Same-sex Marriage Advocate Backs Republican In Senate race

The gay Oregon man who helped overturn the state's decade-old ban on same-sex marriage is featured in a campaign ad for a Republican Senate candidate -- and he now finds himself on the receiving end of some criticism from LGBT activists.

Ben West and his husband, Paul Rummell, became high-profile figures in Oregon's gay rights community this year when they challenged the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage and won.

Now West is backing Monica Wehby, the Republican nominee and same-sex marriage supporter who's challenging Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democratic incumbent with a long record of fighting for LGBT rights.

It wasn't too big of a surprise that Wehby is unveiling her support for same-sex marriage.

"This is Oregon. This is not Texas," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said, referring to the state's liberal tendencies. "I don't see a political risk."

It was, however, a big step for West and his husband to lend their names to Wehby's campaign.

But Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, trails Merkley by double digits. While her race has become more competitive than expected, political observers still rate it as a likely Democratic seat. Experts say she needed to make a splash to keep the pressure on.

"It seemed like a powerful, daring and bold move, but it also seems very wise given the landscape of Oregon," said O'Connell.

As polls continue to show increasing support for same-sex marriage, O'Connell argued Republicans will be paying close attention to the outcome in Oregon. "Depending on how this turns out for Wehby, this could be a blueprint for how Republicans could move forward," he said.

Read more from Ashley Killough at CNN.com

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