By Denis C. Theriault
After days of speculation, following a statement Friday that said former U.S. Senate candidate Monica Wehby had been courted to seek the Republican nomination for governor next year, Wehby on Wednesday now says she won't run after all.
Wehby -- in a statement sent to The Oregonian/OregonLive, which first reported her interest -- said she wants to focus on her practice as a pediatric neurosurgeon.
She also said she'll continue promoting her political action committee, MonicaPAC, which launched in May in hopes of supporting conservative causes and candidates in Oregon. At the time, Wehby said she had no plans to put her own name on a ballot again.
"While heartened by the interest I've received about a potential run for Oregon Governor since reporters approached Monica PAC about private conversations on the subject, at this time my focus remains on my family, my patients, and Monica PAC's mission to help unite Oregon Republicans to victory in 2016," Wehby said in her statement. "I am not seeking the office of governor of this great state, but remain dedicated to helping improve Oregon for all Oregonians."
Wehby's announcement comes amid questions about who had talked to her about a campaign. Her advisers last Friday said Democratic and Republican leaders had asked her and that she was "listening," especially to those concerned about the fallout from Gov. John Kitzhaber's resignation. But no leading Republicans or Democrats came forward. And her advisers declined to name any supporters or surrogates.
Wehby didn't return a message seeking comment. Her advisers have previously declined to make her available for interviews.
Bill Currier, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, said he spoke with Wehby about her decision earlier Wednesday. If she'd remained interested, party officials would have met with her, like any other candidate, to talk about "viability and preparedness."
"That just hasn't happened," Currier said.
The six-month filing window to file for next year's elections opens later this month. Currier said that's about when party leaders would prefer to know who's running for statewide office and who's still seriously thinking about it.
"I don't ever say to a candidate we don't want you running," he said. "But if someone is not ready, meaning the resources aren't lining up or its not their time in terms of their background, we'll have an honest conversation."
Asked if he ever had that kind of conversation with Wehby, he said only, "I concur with her that this is not the correct time."
Currier also acknowledged that though Wehby had told him she had been approached by supporters asking her to run for governor, "I'm not familiar with anybody approaching her."
Wehby -- in citing her family and her lucrative medical career when saying no-- follows another formerly interested Republican candidate seen as moderate on social issues. Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, said last month he wasn't ready to give up his practice as an orthopedic surgeon.
That leaves Bud Pierce, a Salem oncologist, as the only remaining candidate looking to take on appointed incumbent Gov. Kate Brown. Brown, who took office in February after Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned amid influence-peddling allegations, hasn't officially announced a run -- even though she's assembled a campaign apparatus and begun raising money.
Wehby's MonicaPAC will remain a presence in next year's elections even without her name on a ballot.
MonicaPAC has plans to donate use of a data tool -- Trusted Messenger, developed by her advisers -- that's meant to help candidates track and shape voter sentiment. House Republicans' Promote Oregon Leadership campaign committee has begun using Trusted Messenger.
Currier said the Oregon Republican Party also expects to join in. 'It's very solid," Currier said. "We intend to utilize it."
(c)2015 The Oregonian