Janelle Bynum, Jamie McLeod-Skinner vie to take on Lori Chavez-DeRemer in May 21st primary

This Tues­day, vot­ers in Ore­gon will choose par­ty nom­i­nees for the 2024 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Democ­rats Jamie McLeod-Skin­ner and Janelle Bynum are both hop­ing they’ll be cho­sen to take on first-term U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lori Chavez-DeRe­mer, the region’s most vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­can, fol­low­ing Tuesday’s pri­ma­ry election. 

The race for Oregon’s 5th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict will like­ly be impor­tant to Democ­rats’ hopes of retak­ing the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives this year.

Bynum, a four-term state rep­re­sen­ta­tive and an engi­neer, touts numer­ous endorse­ments and a record of beat­ing Chavez-DeRe­mer at the state lev­el to sup­port her candidacy.

“The num­bers don’t lie. I’m the only one that has beat­en her twice and will beat her again,” Bynum said at a can­di­date forum in Octo­ber of last year. “That’s because the tough­est chal­lenges of our time, whether it be cli­mate or hous­ing or safe­ty, I will always bring peo­ple together.”

Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed offi­cials in Ore­gon have large­ly lined up behind Bynum’s can­di­da­cy, with three for­mer Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors and three of Oregon’s four House Democ­rats sup­port­ing her in the pri­ma­ry. She has also been endorsed by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty of Ore­gon, EMI­LY’s List, the Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus, and numer­ous state officeholders.

At the state lev­el, Bynum is per­haps best known for her leg­isla­tive effort to pass a $210 mil­lion invest­ment help­ing state com­pa­nies secure fund­ing from the fed­er­al CHIPS and Sci­ence Act, which invests mon­ey into domes­tic semi­con­duc­tor production.

McLeod-Skin­ner, a lawyer and an engi­neer, was the Democ­rats’ 2022 nom­i­nee, hav­ing top­pled con­ser­v­a­tive Demo­c­rat Kurt Schrad­er before los­ing to Chavez-DeRe­mer by less than 7,500 votes in the gen­er­al elec­tion. She has pre­vi­ous­ly staked her 2024 elec­tabil­i­ty argu­ment on doing bet­ter in non-metro areas where she argues Bynum will falter.

A res­i­dent of cen­tral Ore­gon, McLeod-Skin­ner has ref­er­enced her work on the Ore­gon Water­shed Enhance­ment Board in sup­port of cli­mate action and diver­si­ty ini­tia­tives as exam­ples of her pre­vi­ous work on behalf of both rur­al and urban com­mu­ni­ties in the district.

Despite win­ning the nom­i­na­tion in the pre­vi­ous cycle, McLeod-Skin­ner has strug­gled to obtain sup­port from elect­ed offi­cials in Ore­gon. Her cam­paign web­site men­tions sup­port from three U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tives who rep­re­sent oth­er states. 

Elec­tion observers in Ore­gon have raised con­cerns about con­ser­v­a­tive groups spend­ing mon­ey on behalf of McLeod-Skin­ner, who Repub­li­cans per­ceive as a bet­ter oppo­nent for Chavez-DeRe­mer in November. 

Ore­gon Pub­lic Broad­cast­ing report­ed on May 15th that a polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee poten­tial­ly tied to Repub­li­cans is plan­ning to spend upwards of $350,000 on McLeod-Skin­ner, tout­ing her as some­one who puts “pro­gres­sive val­ues into action.”

Democ­rats have employed sim­i­lar tac­tics nation­wide, boost­ing far-right can­di­dates in pri­maries to help their own nom­i­nees in the gen­er­al election. 

Recent­ly, Democ­rats spent mil­lions of dol­lars sup­port­ing Trump-endorsed Sen­ate can­di­date Bernie Moreno in the Ohio Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry, who they thought endan­gered Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Sher­rod Brown stood the best chance of beating.

Bynum and McLeod-Skinner’s pri­or­i­ties are not that dif­fer­ent. Bynum’s web­site points to her sup­port for pro­tect­ing abor­tion rights, health care, and cli­mate, and deal­ing with state hous­ing prob­lems. McLeod-Skinner’s site promi­nent­ly fea­tures an agen­da based on envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and pro­tect­ing repro­duc­tive freedoms.

Still, the can­di­dates have aggres­sive­ly crit­i­cized each other. 

McLeod-Skin­ner has gone after Bynum’s vot­ing record, say­ing that she has not ade­quate­ly sup­port­ed vic­tims of sex­u­al assault. (Bynum vot­ed for a five-year statute of lim­i­ta­tions for vic­tims to sue per­pe­tra­tors in civ­il court and against a sev­en-year lim­it.) Bynum, con­verse­ly, has raised con­cerns over McLeod-Skinner’s alleged mis­treat­ment of staff and fir­ing when she was a city man­ag­er of Phoenix, Oregon.

The non­par­ti­san elec­tion analy­sis pub­li­ca­tion Cook Polit­i­cal Report cur­rent­ly rates the 5th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict as a Repub­li­can Toss-Up, mean­ing that Democ­rats should have a sol­id chance of win­ning back the seat. Their par­ti­san vot­ing index, which exam­ines the vot­ing pat­terns of the dis­trict across mul­ti­ple pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, rates the dis­trict as favor­ing Democ­rats by two per­cent­age points.

Tuesday’s win­ner will face off in a com­pe­ti­tion of nation­wide impor­tance come November.

Owen Averill

Owen Averill is the Northwest Progressive Institute's Federal Correspondent and an aficionado of all things Washington State. His professional experience includes internships on Capitol Hill, for Democratic congressional campaigns, and at the Brookings Institution. When he’s not writing about Washingtonians in D.C., he is running, reading, watching the Sounders, or catching up on Irish politics.

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