Monica Wehby has won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Oregon by double digits, according to the projections of the Associated Press. Wehby, a Portland-based pediatric neurosurgeon and political newcomer, won 55 percent of the vote, while her closest rival, state senator Jason Conger, earned 32 percent support.
As the GOP nominee, Wehby will face incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley in the general election. Merkley was first elected to the Senate in 2008, defeating incumbent Republican Gordon Smith the same year Barack Obama swept Oregon on his way to the White House. Oregon remains a strongly Democratic state, but polls show Merkley is weak there. One NPR poll released last week, in fact, found nearly a third of registered voters in Oregon did not have an opinion at all about the Democrat. Obamacare, meanwhile, has become very unpopular in the state and may be one big reason Merkley is vulnerable.
Even before the primary had ended, Oregon Democrats had begun setting their sights on Wehby. Recently discovered police reports, uncovered by Democratic operatives, document domestic disputes between Wehby and both her ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend that have undercut her long-expected victory in Tuesday's primary. The Wehby campaign has accused Democrats of launching their own "war on women" with regard to these police reports. Wehby addressed the attacks in her victory speech Tuesday night.
"My message to the Democrats who are willing to shred my family for their own gain is that people are tired of your dirty tricks," she said. "The best way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them, and that is exactly what we are going to do."
Even absent the police reports, Wehby's chances at knocking off Merkley look difficult without a near-flawless campaign and some help from donors and outside groups. Conservative organizations and GOP operatives consider Wehby a dark horse to win in November.