Mailer Awards: The Most Noteworthy Arrivals in Portland-Area Mailboxes

We leafed through more than 50 pieces of mail this week, and selected the arguments and images that caused us to raise our collective eyebrows.

You’ve got mail—and it’s got plenty to say.

Portland-area voters have been deluged by campaign mailers in the final days leading up to the May 17 primary election. Candidates use the glossy flyers to make their best case. That’s especially important with statewide voter turnout below 10% at press deadline. We leafed through more than 50 pieces of mail this week, and selected the arguments and images that caused us to raise our collective eyebrows.

Most Ruthless Attack:

Challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner is going hard after incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in the Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District. One mailer shows a grim-faced adolescent girl injecting her bare midriff beside the (accurate) caption: “Congressman Kurt Schrader voted against reducing the price of her insulin.”

Most Unlikely Coalition:

In 2019, Schrader vocally opposed the reelection of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as House speaker. “Her time has come and gone,” Schrader told WW before the vote. “She’s actually a liability.” Now, Schrader, in the fight of his career with McLeod-Skinner, who is running to his left in a swing district, features Pelosi in a mailer with the tagline “Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a vital message for Oregonians...Kurt Schrader is the only Democrat who can win in November.”

Most Prominent Use of Tents and Children:

Daniel Nguyen, a Lake Oswego city councilor and small business owner running in the Democratic primary for Oregon House District 38, used the two most reliable tactics of mailer season: kids and fear. In one mailer, a tarp structure surrounded by junk and shopping carts filled with blankets and boxes is paired with the caption “No one should have to call this a home.” In another, Nguyen surrounds himself with five elementary school-aged children.

Most Negative Local Campaign:

Brian Decker is seeking to unseat incumbent Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton, and both men are campaigning viciously. One Decker flyer writes about Barton: “More gun crimes? More racial discrimination in the DA’s office? More bullying of sexual assault victims and refusing to believe their stories?” paired with a photo of Barton looking stunned. A Barton flyer writes that Decker “has worked to defund the police and abolish Oregon’s prisons.…We’ve seen the results of his failed policies in Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.” The front of the Barton flyer shows an expansive grassy field with the words: “Keep Portland extremists out of Washington County.”

Most Creative Use of Stock Photography:

Carrick Flynn, the cryptocurrency-backed Democratic candidate for Oregon’s 6th Congressional District, leads off one mailer with the story of his family being displaced by the 1996 Vernonia flood. “As a child, Carrick Flynn’s family was met with tragedy,” it says. That’s true. But the accompanying photo of swamped homes is a stock image, used on dozens of websites to illustrate flood damage. It’s unclear what floodplain it shows, but it’s not Vernonia.

Most Prominent Disclaimer:

A Washington County Democrats mailer offers a slate of candidates the party endorses. But it arrived at a WW staffer’s home with a sticker affixed to the back. “In light of the recent information we have received regarding Kathryn Harrington and John Hutzler,” it reads, “I cannot in good faith come to your door and ask you to place your vote for them.” Both Harrington, the county chair, and Hutzler, the county auditor, have been accused of bullying employees.

Honorable Mention:

Five of the leading Republican candidates for governor—Bud Pierce, Bob Tiernan, Christine Drazan, Stan Pulliam and Kerry McQuisten—allegedly failed to disclose who paid for campaign flyers, according to a complaint filed with the Secretary of State’s Office on April 29. Under a requirement passed by the Legislature in 2019, candidates’ campaigns must disclose their full name and committee ID while PACs must disclose their top donors.