A toss-up in one congressional district and a closer-than-expected race in another have Democrats battling to maintain their advantage in Oregon as Republicans seek to capitalize on concerns about inflation and crime.
Democrats controlled four of the state's five previous U.S. House seats and are hoping to claim its newly created sixth one as well. Oregon was one of just six states to gain a seat after the 2020 census.
The most hotly contested race is in the 5th District, which stretches from Portland’s affluent southern suburbs to the central high desert city of Bend and includes the rural, mountainous areas in between.
Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a businesswoman and former mayor of the Portland suburb of Happy Valley, is hoping to flip the district red for the first time in over two decades. The super PAC linked to House Republicans, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has spent more than $2.7 million on several ads there.
She’s facing off against Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an emergency preparedness coordinator. The progressive candidate ousted moderate seven-term incumbent Kurt Schrader in the party’s primary.
Chavez-DeRemer is one of two candidates running to be Oregon’s first Latina elected to Congress, along with Democrat Andrea Salinas in the state’s new 6th District.
The 6th also includes parts of Portland’s southern suburbs, along with the state capital, Salem, and more rural areas. Many analysts view it as leaning Democratic.
Salinas, a state representative and former congressional staffer, is up against Republican Mike Erickson, a businessman who is running for Congress for a third time.
Relatively safer for Democrats is the 4th District, which spans the central and southern coasts. It includes rural, conservative areas but also the more populous and liberal college towns of Eugene and Corvallis.
The retirement of longtime Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio, who was first elected in 1986, has created an open seat in the district. Republicans are eyeing it, but the district is widely seen as leaning Democratic and last sent a Republican to the House in 1972.
Oregon Labor Commissioner and former Democratic State Rep. Val Hoyle is vying to keep the 4th blue, while Republican Alek Skarlatos is running his second campaign for the seat. Skarlatos, a former member of the Oregon National Guard, gained fame in 2015 for helping thwart an attack by a heavily armed gunman on a train bound for Paris.
Analysts view Oregon’s 1st and 3rd Districts as solidly Democratic and the sprawling 2nd, which covers the eastern half and much of the south of the state, as solidly Republican.