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Our view: Merkley-Wehby race leaves us unconvinced; Walden seems destined for permanent position

We weren't quite sure what to think when The Oregonian newspaper in Portland declined to endorse either candidate in Oregon's U.S. Senate race between Republican Monica Wehby and incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley. The more we think on it, however, the more we agree.

We can't endorse Wehby, whose campaign has been riddled with both questionable decisions and troubling questions about her personal life. Her campaign came in for criticism for lifting parts of her written position papers directly from national ultra-conservatives such as Karl Rove and her primary opponent Jason Conger. She also had to answer questions about accusations that she was harassing an ex-boyfriend and her ex-husband. Wehby did nothing to sway us to her side in her debate performance in Medford on Oct. 14, when she seemed overwhelmed by the setting and outperformed by Merkley.

Merkley, on the other hand, is a polished politician after having served five terms in the Oregon Legislature and one term in the U.S. Senate. It seems, however, that when he moved from Salem to Washington, D.C., he forgot to check the new boundaries of his district, because as far as we can tell he's still doing a heckuva job representing his home base of Portland.

Merkley is a party guy, loyally supporting Democratic leadership, and is described as a close ally of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Those are not bad things in and of themselves, but those politics are not always in the best interests of this state, and particularly of this state's underrepresented rural areas. Merkley can't even bring himself to openly support Sen. Ron Wyden's modest proposal for increasing timber harvests. So he still has some convincing to do before he'll get our support.

We're sure Merkley will win this race. We hope that when he has the security blanket of a comfortable win, he can step outside of his old boundaries and work for some common-sense solutions that will help the rest of the state.

Greg Walden, congressman for life?

Oregon's 2nd District Rep. Greg Walden is heading for another in a string of blowout victories in one of the safest districts in the country for a Republican.

NPR, in a Tuesday feature story on Walden's race against challenger Aelea Christofferson, noted none of his opponents over the years has received more than 35 percent of the vote. Christofferson's supporters say they will consider 40 percent a ray of hope for the future. She's unlikely to reach that figure, given an all-but-invisible campaign.

We have nothing against Christofferson, a sharp, well-spoken business owner from Bend, and in fact we probably agree with her more than with Walden in a number of areas. But we've said it before and we'll say it again: Greg Walden represents his enormous, mostly rural, conservative district very well.

That's why we recommend voters re-elect him. The reality is, the 2nd District is likely to be his as long as he wants to keep it.

Despite his lofty perch in the Republican leadership and his safe seat, he makes a point of flying home most weekends and traveling from the Columbia River to the California border. He doesn't make a point of reaching out to Democrats in his travels, a fact that gets him criticized by folks who would like to challenge him in public meetings, but he doesn't need to.

We would prefer to see him reach out more often in the House, where he is nothing if not a reliable supporter of the GOP agenda. A leadership position is great, but sometimes real leadership means stepping away from the party line and putting the good of your state and country first.