U.S. House of Representatives
1st Congressional District
Delinda Delgado Morgan • Republican PrimaryHow firm a hold does U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) have on this district, which stretches from Portland’s West Hills all the way to Astoria? It’s a death grip.
In a 2012 special election to fill the seat, vacated by U.S. Rep. David Wu, the Republican National Committee backed a solid candidate, businessman Rob Cornilles, to grab the opening. Cornilles couldn’t break 40 percent against Bonamici.
Two years later, the GOP power structure isn’t even trying.
So Republican 1st District voters instead have three candidates whose odd rhetoric would be scary if any ever had a snowball’s chance of winning. Bob Niemeyer, a mechanical engineer, says his top goal is defending the U.S. Constitution—and would do so by rewriting it to create a fourth branch of the federal government, an executive called “the principal.” In Niemeyer’s redesign of the Constitution, the principal could veto any financial decision by the president or Congress. Niemeyer’s choice for the job: Donald Trump.
Jason Yates, a service manager at a pest-control company, entered the race after being inspired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during Cruz’s speechifying during the U.S. government shutdown last year. Yates is the most articulate candidate in the primary and speaks passionately about the perils of student debt. He’s a graduate of Portland State University’s film studies program, where he produced a comedic Web series titled Awkward Moments With Jesus. He played the title role. (In one episode, Jesus does speed dating.)
That leaves Morgan, a Yamhill County heavy-equipment operator, vintner and martial arts instructor. WW endorsed her in the 2012 primary election, and she was trounced by Bonamici in the general election. Morgan doesn’t seem to have deepened her campaign much: Her website is the same, as are her pro-life, pro-logging speeches. But she has a stronger connection to the people of her district, and a clearer message, than either of her opponents.
Who Morgan would be if not herself: “I wouldn’t want to be a man. But I would be Benjamin Franklin.”
5th Congressional District
Kurt Schrader • Democratic PrimarySchrader swept into office in 2008 as part of Obama’s big blue tide, but the veterinarian and three-term congressman has shown he is independent of traditional Democratic thinking.
He’s been part of the so-called Blue Dog Democrats who see themselves as budget and deficit hawks. Schrader is also part of a plan to change the way the former Oregon and California railroad lands are managed. Many Oregon counties rely on timber payments from these federal lands, and decreasing harvests have left many strapped.
Schrader favors shelving half the lands for preservation and harvesting from the rest. The proposal has drawn the ire of environmentalists and a veto threat from the White House. This stance allows Schrader to talk bluntly about how President Obama shouldn’t “meddle” in Oregon’s efforts to help local counties.
Undoubtedly, that plays well in rural areas of the district (which stretches across the Willamette Valley from the Oregon Coast to the Cascades) with independents and Democrats who have drifted away from Obama.
Schrader has left himself open for tough questioning from the more progressive wing of his party, if he’d drawn an opponent who is up to the task. Anita Brown is not that person. A former U.S. Army medical specialist, Brown lacks the experience and knowledge to pose a serious challenge to Schrader.
Who Schrader would be if not himself: James Madison, because of his ability to work people on all sides.
5th Congressional District
Ben Pollock • Republican PrimaryAs a Clackamas County Commissioner for the past two years, Tootie Smith has trailed dutifully behind County Chairman John Ludlow, attacking light rail and giving Tea Party ideas a platform.
Her time on the commission has otherwise been unremarkable, as was her stint in the Oregon House from 2001 to 2005, where she was perhaps best known for loosening state rules so professional wrestling could return to Oregon. While in Salem, she showed a ridiculous degree of insensitivity to ethics when she invited lobbyists to buy Christmas wreaths from her family’s tree farm.
Such thickness was exceeded only by her 2012 campaign fundraising ploy: a raffle where the winner got to take home a Glock pistol.
GOP voters in the 5th Congressional District have to ask whether Smith even has the required nerve to challenge a brawler like Kurt Schrader in the general election. Smith refused to come to WW’s offices and be interviewed alongside her primary opponent, newcomer Ben Pollock.
Pollock, 29, is a former political consultant who helps run his family business, a Canby company that makes custom interiors for classic cars. He grew up in Portland and went on to work for such conservative stalwarts as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Pollock calls himself a “liberty-minded Republican” who would return control of federal timberlands back to the states and would (like many GOP candidates) undo Obamacare.
He squirmed when asked how he would vote on a ballot measure to end Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage, complained the issue would make it difficult for him to win the primary and then—to his credit—said he would vote for it because it fit with his belief that the government has no business interfering in people’s private lives. (Notably, he’s opposed to abortion.)
Pollock may be overreaching by running for Congress in his first political campaign, and he may well be too green to give Schrader a serious challenge, but we see him as far more substantive and serious than Smith.
Who Pollock would be if not himself: The assistant linesman who Pollock, an ardent Timbers fan, says blew a controversial call in the Timbers’ 2-1 loss to FC Dallas on March 29—“so I could change the call.”