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Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley wins US Senate reelection

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Democrat U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has won the Oregon seat that he was first elected to in 2008.

Merkley defeated Republican Jo Rae Perkins, who made national headlines this year for her support of the wide ranging and baseless QAnon internet conspiracy theory and “science denialism” during the pandemic.

The incumbent’s win keeps Democrats holding both of the state’s Senate seats, the other Democrat being Sen. Ron Wyden.

Before Merkley’s election to the Senate, he was a five-term member of the Oregon House of Representatives, serving as speaker of the house from 2007 to 2009.

Merkley, 64, considered running for president in 2020 but chose to run for reelection to the Senate instead. The Democrat was the only U.S. Senator to endorse Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries.

Merkley, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, has been outspoken about topics surrounding climate change and recently criticized Trump for suggesting forest management is to be blamed for wildfires. He has created legislation that aims to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.

Perkins, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, ran for the Senate in 2014 and for the U.S. House in 2016 and 2018. She failed to win primary contests until this year when she won 49% of the Republican vote against three other challengers.

Perkins, who has had a career as a real estate agent, personal banker, financial advisor and insurance agent, holds views that largely align with Trump’s. She is in favor of expanding the U.S.-Mexico border wall and passing laws that limit or stop federal dollars to places that have declared “sanctuary” status on cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

She also supports the Second Amendment and is anti-abortion, receiving the endorsement of Oregon Right to Life PAC, a political action committee that raises money and makes contributions to campaigns of political candidates or parties.

Perkins made national headlines earlier this year for her references to QAnon in a now-deleted video that she posted after winning the primary election. QAnon is a baseless internet conspiracy theory that claims a shadowy cabal of liberal elites who are Satan-worshipping pedophiles runs a global child sex-trafficking ring. Many supporters of the theory say Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state.”

The day after Perkins’ video was posted, her campaign released a statement saying that she was not a follower of QAnon. Perkins said that she uses QAnon message boards as merely a “source of information,” posting articles from various media outlets, tweets and unclassified government documents.

Currently, Oregon’s other U.S. Senator is Democrat Ron Wyden.

FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2018 file photo Sen Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., poses for a photo in his office in Portland, Ore. Merkley faces Republican Jo Rae Perkins in Tuesday's election. (AP Photo/Andrew Selskey,File)