Republican Senate Candidate Backs Same-Sex Marriage In New Ad
Monica Wehby, the Republican nominee for Senate in Oregon, comes out in favor of same-sex marriage in a new ad:
A Republican Senate candidate in Oregon will unveil a television commercial Tuesday that highlights her support for gay marriage — a reflection of the rapidly shifting politics of the issue.
Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, has been attacked by Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley as just another cookie-cutter conservative. The first-time candidate supports abortion rights and gay marriage, and she’s looking for ways to show voters in the blue state that she’s different.
“My opponent keeps trying to paint me as an extreme right-wing Republican, and that’s actually not who I am,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m a very independent-minded person, like our state. I’ve always felt government should stay out of it. This isn’t a change in thought for me at all.”
The man who stars in the ad, Ben West, was a plaintiff in the lawsuit that successfully struck down the Oregon Constitution’s ban against same-sex marriage early this year. He and his husband, Paul Rummell, were intrigued by Wehby’s support for marriage equality ahead of the May Republican primary, in which her opponent was a socially conservative state representative.
West and Rummell reached out to the campaign and got to know Wehby over sweet tea, eventually agreeing to appear in a commercial for her.
The 30-second spot, created by the GOP firm FP1 Strategies and shared exclusively with POLITICO, includes photos and clips from the couple’s wedding and ends with a picture of the two and their adopted foster child.
“Marrying my husband was the happiest day of my life,” West says to camera. “I was proud of Oregon and our country. But there’s a lot of work left to do. Whether it’s standing up for equality or for the unemployed or for the next generation, we need leaders who have the courage to do what’s right. That’s why I support Monica Wehby. I know she’ll fight for every Oregon family, including mine.”
Republicans in blue states endorsing gay marriage is not totally new. Three openly gay GOP House candidates have featured their partners in campaign materials, including Richard Tisei in Massachusetts, Dan Innis in New Hampshire and Carl DeMaio in California.
But no Republican Senate candidate has ever run an ad like this statewide. Even in a blue state like Oregon, where gay marriage is more widely accepted, running this ad in 2010 or 2012 may have been judged too risky because it would keep conservatives home.
If Wehby won, she would join four Republican senators who support same-sex marriage: Illinois’ Mark Kirk, Ohio’s Rob Portman, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.
Wehby’s spot comes at a crucial time. Merkley’s approval numbers earlier this year suggested the freshman could be vulnerable, but every public poll has shown her persistently trailing by double digits.
Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Koch-backed super PAC, is spending $1.6 million attacking Merkley this month, but late last week they canceled their October reservation — a sign that they will redirect the money toward higher-priority races more likely to win control of the Senate for the GOP.
Wehby’s campaign said this new ad will be backed up by a significant statewide buy.
Wehby, the mother of four teenagers, said in an interview that Republicans should support less government interference across the board.
On the issue of abortion, she said: “As Republicans, we believe in limited government. Why would we want [the feds] to have any reach into our personal and private lives?”
Wehby likely needs all the help she can get in this race. While there was some belief earlier in the year that Senator Jeff Merkley was vulnerable, the polling that has been conducted since Wehby won the Republican nomination earlier this year has not shown the race to be competitive at all. The first term Senator has had a consistent lead in the polls, and presently has a 14.5 lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average. This ad probably won’t help Wehby overcome that deficit, but it’s nonetheless good to see a Republican talking sense on this issue rather than pandering to the party’s socially conservative base.
Here’s the ad: