NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Is this the end for Kurt Schrader, dubbed “Oregon’s Joe Manchin?” Challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner has a sizable early lead

The pos­si­bil­i­ty that the least pro­gres­sive Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­ber of the Pacif­ic North­west­’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion could be oust­ed from office after years of alien­at­ing vot­ers and activists back home is look­ing very real.

With sev­er­al tens of thou­sands of votes now tal­lied, incum­bent Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­gress­man Kurt Schrad­er is well behind in his bid for anoth­er term, trail­ing chal­lenger Jamie McLeod-Skin­ner, who pre­vi­ous­ly ran against Greg Walden for Con­gress in 2018 and then statewide for Sec­re­tary of State in 2020.

Schrad­er has been dis­ap­point­ing con­stituents and anger­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers in Ore­gon for years now. He described House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi as “tru­ly a ter­ri­ble per­son” to a group of donors, used his influ­ence in the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus to attack Pres­i­dent Biden’s Build Back Bet­ter pack­age, and was one of just two Democ­rats to ini­tial­ly oppose the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan last year.

While the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives was work­ing on respond­ing to Jan­u­ary 6th, Schrad­er char­ac­ter­ized the sec­ond impeach­ment of Don­ald Trump as “a lynch­ing,” which sparked a very angry and pro­nounced back­lash. Schrad­er sub­se­quent­ly apol­o­gized for his com­ments and vot­ed to impeach Trump.

Schrad­er not infre­quent­ly votes with Repub­li­cans and against Demo­c­ra­t­ic bills or amend­ments, as our Last Week In Con­gress archive shows.

Despite this, Biden and Pelosi both backed his reelection.

Schrad­er is the cur­rent chair of the Blue Dog PAC, the polit­i­cal arm of the coali­tion of the House Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus’ most con­ser­v­a­tive members.

Schrader’s behav­ior and poor vot­ing record has result­ed in him being deri­sive­ly dubbed Ore­gon’s Joe Manchin by Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists. Four out of six coun­ty par­ty orga­ni­za­tions in the new 5th shunned Schrad­er and backed McLeod-Skinner.

McLeod-Skin­ner made sure that vot­ers were aware of Schrader’s long his­to­ry of accept­ing boat­loads of cor­po­rate cash by run­ning an ad describ­ing his cor­rupt rela­tion­ships with pow­er­ful indus­tries like Big Pharma.

The Los Ange­les Times’ Mark Z. Barabak spent time with McLeod-Skin­ner in the runup to the pri­ma­ry to under­stand the dynam­ics of the con­test.

Schrader’s home coun­ty of Clacka­mas, which is home to half of the dis­tric­t’s elec­torate, has bare­ly count­ed any votes in this pri­ma­ry due to logis­ti­cal prob­lems, so we can’t say tonight that Schrad­er is toast. But he’s def­i­nite­ly in trou­ble. He’s los­ing the rest of the dis­trict to McLeod-Skin­ner by a dou­ble-dig­it mar­gin, which puts him in a very tough spot. He’ll need to do very well in Clacka­mas to get any­where near fifty per­cent. Sur­pass­ing McLeod-Skin­ner will be a tall order.

Schrad­er has rep­re­sent­ed Ore­gon’s 5th Dis­trict since the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, when he was cho­sen by vot­ers to suc­ceed retir­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dar­lene Hoo­ley. The pre­vi­ous two incar­na­tions of the 5th ran from the Pacif­ic Ocean to the Cas­cade Moun­tains, span­ning the Coast Range, the state cap­i­tal of Salem, and the south­east­ern Port­land metro area.

The new 5th, how­ev­er, looks more like the orig­i­nal 5th Dis­trict drawn in the 1980s. It’s an east­ern Willamette Val­ley dis­trict that does­n’t touch the ocean, hav­ing ced­ed that turf to the new 6th Dis­trict and the new 1st.

How­ev­er, unlike the the orig­i­nal 5th, the new dis­trict includes a chunk of Cen­tral Ore­gon, anchored by Bend, one of the state’s fastest grow­ing urban centers.

Bend has his­tor­i­cal­ly been part of the 2nd, the state’s east­ern­most dis­trict, which has had Repub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tion for a very long time. Now, how­ev­er, Bend is in a dis­trict that isn’t solid­ly Repub­li­can, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers there are in a posi­tion to pass judg­ment on Kurt Schrader’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion, even though he isn’t their con­gress­man. Thus far, their wish­es are clear: they’d much rather have McLeod-Skin­ner as the par­ty’s nom­i­nee this November.

By a ginor­mous mar­gin of over thir­ty points, Deschutes Coun­ty vot­ers are going with McLeod-Skin­ner over Schrad­er. She has a jaw-drop­ping 70.61% of the vote there, while Schrad­er isn’t even crack­ing thir­ty percent.

McLeod-Skin­ner is also win­ning the por­tion of Demo­c­ra­t­ic strong­hold Mult­nom­ah Coun­ty that’s in the dis­trict. All togeth­er, she has 59.81% of the vote right now, though again, that’s with bare­ly any votes from Clacka­mas Coun­ty tabulated.

Schrad­er is win­ning in Linn and Mar­i­on coun­ties, though his mar­gin of vic­to­ry in Linn slipped as the night wore on, in anoth­er pos­i­tive sign for McLeod-Skinner.

In Linn, Schrad­er has 52.33% of the vote to McLeod-Skin­ner’s 46.50%. In Mar­i­on, he has 55.39% of the vote, while McLeod-Skin­ner has 42.89%.

The new 5th Dis­trict also has a tiny slice of Jef­fer­son Coun­ty. Jef­fer­son has appar­ent­ly not tab­u­lat­ed any votes for its lone 5th Dis­trict precinct.

In Clacka­mas Coun­ty, an ini­tial tab­u­la­tion run ear­ly in the evening has Schrad­er ahead. But it con­sists of very few votes… a pal­try 1,309 in total.

Schrad­er pre­vailed in that drop and has 56.84% of the vote.

The coun­ty has not pub­lished any addi­tion­al returns due to prob­lems with the major­i­ty of the bal­lots it mailed out, prompt­ing fierce crit­i­cism from Sec­re­tary of State Shemia Fagan, who over­sees the state’s elections.

“As Oregon’s chief elec­tion offi­cer – and a Clacka­mas Coun­ty vot­er — I am deeply con­cerned about the delay in report­ing from Clacka­mas Coun­ty Elec­tions tonight,” Fagan said in a pub­lic state­ment. “While I am con­fi­dent that the process they are fol­low­ing is secure, trans­par­ent and the results will be accu­rate, the county’s report­ing delays tonight are unac­cept­able. Vot­ers have done their jobs, and now it’s time for Clacka­mas Coun­ty Elec­tions to do theirs.”

“In recent days, my office and oth­er coun­ties have offered extra per­son­nel to help with time­ly report­ing,” Fagan explained.

“We eager­ly await a response from coun­ty elec­tions offi­cials on how we can aid in the time­ly pro­cess­ing of results. I am dis­ap­point­ed that we have not seen more urgency from elec­tions offi­cials in Clacka­mas County.”

Clacka­mas Coun­ty Clerk Sher­ry Hall did not offer an expla­na­tion or respond to requests for com­ment from the media on the fail­ure to pub­lish any­thing beyond an ini­tial very small tab­u­la­tion. Hal­l’s lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion this evening has been round­ly panned by Ore­gon polit­i­cal observers.

With­out more data from Clacka­mas, it would be pre­ma­ture to make any pro­jec­tions. As it stands now, though, Schrad­er is at risk of being boot­ed. If that were to hap­pen, it’d be the first time in over three decades that vot­ers in Ore­gon tossed out a mem­ber of Con­gress in a pri­ma­ry election.

Like most states, Ore­gon has a sore los­er law, which means if Schrad­er isn’t nom­i­nat­ed, he can’t then switch to run­ning for Con­gress as an independent.

We’ll con­tin­ue to watch this race close­ly and bring you addi­tion­al updates.

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