Every election cycle, WW invites candidates for local and statewide offices in for a videotaped endorsement interview. We bring all the candidates for each office together, in order to compare them and to allow the voters who watch the interviews on our website to do the same.
We scheduled our endorsement interview for the race for the U.S. Senate today, even though it's a Saturday, to accommodate the schedule of Dr. Monica Wehby, the pediatric neurosurgeon whom Republicans nominated to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
This morning Merkley, Pacific Green Party nominee Christina Lugo and Constitution Party nominee James Leunenberger arrived on time for the interview. But Wehby never showed, nor did anybody from her campaign explain her absence.
WW scheduled the interview back in July for a day and at a time Wehby's campaign assured us she would be available. We even rescheduled the interview to suit her, as we did during the primary election campaign. (She did take part in WW's primary endorsement process.)
The no-show is unusual. WW Editor Mark Zusman, who has overseen endorsements for 30 years, says he cannot remember a statewide candidate failing to appear.
But it might be a pattern for Wehby. On Friday, The Oregonian reported that Wehby refused to participate in an Oregonian/KGW (Channel 8) televised debate scheduled for Oct. 23.
KGW News Director Rick Jacobs said in a statement to The Oregonian that Wehby's refusal to debate was historic.
"The Oregonian and KGW have a long-standing tradition of letting voters hear directly from the candidates so they can make an informed choice when they cast their vote. I can't recall a major candidate ever refusing our offer to debate."
It's possible that Wehby's decided to enjoy the fall weather rather continuing to campaign. A KATU poll conducted by SurveyUSA released on Sept. 25 showed her trailing Merkley by 20 points.
Wehby campaign spokesman Dean Petrone said that the Wehby campaign never confirmed that she would show up for the joint interview session at Willamette Week.
Petrone said she "had a full schedule" of campaign events Saturday, but he refused to say what she did instead of being in the same room with Merkley and the other candidates. He insisted that Wehby is not trying to avoid appearances with Merkley.
"It's a ridiculous assertion," he said. "Monica is looking for any chance she could get to discuss the issues with Sen. Merkley."
WW managing editor for news Brent Walth booked the endorsement interview appointment through Petrone back in July. Walth says Petrone is the one who set the date and time, and confirmed the appointment. "He told us when she would be available, and we scheduled everyone else around her," Walth says. "They then ignored all calls and reminders about the appointment, and stood everyone up."