U.S. House of Representatives, 1st District
Suzanne Bonamici, Democrat
Since winning this seat in a 2012 special election following the resignation of Democrat David Wu, Bonamici, a lawyer and former state senator, has made few waves. She sits on the House Education and Labor Committee, where she is chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services. She helped pass a reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which funds programs such as Meals on Wheels. Bonamici, 65, is a steady backbencher unlikely to rise to leadership—but also unlikely to pose for a photo in a tiger suit, as Wu did. Along with her husband, federal judge Michael Simon, Bonamici is part of one of Oregon's premier political power couples.
She faces nominal but interesting opposition in this race from Amanda Siebe, 35, an advocate for disabled Oregonians; Heidi Briones, 36, who's running to publicize the concept of universal basic income; and Ricky Barajas, 35, who also ran against Bonamici two years ago but isn't mounting a serious campaign.
What Bonamici will remember about the COVID-19 pandemic: How the disease has brought out the disparities in our society.
Earl Blumenauer, Democrat
Earl Blumenauer is a familiar face to most Portlanders. He was first elected in 1996, and he's been reelected to the 3rd District 11 times since then. Over the past
two years in office, the bow tie-sporting 71-year-old has been a leader in the
fight for federal cannabis legalization (he's founder of the House Cannabis Caucus) and has aligned himself with the über-progressive Green New Deal. As a member of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, he's also been a loud voice for Medicare for All.
Although he's a little starchy and can be peevish, Blumenauer reflects the values of the city he represents: GovTrack, which analyzes congressional votes, ranked him more liberal than all but 10 members of Congress in 2019.
That ranking shows how hard it is to run to Blumenauer's left. That's the task of the most serious candidate we've seen challenge Blumenauer in memory, 45-year-old Albert Lee. Lee, a lawyer, is the former dean of Portland Community College's business and computing division and a state advisory committee member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. During our endorsement interview, he challenged Blumenauer's record, including his long-ago support of the Defense of Marriage Act in the '90s, and his 2018 vote in favor of the FOSTA-SESTA bill, which aimed to protect victims of sex trafficking but effectively criminalized online sex work.
We commend Lee's willingness to stand up against a popular incumbent, and we think Lee is an intelligent, compelling candidate. But he didn't prove to us he would be more effective than Blumenauer, and he has not held elected office at any level before, which makes us wary of him jumping straight to the congressional delegation. We hope to see Lee run again—ideally for a more winnable seat—and we believe he has a bright political future.
Blumenauer's other two challengers are not serious candidates: 33-year-old Dane Wilcox has detailed ideas on climate legislation, but the owner of a hot sauce company doesn't have prior experience that points to being an effective legislator. Another challenger, 49-year-old Charles Rand Barnett, is a computer programmer who plays the jazz trombone and is an avid cyclist. We applaud both endeavors, but they are not enough to win our support. Vote Earl.
What Blumenauer will remember about the COVID-19 pandemic: Family dinners every night around 7 with his wife and stepdaughter.
Kurt Schrader, Democrat
Schrader, 68, is the only member of Oregon's congressional delegation who could conceivably have a tough race for reelection, based on voter registration in his district (Democrats hold the advantage by just 5 percentage points). It's not going to happen this year because the GOP failed to recruit a credible challenger to the six-term incumbent.
The flinty former veterinarian did draw a Democratic primary opponent to his left this time: two-term Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, 61, who has moved aggressively to get his city to adopt ambitious climate goals and a generous minimum wage. Schrader, a budget expert in his earlier career as a state legislator representing Canby, hasn't welcomed Gamba's input, accusing his opponent of trying to foist "elitist" metro-area policies on a working-class congressional district that extends from Portland's western suburbs to the central coast. That's funny, given that Schrader is a pharmaceutical industry heir and Gamba is a freelance photographer whose mayoral pay is $3,600 a year.
We like seeing Schrader annoyed—it seems to wake him up a bit. As a member of the centrist Blue Dog Democrats and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, he's taken public positions that reflect the balanced nature of his district but can also feel like fence-sitting. (GovTrack, which crunches numbers on members of Congress, ranked Schrader the fifth-most conservative of the 200 Democrats who served in the 2018 session). Schrader publicly opposed the reelection of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as House speaker when Democrats reclaimed the majority. And he was slow to call for President Trump's impeachment—in fact, he was the last Democratic member of Oregon's congressional delegation to support it.
Still, it's no small achievement to represent a district that stretches from the Warm Springs Reservation east of Mount Hood to Waldport on the coast. Think about how bitterly divided this nation is—so is the 5th District. And Schrader has learned how to make constituents outside Portland's coffee shops feel heard and valued. As a member of the powerful Committee on Energy and Commerce, Schrader last year sponsored the Right Rebate Act, which cracked down on pharmaceutical companies misclassifying drugs in order to avoid paying rebates, which was costing Medicare up to $1 billion annually. He's doing his job and there's no indication Gamba could do it better—or is more in touch with his district.
Also running: Blair Reynolds, 40, owner of Hale Pele, a Northeast Broadway watering hole named the nation's 2019 Tiki Bar of the Year. Of the three candidates, he'd be our first choice for a drinking partner, but he's not ready for office.
What Schrader will remember about the COVID-19 pandemic: Schrader says he's spent more time on the phone than he has in years, calling constituents in his district.
G. Shane Dinkel, Republican
Democrats hold only a slim voter-registration advantage in Kurt Schrader's congressional district, so it's puzzling that Republicans aren't giving voters a serious choice.
If elected, any of these GOP candidates would be a disaster. Joey Nations is a tax policy analyst with the Oregon Department of Revenue who, on occasion, has donned a metal helmet to punch antifascists in street brawls. Angela Roman is a member of the Three Percenters anti-government militia group and has served jail time for a gun charge. The most mainstream candidate is Amy Ryan Courser, a former Keizer City Council member who advises the minor league baseball team the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. She wouldn't agree to an interview.
That leaves G. Shane Dinkel, 61, a veteran of the U.S. Army and Oregon National Guard who decided to run for office after watching Congress impeach President Trump. "It was a goat rope," he says—that's military jargon for a fiasco. Dinkel wants to reopen Oregon for business during the COVID-19 pandemic—a phenomenally bad idea—but is willing to talk to liberals, which is more than we can say for his opponents.
What Dinkel will remember about the COVID-19 pandemic: Going to drive-in church.