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Sources Say: Mud flies in water campaign

Charges and countercharges are flying in the Portland Public Water District board campaign — and the measure hasn’t even made the ballot yet.

Former City Hall employee Marshall Runkel filed an elections complaint with the Oregon secretary of state’s office on Oct. 23 against a paid petition circulator. It accuses the unnamed circulator of making a false statement about the measure by saying it would “prevent the privatization of the Bull Run system,” where Portland gets most of its water. The Elections Division notified the campaign of the complaint on Oct. 24.

In response, co-chief petitioners Kent Craford and Floy Jones said the circulator’s statement was accurate and filed their own elections complaint against Runkel, who worked for former Water Bureau Commissioner Erik Sten. It accuses Runkel of being “a consummate City Hall insider clearly engaged in a campaign to prevent ballot access for the PPWD initiative.” It notes he now works for EcoTech LLC, which has a financial interest in City Hall-funded programs.

Field of Merkley challengers getting crowded

All of the Republicans lining up to run against Democratic Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley are either right-wing extremists or out-of-touch fat cats. At least that’s what Merkley wants you to think.

Six Republicans have so far announced for Merkley’s seat. They include state Rep. Jason Conger, businessman Sam Carpenter and, most recently, pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby. In response, Merkley’s re-election has sent out a series of emails accusing most of them of being backed by the Tea Party and anti-abortion activists or having too much money.

“The last thing Oregon needs is one more senator who represents the top 1 percent instead of the rest of us, who goes to the mat for polluters, and thinks politicians should stand between women and their doctors,” Merkley campaign spokesman Tim Leahy wrote in a recent email.

The filing deadline is still months away.

Extend Obamacare enrollment window

In the meantime, Merkley seems to be recalibrating his position on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

In an Oct. 29 email, Merkley denounced Wehby, his newest Republican challenger, as “a prominent Portland surgeon who has been a national spokesperson against the Affordable Care Act.” The email also quoted the chairman of the Oregon Tea Party as praising Wehby as a “staunch advocate against the evils and destructive nature of Obamacare.”

But that same day, Roll Call reported that Merkley was now supporting efforts to extend the enrollment period for Obamacare care because of problems with its website. Two days later, The New York Times named Merkley as one of several Democratic U.S. senators who is afraid the ongoing problems with the enrollment process could hurt their re-election chances next year.

“This is more a show-me moment. We were all confident that the system was going to be up and operating on Oct 1. And now we’re not confident until it’s real,” the front page article quoted Merkley saying after emerging from a closed-door briefing on efforts to fix the problems.