2014 elections — Winner of Republican primary will face the Democratic nominee in November

Local Republican voters will have plenty of candidates to choose from this May when they cast their vote for U.S. Senator.

Five people have filed to win the position currently held by Democrat Jeff Merkley, whose term concludes at the end of this year. Once the primary election is decided, only one of them will move on to challenge the winner of the Democratic race, which features two candidates challenging Merkley.

The Republican candidates offer diverse backgrounds.

Jason Conger currently serves as a state representative in House District 54, which includes his hometown of Bend. Monica Wehby, a Portland resident, comes from a medical background and is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Randall Children’s Hospital. Tim Crawley, also of Portland, held jobs at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Middle East Policy Council, and the United States District Court. Salem resident Mark Callahan works as an IT consultant, and Jo Rae Perkins of Albany has twice filed for city office and owned an investment and financial planning company before returning to Oregon State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Each candidate has expressed views on several of the pressing issues facing the state and the country. When it comes to the federal budget, for example, Perkins would support a balanced budget amendment. She wants to analyze each agency to determine its constitutionality, and believes defunct agencies or dormant departments should be closed.

Callahan similarly believes the federal government should live within its means.

“No matter what your political stripe or party affiliation, we are all fiscal conservatives to some extent,” he said. “We need to focus on keeping our government accountable for spending ‘our money.’”

Crawley said he feels that any budget compromise between Republicans and Democrats will require across-the-board spending cuts.

“For Republicans, this means military spending must be shifted to the home front,” he said. “Democrats will have to loosen their spending grip on centralized social programs and (give) those responsibilities back to state and local governments.”

Wehby pointed out that the United States spends 40 cents on the dollar to pay for debt servicing, and believes if that doesn’t change, the country will end up in financial turmoil similar to Greece or Detroit. She therefore supports a balanced budget amendment.

“This is generational theft,” she said. “It’s a moral imperative that we don’t leave our kids with our legacy of debt.”

In addition to supporting a balanced budget amendment, Conger would like to end all forms of corporate welfare, impose a moratorium on pork-barrel projects and earmarks, and temporarily freeze nondefense and nonveterans discretionary spending until deficit reduction targets are met. In addition, he said he would like to only allow budget increases by a supermajority vote.

When it comes to federal health care, another front-and-center issue, Conger said he wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered health care reform that drives down cost.

“We need true health care reform that addresses the real problem of people with pre-existing conditions,” he said. “We need true health care reform that is the same for Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country.”

Wehby said she believes that the Obama administration is constantly changing its rules and regulations, and delaying mandates.

“The system is so flawed that it needs to be repealed and replaced with patient-centered, market-based approach,” she said.

Perkins agreed with her fellow competitors that the Affordable Care Act has to go. She insisted that the federal government lacks the constitutional authority to pass laws forcing coverage.

“This is, at best, a matter left to the citizens of individual states to decide if they want mandated health insurance,” she said.

Callahan expressed a similar view, stating that government should not be involved in the health care decisions of Americans.

“Health care decisions are between a doctor and a patient — that is it,” he said.

Some candidates broached the topic of job creation as well. Perkins stated that the duty of federal government is to create favorable conditions for business growth, not put up roadblocks through excessive regulations.

“The government oversteps its authority when it picks winners and losers with tax credits and subsidies,” she said.

Crawley believes many jobs have gone overseas, leaving many without work. He consequently believes the government should support more local regional production.

“We must incentivize home production goods and work toward a trade surplus to replenish our status as a productive and admirable nation,” he said.

Wehby recently embarked on a tour of 100 small businesses in 100 days to “listen to what is ailing the workforce in Oregon.” She has heard concerns about the uncertainty regarding federal healthcare requirements and business regulations, as well as the changing tax climate.

“Government should be encouraging growth, not squeezing small businesses out,” she said.

The May primary election will be held on May 20. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed out to state residents Friday. Whoever wins the Republican race will earn the party’s nomination and run against the Democratic victor in the November general election.

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