Andrea Salinas and Mike Erickson overcame swamped primary fields to emerge as the first Democratic and Republican nominees for Oregon’s new 6th Congressional District.
The district, created as a result of Oregon earning a new House seat due to strong population growth in the decade ahead of the 2020 census, has rearranged the political landscape in the Beaver State's western tier. The new district swallows up parts of the neighboring 5th and 1st Districts to subsume the state’s capital of Salem, along with the Portland suburbs of Beaverton and Tigard, as well as more rural areas to the west, such as Yamhill and Dundee.
Salinas overcame the obstacle of living outside the lines of her district to clinch her party's inaugural nomination. Salinas had the benefit of already holding office in Oregon. She joined the state House of Representatives in 2017 and was the chairwoman of the House Healthcare Committee for two years, starting in 2019. Salinas was later the vice chairwoman of the same committee, as well as the chairwoman of the redistricting committee in 2021 and 2022.
Democratic rival Carrick Flynn put up a fight but couldn't find immediate success in his first-ever contest. With his background in pandemic preparedness, the Yale Law School graduate argued he was equipped to help the country prevent a repeat of COVID-19.
Flynn had jumped out to an early but ultimately fleeting lead on Tuesday night, riding monster fundraising he benefited from, especially from a PAC backed by 30-year-old billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, who founded the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), which shocked local party leaders.
Erickson, a businessman who runs a supply chain and logistics firm he started, stormed out of obscurity to win his first-ever contest in the Republican primary.
Despite running against three candidates who were expected to lead the crowded field due to their experience in politics, Erickson won over voters with his promises to address problems as varied as government overreach to establishing energy independence for the United States and shoring up elections against what he called fraud.
Erickson beat out Ron Noble and Jim Bunn, two of the three more experienced politicians running on Tuesday. Bunn represented Oregon’s 5th District for two years in the mid-'90s after he left the Oregon Senate, where he was a member from 1987 until 1995.
The other competitive candidate was Amy Ryan Courser, who won the Republican primary for the 5th District in 2020, though she later lost to incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader.
Election forecasters at FiveThirtyEight assume the new district will allow Democrats to keep control of the western half of the state, projecting it will have a partisan lean of Democratic plus-11. The new House map gives Democrats more control over the state. It includes three new safe Democratic districts and removes two competitive ones.
House Republicans need to net five seats in the 435-member chamber to win back the majority they lost in 2018.
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One wildcard in the November 6th District race will be the role of independent voters. Since Oregon instituted its “Motor Voter” law in January 2016, the number of unaffiliated voters has continued to grow. As of March 2022, the state has more unaffiliated voters than Democrats or Republicans. However, due to Oregon’s closed primary system, those voters were locked out of the process and cannot cast a ballot until the general election in November.