Carrick Flynn says he’s misunderstood.
Nearly $9 million of independent expenditures have made Flynn’s face and plaid shirts ubiquitous on Oregon television screens. But Flynn, 35, says that spending isn’t the reason he leads in polls in his race for a congressional seat. And he says the local media have misrepresented his core values—this newspaper in particular.
Two weeks after Flynn elected to not attend WW’s endorsement interview, and after nearly daily requests for a sitdown, Flynn’s campaign staff consented to a 25-minute conversation by phone. Here are the highlights of that interview, lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
WW: Based on what you’ve heard on the campaign trail, what’s the top priority for voters in Oregon’s 6th Congressional District?
Carrick Flynn: I would say something like stability. That’s what coronavirus did—not just the illness itself, but in terms of kids having to stay home from schools, the mass unemployment that initially took root, the problems of crime that ramped up dramatically during COVID. And some of the instability comes with political polarization, the stuff with the attempted insurrection. You hear a lot of people say something like they just want things to be normal again, or they would like sanity back.
How many doors would you say you’ve knocked on since you’ve began campaigning?
That’s a good question. It’d be less than 500, probably.
OK. A lot less than 500?
No. I would say something in that domain, but less.
Did any conversation stand out to you?
It’s kind of a recurring theme: People are really struggling with getting their medication, and the price of it is something that I don’t think I’d really appreciated. There was a woman the other day who lost her husband recently. She was just really scared about the medication situation. There’s something so wrong about it. She lives her whole life and does all this stuff. And this is the way it ends.
Could you give us an example of your independence, where you don’t toe the Democratic Party line? For instance, you said on a podcast that you had some concerns about the northern spotted owl. Are you a Timber Unity supporter?
So, I’m emphatically not a Timber Unity supporter. Actually, if I had something I could request to show up this article, it would be me encouraging people to go back and listen to that podcast. Because I did not say that, I do not mean that. I do have concerns about the economic effect conservation had on timber communities. But I have concerns about economic effects of any large economic trends or any government regulation on communities. So I worry about Detroit auto workers. I worry about the rust belt.
And I grew up in a timber town when this was happening. And I will say the economic effect of it was absolutely devastating. The government needs to get better at making sure that if there’s a large change, there’s some sort of cushion. There needs to be some regulatory program that sets people into jobs. So it doesn’t just crash. The government should not itself be a natural disaster.
A lot of people in Oregon would characterize what happened with the spotted owl as an urban elite dictating policy to rural Oregon. Billionaires like Sam Bankman-Fried made a lot of money, and they would like to dictate public policy. So what’s the relationship between money and sound public policy?
Ideally, none. I was not fond of campaign finance as I understood it before I got into the campaign. Seeing it up close, it does not look better. This is a bad system. At the worst versions, you have the Koch brothers or Exxon Mobil influencing policy very directly and very brazenly. I think none of it is good, but at least there’s a better end of it, where there are groups that find candidates that are trying to do what they’re trying to do, like prevent a pandemic from happening, and then just try to make sure that that message gets out. But no, the system’s not good.
When did you first come into contact with any of the Bankman-Frieds—Sam or Gabe or anybody else in the family?
So I’ve never been in contact with Sam at all. I don’t remember exactly when I met Gabe. I definitely at least knew him by 2019.
Did you and he talk about your potentially running for Congress before this all started?
I talked to basically everyone before this started. I had some family and friends suggest I should do it.
You appear to be leading the polls in your district. It’s because someone you say you’ve never met has spent $7 million on your campaign, independent of your qualifications. In your mind, is that democratic?
I think my message is resonating. All that’s being said in advertisements about me is true. I’ve only been true about myself.
There’s a lot of different ways to approach an election. People who can self-fund cut off access to those of us who absolutely could not. There’s issues with people who kind of are elected by local political machines.
We’re just asking you if you feel like the way in which your election is being financed—that you are at the top of the polls because of the independent expenditure by one gentleman—whether you think that’s good for democracy.
I don’t agree with your premise. I think my message is resonating.
Are independent expenditures good for democracy? Simple question.
And I’ve answered it three times, so I’ll move on. I’ve said before, I don’t like campaign finance, and if I have an option, if I am elected, I would be very happy to get involved with any serious efforts to reform it. It’s terrible.
What haven’t we asked you that we should?
What I’ll say is, I think you guys have missed me entirely. Like you’ve just gone in the wrong direction and kept going there. And I think if you wanted to understand me, you would find somebody who is extremely motivated by doing good in the world and who is very willing to upend their life to do that in lots of different directions, following the proposition of just trying to do whatever helps people the most.
So not someone with any political ambitions, and not someone who, for some reason, likes living in Liberia for long periods of time, or likes having malaria for a month or living on $8,000 in 2015, when all my colleagues who graduated from Yale were making over a million. But someone who’s really emphatically just trying to do good in the world.