- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The election’s still three months away, but voters are getting bombarded with even more ads in the Senate race. Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley made the opening volley in the debate over debates. And Dennis Richardson’s campaign lifted its silence on its fundraising. Here’s a look at some of the week’s more interesting stories in Oregon politics.

NEW SENATE ADS

The airwaves are getting even hotter in Oregon’s race for U.S. Senate.

After its first ad focused on government spending and debt, a political group linked to the Koch brothers shifted gears with its second. It goes after Merkley’s accomplishments, saying he’d written just one bill that became law.

That’s hardly a comprehensive way to measure congressional achievements. Merkley’s campaign points to a list of Merkley efforts that were folded into other bills, as is common in Congress, or enacted through presidential action. They include the so-called Volcker Rule, which restricts banks’ investment activity, and a water-infrastructure bill.

The ad also attacks the federal health care law, pointing to news stories about higher premiums. Of course, there are some missing details. The stories referred to people covered in the individual and small-employer market, which is a relatively small segment of the population, and many people aren’t paying the full premium because of federal tax credits.

“Oregon deserves effective, accountable leadership,” the ad concludes.

Merkley spokeswoman Lindsey O’Brien says the group, Freedom Partners, is “blatantly lying.”

Republican Monica Wehby’s campaign is legally barred from coordinating with outside groups like Freedom Partners. Her campaign this week began airing its own ad. It shows Wehby decrying the federal debt, but she doesn’t mention Merkley.

SENATE RACE DEBATES

Merkley’s campaign on Friday said it has accepted two debates, one each in Portland and Medford, both televised.

By taking the first shot, Merkley is setting the stage in the jockeying over debates, which provide campaigns with free air time to talk with voters but also a chance to mess up.

Wehby’s campaign is remaining cautious.

“The campaign has received several debate requests, which are being considered with regard to Dr. Wehby’s availability this fall,” said Dean Petrone, her spokesman.

Wehby intends to debate Merkley, Petrone said.

RICHARDSON’S MONEY

In early July, Richardson, the Republican nominee for governor, stopped reporting his campaign contributions, leaving Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber and everyone else in the dark.

Richardson broke this silence this week, saying he had raised $350,000 during the past month.

That’s a big haul for a candidate who’d raised roughly the same amount over the previous six months combined. But he’s still far behind Kitzhaber as election day gets closer. He’s also not well known and, as a conservative Republican in a Democratic state, is working from a disadvantage.

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