In a frank and open podcast interview, Oregon congressional candidate Carrick Flynn spoke of his experience of homelessness, of his work lobbying Congress for pandemic preparedness, and of his desire to emulate President Obama by reaching across the aisle on technocratic solutions.
It was perhaps the most revealing look yet at a political novice whose candidacy is buoyed by more than $7 million from a super-PAC backed by cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried. And the April 13 conversation with the podcast The Bridge, hosted by Democrat Ben Bowman and Republican Alex Titus, took a surprising turn when Flynn started talking about logging and Oregon’s history.
“I’m supposed to be running as a Democrat here,” Flynn says as a preamble to expressing an opinion at odds with the usual Democratic Party line: criticizing the northern spotted owl’s designation as an endangered species, a decision that resulted in restrictions against logging old-growth forests.
“There is a part of me still feels indignant or angry that…that you have these people in the city who were like, ‘Oh, look. There’s an owl. Isn’t it cool? We’re gonna destroy all of your livelihoods in your community because we like this owl,’” Flynn said. “It’s an owl, looks like other owls.”
He wasn’t done. “You know, it’s like it’s saying like, ‘Oh I like this exhibit in the zoo more than everyone you know,’” he adds. He references “Timber Unity” as a group “I’m obviously really sympathetic to emotionally.”
That last remark was noticed and highlighted by an opponent in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District.
“It’s disqualifying for any candidate to express sympathy for a group whose spokeswoman attended the Jan. 6 insurrection,” says Intel engineer Matt West. “Carrick Flynn has made it clear how little interest he has in being a Democrat. He has no place on a Democratic ticket—or frankly in our party. I call on every Democrat to join me in demanding Carrick apologize for his expression of ‘emotional sympathy’ with a group dedicated to destroying our environment and intimately tied to the violent far right.”
Timber Unity’s focus was to protest the climate legislation in the Oregon statehouse that was ultimately blocked by Republican walkouts.
Flynn, who grew up in Vernonia, has attracted notice in part because Protect Our Future PAC, funded by Bankman-Fried, has spent more than $7 million in support of Flynn’s candidacy. Those expenditures have had an impact, according to poll results released by the West campaign. Flynn is ahead.
Curiously, Flynn was registered as a Pacific Green Party member from 2005 to 2008 when he switched his party affiliation to Democrat. His campaign did not attempt to explain how that choice of party affiliation squares with such a sharp criticism of forest conservation policies. Instead, the campaign tried to brush off any controversy with more expected arguments from a Democrat.
“Per your question about the ‘Democrat’ line, he was clearly being rhetorical, and with regards to his previous voter registration, disaster preparedness—including combating the impact of climate change—has always been something that his driven Carrick, dating back to when his family was displaced by the flood of ’96,” says campaign manager Avital Balwit.
Balwit also tried to make the most of the nuances in Carrick’s discussion of the issues, but did not directly address West’s criticism.
“Carrick grew up in a timber-dependent town and his family and others lost everything in a historic flood,” says Balwit. “He has experienced in a deeply personal way both the ramifications of climate change, and the need for well-intentioned policies to be effectively communicated and implemented. Oregon and our divided nation need more people in Congress who understand these complexities, and are committed to getting positive results.”
His campaign has thus far declined to make Flynn available for an interview with WW, despite multiple requests.