“We All Care about the Same Issues”

monica wehbly
Senate Candidate Dr. Monica Wehby talks to the LGBTQ Community
By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly

Dr. Monica Wehby wants LGBTQ Oregonians to know that she supports them. The strongly pro-marriage equality Republican Senate candidate is currently crisscrossing the state on her campaign trail, promoting her fiscally-conservative and socially-moderate message at venues including Pride celebrations. By phone and email, Dr. Wehby talked with PQ Monthly about her vision of the issues facing LGBTQ Oregonians, the Republican ideal of serving as a “big tent party,” and the danger that ensues when personalities overshadow principles in the electoral process.


PQ Monthly: To start, I’d like to hear your views regarding LGBTQ rights.


Dr. Monica Wehby: I think that it’s important that, as a senator, that I represent all Oregonians, not just one particular group. The LGBT community has all the same concerns that everyone else has — everyone is concerned about jobs, the economy, education for their children, healthcare. We should never discriminate against other people for any reason, be it for their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, or any other reason. That’s not who we are as a country. We were founded on the freedom to be who you are, not on the idea of a government that interferes in every part of your life. I think that’s very consistent with the Republican belief in small government and that the government shouldn’t be intrusive into our personal, private lives.


PQ: In some ways, your political philosophies are more in line with classical conservative thought than many other Republican political candidates we’ve seen in the modern era. How do you see your politics intersecting with the politics of the Republican party at large?


MW: Republicans are a big-tent party — there are people that view some issues differently, but we tend to all want more personal freedom and less government interference. I think my positions are completely consistent with that philosophy that we don’t want government interference where it doesn’t belong. I don’t think it belongs in our personal decisions; the government shouldn’t tell people who they should love, or what sort of families they can form. That’s just not the government’s purview. It’s pretty simple to me.


PQ: What are your thoughts on ENDA?


MW: I’m supportive of ENDA. I don’t think people should be discriminated against for any reason. There were actually quite a few Republican senators who signed onto that bill as well — I believe there were ten, including very strong conservatives like Orrin Hatch, Jeff Flake, and Patrick Toomey. I’m completely supportive of that legislation.


PQ: Speaking about the trans community — from your perspective, what sort of issues are trans Oregonians currently facing?


MW: Trans Oregonians are facing the same issues we all face as Oregonians; whether it be difficulty in finding a job, access to quality healthcare, or the cost of education, it’s important that our legislators offer substantive solutions over talking points. As your Senator, I will be a voice for all Oregonians.


PQ: A major concern for the Oregon trans community is access to trans-specific healthcare. How does your alternative proposal include access to the healthcare that Oregon transpeople need?


MW: The trans community is just one of many groups of Americans that face the problem of gaining access to quality, affordable healthcare. No matter the need, access is typically prohibited due to cost. As a doctor, I know the only way to bring down these costs is by instituting a more patient-centered, market-driven healthcare system. In doing so, we will be opening the door to all Americans in need of quality, affordable care.


PQ: If elected, what can you commit to do on behalf of Oregon’s trans community?


MW: As your Senator, I will fight for the trans community the way I fight for all Oregonians. I will be a trusted voice that will not stand idly on the sideline while good intentions turn into bad policy. My candidacy is about offering real solutions to the real problems facing Oregonians, and as your Senator I will commit to doing just that.


PQ: Shifting gears a bit — how about Referendum 301, concerning drivers’ cards for undocumented Oregonians?


MW: Oh, you mean driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants? I have a lot of concerns about that, because they passed that legislation back in Tennessee and repealed it because it tended to be a magnet for the drug trade and wasn’t shown to improve safety. The point of it is to improve safety, and it hasn’t been shown to do that. I understand that in New Mexico there have been concerns about that legislation as well.


PQ: Do you see any possibility for the current two-party system in politics changing or expanding? Could the Tea Party or other ideologically-driven groups play a role in that expansion?


MW: Again, I think that the Republican Party is a big-tent party, and we are very tolerant of differences in opinion amongst each other. That’s the strength of the party, that we are accepting of other people’s beliefs. The Tea Party is very fiscally conservative and pushes that strongly — they’re for lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, getting our debt under control — and those are positive goals. They’re huge issues for our country getting our fiscal house in order. I agree with them on those fiscal issues.


PQ: Speaking of getting our fiscal house in order, your platform emphasizes reforms and protections for social security and the larger social safety net for those becoming aged or disabled. One of the things that the LGBT community faces right now is that a lot of us — just like everyone else — are getting really old.


MW: It happens to the best of us! (Laughs)


PQ: Exactly! And it’s becoming more and more salient for LGBT Oregonians. How do you intend to make social security sustainable in the long run?


MW: That’s the key. The Baby Boomers are aging, and fewer and fewer people are paying into the system as our population is shifting. We’ve got to find a way to keep these programs from becoming insolvent, and of course we have to protect the people who have paid into these systems over their lifetime and keep our commitments to our seniors. We have to start changing it, though — we keep having more people aging into the social security system, and living longer. We have to be smart about this, or else these systems won’t be around by the time we need them. There are all sorts of ways to do this, and everything needs to be on the table — there are lots of proposals out there that need to be looked at.


PQ: On a personal level, what’s been challenging for you about this race?


MW: The biggest issue for me has been times when we stop focusing on the issues and start engaging in personal attacks. I don’t like my family and friends being dragged into it — I’m the one running for Senate, and God bless ‘em, they didn’t have any choice about being pulled into this! (laughs) I’m doing everything I can to keep them from getting embroiled in this, even when it means I have to be the one that takes the hit. This has been the biggest challenge for me. I think that in an election, we should be looking at who has the best ideas for the country, and who has the best ways to make life better for Oregonians and the country at large. When you start to attack the person, you get away from the issues that people actually care about. Margaret Thatcher used to say that she was happy when people started making personal attacks, because it meant that she had won on all the political arguments. We need to be talking about the issues that people care about — they don’t ultimately care about the candidate’s personal lives, they care about their own lives, their jobs, their families, their education, their healthcare. The hardest part has been dragging my children and family into this race when they really have nothing to do with it.


PQ: In conclusion, what’s your message to LGBTQ Oregonians?


MW: It’s very simple: I plan to be a senator who represents all Oregonians, and really, at the end of the day, I think we all care about the same issues.