Democrat Jaime McLeod-Skinner triumphed over six rivals to win the party’s nomination to take on GOP Rep. Greg Walden in Oregon’s vast — and conservative — Second Congressional District.
Walden, a Republican from Hood River, easily won his GOP primary contest against two others. The congressman chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee and has handily been re-elected ever since he first won Oregon’s Second Congressional District in 1998.
The district, which covers all of eastern Oregon and a chunk of southern Oregon, is by far the most conservative of the state’s five congressional districts. In years past, Democratic strategists have generally conceded the district. The party’s nomination could often be had for the asking.
Not this year.
Large and angry crowds besieged Walden at a series of town halls he held around his district in the spring. They criticized him for helping write a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Activists began regularly protesting at Walden’s district offices. And no fewer than seven Democrats signed up to run for his seat.
McLeod-Skinner was one of the first to get in the race and said she has logged more than 30,000 miles traversing the district, which is larger than any state east of the Mississippi River. She’s had a varied career, working overseas on reconstruction in war-torn Bosnia and as a planner in California, where she served on the Santa Clara City Council.
Back in Oregon, McLeod-Skinner was the Phoenix city manager for just four months before being fired in 2017. She blamed it on a dysfunctional City Council.
Following her victory Tuesday, McLeod-Skinner praised her fellow Democrats and expressed confidence that she could win in November.
She said she’s heard from rural Oregonians who are dissatisfied with Walden.
“Regardless of political affiliation, we all care about our families. We all care about our communities. And we want good representation, someone who shows up, listens and cares about our community,” McLeod-Skinner told OPB. “And that’s what I have to offer, and that’s what Greg Walden’s not offering.”
Physician Jenni Neahring came in behind McLeod-Skinner, while Jim Crary — a retired lawyer who has challenged Walden before and lost in 2016 — came in third.
The other candidates were: retired Chrysler executive Tim White, teacher Raz Mason, retired maritime official Eric Burnette and stonemason Michael Byrne.
The seven held a series of joint candidate forums around the district. They focused their criticism on Walden and spoke positively of each other.
The district is still considered safely Republican by national handicappers. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released an ambitious list of 101 Republican seats it is targeting. Oregon’s Second Congressional seat is not among them.
But Democrats are hoping they can give Walden a tougher race this time. The Oregon Democratic Party has set up a website — titled “repeal Walden” — to collect contributions for the primary victor.
“The political winds are shifting and Republicans like Greg Walden will face serious challenges to their re-election in November,” said state Democratic chairwoman Jeanne Atkins in announcing the website.