'I wish there were a healthier Republican Party in the state of Oregon'

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Former Republican Sen. Gordon Smith says he's not even thinking about running for office again.

Smith was a two-term member of the U.S. Senate from Oregon when he lost a close, emotionally draining race to Democrat Jeff Merkley in 2008.

Republicans were abuzz about Smith running for something, such as governor, after he went to the annual Dorchester Conference two years ago, The Oregonian reports.

But, Smith told the paper this week, while he could get the "call" to public service again, he's too busy and happy working in Bethesda, Md., near Washington, D.C., to think of running for anything.

"When I went to Dorchester two years ago, it was essentially to say thank you and goodbye," he said.

Smith has turned 60. He is CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters and a key Mormon church leader responsible for much of the northeastern United States.

He was in Portland Monday to address a conference on children's mental health.

After his son, Garrett, killed himself in 2003 after battling mental illness, Smith wrote a book about raising him and how the family coped with his death.

Smith said he was appointed by the Obama administration to co-chair the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and frequently gives speeches on the topic.

It's part of a cause, he said, to "help other young people and their families so they don't suffer the loss that Sharon and I did."

His 2008 defeat was part of a Democratic trend in Oregon that has left Republicans without a statewide office and only one member in the congressional delegation.

"Single-party politics is fraught with difficulties for the state," Smith said. "I wish there were a healthier Republican Party in the state of Oregon. And I think eventually there will be. These things tend to go in cycles."

Asked whether he thought the nation could elect a Mormon president, he said, "I guess we'll find out. I never thought Oregon would elect to the U.S. Senate a Mormon, but it did."

He said he's proof that religion may guide a politician's principles, but not his agenda. "The marvel of America is pluralism and tolerance."

He said he continues to see his former colleague, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden. He declined to critique his successor's term in office.

"I owe Jeff my silence and best wishes," Smith said.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press