A trio of Democrats tell Willamette Week that they’re thinking about challenging freshman Republican Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer in Oregon's 5th Congressional District, a 53-44 Biden constituency that could be vital to the party’s hopes for regaining a majority in the House.
The only declared Democrat at this point is Kevin Easton, who sought the neighboring 6th District last year but dropped out well ahead of the primary after raising little. But other alternatives present higher profiles.
The most familiar name talking about running is 2022 nominee Jamie McLeod Skinner, who would be the state’s first LGBTQ+ member of Congress. The Democrat, who lost to Chavez-DeRemer by a tight 51-49, now says she’s “very seriously considering” a rematch in this seat based in Portland’s southern suburbs and central Oregon. McLeod Skinner won the Democratic nomination last year by defeating conservative incumbent Kurt Schrader, who made it clear in December he wasn’t interested in a comeback.
Oregon Metro Council President Lynn Peterson also tells the paper she’s interested. Peterson, who leads a unique regional entity that serves 1.7 million residents across portions of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties, last year won her second term 53-32 in an officially nonpartisan primary after she spent her first term expanding Metro’s influence by funding local governments within its jurisdiction. Willamette Week explains that the body historically has “engaged in planning for land use, transportation and solid waste” and is also responsible for “running parks, spectator facilities and the Oregon Zoo and Oregon Convention Center.”
Finally, state Rep. Janelle Bynum, who would be the state’s first Black member of Congress, also says she’s mulling a bid against an incumbent she has plenty of history with. Bynum won her spot in the legislature in 2016 by beating none other than Chavez-DeRemer 51-49 in an open seat race and defeated the Republican in a rematch two years later 54-46. (The original version of this story incorrectly said that Bynum unseated Chavez-DeRemer in 2016.) More recently, Bynum pulled off a convincing 55-45 victory over GOP challenger Kori Haynes following an expensive campaign in 2022.
Chavez-DeRemer narrowly flipped the 5th District during a particularly tough year for Oregon Democrats. In May, McLeod Skinner had denied renomination to Schrader, a Blue Dog Democrat who refused to back her for the general election while prognosticating, “The red wave begins in Oregon―Oregon's 5th district.” Both parties suspected he was right, especially since outgoing Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s poor approval numbers seemed to be another anvil for her party.
The conservative Congressional Leadership Fund did what it could to make Schrader’s prediction a reality by portraying McLeod Skinner, who had served on the city council of Santa Clara, California, a decade earlier, as an outsider. The DCCC did outspend CLF $1.6 million to $730,000, but its allies at House Majority PAC ended up redirecting its own planned spending here to help Democrat Andrea Salinas in the 6th.
That decision was a boon to Salinas, who won her race 50-48, but it may have cost McLeod Skinner. Chavez-DeRemer ended up prevailing by a similar 2-point margin, a victory that made her the first Republican to win this seat since the 1994 red wave. In doing so, Chavez-DeRemer also became the first Latina to represent Oregon in D.C., a distinction she shares with Salinas. Democrats are hoping, though, that the new GOP incumbent will struggle in a presidential cycle.