Jamie McLeod-Skinner took advantage of Oregon’s new House maps to beat Rep. Kurt Schrader in the 5th Congressional District Democratic primary, setting up a tough November campaign to keep the seat in Democratic hands.
McLeod-Skinner, an attorney, will face a November battle from the eventual Republican nominee, still to be called between investment executive Jimmy Crumpacker and former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer.
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House Republicans need to net five seats in the 435-member chamber to win back the majority they lost in 2018.
Oregon's primary was May 17, but a call in the 5th Congressional District race was delayed due to mail-in ballot problems. The Associated Press on Friday called the race in favor of McLeod-Skinner, who had 57% of the Democratic primary vote to about 43% for Schrader.
BREAKING: Jamie McLeod-Skinner wins Democratic nomination for U.S. House in Oregon's 5th Congressional District. #APRaceCall at 8:55 a.m. PDT. https://t.co/CbUVqsUiJ1— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) May 27, 2022
Schrader is the fourth House member to lose renomination in 2022, along with Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), and David McKinley (R-WV).
Redistricting scrambled Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, which used to stretch from the coastal cities of Newport, Depoe Bay, and Lincoln City, west into the state capital of Salem, and up into the Portland suburbs of Lake Oswego. Now, the coastal cities have been subsumed into Oregon's 4th and 1st districts, shoring up Democratic support there and hollowing it out in the 5th, according to Oregon State University, Cascades, political science instructor Judy Stiegler.
“The 5th District went from being a little less of a solidly blue district,” Stiegler told the Washington Examiner. “It shaved off a few Democratic-leaning points.”
Though her history in politics is short, McLeod-Skinner earned herself a reputation with voters in 2018 when she ran unsuccessfully for Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District seat. Chunks of that district were added to the 5th Congressional District in 2022, padding to McLeod-Skinner’s liberal voter base while subtracting from Schrader’s more centrist pool of voters.
Despite earning President Joe Biden’s endorsement, Schrader found himself on the defensive throughout the primary after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and several Oregon county Democrats endorsed McLeod-Skinner over him.
“That’s not a very common thing when there is a primary contest for a particular seat,” Stiegler told the Washington Examiner. “The local parties don’t very often endorse a candidate. But in this particular case, they have.”
Schrader regularly broke ranks with Democrats and Biden, a point of contention McLeod-Skinner drove home for voters throughout the primary contest. Notably, Schrader long voted against House Democratic efforts to raise the federal minimum wage.
"He's fought negotiating lower drug prices, raising the federal minimum wage, and forgiving debt for college loans," McLeod-Skinner said. "When he does vote with Democrats, it is often after working to water down the original ideas."
Neil O'Brian, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Oregon, wasn't sure that McLeod-Skinner's plan to run to Schrader's left was wise for the general election, considering the district's new makeup appears to be more competitive in the fall.
"I think the new 5th District is a shade more conservative than the old 5th District," O'Brian told the Washington Examiner. "So I'm not sure that Skinner is going to benefit."
On the Republican side, with 73% of ballots counted, Chavez-DeRemer leads Crumpacker 43% to 30%. The pair drew political knives at each other toward the end of the campaign. The Republicans sensed blood in the water and were itching to portray each other as weak candidates for November.
“They’re going at each other pretty hot and heavy, and it’s gotten pretty nasty quite frankly,” Stiegler told the Washington Examiner.
Chavez-DeRemer, a two-time candidate for state office faced Crumpacker, a businessman whose previous political experience included running in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary in 2020.
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Stiegler said Crumpacker tried to pitch himself to voters as the “more solid conservative,” while Chavez-DeRemer leaned into her previous political experience. She painted Crumpacker as a “bought and sold candidate” who has relied on his family’s wealth for his success.
Republicans are likely to take advantage of the slew of liberal endorsements McLeod-Skinner lined up behind her. Democratic face strong political headwinds this fall, with Biden's approval ratings sinking, inflation rising, and gas prices continuing to spike. For McLeod-Skinner, the support of figures such as Warren and the Sierra Club aren't guaranteed to sit well with a larger pool of voters in November.
"I think, frankly, Republicans are salivating over the fact that you have this big contest in the Democratic primary," Stiegler said.