Open 4th, 5th and 6th District Seats Create GOP Opportunity
Politico reports three of Oregon‘s six congressional districts are in play in the fall general election, based on polling numbers shared by GOP sources. Republicans sense an opportunity to land one or more of the open seats.
Fifth District Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader lost his primary race, Fourth District Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio is retiring and the newly created Sixth District has no incumbents.
During redistricting debates last year in the Oregon legislature, the three contested districts were drawn to give Democrats a voter registration edge. But disappointment in the performance of President Biden has eroded his public support, which could depress Democratic turnouts allowing Republicans to win close races. At least that’s what Republican political operatives hope happens.
However, the Supreme Court’s decision this summer to overturn Roe v. Wade has energized pro-abortion advocates and may not have been reflected in the polling cited by Politico. Likewise, the FBI raid at former President Trump’s Florida mansion to seize presidential papers has galvanized conservative voters. A closely contested three-way race for Oregon governor also could play a factor in how general election voting splits up.
[Campaign officials said non-affiliated gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson plans to submit petitions to the Oregon Secretary of State today with more than the required 23,744 signatures to qualify her for the November 8 general election ballot. News reports indicate Johnson’s campaign spent more than $200,000 to assist in signature-collection.]
Jamie McLeod-Skinner defeated Schrader in the Democratic primary by appealing to progressive Democrats. Schrader contended only he could win the general election against a Republican in a district with a slim Democratic voter registration edge.
McLeod-Skinner, who has run for public office twice unsuccessfully, will face Republican Lori Chavez-DeReimer who campaigned in the primary for a stronger Southern border and parental rights. Chavez-DeRemer is a former mayor of Happy Valley and is expected to do well in Clackamas County. McLeod-Skinner, who lives in Central Oregon, polled well in Deschutes County and the small portion of Multnomah County within the Fifth District.
A GOP-funded poll conducted in late July showed Alex Skarlatos only trailing Democrat Val Hoyle by a 46 to 41 percent margin. Skarlatos ran an aggressive race against DeFazio in 2020 and is trying again this year against Hoyle, Oregon’s Labor Commissioner whom DeFazio has endorsed. The Fourth District is considered safely Democrat, but Republican polling suggests Biden’s low rating in the district (16 percentage points behind his 2020 presidential election showing) could be a drag on Hoyle in the fall campaign. Hoyle lives in Eugene, the largest city in the congressional district, where she previously served as a state representative. Skarlatos gained fame for thwarting a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train.
Political polling this far out from an election is notoriously unreliable. Plus, events between now and November 8 could influence voter attitudes and turnout.
The biggest surprise in Politico’s reporting – and perhaps the GOP’s best hope – is the 7-point lead held by Republican businessman Mike Erickson over Democratic State Rep. Andrea Salinas. The poll, conducted by a Republican firm, revealed Biden’s support in the Sixth District is 20 points lower than what he received in 2020. Erickson, who has partially self-funded his campaign, has outraised Salinas so far. Salinas chaired the House committee that drew congressional and legislative maps.
Political polling this far out from an election is notoriously unreliable. Plus, events between now and November 8 could influence voter attitudes and turnout. Biden’s approval rating is already showing improvement as gas prices decline and after several bipartisan victories in the Senate and congressional approval of a scaled-back version of his Build Back Better initiative with climate action and health care provisions.
The re-election bids of Democratic First District Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Third District Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Republican Second District Congressman Cliff Bentz are pretty much done deals. So is the re-election of Senator Ron Wyden, who played a pivotal role in negotiating the final shape of the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden just signed into law.
In other election news this week, a Multnomah County Circuit judge allowed a controversial Portland charter reform proposal to remain on the ballot in the fall, though in a separate ruling he suggested the proposal’s wording should be clarified. The Portland Business Alliance challenged the reform proposal for violating the Oregon’s Constitution provision requiring a “single subject”. Judge Stephen Bushong disagreed. He did agree with plaintiff Next Up that the ballot title failed to explain adequately the ranked-choice voting provision. Next Up argued the measure would be easier for voters to assess if the three main provisions were described in bullet points. The reform proposal will replace mayoral executive authority with a city administrator, create city council districts with three council members each and switch elections to ranked-choice voting.