Norma Paulus joins 4 top Democrats in group

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley has announced support from prominent women, including a former Republican officeholder, to head off potential criticism from the first woman nominated by Oregon Republicans for the U.S. Senate.

Norma Paulus of Portland, former Oregon secretary of state and a GOP candidate for the Senate herself back in 1995, is one of the five co-leaders of Women for Merkley.

The others are former Gov. Barbara Roberts, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Susan Castillo, former Democratic state senator and nonpartisan state superintendent of public instruction.

While she was state schools chief, Paulus herself sought the Republican nomination for the Senate seat vacated by Bob Packwood when he resigned in 1995. But she lost the special primary.

Paulus also broke with her party four years ago, when she endorsed Democrat John Kitzhaber for governor.

Merkley is seeking a second term against Monica Wehby, a Portland physician and the Republican nominee, who is making her first bid for public office.

"As long as I represent Oregon, I'll keep fighting to protect women's rights and women's health," Merkley said in a statement announcing the group's formation.

Among the actions championed by Merkley are his vote for the 2009 law that reversed a Supreme Court decision narrowing legal grounds for pay discrimination, votes in 2010 and 2012 in favor of broader remedies for victims of pay discrimination based on gender, and opposition to attempts by Republicans to restrict access by women to contraceptives.

Earlier this year, he was the first male winner of the Marilyn Epstein Pro-Choice Champion Award presented by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.

National Republicans have high hopes for Wehby.

But two recent surveys put Merkley ahead of Wehby. A Rasmussen Reports poll put him up by 47 percent to 37 percent in a sample of 750. A Public Policy Polling poll put him up 50 percent to 36 percent in a sample of 950. Both were conducted after the May 20 primary.

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