State Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, will not seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Gordon Smith, he said today.

State Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, will not seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Gordon Smith, he said today.

Bates, a physician, said he made his decision after consulting with family, friends and a number of his supporters.

"At this point, my family, my patients and universal health care for Oregonians take precedence over a U.S. Senate bid," Bates said in a statement e-mailed to the Mail Tribune.

He was the co-author of legislation approved by the 2007 Legislature to put a state medical insurance program in place by 2011.

House Speaker Jeff Merkley, D-Portland, has been courted by the Democratic National Committee to run against Smith. Merkley is expected to get into the race. Also mulling a bid is Jeff Golden, an Ashland Democrat.

— Don Jepsen