Jeff Merkley, who began this election cycle thinking about his own possible presidential campaign, has won a third term in the U.S. Senate.
Unofficial returns updated Wednesday morning showed the Democratic incumbent easily defeating Republican challenger Jo Rae Perkins, an Albany activist whose biggest claim to fame during this election was her public embrace of QAnon, the loose-knit online community that has promoted various conspiracy theories.
Merkley will go back to Washington, D.C. as one of the Senate’s most liberal members. During this reelection campaign, he promised to continue to champion policies that combat climate change, to keep fighting the filibuster rule that has allowed the party in the majority to block votes on controversial topics and to continue to work to expand health care coverage for poorer Americans.
Merkley enjoyed a sizable advantage in both public familiarity and financial wherewithal against Perkins. He’s a former Oregon House speaker who still lives in the east Portland neighborhood where he went to high school, and who has gained a national reputation in recent years as a philosophical ally and potential successor to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Merkley was the only member of the U.S. Senate to endorse Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential race.