1992). "No debate for Wetzel? Inconceivable!". The Oregonian.
  9. Duin, Steve (September 19, 1991). "THE RETURN OF A CAREER CANDIDATE". The Oregonian. pp. B07.
  10. Mapes, Jeff (February 9, 1992). "Demo Senate primary gets rough". The Oregonian.
  11. Walth, Brent (March 21, 1992). "Lonsdale Firm's Hazardous Waste Violated No Rules". The Register – Guard – Eugene, Or. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  12. Mapes, Jeff (January 5, 1992). "Lonsdale, in about-face, opposes nuclear power, Trojan restart". The Oregonian.
  13. Mapes, Jeff (March 29, 1992). "AuCoin takes Lonsdale's role in debate". The Oregonian.
  14. Mapes, Jeff (February 18, 1992). "Packwood, AuCoin exchange accusations". The Oregonian.
  15. Ota, Alan K.; Roberta Ulrich (March 14, 1992). "Oregonians check books". The Oregonian.
  16. 1 2 "The 1992 Campaign; Close Vote for Oregon Senate Seat Insures Recount". The New York Times. May 24, 1992. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  17. Hamilton, Don (May 24, 1992). "AUCOIN WAITS FOR OFFICIAL DECLARATION OF VICTORY". The Oregonian. pp. D05.
  18. Mapes, Jeff (June 18, 1992). "State puts its seal on AuCoin's victory". The Oregonian.
  19. Mapes, Jeff (June 9, 1992). "A recount in the Democratic Senate primary is…". The Oregonian.
  20. Mapes, Jeff (June 19, 1992). "Lonsdale concedes primary loss with attack on AuCoin, Packwood". The Oregonian.
  21. "Oregon US Senate Democratic Primary Race, May 19, 1992". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  22. Mapes, Jeff (January 16, 1992). "Mobley, OCA consider independent Senate race". The Oregonian.
  23. Sarasohn, David (July 26, 1992). "OCA party needs more normal name". The Oregonian.
  24. Schwartz, Maralee; Thomas B. Edsall (August 16, 1992). "Big break for Sen. Packwood". The Washington Post.
  25. Wolf, Richard (December 3, 1992). "Capitol to Cabinet: Some potential picks". USA Today. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  26. "Oregon US Senate Republican Primary Race, May 19, 1992". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  27. "Let's make a deal". The Oregonian. June 26, 1992.
  28. Mapes, Jeff (June 23, 1992). "Packwood rejects AuCoin's spending-lid plan". The Oregonian.
  29. Ota, Alan K. (July 2, 1992). "Packwood ranked sixth in Senate in raising money outside of state". The Oregonian.
  30. Tumulty, Karen (November 3, 1993). "Catching a 'Chameleon': Senate Wrestles With Packwood". Los Angeles Times.
  31. "Packwood Wants Changes In Endangered Species Act". Spokane Chronicle. October 18, 1990.
  32. Mapes, Jeff (September 26, 1992). "Inaccuracy found". The Oregonian.
  33. Ota, Alak K. (October 30, 1992). "Data sparse on Packwood's donors". The Oregonian.
  34. Hamilton, Don (May 25, 1993). "Packwood sets '92 campaign spending record". The Oregonian. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  35. Mapes, Jeff (October 29, 1992). "Packwood, AuCoin in dead heat, new poll finds". The Oregonian.
  36. The Associated Press (November 5, 1992). "Sen. Packwood Backs Foe For Cabinet". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  37. Cain, Brad (November 5, 1992). "Packwood: defeated foe would be good Interior chief". The Bulletin (Bend) . Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  38. Mapes, Jeff (November 5, 1992). "Victorious Packwood boosts foe for cabinet". The Oregonian.
  39. "Oregon US Senate Race, Nov 3, 1992". ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  40. Coffey, Raymond R. (December 3, 1992). "What Delayed Packwood Expose?". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  41. Povich, Elaine S. (November 20, 1993). "Packwood may quit soon, his lawyer says". Chicago Tribune.
  42. "Special Report: Clinton Accused". The Washington Post. January 31, 1999. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  43. Connelly, Joel (December 5, 1992). "Packwood story angers Oregon, women want him to resign". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  44. Reid, Cheryl (January–February 1993). "A Newspaper Confesses: We Missed the Story". American Journalism Review. Archived from the original on June 13, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  45. Povich, Elaine S. (May 11, 1993). "Group says Packwood lied, asks Senate to nullify election". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  46. "Decline and fall: Senator Bob Packwood resigns after censure by Senate Ethics Committee". Newsweek. September 25, 1995.
  47. Wolf, Richard (December 3, 1992). "Capitol to Cabinet: Some potential picks". USA Today. Retrieved October 8, 2009.
  48. Church, Foster (January 26, 1993). "AuCoin takes job as lobbyist in D.C.". The Oregonian.
  49. Mapes, Jeff (June 11, 1993). "AuCoin now lobbying for timber industry". The Oregonian.