Political parties pour cash in tight race for Oregon Congress

A race for Congress in the outskirts of Portland becomes an expensive race that both sides deem worthy of a major investment.

Groups allied with the Democrats have just invested $3.8 million to support civil servant Jamie McLeod-Skinner in the District 5 race stretching southeast from Oregon’s largest city. And Republicans have invested more than $3 million to back his opponent, Lori Chavez-Deremer, former mayor of Portland suburb Happy Valley.

The district, which once covered most of the Oregon coast, was drastically redrawn in the redistricting when Oregon won one seat, from five to six. The district lost coastal areas of Oregon and now extends deeper inland. He had been represented for 14 years by Kurt Schrader, a moderate, but the much more progressive McLeod-Skinner upset him in the primary.

McLeod-Skinner is an engineer, small business owner, emergency response coordinator, and she served as the acting city manager of Talent, Oregon, according to her website. Efforts to reach his campaign were unsuccessful.

“Jamie began his public service managing the repair of schools and hospitals in war-torn Bosnia and Kosovo and led organizational change, mediated community disputes and managed teams during crises,” according to his site. Campaign website. “Jamie is committed to lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs, helping families get ahead in this tough economy, and implementing proven solutions to fight crime.”

Political climate

The Democrats’ redistricting plan hasn’t made the district any easier for a Republican, said Ben Roche, vice chairman of the Linn County Republican Central Committee in District 5. But he thinks the area’s political climate will help the GOP on several issues there. , including crime, energy and education.

“This is a top-10 or top-15 race across the country,” Chavez-Deremer campaign manager Jihun Han said. “We are getting the support we need.” The race is classified as a (narrowly pro-Democratic) toss, “and it’s racing against an extremist”, which makes it winnable.

McLeod-Skinner made her position clear in a video outlining why she ran to unseat her own party’s incumbent, Schrader. “He’s not addressing the climate crisis, and he’s not addressing attacks on our democracy. It does not address the crises our working families face right now, whether it is housing, health care or child care. It is not part of the solution; it is part of the problem.

She hammered Schrader for taking money from the fossil fuel industry, for removing renewable energy provisions from the Build Back Better bill and for opposing the impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

“She has a history as a radical activist,” Roche said. “She talks a lot about the transformation of our society, in terms of awakened political and identity issues.”

Han said that while Schrader was backed by Joe Biden, McLeod-Skinner was backed by Elizabeth Warren. “She ran on an ultra-progressive new green deal, climate change, Medicare for all. That’s what propelled her.

retail politician

Chavez-Deremer, by contrast, is an excellent retail politician with a history of being bipartisan, Roche said. She led Happy Valley, a growing suburb now home to around 25,000, as mayor for eight years in this fashion.

Portland has captured the nation’s attention with its aggressive BLM protests – including repeated attempts to burn down the federal courthouse – and police defunding policy in the wake of the 2020 death of George Floyd. While the unrest was mostly confined to the city of Portland’s downtown, crime then skyrocketed and spread to suburban areas, Roche said.

A Black Lives Matter protester seen during a riot in Portland, Oregon on August 1, 2020. (Noah Berger/AP Photo)

Chavez-Deremer, a small businesswoman married to her high school boyfriend who became an anesthetist — they own several clinics — has made homelessness one of her main issues. Addressing homelessness is something compassionate conservatives like her get, Roche said.

While some cast it as an affordability issue, Roche said, Chavez-Deremer sees it more as a mental health and addiction issue. Drug addicts and mentally ill people cannot hold jobs or pay rent.

And the addiction is driven by Oregon’s increasingly permissive drug laws. Even possession of small amounts of hard drugs like fentanyl, crack and heroin has been reduced to a misdemeanor, with a $100 fine that can be waived if the defendant signs an affidavit promising to seek treatment. But there’s no follow-up, Roche said.

And that ties into a Washington issue that Chavez-Deremer wants to address as a congressman. “Lori wants stronger border security and getting drugs off the streets,” Roche said.

“Every state is a border state now,” Han said.

Roche said he met the contestant at a party several years ago and came to visit the manufactured home factory where he works because of her relationship with homelessness.

Property crimes are also not enforced. Drug addicts and homeless people are increasingly leaving their camps to steal in the suburbs. The theft of catalytic converters from cars – Priuses are a particular target – has reached such proportions that a cottage industry has sprung up to help people secure the parts in their own vehicles, Roche said. He credited Metro Police with a recent major bust of a catalytic converter theft ring.

Schools in crisis

Chavez-Deremer sees schools in a state of crisis, Roche said. The issues go beyond what many parents across the country have been worrying about lately. Oregon has spent big on health care and education for decades, but has little to show for it. It ranks at the bottom of education. “I saw us as low as 47th.” And while the state recently passed a new corporate tax, school enrollment is down and test scores are down. He said testing requirements had been eliminated during the COVID shutdowns and as a result some colleges were hesitant to accept students from Oregon. “My wife works for the school district. We see it every day.”

Roche said a brewing energy crisis is an area of ​​great concern for Chavez-Deremer. The state has banned nuclear power and recently shut down a coal-fired plant, and some progressives are also advocating cutting out hydroelectricity to restore rivers to their natural state.

But in the meantime, the alternative sources have not been implemented. With its cloudy climate, Oregon isn’t ideal for solar power, and wind and wave power fall far short of providing alternatives, Roche said. Oregonians fear they may be next on the list of California-style blackouts.

Dan M. Berger

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