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Campaign Watch: The week in Oregon politics

Jun 20, 2014


JONATHAN J. COOPER
By the Associated Press

SALEM — Democratic Sen. Jeff Jeff Merkley went after Republican U.S. Senate candidate Monica Wehby on taxes. Wehby hired a new campaign manager. And Gov. John Kitzhaber hauled in the dough. Here's a look at the week's most interesting developments in Oregon politics.

HOUSE REPUBLICAN WEBSITE:

Kitzhaber's has had to answer for the problems at Cover Oregon, and House Republicans think their Democratic counterparts should too.

The Republicans’ political action committee launched a website this week aiming to tarnish legislative Democrats with the same Cover Oregon political stain that's dogged Kitzhaber.

Their website, www.takebackor.com , features a video mashing up optimistic statements by Kitzhaber and House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Portland Democrat, with last year's cheery Cover Oregon commercial and news reports about the Cover Oregon problems.

The GOP site calls Cover Oregon a “national embarrassment” and says “Salem Democrats have failed Oregonians for too long.”

Cover Oregon's online enrollment system never launched for the general public and is the subject of investigations by the FBI and a GOP-controlled congressional committee.

“Leadership at all levels should be held accountable for what's going on in the state,” said Kara Walker, a spokeswoman for the House Republicans.

All House Democrats and more than half of the Republicans voted for the 2011 legislation that created Cover Oregon.

CAMPAIGN MUSICAL CHAIRS:

Wehby's campaign manager, Charlie Pearce, is moving over to run Dennis Richardson's campaign for governor.

Pearce takes over for Tom Maginnis, who steered Richardson through his not-particularly-competitive primary as a volunteer, said campaign spokeswoman Meredith Glacken. Maginnis had planned all along to become a senior adviser during the general, Glacken said.

“I'm looking forward to joining Dennis’ team and doing all that I can to make sure his general election effort is successful,” Pearce said in an email.

Pearce will be working in his new gig with a former rival. Jordan Conger, who started this week as Richardson's field director, ran his father Jason Conger's campaign for U.S. Senate, which he lost to Wehby.

Michael Antonopoulos is taking over as campaign manager at Wehby's operation. Antonopoulos was previously the manager of Matt Whitaker's run for the GOP Senate nomination in Iowa. Whitaker finished fourth in a field of five candidates. Before the Iowa race, Antonopoulos worked in GOP politics in California.

He'll face the task of getting Wehby's campaign back on track and ensuring she has enough money to overcome the fusillade from Merkley's team.

MERKLEY SLAMS WEHBY ON TAXES:

Merkley is continuing his effort to keep Republican rival Wehby from gaining any traction in the race.

Merkley's campaign focused this week on attacking Wehby's past statements on economic issues and taxes. Merkley links his opponent's statements on tax policy to Mitt Romney's positions during the 2012 presidential campaign, charging that Wehby would lower taxes for millionaires and corporations.

Antonopoulos said Merkley's trying to “shift blame from his own failed record,” and Wehby's economic policies are guided by making it easier for Oregonians to live and work every day.

KITZHABER FUNDRAISING:

Kitzhaber has hauled in big checks from labor unions and a Native American tribe in the past week, helping him widen his fundraising advantage over Richardson.

The Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua tribe contributed $50,000. Unions representing firefighters and laborers combined to chip in $80,000.

All told, Kitzhaber's bank account has swelled by $175,000 since last Friday. He has about $845,000 to spend.

Richardson's campaign reports $77,000 in available cash, about $4,200 of which was raised over the last week.

RICHARDSON'S EMAIL LIST:

Richardson's campaign is using an extensive list of email addresses that his legislative office obtained through publics records requests of state agencies.

When Richardson compiled his list two years ago, Democrats complained that he was sending unsolicited spam to a large swath of the public who had given their email address to state agencies. One Richardson newsletter that included four large attachments caused so much traffic that a server crashed, slowing Internet access in the Capitol and limiting public access to the Legislature's website.

The Oregonian reports that Richardson's campaign filed a public records request to his legislative office, obtaining the email addresses of more than 420,000 people.

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Follow AP political reporter Jonathan J. Cooper at http://twitter.com/jjcooper .

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