by Katie Eyre
As primary election day approaches, many Republican voters have taken a keen interest in the high profile senatorial primary contest in the state between frontrunners Dr. Monica Wehby and Representative Jason Conger. I resolve to support whichever Republican candidate wins in this primary. However, we all should consider casting our primary votes for the candidate we believe can defeat Sen. Jeff Merkley this November.
As of a few days ago, I have become very concerned with Dr. Monica Wehby’s connection to a criminal child abuse case in Multnomah County described in a May 7 article by Nick Budnick of The Oregonian. I pray for the health and well-being of the child. While I do not believe Dr. Wehby knowingly did anything wrong, her connection to the criminal proceedings will impact her chances of beating Merkley should she win the primary, regardless of any facts.
The allegations are very serious and the victim is a small child. The criminal trial of the victim’s mother, Katherine Parker, for medical child abuse will likely occur after the primary election. Dr. Wehby is not a defendant. However she is a key defense witness – she’s the doctor who performed multiple surgeries that prosecutors believe were unnecessary and amounted to serial abuse by Parker of her child. In the criminal trial, Dr. Wehby will likely be required to take the stand where her medical competence will be under the lens of the prosecutors’ scrutiny as they attempt to prove the surgeries she performed were not medically necessary.
I have great respect for Dr. Wehby’s professional accomplishments and certainly am not passing judgment about the merits or outcome of this case. Rather, I am a woman in a leadership position who has been through the intense public scrutiny and pressure of political campaigns. And I realize that if Dr. Wehby is the Republican nominee, the child abuse trial will become a focal point – perhaps the sole focus – of the opposition’s general election campaign.
Imagine how Oregon Democrats are celebrating the prospect of Republicans nominating a candidate who is damaged and distracted by an on-going criminal proceeding. Are we willing to take a gamble on a first-time candidate who has never been vetted and now is tainted in the very key issue – healthcare – that she has made central to her candidacy?
These aren’t just my worries. Consider what Pacific University political science Professor Jim Moore told The Oregonian about Dr. Wehby: “It raises questions about her judgment, and for the last 25 years voters have said judgment is very important.” Moore further added, “And remember, she’s not very well known in this state. She’s staking her whole campaign on her expertise in health care and her competence. So this is going to raise questions about the center of who she says she is. Because of the nature of these kinds of things, if she wins the primary, this is going to stretch out during the entire campaign.”
Do Republicans want to take this kind of chance? For the sake of Oregon, please consider my caution based on these recent events when casting your primary votes. We have a real opportunity to defeat Jeff Merkley this November and win a statewide race for the first time since 2002. It is my hope that Republicans do not throw it away.
Katie Eyre is a Republican former state Representative from Hillsboro