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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Portland Doctor Enters Crowded U.S. Senate Race

Republicans are lining up for the chance to take on Oregon Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. Portland doctor Monica Wehby tossed her hat into the ring Tuesday.

Wehby, the fifth GOP candidate competing in next spring's primary, is a pediatric neurosurgeon and past president of the Oregon Medical Association. She's never held elected office.

That's a point she makes on her website: "I'm not a politician. I'm not part of the establishment. I'm a doctor."

Wehby's spokesman says she wasn't available for comment because she got called into surgery.

She joins four other Republicans who are trying to unseat Jeff Merkley. The Democrat is seeking re-election for the first time, which could explain the crowded field, says Oregon Republican strategist Greg Leo.

"That's basically the time you can take out a U.S. Senator," he says. "And that's why I think there's all the interest."

But the winner of the GOP primary will have to contend with the fact that there are about 180,000 more Democrats in Oregon than Republicans. It's been more than a decade since the last time a Republican won statewide office.