Wehby soundly defeats Conger

The Portland doctor will take on incumbent Merkley for U.S. Senate seat

By Lily Raff McCaulou / The Bulletin / @LilyMcCaulou

PORTLAND — Republican Monica Wehby will take on Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley for a seat in the U.S. Senate this fall.

Wehby, 52, is a pediatric neurosurgeon who lives in Portland. The first-time candidate gained the early support of national Republican party leaders and overcame some unflattering recent revelations about past relationships to soundly defeat her main rival, Jason Conger, in Tuesday’s primary election.

Conger, 46, is a Bend attorney who has served in the Oregon House since 2010.

“Tonight, we are sending a message that this Senate race will not be decided by the ugly kind of politics that people in Oregon and across the country are sick of,” Wehby said in a statement at her campaign headquarters in Oregon City.

Conger said he’ll take time to decide what to do after his Oregon House term expires.

“I’m not bitter about losing at all,” he said Tuesday night. “I’m kind of disappointed. … Winning is better than losing, I can tell you that.”

Mark Callahan, Timothy Crawley and Jo Rae Perkins were also in the running but never gained momentum.

In the race for money, Wehby outraised Conger nearly 4-to-1. Financial filings show she raised $1.2 million through April, compared with Conger’s $340,000, which included $20,000 of his own money he loaned to his campaign.

The race attracted national attention, not all of which was welcomed by the eventual winner.

The Oregon Democratic Party filed a federal complaint this month, alleging Wehby’s ex-boyfriend illegally helped her campaign. Andrew Miller, president of Stimson Lumber and one of the top GOP donors in the state, gave more than $30,000 to a political action committee that paid for ads attacking Conger. Under federal law, a PAC is prohibited from coordinating with a candidate’s campaign. Wehby has said she and Miller are “friends” and declined to elaborate.

The complaint alleges that the nature of Wehby’s relationship with Miller amounts to illegal coordination between the candidate and the PAC. Wehby and Miller have both denied wrongdoing.

Wehby also made headlines in recent weeks when police reports from three past incidents came to light.

In 2007, her ex-husband accused her of “ongoing harassment” as their divorce was being finalized. In 2009, he again called the police over a dispute about their custody agreement.

And in 2013, Miller, of Stinson Lumber, called the police and accused Wehby of “stalking” him around the time of their breakup.

Wehby dismissed news about the police reports as political attacks, saying the incidents involved personal matters.

Also Tuesday, Merkley, 57, cruised to an easy victory over his opponents, William Bryk and Pavel Goberman.

— Reporter: 541-410-9207, lraff@bendbulletin.com