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We are endorsing incumbent Jeff Merkley, but not with a great deal of enthusiasm.

In his endorsement interview, the senator displayed a woeful lack of understanding about issues in Bend. The senator repeatedly talked about central and eastern Oregon, as if interchangeable, and when asked about what he has done specifically to represent issues here, talked about ranchers and prattled on about his work with the Postmaster General to keep open post offices in Antelope and Fort Rock.

"Ordinary people need advocates," the senator explained, without irony.

Only when prompted did he talk specifically about federal funding for fighting forest fires and Federal Aviation Administration allowances for drone testing. (Although, yes, we were impressed that the senator is the first U.S. Senator to complete an Iron Man-length triathlon, as he did in the past two years.)

Probably one of Merkley's greatest qualities in this race is that he supports expanding healthcare coverage, unlike his opponent who has rallied against Obamacare. Moreover, Monica Wehby's opposition to Senator Ron Wyden's plan for timber management also concerns us. Those two issues alone are enough to garner our endorsement for Merkley.

However, it is important to note that much was made about Wehby's alleged elusiveness during the campaign, canceling a scheduled interview with the Source, failing to show up for an endorsement interview with Willamette Week and refusing an invitation from KGW and The Oregonian to appear in a televised debate. However, when we finally did connect with her for an endorsement interview, we found Wehby approachable and friendly. For her endorsement interview, she called directly, was forthright with her answers, called our editor "sweetheart" and was pleasant (except when asked to say something, anything, nice about her opponent).

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