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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.

Wehby Defeats Conger In Oregon GOP Senate Primary

John Rosman
OPB News

In Oregon's GOP Senate primary, Monica Wehby handily defeated Republican rival Jason Conger for the right to take on Democrat Jeff Merkley this fall.

Wehby posted a wide margin of victory despite some last-minute embarrassing revelations.

Wehby is a pediatric neurosurgeon whose run for Senate has attracted national support and national funding. But in recent days her campaign was rocked by reports that both her ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend had called the police during messy break-ups. Both claimed she was harassing them, although there were no formal charges in either case.

Wehby told her supporters on election night that Democrats were to blame for leaking the info to the press.

"We all make mistakes," she said. "And when I do I'm no different than the rest of you. I pick myself back up and I get going again and try to make things better. I promise you I'll continue to do that as your senator."

Wehby didn't speak to reporters after her victory speech. Her campaign manager said the GOP nominee will launch a media tour soon.

Pacific University political analyst Jim Moore said Wehby is going to have to start answering questions about her past.

"She's going to have to pretty quickly deal with those things to put it behind her," he said. "Remember, she's still not really known by people in the state even though she's won the primary, and she's got to spend the summer introducing herself to the electorate of Oregon to say why I should be here to replace Jeff Merkley."

Wehby was the more moderate Republican in the primary on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. But she has campaigned heavily against the Affordable Care Act. She will face Merkley as he seeks a second term in the U.S. Senate. The former Speaker of the Oregon House has a wide fundraising lead over Wehby, who's never held elected office.