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2022 Primary Preview: Oregon, May 17

The primary season heats up on May 17th, starting with the Beaver State

We continue our look at May primaries.

On May 17th, Oregon, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania hold primary elections. There are many congressional races involving Green New Dealers and climate hawks — this post looks at Oregon, with the rest of the May 17th states to come.

May 17: Oregon

OR-Gov: Open. We have previously covered this open seat race to replace termed-out governor Kate Brown. The two leading Democratic candidates are former State House speaker Tina Kotek, who is supported by progressives and climate organizations and seems to have a narrow lead in the primary, and state treasurer Tobias Read, a more centrist Democrat who helped kill an effort to expand public transit in Portland in 2020.

OR-04: Open. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio is retiring after 35 years representing this district, which has been competitive in recent election cycles, but was made bluer in redistricting, and now rates as a D+9 with the progressive college towns of Eugene and Corvallis. The frontrunner is state Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, who has endorsements from DeFazio and Sen. Jeff Merkley, but also has has been a strong backer of the proposed LNG project Jordan Cove, as well as a beneficiary of crypto money, a past supporter of Blue Dog Rep. Kurt Schrader (see below), and an opponent of a 2016 ballot measure to raise taxes on the wealthy.

The clear choice of climate voters is former EarthJustice lawyer and GND champ Doyle Canning, who ran against DeFazio in 2020, and is endorsed by Climate Hawks Vote, PCCC, Friends of the Earth Action, and the Center for Biological Diversity. There are many other candidates in the race, but the only other noteworthy one is AirBnB Public Policy Manager Andrew Kalloch, who once called petrochemical tycoon Charles Koch a “leader” and compared rent control to climate change denial.

OR-05: Rep. Kurt Schrader vs. Jamie McLeod-Skinner. We’ve written before about Jamie McLeod-Skinner’s primary challenge to Rep. Kurt Schrader, an “Unbreakable Nine” Build Back Better obstructionist who voted last year against a bill to require climate risk disclosure by companies, and once voted to gut protections against polluting natural gas projects, and to weaken offshore drilling safeguards.. Since then, there have been a few developments. McLeod-Skinner has put out a poll showing her with a real shot of beating Schrader, and also released an ad calling out Schrader for taking over $300,000 from the oil and gas industry. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (and Koch Industries’ repulsive complicity in it) finally led Schrader to renounce Koch money, which for years he was one of only a few House Democrats to receive. Super PACs with ties to pharmaceutical companies and fossil fuel lobbyists have placed major ad buys for Schrader in recent weeks.

In a televised debate, McLeod-Skinner called out Schrader for taking corporate money and thwarting Biden’s agenda, while Schrader dissembled and tried to frame the bipartisan infrastructure bill as a meaningful climate achievement (it is not). Astoundingly, Biden endorsed Schrader in late April, drawing backlash from the many district-based party organizations that are supporting McLeod-Skinner. McLeod-Skinner picked up an endorsement from the Sierra Club, and seems to have turned this into a highly competitive race.

OR-06: Open. This is a newly created D+7 district based in the state capital of Salem. Thankfully, the strongest climate candidate here also seemed to be the frontrunner. State Rep. Andrea Salinas was previously a congressional aide and legislative director for the Oregon Environmental Council, and is running with support from Governor Brown, Bold PAC (the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ PAC), Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the Working Families Party, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

In early April, the Democratic leadership-affiliated House Majority PAC (HMP) announced a $1 million ad reservation in support of spotted-owl critic Carrick Flynn, who has also been the recipient of an eyebrow-raising $10 MILLION from crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman Fried. HMP’s unprecedented move to intervene in a primary is basically indefensible, and drew condemnation from Sen. Merkley, Bold PAC, and many others. National Wildlife Federation is refusing to rescind its endorsement of Flynn. But they did delete their endorsement tweet.

Also running here are State Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon and Oregon Medical Board member Kathleen Harder, who garnered concerning support from the Walton family during a previous campaign, but also has had mainstream backing from Oregon Democrats and places strong emphasis on climate action on her campaign website. In previous campaigns for office, former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith has won endorsements from labor organizations and elected officials, including her former boss Sen. Ron Wyden, but does not seem to have much of a track record on climate.

Next up: North Carolina and Idaho.

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