Oregon: Primary Could Decide GOP Focus in November

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percent, in 1954. Merkley won 49 percent to
 46 percent in 2008. Republicans are hoping to force the incumbent into retirement this fall but first they must choose a nominee.

The Republicans
Jason Conger, 45, has quite the personal story. He was born in California to parents involved in the hippie culture of the Haight- Ashbury in San Francisco in the late 1960s. But his parents divorced when he was eight years old, Conger left home at age 16, and two years later he was unemployed and homeless. With the encouragement of a teacher and his girlfriend, he eventually graduated from Humboldt State University in 1997 and earned his law degree from Harvard three years later. He and his wife relocated to Bend, in central Oregon, where he is an attorney at Miller Nash LLC. In 2010, Conger was elected to the state House by defeating incumbent Rep. Judy Stiegler (D). Stiegler narrowly lost a bid for the GOP open seat in 2004, came back to defeat incumbent Rep. Chuck Burley (R) with 53 percent in 2008, but then lost to Conger in 2012, 51 percent to 42 percent. A nonaffiliated candidate received 7 percent in the race. Conger was re-elected with 56 percent in 2012. Monica Wehby, 51, was born and raised in Nashville and earned a B.S in microbiology and B.A. in psychology from Notre Dame.
 She earned her medical doctorate from Baylor University and finished her neurosurgery residency at UCLA and fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at the University of Utah. Wehby moved to Portland 15 years ago to work at Randall’s Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel, where she is now director of pediatric neurosurgery. She is also past president of the Oregon Medical Association and is a Trustee for the American Medical Association and Ronald McDonald House Charities. This is her first run for office, but she is not a political neophyte. In 2004, she was the chief petitioner for Ballot Measure 35, which would have limited noneconomic damages in medical lawsuits. The measure lost, 51 percent to 49

percent, but helped increase her profile.
 Bend businessman Sam Carpenter was running and invested $100,000 of his own
Jason Conger

Coburn, Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Saxby Chambliss, and Richard Burr. One GOP insider in the state estimates that Wehby might have another $300,000 to $400,000 to raise in “low hanging fruit” before things could get more difficult. While she should enjoy the financial edge, the neurosurgeon is a first-time candidate who could make some mistakes on the trail. And some of her stances on social issues could be general election assets and primary liabilities. Wehby is “personally pro-life” but has said she wouldn’t focus on overturning Roe v. Wade, she supports same-sex marriage, and supports medicinal marijuana. Meanwhile, Conger holds more traditional Republican views on social issues and received a $5,000 contribution from Oregon Right to Life. He also appears to have more institutional support from within Oregon including endorsements from 13 members of the state House and 10 state Senators. The fight over the health care reform could be fascinating. While Conger is generally regarded as more conservative, he has been criticized for voting for the state insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, while
 in the Legislature. While he defends it as
 an opportunity for state control rather than federal, the stance isn’t pure enough for some conservative activists. Meanwhile, Wehby has been an outspoken opponent of Obamacare since its inceptions in 2009, when she started appearing in web videos. One of her initial campaign slogans is “Keep Your Doctor - Change Your Senator” and she has done an event in Oregon with Dr. Ben Carson, who is regarded as a rock star to some grassroots conservatives. But she also said in an interview last fall that repealing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t feasible as long as President Obama was in office - an unpopular stance to ideological purists. And she is connected to the AMA, which has formally endorsed Obamacare, even though she is personally against it. The race is still two months away, but it’s important to remember that it is still taking shape and many Oregon Republicans haven’t tuned in yet, according to one unaligned, GOP veteran in the state. And neither candidate has gained considerable traction, according to the source.
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Monica Wehby

money. But he has since dropped out and donated to Conger. Salem information technology consultant Mark Callahan and former Linn County Chair Jo Rae Perkins
 are also running on the Republican side but neither candidate had more than $5,000 at the end of the year.

The GOP Primary
The Republican primary on May 20 will decide more than the GOP nominee- it could decide whether Republicans challenge for the seat in November. It’s clear that some GOP strategists are more attracted to Wehby’s profile. As a female pediatric neurosurgeon who can
 talk intelligently about Obamacare and tort reform, they believe she is well-suited for this cycle’s issues, has the opportunity to make a case against Merkley and could generate some attention from GOP donors across the country. If Conger is the nominee, this race probably moves from long-shot to no-shot for the GOP. Wehby has some advantages over Conger. She had $390,000 in the bank at the end of the year (Conger had $174,000) after raising a half million dollars in 2013. Her fundraising also includes some establishment support from senators outside of Oregon including Tom

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