Oregon House Speaker announces Senate bid

Oregon House Speaker Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate passes 6B defense bill Amnesty International rips family separation policy: 'This is nothing short of torture' Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry 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 WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDems seek to seize on data privacy as midterm issue Hillicon Valley: DHS gets new cyber chief | White House warns lawmakers not to block ZTE deal | White nationalists find home on Google Plus | Comcast outbids Disney for Fox | Anticipation builds for report on FBI Clinton probe Senate confirms Trump Homeland Security cyber pick 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.”