Pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby clinched the Republican Senate nomination in Oregon on Tuesday, beating out state Rep. Jason Conger.
Wehby will now face Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley — who handily won his primary — in an uphill race for Republicans. She led Conger 55 percent to 32 percent when the Associated Press called the race with 52 percent of precincts reporting.
Merkley is running his first Senate re-election race after unseating Republican Sen. Gordon Smith in 2008.
The blue-state seat has not been a top target for national Republicans, who must pick up a net six seats to regain the Senate majority. But Wehby's resume as a physician and strong first TV ad have Republicans optimistic they can expand the playing field into Oregon.
Last month, the state opted to dump its state-run healthcare exchange after spending six months struggling to get the dysfunctional website to work, putting the issue of health care squarely in the spotlight. Republicans are running against the president's health care law across the country.
Still, the opposition research on Wehby is already flying, and she will have to deal with some image issues straight out of the gate in a state already challenging for Republicans statewide.
On Monday, The Oregonian reported on documents showing Wehby's ex-husband accused her of "ongoing harassment" in 2007, while they were going through a divorce. Last week, Politico reported that Wehby's ex-boyfriend had called the police on her for breaking into his home and "stalking" him in the aftermath of their break-up.
The race is rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.