U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon says he will debate the Republican candidate who wins next Tuesday. He's surprised over the lack of public debates and critical forums between Jason Conger of Bend and Dr. Monica Wehby of Portland.
KBND news spoke to incumbent Jeff Merkley about the lack of critical public dialogue between the two assumed front runners:
"LORI: DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT AND I'M WONDERING IF YOU ARE WILLING TO DEBATE WHO EVER WINS NEXT WEEK. -JEFF: I ABSOLUTELY AM- WHEN I WAS RUNNING FOR THE SENATE I DID 100 TOWN HALLS ACROSS OREGON I TALKED TO PEOPLE OPENLY FROM EVERY PART OF THE STATE... THIS IS A GREAT EDUCATION FOR THE CANDIDATE- WHEN YOU GET INTO A RACE YOU DISCOVER HOW COMPLICATED THE WORLD IS. (for example) "HOW DOES THAT FOREST POLICY REALLY WORK SO THAT WE CREATE HEALTHIER FORESTS? WHAT HAPPENS IF WE DON'T RENEW THE HIGHWAY BILL? WHAT OCCURS IF YOU DON'T GET A SET ASIDE FOR SMALL PORTS- OUR INFRASTRUCTURE DETERIORATES AND OUR COASTAL PORTS ARE AFFECTED. SO THERE'S A HUGE EDUCATION PROCESS THAT GOES ON. AND THE CITIZENS HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW WHERE YOU STAND ON THE ISSUES- HIDING YOUR POSITION IS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN A DEMOCRACY."
"LORI: DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON THE FACT THAT MONICA WEHBY IS THE ONE WHO WON'T DEBATE- CONGER SAYS HE WILL.-JEFF: NO I'LL LEAVE THE PRIMARY TO THE REPUBLICAN ELECTORATE - BUT IN PRINCIPLE IT'S EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO BE WILLING TO DEBATE YOUR POSITIONS OPENLY. AND I'M NOT DIRECTING THIS TO ANYONE SPECIFICALLY- BUT THAT ANY CANDIDATE WHO HAS A STRATEGY OF HIDING WHERE THEY STAND IN ORDER TO PURSUE ELECTION......IS SOMETHING THAT.... (DOESN'T FINISH THOUGHT) AND I THINK THE NEWS MEDIA NEEDS TO PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE BY ASKING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS...
While The Oregonian has endorsed Wehby, the paper has also been very critical of her refusal to go on KGW-TV in Portland in a debate against Jason Conger.
The primary race has five candidates, but Conger and Wehby are considered the front runners due to fundraising and polling numbers.
Other candidates and political insiders have said that both candidates have little name recognition and haven't had very many revealing public appearances.