Always Be Nice to the Person Who Answers the Phones: Oregon Senate Edition

Collins, center, is the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One hidden lesson from the recent Senate primary in Oregon: Always be nice to the lowest staffers in your office, because you never know where they might end up.  

Back in 1998, Rob Collins was a young staff assistant on Capitol Hill working for Republican Rep. Frank Riggs. The congressman’s district director , Jason Conger, would call in to D.C. from northern California in order to talk to the chief of staff, and Collins was the one who patched him through. Fast forward nearly two decades: Conger is a state representative making a bid for the U.S. Senate in Oregon, while Collins is executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  

The committee was less than subtle about its preference for pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby in the Republican primary over Conger, much to the legislator’s disappointment. But it wasn’t due to a long-held grudge by Collins (though that would make for a much better story).  

Some national GOP strategists simply believed the Wehby was uniquely positioned to put the race into play this fall. Wehby won the May 20 primary, and will face Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in the general election.  

When pressed for comment, Collins demurred.  

“Conger ran a good campaign that will hopefully be a springboard for greater public service in the future,” he told me recently.  

Senior staffers should take warning that today’s staff assistants may not be as kind in the future.