- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2014

A last-minute bombshell over a stalking accusation is threatening to derail the candidacy of Monica Wehby, a Portland brain surgeon who is considered the front-runner in Oregon’s Senate Republican primary Tuesday.

A former boyfriend, Stimson Lumber CEO Andrew Miller, made a 911 call and filed a police report in April 2013 claiming Ms. Wehby was stalking and harassing him after their relationship ended, according to Friday reports in Politico and The Oregonian.

Mr. Miller told The Oregonian on Friday that he acted “in the moment” and wished he could “do a do-over.” He has backed Ms. Wehby’s candidacy, sinking $106,000 into a super PAC, New Republican, to fund an advertising campaign against her primary opponent, state Rep. Jason Conger.

Republicans have called the spate of reports an example of the Democratic Party’s war on Republican women, but there is no doubt the disclosures have rocked the primary race in a year when the collapse of Oregon’s Obamacare exchange has put into play a deep-blue state where Democrats haven’t lost a statewide election in more than a decade.

“Democrats of course cannot respond to the threat by highlighting the accomplishments of their own candidate, Senator Jeff Merkley. Instead, they’ve resorted to vicious personal attacks that would almost certainly classify as sexist by their own definition,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a Friday website post.

Mr. Merkley has been criticized for voting for the Affordable Care Act and defended Cover Oregon, the embattled health care exchange that collected $300 million in federal funding before state officials opted to shut it down and join the federal exchange.

Not helping are President Obama’s low approval numbers. While the Rothenberg and Cook political reports have the race listed as “safe Democrat,” Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts of DHM Research said it’s not that simple.

“I certainly respect Rothenberg and Cook, and I generally agree with them, but I wouldn’t describe it as completely safe,” Mr. Hibbitts said before Friday’s disclosure. “I can see circumstances under which Sen. Merkley could wind up in a much tougher race.”

At a Friday primary debate at the City Club of Portland, Ms. Wehby said little about the controversy and ducked out immediately afterward as local television cameras chased her through the back entrance.

She released a statement to Politico saying she had just learned of the police report and that “there really isn’t much to it of consequence.”

“A year ago I went through the process of concluding a relationship,” said Ms. Wehby, who is divorced. “That relationship ended amicably, and while I’m not pleased that it has been deemed newsworthy, I guess that is the cost of challenging the political status quo.”

During and after the debate, however, Mr. Conger said Republican voters need to consider which candidate will be the most electable in November.

“The more questions that surround her candidacy, the more issues that are out there, the more material it provides for her opponent during the general election should she be the Republican nominee,” Mr. Conger told KGW-TV in Portland.

Until Friday, Ms. Wehby, 52, was considered the favorite. A pediatric neurosurgeon, she may have the catchiest campaign slogan: “Keep your doctor. Change your senator.” She has been endorsed by national Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ben Carson.

“It’s not brain surgery — Obamacare is bad for Oregon,” Ms. Wehby said in a television ad released last month.

Mr. Conger, 46, also has a compelling campaign narrative: He grew up in poverty, spent nearly a decade earning his bachelor’s degree through community colleges and wound up graduating from Harvard Law School.

His campaign slogan, “From homeless to Harvard,” has increased his appeal outside traditional Republican circles. He has shown he can attract Democratic votes: He won his 2012 legislative race by double digits in a central Oregon district that backed President Obama by 12 percentage points.

The impact of the eleventh-hour disclosure may be diluted by Oregon’s mail-in election system. Ballots were mailed out April 27 and voters have been dropping them off for weeks, meaning most Republicans already may have voted.

Even before the story broke, Ms. Wehby’s biggest drawback appeared to be her lack of campaign experience. Several newspaper editorial boards criticized Ms. Wehby for her shaky grasp of the issues, although she did receive the endorsement of The Oregonian, the state’s largest newspaper.

“She’s completely green as a candidate,” said Mr. Hibbitts. “She’s very highly accomplished and skilled in her field as a pediatric neurosurgeon, but she’s never, ever been in a situation where every statement she makes potentially can help or harm her candidacy. There have been a number of editorial boards that have said they’re going to support Conger because, frankly, Wehby doesn’t seem to know anything.”

Polling on the campaign has been sporadic and inconsistent. A survey conducted in late April by Vox Populi for The Daily Caller showed Ms. Wehby leading Mr. Merkley by 45 percent to 41 percent. A poll released by the Merkley campaign conducted by a Democratic pollster in mid-April found the senator leading both Republican challengers by double digits.

On the 911 call made April 3, 2013, Mr. Miller said Ms. Wehby woke him up by repeatedly ringing the doorbell at his home, then entered through the back door when he failed to answer.

“When she went down in the basement, I walked out the front door,” Mr. Miller said. “I don’t want to have a confrontation with her. I texted her and told her to leave.”



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