Monica Wehby

The Return of Monica Wehby

Monica Wehby resurfaced today on Oregon's political map by announcing a relaunch of her campaign website, which she says will be dedicate to electing Real Republicans  and holding all politicians accountable.

Monica Wehby resurfaced today on Oregon's political map by announcing a relaunch of her campaign website, which she says will be dedicate to electing Real Republicans  and holding all politicians accountable.

Unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Monica Wehby is returning to the political ring with a PAC, a legislative scorecard and data analytics that she says will hold politicians accountable.

Wehby disclaims any interest in running for office again. In an email to her previous supporters, she writes, "We are dedicated to bringing us back to the sort of fundamentals that define realistic Republicans who can win in Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest."

She elaborated on realistic Republicans, "We need the backing of fellow Real Republicans and other like-minded Americans dedicated to holding our representatives and government servants accountable to fiscally conservative principles, dedication to pro-business polices and private sector job growth, as well as the protection of individual freedom from government intrusion into our private lives."

The announcement of a relaunched Monica PAC seemed a nudge ahead of much new content. The website still has a lot of leftover material from Wehby's race to unseat Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley last year. Her email to past supporters mentions a legislative scorecard, but it doesn't appear on the website, either.

Nor does the name appear of the "lawmaker who doesn’t stand up for the principles central to our democracy and backs policies that undermine your individual liberty," which the email highlights. Speculation is this refers to Senator Chuck Riley, D-Hillsboro. A call to the Monica PAC office asking for a link to the legislative scorecard wasn't fruitful.

All in all, the announcement of Monica PAC didn't exactly have the feel of a complete sentence.

Wehby, who has returned to full-time work as a pediatric neurosurgeon, gave an interview to Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian in which she said she wasn't ready to drop out of politics, even if not running herself for office. " I may have lost my election fight, but I’m not giving up on my dedication to public service. It’s too important to the future of Oregon and our nation."

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Wehby's announcement was the use of analytics to ferret out the views of Oregonians. "Monica’s Scorecard will soon incorporate real-time data on what Oregonians really think – what they say to their friends, family, and others on the Internet and social media, not just to pollsters. We will make our elected officials and government bureaucrats understand what they don’t want to, what real voters actually need and want, not just what they are told by special interests."

Using the names Monica PAC and Monica's Scorecard are tells that Wehby may have other political ideas in mind. In a state with few high-profile Republicans, Wehby has some degree of name familiarity. She could argue that her failed Senate campaign was a trial run that helped her learn the ropes and become a more viable statewide candidate.

With just about every major statewide office in play, Republicans could use some candidates. The real message of Monica's PAC is that she is warming up for a future political role.

First Lady Faces Conflict of Interest Charge

Governor Kitzhaber and First Lady Cylvia Hayes woke up this week reading a Willamette Week article accusing Hayes of conflict of interest, which the governor denies.

Governor Kitzhaber and First Lady Cylvia Hayes woke up this week reading a Willamette Week article accusing Hayes of conflict of interest, which the governor denies.

Willamette Week delivered a pre-election wallop to Governor John Kitzhaber's re-election campaign this week with an investigative report suggesting First Lady Cylvia Hayes may have benefitted financially from her special relationship with the governor. 

Rep. Dennis Richardson, Kitzhaber's underdog Republican challenger, seized on the story and said via a statement,"The latest scandal shows once again that the State of Oregon is being run more like a mafia than a public entity. The governor and first lady are not above the law."

Kitzhaber denies any wrongdoing by himself and Hayes. He said Hayes' contracts were reviewed carefully for any conflict of interest. "We were very proactive," Kitzhaber told The Associated Press. "Very rigorous and very transparent." AP reported Hayes declared three conflicts of interest in August 2013. Kitzhaber said Hayes has no current contracts that touch on state government.

The conflict of interest charge against Kitzhaber and Hayes comes amid a continuing controversy involving GOP Senate challenger Monica Wehby, whom Buzzfeed has accused of plagiarizing health care policy talking points from Karl Rove and her Republican primary challenger, Rep. Jason Conger. 

Neither charge may affect the outcome of the November election. Polls show Wehby trailing incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley by double digits and Kitzhaber's re-election has been assumed since he announced his bid for an unprecedented fourth term. However, the charges mark a significant turn in elections in Oregon, known as one of the most politically polite places in the country.

The piece about Kitzhaber, and its timing just before general election ballots arrive in voter mailboxes, is vintage Willamette Week. The lengthy story about Hayes' work was written by Nigel Jaquiss and carried the edgy headline: "First Lady Inc./Cylvia Hayes has two careers. She pursues both out of the governor’s office."

Jaquiss' piece details when Kitzhaber and Hayes became a couple and earlier brushes with conflict of interest that popped up before Kitzhaber was elected to his third term as governor. Neither Kitzhaber nor Hayes agreed to be interviewed by Jaquiss.

A Ho-Hum Election with Interesting Implications

In an election overshadowed by a court ruling outlawing same-sex marriage discrimination, only three out of 10 Oregonians bothered to fill out and send in ballots. For Democrats, it was a ho-hum primary, but for Republicans, it was a battle for what some called "the soul of the GOP."

Little unexpected occurred at the state level, but there were some dramatic and interesting decisions at the local level. Clackamas County voters retained two commissioners facing a challenge, Multnomah County voters overwhelmingly elected a new chair and commissioner. Washington County voters returned three incumbent commissioners, including two who faced vigorous challengers from the political left.

The GOP Race for a Senate Seat

In just a few weeks, Oregonians will begin to vote for candidates in the May primary. One of the most contentious races this cycle is the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. State Rep. Jason Conger (R-Bend) and Portland physician Monica Wehby are fighting it out for the opportunity to face incumbent Senator Jeff Merkley this fall.

The race has all kinds of drama for inside politicos — from the ongoing battle of a conservative vs. moderate candidate fight in Republican primaries to how the candidates are funded. Of particular interest of late is the Wehby/Andrew Miller of Stimson Lumber romantic relationship and the so-called lack of coordination between Wehby’s campaign and the pro-Wehby superpac funded, in part, by Stimson. All of this drama makes for interesting political gossip among the chattering class in Oregon.