Democrats look to avert another embarrassment in Oregon House race

Democrats Aim to Secure Victory in Oregon House Race to Avoid Repeat Setback

Democrats are eager to avoid a repeat of recent setbacks in a crucial Oregon House district that turned Republican in the last midterm elections. They are rallying behind state Rep. Janelle Bynum (D), much to the dismay of her primary opponent, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who was the Democratic nominee in 2022 but lost to Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

The Democratic Party’s national campaign committee has shown strong support for Bynum, sidelining McLeod-Skinner, the previous nominee who had lost a tight race. McLeod-Skinner had previously won against Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in the primaries, despite Schrader’s endorsement from President Biden, but she was defeated in the general election as Republicans gained control of the U.S. House.

This time, the party sees a better chance with Bynum, who has a history of defeating Chavez-DeRemer in state Legislature races and has received significant endorsements, including from Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) and EMILY’s List. Democratic strategist Hannah Love from Oregon highlighted the national attention on this race and its importance for a Democratic majority in the House.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) included Bynum in its Red to Blue program, indicating a strategic move to challenge vulnerable House Republicans, which seemed to upset McLeod-Skinner. She criticized the DCCC’s decision on social media, suggesting it undermined democratic principles.

In the previous midterms, the DCCC’s support for Schrader over McLeod-Skinner had caused frustration among many Democrats and donors when their efforts to protect Schrader failed. The search for a stronger candidate led them to support Bynum, given her successful track record against Chavez-DeRemer.

Bynum’s victories over Chavez-DeRemer in state House races and her potential to become the first Black lawmaker to represent Oregon in the U.S. House if she wins the general election are significant. However, she first needs to win the primary against McLeod-Skinner, where the ideological differences between the candidates are less pronounced this time.

The primary race is more about choosing the best candidate to challenge Chavez-DeRemer, with both Democrats seen as progressives. Controversy surrounding McLeod-Skinner’s campaign management style has also influenced the party’s hesitance to support her again.

Reports of McLeod-Skinner being a difficult boss and allegations of physical contact with a campaign staffer have been seized upon by the Republicans, framing the Democratic primary as a divisive issue. The National Republican Congressional Committee has highlighted these controversies, suggesting they will weaken the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Democrats are cautious about these controversies, recognizing the risk they pose with the House majority at stake. The DCCC has endorsed Bynum as the ideal leader for the moment, capable of defeating Chavez-DeRemer and her extreme policies.

Despite Bynum’s lower profile from only running for state Legislature positions, her endorsements have boosted her visibility. The intense primary could potentially harm the Democratic candidate’s chances in the general election. McLeod-Skinner’s campaign argues that Bynum’s previous victories do not necessarily predict success in the broader 5th District.

Some local Democrats have criticized the DCCC for intervening in the primary without consulting local party officials, emphasizing the importance of voter choice. McLeod-Skinner has secured endorsements from progressive groups and would be Oregon’s first openly LGBTQ member of Congress if elected.

The 5th District’s Democratic lean gives the party a strong chance in the upcoming high-turnout election, despite Chavez-DeRemer’s narrow win in a favorable year for Republicans. Chavez-DeRemer’s endorsement of former President Trump and her congressional voting record may alienate some independent voters.

With significant fundraising efforts on both sides, McLeod-Skinner and Bynum are preparing for a competitive primary in May, aiming to secure the Democratic nomination to challenge Chavez-DeRemer in the general election. The internal disagreements within the Democratic Party highlight the challenges and strategic decisions involved in attempting to reclaim the seat.