U.S. House of Representatives, District 1
Suzanne Bonamici, Democrat
Bonamici, 64, was first elected to Congress in 2011, after years in the Oregon Legislature. In the past six years, she has earned a reputation as a steady, if unexceptional, representative who has struggled in the past to point to concrete successes. But the election of President Trump seems to have energized Bonamici, who has thrown her support behind "Medicare for All," the single-payer health care plan trumpeted by the Democratic Party's left wing. She's determined to make college more affordable by expanding Pell grants and bolstering income-based repayment and loan forgiveness programs. And she's aiming to improve infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, across Oregon—not just in her district, which covers Clatsop, Columbia, Washington and Yamhill counties.
Bonamici is one of 200 members of Congress who filed a lawsuit against the president alleging he violated the Constitution's emoluments clause by taking money from foreign agents. When the Trump administration adopted a zero-tolerance immigration policy and started separating families at the border, Bonamici showed up at Oregon's only federal prison, in Sheridan, where more than 120 immigrants were detained. In a speech on the House floor, she offered to personally help reunite immigrant children with their parents. It's good to see her find a platform, and her voice.
Bonamici is opposed by a Republican, John Verbeek, a Dutch immigrant who wants to repeal Oregon's sanctuary law, and a Libertarian and Green Party candidate, Drew Layda, who says the federal government needs to shrink.
We think Bonamici's aims are better for Oregon.
What Bonamici is afraid of: She fears the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, winding back the clock to a time when women were forced to seek illegal, unsafe abortions. She's also frightened by scary movies—especially The Silence of the Lambs.
Earl Blumenauer, Democrat
Bow ties, bikes and bongs: That's what Blumenauer has focused his time on since winning election to Congress in 1996. He enjoys the luxury of pursuing such progressive interests. Oregon's 3rd Congressional District, which stretches from Mount Hood to the West Hills, is by far the state's bluest—Democrats enjoy a voter registration advantage of 33.3 percentage points over Republicans.
A transportation wonk from his service on the Portland City Council from 1986 to 1996, Blumenauer has also been one of Washington, D.C.'s strongest voices for public transit for two decades. He now serves on the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee and is poised to chair a subcommittee should Democrats win back the House in November. While in the minority, Blumenauer has focused his energy on pushing for the legalization of cannabis in other states and at the federal level. He's pushing to recast the bloated farm bill that rewards industrial agriculture at the expense of the sustainable practices many of Blumenauer's constituents practice.
At 70, Blumenauer has now held public office for 47 years, beginning with service in the Oregon House at the age of 23, when Tom McCall was governor. Whether it's appropriate or not, Congress rewards seniority with committee gavels and deference on funding. Blumenauer would like one more run in the majority, where his length of service could help deliver money for the project he's long dreamed of—extending TriMet's light rail to Vancouver.
Also in the race are Republican Tom Harrison, a tech entrepreneur from Oregon City; Libertarian Gary Dye; and Independent, Pacific Green and Progressive Party nominee Marc Koller. All are smarter and more reasonable than most long-shot candidates, but none has the record of civic engagement or support to mount a serious challenge to Blumenauer.
What Blumenauer is afraid of: "Boats." The representative recently broke his back in a boating accident.
Kurt Schrader, Democrat
Oregon's 5th Congressional District, which spans the central coast and Marion, Polk and much of Clackamas counties, is more evenly split between Democrats and Republicans than any other district in the state.
Given that landscape, it makes good sense to send incumbent Kurt Schrader, 67, back to Congress. The retired veterinarian is a moderate Democrat who leads a "blue dog" coalition of centrists in the U.S. House, focused on reducing debt and deficits. The coalition is likely to gain strength in the next Congress, and Schrader hopes to leverage that power to help create jobs in rural communities in his district by improving vocational-technical schools.
It's disturbing that the person Republicans nominated to oppose Schrader is Mark Callahan—a perennial candidate with a spotty employment history and no record of accomplishment. He has never seen an office he didn't run for, including president, the U.S. Senate and the Oregon Legislature. He's a climate-change denier who is running against sanctuary cities and gun control. Six years ago, Callahan was a fringe candidate—now he's a GOP standard-bearer. He didn't change. The party lost its way—and found him.
Other candidates in the race include Marvin Sandnes of the Pacific Green Party who runs to talk about ending wars, and Dan Souza, a Lincoln City chef and Libertarian who wants to cut government spending. Neither is running a serious campaign.
Schrader's biggest fear: "I'm not a big fan of sharks or snakes," Schrader says. "I forced myself to swim in the ocean just to fight that phobia a little bit."