In a potential major upset, Democratic U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader could lose his seat in Congress, if early primary election returns hold.

Blue voters in Oregon’s 5th Congressional District appear to have booted the seven-term incumbent in favor of Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a Terrebonne attorney.

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Jamie McLeod-Skinner was cautiously optimistic on election night in Redmond, Ore., May 17, 2022 after early returns put her ahead of seven-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, (D-Canby).

Jamie McLeod-Skinner was cautiously optimistic on election night in Redmond, Ore., May 17, 2022 after early returns put her ahead of seven-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, (D-Canby).

Emily Cureton / OPB

McLeod-Skinner held a sizeable lead as of 9:30 p.m., although results are early and Clackamas County struggled to report results.

McLeod-Skinner tempered her supporters’ expectations as they waited for results on election night at a party in Redmond.

“These are all early numbers and we know it’s going to take a while,” she told OPB Tuesday night. “The numbers are phenomenal in Deschutes (County) and really strong in Multnomah.”

The campaign did not plan to declare victory, nor concede immediately, due to a printing error with Clackamas County ballots, which required county officials to hand verify votes. About 45% of the 5th District’s Democrats are in the county.

“All eyes are on Clackamas,” said McLeod-Skinner’s campaign manager Nichole van Eikeren said. She told OPB that the Democratic Party of Oregon told the campaign not to expect the county’s results until Thursday.

In the Republican Party primary, early results showed former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer with a lead over Jimmy Crumpacker.

McLeod-Skinner and her supporters spent around $887,000, compared to $5.5 million from those in the Schrader camp.

Kurt Schrader

Kurt Schrader

Steve Dipaola / Courtesy of Kurt Schrader

The insurgent Democrat took aim at Schrader by linking his voting record to those deep wells of campaign financing, and perceptions of special influence for major funders like the pharmaceutical industry. In a highly unusual break with tradition, McLeod-Skinner was backed by four county Democratic parties in the district. On election night, she celebrated with Deschutes County Democrats at a party in Redmond.

Kurt Schrader’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment after early returns on Tuesday night. Last week the congressman’s campaign said he expected to spend the evening in Washington, D.C. His campaign issued a statement Wednesday, thanking supporters.

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“We still don’t have an answer as to the final outcome in this election, but I remain optimistic that our message to Oregon families has resonated with voters across the Fifth Congressional District,” Schrader said in the statement.

Schrader is seeking an eighth consecutive term, but this is his first reelection campaign since redistricting, when state legislators redrew the boundaries of the 5th District in response to population shifts revealed by the U.S. Census. The Democratic-controlled state process removed coastal areas from the district, and added metro areas of Central Oregon. The changes, coupled with Schrader’s image problem, sparked a competitive primary.

Side by side maps show how Oregon's congressional districts have changed. In the map 2020, there are five districts, with color codes indicating that district 2 typically elected a Republican, districts 2 and 3 typically elected Democrats, and districts 4 and 5 votes "purple" -- going towards either party depending on the election. In the map of 2022, there are six districts, with District 2 typically electing a Republican, districts 1, 3, 4 and 6 expected to elect Democrats, and district 5 expected to be "purple."

In the days leading up to the election, Schrader’s campaign and its supporters had outspent McLeod Skinner’s backers more than 6-1. Voters were inundated with advertising and mailers, like $850,000 worth of ad buys attacking McLeod-Skinner as likely to lose against a Republican in the general election.

Chavez-DeRemer and Crumpacker remain close in GOP primary

Former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, meanwhile, held a lead over Jimmy Crumpacker, and declared victory in the race Tuesday night. Though many votes remained uncounted in Clackamas County, her ties to Happy Valley indicate she was likely to hold her lead over Crumpacker.

“The voters wanted someone with a proven track record of getting things done to represent them in Congress. We will flip this seat in November and take back the Republican majority!” Chavez-DeRemer wrote in a statement.

Chavez-DeRemer spent more than $530,000 on her primary campaign and secured the endorsement of a powerful GOP figure, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is chair of the House Republican Conference.

Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Courtesy of Lori Chavez-DeRemer

Her talking points have been in line with supporters of former President Donald Trump, such as border security, or a call to “end big tech censorship,” recently posted to her Twitter account.

In the final weeks of the primary campaign, her social media messaging took a negative tack against Crumpacker, attacking him for acknowledging the legitimacy of the last presidential election, and “saying whatever he thinks he needs to say to get elected.”

Jimmy Crumpacker

Jimmy Crumpacker

Emily Cureton / OPB

Crumpacker spent more than $218,000 on his primary campaign. He’s a former oil commodities investor whose family owns property in Deschutes County. He has lately positioned himself in line with talking points by former Vice President Mike Pence. In a 2020 run for Congress, Crumpacker branded himself as a die-hard Trump supporter.

The general election winner will represent voters in one of the state’s most geographically diverse districts, spanning from the outskirts of Portland and Salem across the Cascade Mountains to the Bend and Redmond metro areas.

This is a developing story. Watch for updates.

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