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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.

New Poll Has Mixed Results For Merkley

U.S. Senate

A new public radio poll shows that incumbent U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley may be more vulnerable than previously thought.

The survey, commissioned by Oregon Public Broadcasting, found that heading into this year's election, less than half of voters have a favorable opinion of the first-term Democrat.

The poll of 400 registered Oregon voters did have some good news for Merkley: nearly twice as many voters have a favorable opinion of him than have a negative opinion. But more than a third of Oregonians polled either have no opinion or haven’t heard of him at all.

John Horvick of Portland polling firm DHM Research says that's a potential Achilles' heel for Merkley.

"It presents a real opportunity for whoever the Republican candidate is, with an effective campaign, to at least make an attempt to try to define who he is to Oregonians," says Horvick.

The GOP primary for U.S. Senate is coming down to a race between Portland pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby and central Oregon state representative Jason Conger. Wehby is already garnering a lot of attention on the state and national stage. But Merkley still maintains a sizeable fundraising lead.

The Oregon primary is May 20.