Monica Wehby

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Monica Wehby
Dr. Monica Wehby.jpg
Personal details
Born (1962-05-07) May 7, 1962 (age 56)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Jim Grant (Divorced 2007)
EducationUniversity of Notre Dame (BS)
Baylor College of Medicine
WebsiteCampaign website

Monica Wehby (/ˈwɛb/ WEB-ee; born May 7, 1962) is an American physician and politician from the state of Oregon. She was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate from Oregon in the 2014 election against Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley.

Her candidacy attracted national attention after she released a widely praised television advertisement that featured a former patient explaining how Wehby had saved her unborn daughter's life. However, the subsequent scrutiny uncovered allegations of stalking and harassment made against Wehby by former partners and found that significant parts of the policy platforms on her website had been plagiarized. Wehby struggled following these and other issues and ultimately lost the election to Merkley by a large margin, 55.8% to 37.1%.

Early life and education[edit]

Wehby was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was a Certified Public Accountant, and her mother was a registered nurse.[1] Her grandfather immigrated from Lebanon.[2][3]

Raised a Catholic, she graduated from Father Ryan High School in 1979[4] and went on to earn a BS in Microbiology and a BA in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame.[1][5]

Wehby graduated from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, where she served as student body president, senior class president, and chair of the medical student section of the Texas Medical Association.[1] She completed a neurosurgery residency at UCLA Medical School in 1995 and a fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine in 1997.[1] In 1998, she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she became director of pediatric neurosurgery at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel.[1]

Early political career[edit]

In 2004, Wehby led an unsuccessful statewide campaign for Ballot Measure 35, which would have loosened Oregon's medical malpractice regulations, limiting damages recovered for patient injuries caused by a healthcare provider's negligence or recklessness. The measure failed by 896,857 votes (50.02%) to 896,054 (49.98%).[6]

In 2007, she was elected President of the Oregon Medical Association and in 2009, she appeared in nationwide television advertisements warning about possible problems with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).[5][6] In 2011, she was elected to the board of trustees of the American Medical Association.[5][7]

2014 U.S. Senate election[edit]

Declaration and early developments[edit]

In October 2013, Wehby announced that she would seek the Republican nomination for the United States Senate seat held by first-term Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley. She said that "I want our kids to have the same opportunities that we had. I'm really concerned when I look at the way things are going we may be the first generation that can't say that their kids are going to be better off."[8] In the primary election, she faced information technology consultant Mark Callahan, State Representative Jason Conger, attorney Tim Crawley and former Chairwoman of the Linn County Republican Party and nominee for Mayor of Albany in 2010 Jo Rae Perkins.

Much of her campaign focused on criticism of the Affordable Care Act and Merkley's support for it, with her slogan of "Keep Your Doctor, Change Your Senator".[9][10] She also criticized primary opponent Jason Conger for voting to set up a state-run insurance exchange.[11] Instead, she proposed allowing people to "purchase an insurance plan with pretax dollars" and "buy insurance across state lines" as well as expanding health savings accounts and letting people have catastrophic coverage.[12]

"Trust" advertisement and national attention[edit]

In late April, Wehby released an advertisement that received significant attention. Called "Trust", the minute-long ad was narrated by a former patient of Wehby's, who was advised to terminate her pregnancy after an ultrasound discovered a congenital disorder with her unborn daughter's spinal cord. However, Wehby successfully performed surgery after the patient's daughter was born and she survived. The ad was widely praised and drew national attention to her campaign and to the Oregon Republican primary. As Republicans were hoping to retake control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, it was hoped that Wehby's profile as a successful surgeon and moderate Republican, combined with Merkley's middling popularity and the disastrous rollout of Cover Oregon, the state's Affordable Care Act insurance exchange website, would result in Oregon coming into play as a competitive race.[1][13][14][15][16][17]

While Wehby drew the support of the Republican establishment and the National Republican Senatorial Committee and endorsements from national politicians such as Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney,[1][18] she received criticism from conservatives for her moderate political positions on issues such as immigration, abortion and same-sex marriage.[6][19][20] She was also criticised by primary opponent Jason Conger for her support of the Healthy Americans Act, co-sponsored by Oregon's other U.S. Senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, and Utah Republican Bob Bennett, which Conger said was "90 percent there with Obamacare" because it contained provisions that people purchase government-approved insurance plans. Wehby responded that it was "a good plan; it was a market-based approach" and said that she never supported the entire bill and did not think uninsured people should be mandated or enticed into buying health insurance.[6] The battle between the more centrist, establishment-supported Wehby and the more conservative, grass-roots-supported Conger was seen as symptomatic of a Republican Party that had failed to win a statewide election in Oregon since then-U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith was re-elected in 2002.[1][21][22][23]

Increasing scrutiny[edit]

In early May, a poll released by the conservative polling organisation Vox Populi Polling showed Wehby leading Merkley by 45% to 41%. However, her candidacy also began to receive greater scrutiny.[24] After an interview with the Willamette Week editorial board, the newspaper endorsed Jason Conger for the Republican primary, saying that although they "probably agree on more issues with Wehby than we do with Conger", there was "no contest" when it came to "preparation, knowledge of the issues and an ability to express the results of clear thinking." They said that she "fumble[d] her way through" the interview, "waffled endlessly" and was "all over the map" on the Affordable Care Act and gave "befuddling answers [that] were at times disingenuous."[25] Likewise, The Bulletin also endorsed Conger over Wehby, saying that she gave "convoluted statements" to questions about various issues and added that "her grasp of political issues beyond health care is limited, and she has no experience in the complex give-and-take of lawmaking."[26] Wehby also declined to participate in the only live televised Republican Senate primary debate, something which the debate organisers said they couldn't ever remember happening before.[27] Although The Oregonian endorsed her, they criticised her for declining to appear at the debate, saying that "wimping out in this fashion will simply call attention to her one significant weakness as a candidate, which is a lack of legislative experience that might make her seem unprepared for elective office... a capable candidate in her position should seize opportunities to prove herself to voters, not run from them."[28]

Wehby was also questioned about her links to businessman Andrew Miller, a major Republican donor, who had contributed heavily to efforts to support her and oppose Jason Conger. They were reported by The Oregonian in October 2013 to be dating, although Wehby characterised their relationship as "friends".[1][29][30] When asked if there was any collaboration between her campaign and the PAC financed by Miller, Wehby said that "there is absolutely no coordination between our campaign and the group."[1] The Democratic Party of Oregon filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, saying that it was "implausible" to think that Miller would not be privy to private information about her campaign plans and projects.[31]

In early May, it emerged that Wehby had performed several operations on the children of a woman who had a month previously been indicted on 43 counts of alleged medical abuse after forcing her children to have unnecessary surgeries.[32][33] Wehby, who declined to comment,[32] also received attention for her controversial willingness to perform tethered spinal cord surgery when other surgeons would not because MRI scans did not support the diagnosis. She said that she could "usually tell" if a child suffered from tethered spinal cord though other means, such as a description of the symptoms.[32] Wehby has called her advocacy for the surgery her "proudest professional achievement" and said "It was worth all the hassles and the slings and arrows. I know that I've changed the lives of so many kids that otherwise would not have been helped."[34] At the same time, a super PAC supporting Jason Conger launched a statewide ad campaign that criticised her for saying that repealing the Affordable Care Act was "not politically viable at this point. We can't get it repealed with [President] Obama in office. We have to focus on coming together with solutions."[35]

Stalking and harassment allegations; primary results[edit]

On May 16, four days before the Republican primary, Politico confirmed that Wehby had previously dated businessman and donor Andrew Miller and revealed that in April 2013, shortly after their relationship had ended, he had accused her of "stalking" him and "harassing" his employees after their relationship ended. Miller had called the police after Wehby entered his home uninvited and he considered getting a restraining order against her. Wehby stated to Politico that she was unaware Miller had filed a police report and said that "there really isn't much to it of consequence." Miller said that he regretted calling the police and was still friends with Wehby.[36][37] Three days later, The Oregonian further reported that in December 2007, as Wehby was going through divorce proceedings with her then-husband Jim Grant, he accused her of "ongoing harassment" and of slapping him during a dispute. He also called the police in December 2009 after she refused to leave his house following a dispute about seeing their children.[38]

In Oregon, all elections are conducted by postal voting. Ballots for the primary election were mailed to registered Republicans on April 30, with the deadline for returning them May 20. Wehby won the election by 134,627 votes (49.96%) to Conger's 101,401 (37.63%). Mark Callahan received 18,220 votes (6.76%), Jo Rae Perkins 7,602 (2.82%) and Tim Crawley 6,566 (2.44%), with 1,027 write-in votes (0.38%).[39] However, analysis by Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian found that support for Wehby dropped "precipitously" among votes that were sent in after the news of the stalking incidents broke, compared to those sent in before.[40]


After winning the primary, Wehby largely went to ground for three weeks. On June 10, in her first post-primary appearance, she attended a meet-and-greet with supporters in Oregon City, where she answered questions from reporters. Asked about the allegations of stalking and harassment, Wehby replied: "I think that the thing to learn from that is that I am a person who will stand up for what I believe in. I'm a person who doesn't easily back down. I will fight for Oregonians with very strong conviction. I'm a very committed, determined person."[41]

In July, Wehby's campaign revealed that she had raised over $955,000 in the second fundraising quarter. By contrast, Merkley had raised $1.8 million.[42]

On 6 September, a super PAC affiliated with the Koch brothers announced that it was cancelling all the television ad time that it had reserved in October, totalling almost $1 million, having previously spent heavily on Wehby's behalf. At the same time, a new Rasmussen Reports poll found Wehby trailing Merkley by 48% to 35%, compared to her trailing 47% to 37% in the firm's last poll of the race in May.[43]

In early September, Wehby's campaign aired a campaign ad featuring Ben West, who was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that overturned Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage.[44]

Accusations of plagiarism[edit]

On September 16, Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed revealed that Wehby's health care plan on her website, which had been published in November 2013, was almost word-for-word identical to a plan contained in a survey released by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS in June 2013. A spokesman for Wehby said: "Dr. Wehby is too busy performing brain surgery on sick children to respond, sorry."[45] The following day, Kaczynski noted that her website prominently featured a quote that was incorrectly attributed to former President Thomas Jefferson.[46] He then separately revealed that the economic plan on her website, which had been published in April 2014, was nearly identical to an economic plan that had been released by Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman in March 2014 and a 2012 economic growth plan from California Republican congressional nominee Gary DeLong. It also used some lines from the same Crossroads GPS survey.[47]

On September 17, Wehby's campaign admitted the charges of plagiarism, purged her campaign site of the offending sections and blamed her former campaign manager, Charlie Pearce.[48][49] Pearce, who had left to manage Republican Dennis Richardson's campaign for Governor of Oregon, denied the accusations, telling The Oregonian "I did not author the health care policy or economic policy plans."[50] An investigation by the Statesman Journal subsequently revealed that the plagiarism had been done by an employee of Meridian Pacific, a consultancy company working for Wehby, and not Pearce.[51]

On October 3, Kaczynski revealed that the new health care plan on Wehby's website had been plagiarised from primary opponent Jason Conger. When asked to comment, Conger said: "Maybe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."[52][53]


In late September, Wehby refused an invitation to participate with Merkley in a televised debate on October 23, which was to be hosted by KGW TV and The Oregonian. KGW executive news director Rick Jacobs said "I can't recall a major candidate ever refusing our offer to debate"[54] and political scientist Jim Moore said that her refusal to debate "goes against everything we know challengers ought to do -- have as many debates as possible."[55]

Wehby met with Merkley in the only debate of the campaign, hosted by KOBI TV, on October 14.[56] Both candidates painted the other as extreme and they clashed on issues including the minimum wage, which Merkley supported increasing and Wehby opposed increasing.[57]


Wehby describes herself as "personally pro-life,"[7] and has taken moderate positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, stating that the federal government should not be involved in those issues.[6][9][58][59][60]

She is politically pro-choice on the issue of abortion and reproductive issues.[61] She announced her support for same-sex marriage in a campaign ad.[62]

Results and analysis[edit]

Wehby was defeated by Merkley in the general election by a wide margin, receiving 498,191 votes (37.1%) to his 744,516 (55.8%). Political scientist Jim Moore summarised her campaign as "one disaster after another", blaming "very poor campaign management".[63] By contrast, Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian noted that Merkley ran a vigorous and professional campaign.[64]

Personal life[edit]

Wehby was married to Portland physician James "Jim" Grant before divorcing in 2007. She lives with the couple's four children in the Garden Home neighborhood of Portland.[6]


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External links[edit]

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Preceded by
Gordon Smith
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Oregon
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