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Oregon GOP Senate Candidate Raises $500K

9:00 AM, Jan 22, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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A Republican candidate for Senate trying to unseat first-term Democrat Jeff Merkley of Oregon raised half a million dollars in the last quarter of 2013. The Oregonian reports:

Oregon Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby, in a show of strength for her campaign, says she raised just over $501,000 in the last quarter of 2013.

The fast fundraising start by Wehby, a Portland pediatric neurosurgeon, signals her seriousness as a candidate and could help draw more national attention to her race, which is in a state that leans heavily to Democrats in statewide contests.

Her campaign said Tuesday that she contributed $5,200 to her own candidacy, meaning that almost all of the money came from other sources -- and that she didn't actually get started with fundraising until the last two months of the year.

If Wehby wins her GOP primary, she'll still have a difficult time taking on Merkley. Oregon remains a very favorable state for Democrats, and as the Oregonian notes, Merkley claims to have $3 million on hand. But Obamacare could be the issue that makes a Merkley-Wehby race close:

Merkley’s support is shallower than it appears. His victory in 2008 was only by 3 points, and he didn’t break 50 percent. A recent poll by one Republican-affiliated group found just 33 percent of likely Oregon voters say he deserves reelection.

More consequentially, Merkley is an unabashed supporter of Obamacare. He joined the rest of his Senate Democratic colleagues and voted for it in 2010. Indeed, Merkley made his own version of the now-infamous promise that under the law, if you liked your insurance plan you could keep it. “You would have the choice of sticking with the plan you have,” Merkley told constituents at a 2009 town hall meeting in eastern Oregon.

That promise has already made its way into an ad for one of Merkley’s potential Republican challengers, Dr. Monica Wehby (pronounced “webby”). Wehby juxtaposes Merkley’s promise with local news coverage of Oregonians who are losing their insurance or seeing higher premium rates since the Obamacare implementation. Her ad ends with the tagline: “Keep your doctor. Change your senator.”

“One of my friends came up with it,” Wehby laughs in an interview. “Our bumper stickers are flying off the shelf!”

Oregon has plenty of reasons to be angry over Obamacare. State officials announced in October that the individual plans of around 150,000 Oregonians would be canceled because they did not meet Obamacare requirements. The state’s insurance exchange website, Cover Oregon, has been plagued with worse technical glitches than the federal exchange. Since December, two top Cover Oregon officials, including the program’s director, have resigned. The day after the state’s enrollment deadline, Cover Oregon announced that just about 20,000 people had enrolled in private plans, far below initial projections and fewer than the 150,000 who had enrolled instead in Oregon’s Medicaid program.

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