The Oregon, Idaho Congressional Primaries to Watch Tuesday

Two northwestern states hold congressional primaries Tuesday, with an open-seat Republican race and a pair of Democratic incumbent challenges in Oregon headlining the slate.

Voting issues other states have dealt with as they expand their absentee voting capabilities are unlikely to be seen in Oregon, which has voted exclusively by mail since the mid-1990s and was the first state to do so.

Idaho also is holding congressional primaries Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know about the key races.

Oregon

2nd District (Bend, Medford, Grants Pass; President Donald Trump won 57%-36%): In Oregon’s largest and only strongly Republican district, the winner of an 11-candidate GOP primary will be favored to succeed retiring 11-term Rep. Greg Walden (R), the ranking member on the Energy and Commerce Committee and its former chairman.

Photo by Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg
Walden’s retirement kicked off a crowded Republican primary race to replace him.

The top four contenders are Knute Buehler, a former state representative who lost to Gov. Kate Brown (D) in the 2018 governor’s race; Jimmy Crumpacker, a commodities trader; Cliff Bentz, a former state representative and state senator; and Jason Atkinson, also a former state representative and state senator.

The race was punctuated by candidates expressing loyalty to Trump, opposition to Brown and “Portland liberals,” doubts about the conservative credentials of their rivals, and support for gun rights, ranchers and farmers in a district covering more than 69,000 square miles.

Buehler, the best-funded Republican, is a surgeon whose supporters include the political arms of the American Medical Association and the National Association of Realtors. Buehler’s outside backers include Republican Leadership for Oregon, a super PAC funded by Nike’s Phil Knight.

“There is no one in this race who has fought Gov. Brown and the liberal establishment harder than I have, and I’m ready to stand with President Trump and take it to D.C.,” Buehler said at an online candidate forum earlier this month.

Buehler’s opponents cited his support for abortion rights during the 2018 campaign and his past criticism of Trump.

Crumpacker’s ads referred to him as a “Trump backer,” rhyming with the candidate’s last name, and said he’s running against a “pack of career politicians.” Rivals called Crumpacker a carpetbagger with weak ties to the district.

Bentz’s backers include the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that says it believes in “governing in a thoughtful and pragmatic manner.” Opponents brandished Bentz’s support for a 2017 law that upgraded the state’s transportation infrastructure by raising some taxes and fees.

Atkinson highlighted his opposition to abortion and said his priorities in Congress would include forestry and veterans’ issues.

Five little-known Democrats are seeking the nomination.

4th District (Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis, Roseburg; Hillary Clinton won 46.1%-46.0%): Rep. Peter DeFazio (D), a 17-term member and the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is opposed in the primary by Doyle Elizabeth Canning, a community organizer and supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) policy platform.

Canning underscored her opposition to an Oregon pipeline project and criticized DeFazio’s record on immigration, including his 2017 vote for the Republican “Kate’s Law” measure that would have increased penalties for those illegally re-entering the U.S. after deportation. Canning raised about $200,000 from individuals and none from political action committees through April 29, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

DeFazio, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, highlighted his support for abortion rights, the Green New Deal climate-change blueprint, and his work to hold corporations accountable. He received scores of 97% from the League of Conservation Voters and 90% from the AFL-CIO for his votes in 2019.

The likely Republican nominee is Alek Skarlatos, a military veteran who helped thwart a gunman on a Paris-bound train in 2015 and lost a bid for the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in 2018. DeFazio defeated Republican Art Robinson in each of the past five general elections, with vote percentages between 54.5% and 59.1%.

5th District (Salem; Clinton 48%-44%): Rep. Kurt Schrader (D), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats who emphasize fiscal restraint, has two primary challengers. One is Mark Gamba, a professional photographer and mayor of the small city of Milwaukie.

Gamba, a Sanders backer, supports the Green New Deal and a Medicare for All health-care system run by the government. He raised $223,000 through April 29.

Schrader promoted his work to lower prescription drug prices and strengthen career and technical education programs. He opposed Nancy Pelosi in the 2019 speaker’s election and was among six House Democrats who voted against a $15-per-hour minimum wage bill. Schrader supported an alternative bill that would adjust the wage based on the cost of living and regional economic conditions.

Four Republicans are seeking the nomination. None raised more than $75,000.

Senate: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) is unopposed in the primary and favored to win a third term in November. Three little-known Republicans are running.

Idaho

It will be a quiet primary day in Idaho, where Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch is unopposed in the Republican primary and favored to win a third term in one of the nation’s most Republican states.

Republican Reps. Russ Fulcher of the western 1st District and Mike Simpson of the 2nd District face nominal opposition in the primary and also are favored to win new terms in November. Fulcher is a freshman and Simpson, in his 11th term, is the top Republican on the Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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