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Merkley wins re-election by wide margin

PORTLAND — Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley was re-elected Tuesday to the U.S. Senate.

He defeated Republican Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Portland.

At 11 p.m. Tuesday, Merkley was leading Wehby with 550,038 votes, or 55.2 percent of the vote to Wehby's 376,600, or 38 percent.

Libertarian Mike Montchalin had 3 percent and Pacific Green candidate Christina Jean Lugo had 2 percent of the vote.

In Jackson County, Merkley secured 50.6 percent, while Wehby received 42.4 percent

Wehby burst onto the political scene with a compelling resume and strong fundraising. But she couldn't recover from a series of missteps.

Old police reports showed her ex-husband and a former boyfriend both made harassment complaints against her. She also used health care and economic plans taken from other Republicans, playing into Merkley's effort to align her with unpopular Republicans.

He echoed that theme in his victory speech, asserting that Oregonians had rejected the policies put forward by Charles and David Koch, wealthy businessmen who spent heavily on advertisements backing Wehby.

"It's just a simple contrast," Merkley said, pointing to differences in their approaches to tax cuts and outsourcing jobs overseas. "The Koch brothers want to restore the (George W. Bush) tax cuts. Let's instead invest in education so our children can thrive and the next generation can thrive."

Merkley first was elected in 2008, barely defeating an incumbent Republican with the help of new Democratic voters eager to cast ballots for Barack Obama's presidential bid.

In his first term, Merkley became well-known among Democratic activists as a champion for progressive causes. He also has played a prominent role in efforts to crack down on Wall Street, prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians, and end the war in Afghanistan.

He pushed for changes to Senate rules that allowed Obama to advance stalled nominations to federal courts and the executive branch.

In his re-election campaign, Merkley downplayed his progressive bona fides, playing up his working-class background as the son of a millworker-turned-mechanic. Originally from southern Oregon, he grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood of far east Portland.

With a second term, Merkley said he would fight for more changes to Senate rules, stiffer trade regulations and more transportation spending.

Conceding defeat, Wehby thanked her family and supporters, and she wished Merkley well.

"You have sent a message that it's time to put America and Oregon back to work," she told supporters, according to her prepared remarks. "That it's time for our elected officials to focus on making the lives of the people they serve better."

Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

Jeff Merkley
Monica Wehby