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Smith, Bradbury trade shots in debate

U.S. Senate candidates agree economny needs work, but take sides over ways to rebound

On every issue, U.S. Senate hopeful Bill Bradbury and incumbent Gordon Smith aggressively defined their political stances Wednesday during a debate held in Medford.

From education to the national economy, from Iraq to Oregon's forests, the candidates tackled a wide range of hot-button topics.

Democrat Bradbury, who has trailed in the polls, charged Smith with raising taxes and creating tax benefits that favor the wealthiest — percent of Americans.

Republican Smith, who said he has worked to cut taxes, countered, In contrast, Bill Bradbury has been one of the biggest taxers and spenders we have ever had run for federal office.

Both candidates, speaking in a televised debate on KOBI Channel 5 that was broadcast Wednesday night, agreed that something needs to be done to get the economy rolling again.

Bradbury said that with 120,000 people out of work in Oregon, he proposes a short-term solution of creating government work projects that would improve transportation.

For the long term, he said more attention should be paid to developing the state's timber, agriculture and high-tech industries.

Smith said, All the things Bill talked about, I have done.

Roads are being paved, new rail lines are being laid and old rail lines are being reopened, he said.

On Iraq, the candidates agreed that Saddam Hussein must go, but they differed sharply on a resolution giving the president the right to make a preemptive attack against that country.

Bradbury said the resolution, which Smith supported, is a significant error in foreign policy. I say not to do it, he said.

Smith said the resolution requires the president to exhaust all political means before an attack takes place.

The best way to get peace is to be strong now and to be united now, he said.

Smith opposed the physician-assisted suicide law approved twice by Oregon voters, while Bradbury supported it.

I believe in state's rights, but I also recognize that we fought a Civil War that established federal preemption, said Smith. I don't think government should be involved in suicide.

Even so, he said he wouldn't become a political weather vane over the issue.

Bradbury disagreed, saying Smith has been supportive of bills that would overturn the will of Oregon voters and has backed U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's efforts to overturn the assisted-suicide law.

Both candidates voiced support for forest thinning in light of recent fires but differed on how it should be managed.

Bradbury supports sustainable management of forests to reduce the fire danger, but said, I believe we shouldn't override existing environmental principles to thin forests.

He said both Smith and President Bush want to use the thinning of forests as an excuse to log old growth.

That shouldn't come as any surprise because Gordon Smith has received more money from the timber industry than any other candidate in the U.S. Congress, he said.

Smith said Bradbury has established a double standard on this issue.

Twice in the 1990s, Bill Bradbury took out permits to clear-cut his land; to bulldoze, road build, burn and clear cut, he said.

Smith said that while environmental concerns must be heeded, a million acres burn every year because public lands aren't properly managed.

We're not asking to lock the courthouse door, he said, but added there should be fewer impediments to thinning around rural homes and in the forests.

The candidates both thought something should be done to ease water problems in the Klamath Basin.

Smith said farmers must remain a priority in any solution, while also expressing regret that so many salmon died off because of high water temperatures this year.

The fish cannot live without water and neither can the farmers, he said.

Bradbury said the interests of other parties, including fishermen and Indian tribes, must be considered in any solution.

We've had a policy that was supported by Gordon Smith that basically guarantees that farmers get all their water and the other users be damned, he said.

Education is a priority for both candidates, but Bradbury said the federal government hasn't done enough, while Smith said the Bush administration has sent more money to Oregon's schools.

Bradbury said the federal government has mandated that schools enact programs but hasn't followed through with funding. He cited special education, which has received only 9 percent of its funding from the federal government when it was promised 40 percent.

Smith said Oregon will get &

36;200 million more for education than before because of legislation pushed through by the Bush administration with his support.

U.S. Senate candidates Bill Bradbury, left, and incumbent Gordon Smith shake hands after a debate Wednesday in Medford. Moderators were Wendy Enneking and Chris Corcoran. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli