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Sources Say: With no votes counted, Merkley acting like winner

Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley apparently has decided to stop running scared and begin the victory lap in his re-election campaign.

During this year’s primary election, Merkley’s campaign repeatedly sent out desperate-sounding emails to supporters seeking more and more donations. They frequently claimed national Republican forces had targeted his seat for defeat and lined up Super PACs against him. But ever since Monica Wehby won the Republican nomination, Merkley’s emails have stressed that she has no chance to defeat him in the November general election.

For example, a June 12 email from Deputy Campaign Manager Andrew Zucker includes the results of three independent polls that all show Merkley with a double-digit lead over Wehby. The most recent one was a KATU/Survey USA poll that has Merkley ahead of Wehby 50 percent to 32 percent. Of course, Virginia U.S. House Republican U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor apparently wasn’t worried about first-time candidate David Brat, either.

For her part, Wehby is sending fundraising letters telling folks that her campaign was “gaining national attention and now surpassing my liberal incumbent opponent in the polls.”

Wehby’s letter says a “recent independent poll” put her in front of Merkley 45 percent to 41 percent.

The letter did not specify the polling company or provide any additional information about the poll.

Opponents absent in Kitzhaber campaign

On the other hand, Gov. John Kitzhaber is running a different kind of re-election campaign than fellow Democrat Merkley.

Kitzhaber’s campaign is not naming his Republican opponent, Southern Oregon state Rep. Dennis Richardson, in its news releases and fundraising pleas. Instead, Kitzhaber’s campaign is focusing on his accomplishments in office, such as winning passage of the largest public school funding appropriation in state history. And when it does mention the opposition, the campaign uses such vague, but ominous terms as “forces gathering both inside and outside of Oregon,” as illustrated by a recent fundraising letter.

That’s typical of a campaign run by incumbents, at least until the polls show they should panic. You’ll know Kitzhaber is in trouble if he or his surrogates start calling Richardson out by name.

Kitzhaber’s campaign has gone as far as fudging on whether the governor will show up for the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association’s mid-July convention in Salem. It’s traditional for gubernatorial candidates to share the stage at ONPA’s annual gathering, something Kitzhaber’s campaign seems reluctant to do this election.

Candidate Kitzhaber has attended the ONPA convention three times in the past.

Inslee sees a future for CRC

Is the Columbia River Crossing still alive? Gov. John Kitzhaber declared the controversial project dead after the 2014 Oregon Legislature declined to move forward with a state-led project. But during the weekend, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said it could still happen.

Speaking on “Straight Talk,” KGW-TV’s weekly public affairs program, Inslee blamed a handful of Republican legislators in Clark County for the supposed demise, but said the Washington Legislature could get back on board if voters replaced them with CRC supporters. Inslee said if that were to happen, Olympia lawmakers could either revise the “currently configured proposition” or start a new process for replacing the Interstate 5 bridge between Portland and Vancouver, Wash.

Some of the Washington opponents, including Republican state Rep. Liz Pike of Camas, already are trying to start talks with Oregon legislators through what she calls the Bi-State Bridge Coalition. The first meeting did not produce a new proposal.