Oregon House Speaker announces Senate bid

Oregon House Speaker Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyRussia probes in limbo after special prosecutor announcement Special counsel appointment gets bipartisan praise Lawmakers unveil bill to combat Sessions' push for tougher sentences MORE (D) vowed to shake up Washington on Wednesday as he announced the formal launch of his Senate campaign against Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.).

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“I’m running for U.S. Senate because I believe we need to make some big changes in our country. And I believe George Bush and Gordon Smith are leading us in the wrong direction,” Merkley said in a letter to supporters.

The five-term member of the Oregon House of Representatives is the son of a mill worker and mechanic. He was elected Speaker in January after Democrats reclaimed the legislative majority in the state. Following his lead, the House has passed bills protecting families against predatory lenders, guaranteed emergency contraception for victims of incest and rape and established a rainy-day fund for education and other critical state services.

Merkley said he would run a “grassroots campaign” that speaks to the average Oregonian. He pledged to work with Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Healthcare: CBO fallout | GOP senators distance themselves from House bill | Trump budget chief blasts score | Schumer says House bill belongs 'in the trash' Schumer: Republicans should throw their health bill 'in the trash' GOP senators bristle at Trump's Medicaid cuts MORE (D-Ore.) to bring troops home from Iraq, promote clean energy, combat climate change and ensure quality healthcare for all Americans.

He cited his “passion for tax fairness, public education and for helping ordinary, everyday Oregonians achieve their aspirations,” as he asked for donations to counter “Gordon Smith and his special-interest friends.”