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Pediatric neurosurgeon to challenge Sen. Jeff Merkley

Republicans landed a recruit Tuesday against Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), whose seat they hope to put in play in 2014.

Monica Wehby, a well-known pediatric neurosurgeon, announced her candidacy in a Web video.

"When I talk to small business owners they are very concerned about all these new regulations, new laws, new taxes coming out of Washington D.C.," Wehby says in an accompanying statement. "They don’t know whether to invest and grow their business, or hold back and see what happens to this economy. They don’t feel like they have a senator who is looking out for them.”

Wehby is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Randall Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore. She has served on the American Medical Association's board of trustees -- a position she resigned Tuesday in order to run for office -- and previously served as president of the Oregon Medical Association.

Merkley is not considered a top target and comes from a blue-leaning state, but Republicans have competed at the senatorial and gubernatorial level before, and George W. Bush took 47 percent of the vote in Oregon twice.

If Obamacare's problems persist, Republicans believe Wehby would stand to benefit more than other candidates, given her background.

Wehby first must win the primary. She faces state Rep. Jason Conger and businessman Sam Carpenter.

Updated at 11:46 a.m.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
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