Hello again from Sunriver and the 2023 Oregon Summit!
Following lunch this afternoon, many Summit attendees gathered in the Sunriver Resort’s Great Hall to hear from three of the candidates running for Congress in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District: State Representative Janelle Bynum, previous OR-05 Democratic nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and Metro President Lynn Peterson. The 5th is a cross-Cascades district that Republicans were able to flip last year when Lori Chavez-DeRemer defeated McLeod-Skinner in a close race.
Democrats would very much like to take OR-05 back next year and help elect a Democratic majority in the United States House of Representatives. Chavez-DeRemer is the only Republican member of Congress from the Pacific Northwest who is considered to be at risk of losing her seat, because the other seats held by Republicans are all in districts that have very conservative electorates.
The Democratic Party of Oregon gave Bynum, McLeod-Skinner, and Peterson the opportunity to make a pitch to Summit attendees during a nearly hourlong forum moderated by recently elected DPO Chair Rosa Colquitt.
Software engineer and AFSCME member Cameron Pahl, who is also seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, was not invited to participate in the forum, though some of his supporters attended and circulated his literature afterward.
Here is how the three candidates who participated describe themselves:
A mother of four children and a small business owner of restaurants, Janelle Bynum knows our community and works hard for us. It’s what her parents taught her to do.
The daughter of teachers, her parents taught Janelle that education was the key to a better, safer world. When drug violence threatened her inner city neighborhood in Washington, DC, Janelle put that ideal into practice. She earned scholarships and put herself through school, earning her Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and her Master’s degree in Business Administration.
Today, Janelle and her husband, Mark, live in Happy Valley with their children. Janelle operates her family’s small business, running four restaurants in our community. In her restaurants, Janelle continues to embody those ideals taught to her early in life, mentoring her employees, providing scholarships to continue their education and encouraging them to dream big.
Raised by a single mom when she was young, Jamie McLeod-Skinner worked her way through college and became an engineer, a public servant, and a small business owner. Jamie led the effort to help Oregon communities recover after the devastating fires and she currently works in emergency preparedness, affordable housing, and as a leader in protecting Oregon’s watersheds.
She will bring her diverse experiences to address our biggest challenges: fighting for working Oregonians, protecting our environment, and preserving our democracy.
Through professional work, public service, and volunteerism, she uses her background in engineering, regional planning, law, and as a small business owner to bridge our divides for better stewardship of our environment, economy, and democracy.
Metro President Lynn Peterson is serving her second term leading the nation’s only elected regional government.
A transportation engineer and urban planner by training, Peterson previously served as the first elected Chair of Clackamas County – the largest county in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District. She also worked as Transportation Advisor to a past Oregon Governor, and served as Washington State’s Secretary of Transportation.
A lifelong Democrat active in her party, enters the race with over 50 prominent endorsements from officeholders and candidates at all levels of Oregon government. A veteran campaigner, Lynn has won each of her five campaigns for local and regional office, and successfully led four recent regional ballot measures to victory.
The forum consisted of opening statements, questions asked by Colquitt which were provided to the candidates in advance, and closing statements.
Watch the forum here:
Colquitt’s first question concerned Chavez-DeRemer’s refusal to hold town hall meetings. She asked if the hopefuls would each commit to holding town halls.
Every single candidate offered an emphatic yes.
Lynn Peterson observed that sometimes the “seeds of an idea is a starting point and then we need to cultivate it together”. Town halls are an important component of congressional accountability and transparency.
McLeod-Skinner contended that it is part of the job to hold monthly town hall meetings with constituents. Showing up is critical to accountability, she said.
Janelle Bynum told attendees that she is known for showing up and taking action, citing her tradition of taco town halls, where people invite her to a town hall opportunity and provide tacos for attendees to enjoy.
The next question related to supporting Oregon’s labor movement.
All candidates affirmed that they will be strong, pro-labor U.S. representatives.
Peterson told attendees that she comes from a family of union workers and strives to support striking workers and uphold their collective bargaining rights. Peterson mentioned that at Metro (the region’s only regional government) they increased their minimum wage to $20 an hour and will continue to strive for more.
McLeod-Skinner said she wants to protect pensions through PLA (Project Labor Agreements) and make the most of opportunities to construct public works projects with union labor using infrastructure dollars.
Bynum spoke about her upbringing, mentioning her parents and how they were furloughed numerous times. Bynum is a champion for paid family leave and providing pathways for young people to enter the building trades.
The third question was about climate damage.
Peterson talked about reducing emissions through electric vehicle adoption.
McLeod-Skinner argued that America needs long term solutions, including an electrical grid supported by renewable energy sources.
Bynum said she thinks about the issue from the perspective of a mom working to leave a better planet behind for her children. She’d also like to make Oregon a hub for clean energy and show how a pivot away from fossil fuels can be realized.
The candidates’ closing statements were perhaps the most interesting part of the forum. Each used their three minutes to call attention to what they believe are their strengths and why they would make the best nominee in Oregon’s 5th.
Here are their closing statements in their entirety:
Janelle Bynum’s pitch
Democrats, thank you so much for having us here today.
We’ve all gathered here today for the very same reason. Elections have consequences, and we cannot afford another Lori Chavez-DeRemer term. With her representing us in Congress, our voices aren’t at the table. The needs of our community aren’t being prioritized.
And instead, we have a representative who’s more interested in pleasing the extreme members of her party and special interests than anyone else than actually legislating.
The numbers don’t lie. I’m the only one that has beaten her twice and will beat her again. That’s because the toughest challenges of our time, whether it be climate or housing or safety, I will always bring people together.
We will always have tough discussions and we will always find common ground. And because of that ethos, I have an actual track record of tangible success. Because parents recognize when their kids are learning, community members know when their community is safer, commuters recognize when their drive to work gets a little bit better, and working people are excited about the investments in the economy and the creation of good jobs close to home.
The perspective that I bring is valuable.
As someone who left home at fifteen because my parents wanted me to get a better education away from the drugs and violence. As a small business woman who knows what it’s like to sign the check of a kid having their first job and support a thriving local economy.
As an electrical engineer — the best kind! — who likes to take apart complex issues and put together solutions.
As a mom of four children who wants our daughters and our sons to have the very same rights. At the end of the day it’s about our children for me. Are they safe? Are they nourished?
Do they have access to high quality education?
Will they have better opportunities than their parents?
Our children are watching as their fates are being decided in our halls of power. Decision makers should be the adults in the room. And sadly, that’s not the case. Our children deserve better. And Oregon deserves better. And that’s why I’m running for Congress.
I’m so proud of the movement we’ve built to pay opportunity forward in Oregon. And I’m grateful for the support from leaders like Congresswoman Salinas, Congresswoman Bonamici, and the Congressional Black Caucus. Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield and Leader Julie Fahey. I invite you today to join Team Bynum at JanelleBynum.com. And thank you for having us all today.
Lynn Peterson’s pitch
Thank you again to the DPO, team members, and the volunteers for putting on this event this weekend.
Listen, I was also raised by a single mom who was an educator, and a family of teachers that believed in the power of unionization.
And I learned the power of public education, teamwork, and that true leadership is collaborative and based on truth.
I pushed against the glass ceiling and I had a mom who encouraged it and let me run with it. I pushed through the glass ceiling as a civil engineer in an agency with a ten billion dollar biannual budget and 6,800 employees while working on racial equity and climate change.
And I pushed the the size of the box open as an elected official in Oregon politics. I pushed through those ceilings with those that needed an ally, with my union brothers and sisters, my women partners, my Black, Latino, indigenous, Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, trans brothers and sisters as well.
I am not afraid of a fight or to stand up for what is right. The best compliment I ever got was from the Clackamas County Sheriff Deputies [who said] Lynn, no matter how many big guys with big guns we bring to talk to you, you told us the truth and treated us fairly. We as Democrats need to continue to measure success, not by what we promise, but what we deliver.
I am proud of my demonstrated record of accomplishment in bricks and mortar, in lives touched and restored, in workers elevated, in women and BIPOC community members who see themselves in different roles and leadership positions.
I have won in Clackamas County five times. And that represents forty-nine percent of the CD 5 district.
My district I cover now is two and a half congressional districts in population. Add in the Multnomah County portion of that, we are just over fifty percent of the district that has voted for me and the ballot measures that we have put out to make the region and state a better and stronger place now and in the future.
Now, let’s go make it a win in May by standing together for progress. And I ask for your vote and support to retire Lori Chavez-DeRemer once and for all. Thank you.
Jamie McLeod-Skinner’s pitch
Well, thanks DPO staff for organizing and our Chair for organizing this forum. Thanks for y’all for being here.
Thanks for both of you for coming to Central Oregon. I’m so passionate about that last question we were talking about housing.
Those are great tourists and all. I want to also say that in terms of a, a, a federal tool is CDBG funds because cities can’t handle them along with SDCs, but, I’m working on an affordable housing project right now. That is work I’m really passionate about. Also, uh, looking at the attacks on our schools, which we know is coming and someone who’s been on a rural ESD board, these are challenging times. We’re seeing book banning and other things happening right here in Central Oregon.
You know, we learned a lot last year and, what I’ve done is built on the strengths and made adjustments where needed.
But this is such an important race.
No one doubts that, but we will not win it by not understanding it.
And… I think, assuming it is just a Metro-based district, not only is [that a] huge disrespect to the rest of the district, it’s also… does not fully understand the district. Look, I, crushed at Multnomah, I won in Clackamas, we all beat Lori in those areas.
This race will be won outside the Metro area, and so that’s critically important for Democrats to understand.
If you ignore that and blow that off, we will lose this seat next year. And that’s really, really important. So what I’ve done… I’ve got a much, much more experienced and stronger team. We’ve got a more focused strategy. And, great support from the grassroots within the district, within the district.
And leaders, community leaders within the district. Up to D.C., we’ve got the LGBT Equality PAC. I, I know there’s, there’s been two PACs at the federal level, and congressional folks at the federal level, who have a different take on this race. But… the LGBT community is under attack right now, and these are issues that are going to be front and center in the next couple of years.
You know, it’s going to come down to CD5 voters, and I’m up over forty points in the primary poll of likely voters, and that was using the governor’s polling organization to make sure we had accurate data. Really appreciate all the support we’ve got. We’re going to have a much more targeted strategy, like I said.
Bottom line’s is, my team is committed to, you know, supporting working families. Making sure we’re protecting our environment and protecting our fundamental rights and protecting our allies abroad. I’m the only one up here with international experience as well. Wanted to encourage folks to join us at jamiefororegon.com to contribute.
Again, I don’t take corporate PAC money and so really appreciate that support too. But also wanted to say that, um, again, we’ll be, Dems will be hit hard no matter who the nominee is.
And so one of the reasons why I’m so, I want us to be so focused on the, on winning, the general is, I’ve proposed a “keep it clean” pledge to both my colleagues.
I sent it to them about two months ago and about a month ago, and I’d welcome you right now if you want to sign this pledge right now to keep it clean, the primary, so we can be focused on winning the general. And I’ll have this on our table if you want to see it, but I also right now want to invite both my colleagues to sign it if you will.
Either [of you]? No? Okay. We ought to win this, folks. Thank you all for being here, and we’d appreciate your support. Thank you.
Oregon’s 2024 primary will be held on Tuesday, May 21st, 2024.
At that time, voters will decide which Democratic contender will earn a spot on the state’s general election ballot and face Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who is expected to easily prevail in the district’s Republican primary.