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Merkley re-election ad ties Wehby to national GOP

By JONATHAN J. COOPER
Of the Associated Press

SALEM — Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley is rolling out a new television ad that seeks to align his Republican rival with the national GOP agenda.

The ad began airing over the weekend and ramped up on Monday, said Andrew Zucker, a Merkley campaign spokesman.

Since last month's primaries wrapped up, Merkley has been fighting aggressively to define himself and Republican nominee Monica Wehby while she has little money to fight back.

“National Republicans want Wehby in the Senate to vote for their priorities,” the ad says. It shows video of Wehby alongside Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who have publicly backed Wehby.

Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Portland and a newcomer to politics, is trying to introduce herself to Oregon's Democratic-leaning electorate as a new kind of Republican. She has taken moderate positions on abortion and gay marriage, saying the federal government shouldn't be involved.

Wehby has been largely absent from the public eye since police reports surfaced days before the primary describing domestic disputes with an ex-husband and a former boyfriend.

Wehby's campaign manager, Charlie Pearce, disputed the charge in Merkley's ad. He pointed to her stances on abortion and gay marriage and her support for extending unemployment insurance as areas where she differs from Republicans in Congress.

“It's not surprising that Jeff Merkley would run a negative and patently false TV ad so early in the campaign,” Pearce said. “He's clearly afraid of the threat that Dr. Wehby poses to his long political career.”

Merkley has a significant advantage in making his case to voters. Campaign finance records show he had had $3.7 million in the bank at the end of April, compared with $350,000 for Wehby, who also had to spend money to win a contested Republican primary.

Her primary campaign was bolstered by big spending from outside groups. But the super PACS have been silent since the May 20 primary.

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