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Oregon GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby shows gay marriage support

Oregon GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby shows gay marriage support
Monica Wehby greets supporters at her headquarters in May. (STEVE DYKES / AP)

Monica Wehby, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee running in deeply blue Oregon, on Tuesday did something that's a rarity for a GOP candidate: She highlighted her support of same-sex marriage.

In a TV ad released by her campaign, Wehby receives the backing of Ben West, a plaintiff in a lawsuit from earlier this year that successfully struck down Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage.

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"Marrying my husband was the happiest day of my life," says West, who narrates the 30-second TV ad, which showcases pictures from his wedding day. "I was proud of Oregon and our country. But there's a lot of work left to do, whether it's standing up for equality, or for the unemployed, or for the next generation. We need leaders who have the courage to do what's right, that's why I support Monica Wehby for Senate."

The ad from Wehby's campaign comes as she looks to distance herself from attacks by incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who is vying for a second term.

Merkley has painted Wehby as an extreme right-wing candidate, though she is relatively moderate on issues like abortion, saying she opposes federal restrictions and that it's a personal decision. During the GOP primary, Wehby echoed similar sentiments on same-sex marriage, noting that she does not "have a problem with gay marriage.... I think it's not a government decision. I think it's a personal decision."

Despite the fairly moderate views, Wehby trails by wide margins in Oregon, where Republicans have not won a statewide race since 2002.

On same-sex marriage, Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, said Tuesday she was humbled to have the endorsement of West and his husband, Paul Rummell. 
"Their courage to stand up for their family, and against inequality is inspiring and embodies the spirit I will serve with as Oregon’s next senator," she said in a statement. 

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio are the only Republicans in the Senate to support same-sex marriage.

Merkley's spokeswoman, Lindsey O'Brien, applauded Wehby on Tuesday, but also took a swipe at her, saying, "Jeff welcomes Monica Wehby's election-eve change of heart in support of marriage equality."

"Jeff's been a proud and vocal supporter of the freedom to marry, and a leader fighting for equality for all Americans, for years," O'Brien said.

Follow @kurtisalee and email kurtis.lee@latimes.com

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