A New Seat in Congress Attracts Some Familiar Faces

It’s a district that favors Democrats: 55% of voters within the contested boundaries went for Joe Biden in 2020.

The Oregon Legislature’s partisan fight to draw lines for the state’s new 6th Congressional District was contentious and continues in the courts.

But that’s just the prelude to the contest to decide who will represent an area likely to include parts of Lake Oswego down through Yamhill and Polk counties along with the western portions of Marion County.

It’s a district that favors Democrats: 55% of voters within the contested boundaries went for Joe Biden in 2020. And political consultants say the new seat represents new possibilities, particularly in the Democratic primary.

“It’s an opportunity for Oregon to get another woman,” says political consultant Paige Richardson. “It’s an opportunity to get the first person of color in our congressional delegation. And it’s an opportunity for the midvalley to get someone representing them.”

Plenty of candidates are ready to seize that chance.

DEMOCRATS ALREADY IN:

• Loretta Smith, a onetime staffer to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and a two-term Multnomah County commissioner, entered the race before the district’s boundaries were drawn. She most recently made two unsuccessful bids for Portland City Council and has already raised $115,032. She doesn’t live in the district and won’t till the court case is decided, when she plans to buy a home within its lines.

• State Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Lake Oswego), a leader in the Oregon House of Representatives on redistricting and an ally of public-employee unions in the state. A well-respected figure in Salem, she’s the first Democratic legislator to join the race—but also doesn’t live in the district. (Federal law says that’s not required.)

• Salem doctor Kathleen Harder, who chaired the Oregon Medical Board, entered the Democratic primary on Nov. 15.

• Other Dems who have announced include Intel engineer Matt West.

DEMOCRATS STILL CONSIDERING A RUN:

• State Rep. Brian Clem (D-Salem), who is leaving the Legislature to care for his ailing mother. Clem, a moderate whose politics may help in a contested general election, could also bring his own money to the race. Clem says he’s planning to give the race “careful consideration.”

• State Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon (D-Woodburn), has a strong base of support in the heart of the district. Alonso Leon will potentially compete with Salinas for some of the same endorsements from social justice organizations. (She did not respond to requests for comment.)

• Also considering a run is state Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth), who says he’s weighing a bid “very seriously.”

A FORMIDABLE REPUBLICAN:

• The Democrats are favored, but it’s not clear they’ll carry the seat. The midterm elections of a Democratic presidency may provide an opening for the GOP. Rep. Ron Noble (R-Yamhill), a former police chief who represents a portion of the new congressional district in the Oregon House, is in.