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For Merkley's position

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Portland, is among the challengers for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley's position. Wehby answers questions at a meeting in Madras in December, while Walter Meininger, chairman of the local Americans for Prosperity, waits to talk with her.Dr. Monica Wehby is among a field of five Republicans who hope to challenge U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley in the November 2014 election.

Wehby, who was invited to a local meeting last month by the Madras Tea Party and Jefferson County Americans for Prosperity, spoke to the group about topics ranging from health care to gun policy to her opponents.

A pediatric neurosurgeon, who has practiced for 17 years in Portland, Wehby said she has been an outspoken critic of "Obamacare," referring to the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010.

As part of the ACA, insurers can no longer deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, nor apply annual or lifetime caps on certain services. The provisions are phased in over a 10-year period, but many became effective on Jan. 1, when uninsured people were supposed to be signed up for a health care plan.

However, enrollment on the plan's websites — both in Oregon and nationwide — have been plagued with problems, and some insurance companies canceled policies, despite assurances that policyholders would be able to keep their insurance policies. Wehby criticized Merkley for supporting the ACA.

"I think Oregonians value honesty; either he knowingly misrepresented this, or he didn't know what he was voting for," said Wehby, who favors incremental changes in health care. "It didn't have to be this way."

Referring to the cancellations of insurance in Oregon, she commented, "This is not a glitch in the plan, this is the plan — to force you to buy more than you'll use."

"I believe in family, in the individuals," she said. "I don't believe in government that says, 'You do it my way.'"

Wehby, a divorced mother of four, said one of her sons asked her why she would leave a job she loves "to take a job where people say mean things about you?"

By looking at hard facts, Wehby said she made the logical decision to run based on evidence. "I just can't sit back and watch this anymore," she said.

On the subject of green energy, and subsidies for alternative energy sources, Wehby said, "I don't think we should be picking winners and losers. All these subsidies drive up costs; I don't think that's fair."

Even though she has served as a trustee for the American Medical Association, an organization that supports gun control measures, and is a past president for the Oregon Medical Association, Wehby said she ran for the AMA position as an agent of change, "to try to get in and start to turn it."

Wehby, an advocate for Second Amendment rights, noted that her grandfather had a farm, and "We used to go out and shoot pigeons as a kid."

During the two and one-half years she served as a trustee before resigning to run for office, Wehby said, the AMA considered hundreds of resolutions. "Any time there's something that didn't support the Second Amendment, I didn't support that," she said.

Asked with whom she identifies in the Senate, Wehby said, "I'm going to be a Republican. I'm going to look at every issue independently; I'm not a sheep that's just going to follow the herd. I'm not going to take a label."

Her best friend in the current Senate is Tom Coburn, R-Okla., also a medical doctor, who left his practice to run for the Senate. He advised her "to go out there and be who you are."

"We've got to have people that are in this for the right reason," she said.

In response to a question about whom she finds the most formidable candidate in the primary, Wehby said she hadn't had yet had a chance to sit and talk with the other candidates. "I'll let you know in a couple months," she said.

The Madras Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity have invited all Congressional candidates to visit "to interview them all," said Jim Kollen, chairman of the Madras Tea Party.

The groups have hosted meetings with all six of the candidates challenging Merkley, including Republicans Jo Rae Perkins, of Albany; Mark Callahan, of Salem; Jason Conger, of Bend; Tim Crawley, of Portland; Wehby; and Independent candidate Karl King.

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