Door-knocking isn't really possibly for candidates during the COVID-19 pandemic—let alone useful in Oregon's 2nd Congressional District, which sprawls across most of the state east of the Cascades and is one of the nation's largest in area.
But this year's GOP primary has brought a level of independent activism in the race from outside groups that's unusual in Oregon federal races. That action is showing up in TV advertising.
In western Oregon, the congressional races are comparatively dull.
You'd hardly know, for instance, that U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) was on the ballot this year. And although two of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Kurt Schrader, face more than the usual nominal opposition in the primary from challengers Albert Lee and Mark Gamba, respectively, it's fair to say that federal races in Oregon's primary are attracting little attention.
That's not the case in the 2nd District, which has been represented by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) since 1999. Voter registration in the district gives Republicans a virtual lock on the seat. The race to succeed Walden, who is retiring, attracted three established former legislators, state Sens. Jason Atkinson (R-Central Point) and Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) and Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend), as well as Jimmy Crumpacker, a Portland investment adviser who changed his voting address to Bend after Walden announced his retirement.
In early March, Oregon Right to Life, a powerhouse in GOP politics, announced it would spend $250,000 against Buehler, an orthopedic surgeon who established himself as a pro-choice moderate in statewide runs for secretary of state in 2012 and governor in 2018 (he lost to Kate Brown both times).
As WW reported in April, Nike co-founder Phil Knight led a group of backers of a newly formed independent expenditure committee that will spend money to support Buehler, who previously received $2.5 million from Knight when he ran for governor in 2018. The Center for Responsive Politics says that group has spent $71,000 on Buehler's behalf so far.
At least two national independent expenditure committees are active in the primary as well. The Club for Growth, a massive PAC that supports candidates on the GOP's conservative wing, has spent more than $200,000 on ads targeting Buehler so far, the Center for Responsive Politics reports. Here's one of the ads:
And last week, a super-PAC called Defending Main Street, which usually supports moderate Republicans, spent $200,000 on a TV ad buy to support Bentz.
Meanwhile, an anonymous poster who describes himself as a "bored, unemployed guy under quarantine" and claims not to be affiliated with any campaign or political action committee, has produced two pretty slick videos promoting an "anyone but Jimmy Crumpacker" vote.
Here's the first, which riffs on a WW story about Crumpacker's qualifications to replace Walden:
And the second, which focuses on Crumpacker's financial disclosure form: