Janelle Bynum, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, and Lynn Peterson
Three Democratic hopefuls in Oregon's 5th Congressional District participate in a forum at the 2023 Oregon Summit (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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:

Janelle Bynum

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.

Jamie McLeod-Skin­ner

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.

Lynn Peter­son

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.

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