Democratic state Rep. Andrea Salinas took an early, but small lead over her Republican opponent, Mike Erickson, on Tuesday night.
Oregon’s 6th Congressional District stretches across Salem, Polk County, Yamhill County, and some suburbs southwest of Portland. This district has the largest Latino population of any Oregon congressional seat, with 21% identifying as Hispanic in the 2020 census, much higher than the statewide average 14%.
Majority Democrats in Oregon’s Legislature had the upper hand in designing the district last year, carving out a region where voters heavily favored Democratic candidates in previous elections. Even so, the district became one of many races where Democrats faced a tough challenge. Many influential polls like the Cook Political Report called the race a tossup, and some others like FiveThirtyEight predicted a slight Republican lead.
Salinas is a state representative in Oregon who says her father immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1950. She focused her platform on issues that tend to be big concerns among Latino voters, including reducing health care costs and supporting workers’ rights. Her campaign favored social service initiatives as solutions to many key voter concerns, like homelessness and crime.
Erickson characterized himself as the pro-business candidate. While Salinas campaigned for better working conditions for farmworkers, Erickson focused his messaging toward the farmers who ran the businesses. He called for stricter immigration policies, saying he was going to help “finish the wall.” Also in contrast to his opponent, Erickson has been staunchly anti-abortion.
Erickson cast Salinas as having soft-on-crime policies. Coincidentally, both candidates said they have fathers with 30-year backgrounds as police officers, and they point to that as signifiers of how they’ll address public safety — though this position in Congress wouldn’t give them control over local crime-fighting initiatives.