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Sources Say: Will Kitzhaber pay at the polls for fiancee's past?

How much damage has the news about Cylvia Hayes done to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's re-election chance, if at all?

That's the question on the minds of political insiders following the avalanche of allegations against Hayes of influence peddling and her own admissions of a sham marriage and planned marijuana grow operation more than 16 years ago. But the only independent poll taken since revelations started coming out shows Kitzhaber with a big lead over Republican challenger Dennis Richardson. The DHM Research poll conducted for OPB and Fox 12 shows Kitzhaber leading Richardson by a margin of 50 percent to 29 percent, with 15 percent undecided and 5 percent for minor party candidates.

Part of the poll was taken before the first stories, however, so it may not reflect where voters stand with less than three weeks to go before the Nov. 4 general election. Expect attention to focus on any differences in the polls released between now and then.

Meanwhile, there are other issues

The controversy over Hayes is obscuring practically every other issue in the governor's race, including one that is important for addressing the growing affordable housing crisis.

During the City Club debate that happened two days after the first critical story about Hayes broke, moderator Dave Miller of Oregon Public Broadcasting asked both Kitzhaber and Richardson if they would sign legislation repealing the state ban on requiring developers to include a certain number of affordable units in their housing projects.

Kitzhaber answered by saying he would sign such a bill. But Richardson refused to answer the question, saying it depended on the wording of the bill and what else it contained.

The Portland City Council has repeatedly tried to repeal the ban on so-called inclusionary housing without luck. The 2015 Oregon Legislature is expected to take the issue up again.

Merkley may get caught in backlash

Despite the headaches the revelations about Hayes are causing Kitzhaber, some campaign veterans are finding black humor in them.

Although one is willing to tell their jokes on the record, at least one insider has noted that many Democrats support the issues at the heart of them, including allowing recreational marijuana and allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and complete their education. In fact, if Hayes' sham marriage had been to a woman, it would have been a liberal trifecta.

But one wag thinks the news about Hayes also may be hurting Democratic Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley. The theory is, the stories are making Monica Wehby, his Republican opponent, look normal.

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