Republican Monica Wehby is headed to a faceoff with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in the November election—but hurt by personal revelations in the final days of the primary.
Wehby, a Portland neurosurgeon, handily beat her chief opponent in the GOP primary, state Rep. Jason Conger Tuesday night.
Early results show Wehby with 53 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Conger. The remaining three candidates in the race had collected a total of 13 percent.
Wehby, who has portrayed herself as a moderate, hopes to break the long statewide losing streak for GOP in Oregon. The last Republican to win in Oregon was Gordon Smith in 2002. Merkley defeated Smith in the 2008 election.
Conger, a Bend lawyer, had hoped primary voters, who tend to be more conservative, would help his campaign. He had been endorsed by Oregon Right to Life and established a conservative voting record in the Legislature.
Wehby counted on big spending—more than $1.2 million, nearly three times what Conger raised—and outside groups that spent more than $600,000 to support her or attack Conger.
But she's been stung by recent media stories about police reports on her behavior.
Her former boyfriend, Stimson Lumber CEO Andrew MIller, called Portland police in 2013 to complain about Wehby stalking him at his house. A 2007 report says police were called to the home of Wehby and her then-husband Jim Grant, after Grant accused her of harassment. Police didn't file charges in either case.
Tuesday night, the loudspeakers at the Wehby headquarters in Oregon City pounded out “Celebration” and “Born in the USA.” The only thing that crowded out the music were cheers from the crowd when Wehby was projected the winner. Wehby made her appearance walking down a tall staircase to Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket.”
During her victory speech, she repeated some of her campaign slogan, “Keep Your Doctor. Change Your Senator.” But Wehby also made reference to the news reports by blaming Democrats for what she called negative campaigning.
“Over the last several days there have been a lot of vicious, ugly hurtful attacks,” Wehby said. “Lord knows, I am not perfect. We all make mistakes. When I do, I am no different than the rest of you. I pick myself up and try to make things better.
“We all know the best way to defeat a bully is to stand up to him,” she added. “And that is exactly what we are going to do.”
Afterward Wehby worked the crowd, hugging supporters and children.
“Oh my gosh,” said someone nearby, “she’s already kissing babies.”