OR-5: Rep. Schrader Concedes

One of the political overtime races officially has ended and the result yielded a fourth US House incumbent to lose in the early 2022 cycle.

With the Clackamas County (Oregon) ballot bar code problem that stayed counting finally corrected, it became clear that seven-term Rep. Kurt Schrader* (D-Canby) would not overcome his Democratic primary opponent’s early lead. Therefore, just before the Memorial holiday break he conceded the Democratic nomination to former local city manager Jamie McLeod-Skinner. The Oregon Secretary of State reports the McLeod-Skinner advantage at 55.1 - 44.3% with 80,423 votes counted, yielding a spread of exactly 8,300 votes.

In the eleven states that have so far conducted their primaries, only in Oregon did Democratic turnout exceed that of the Republicans. According to the Secretary of State’s unofficial count, 484,660 Democrats voted in Oregon’s top statewide race, the open Governor’s contest, compared to 373,878 Republicans.

Both parties gained in voter participation, however, when comparing their totals with the most recent midterm election in 2018. Democrats increased their turnout 25.2% based upon the current reported numbers, while Republicans improved by a similar 22.9 percent when contrasted with their respective participation numbers from four years earlier.

The increased Democratic turnout, in a pattern inconsistent with what we have seen in the other ten states that have so far nominated candidates, favored the party’s progressive left faction. In the Governor’s Democratic nomination race, state Treasurer Tobias Read, the only statewide official of the 15 candidates, attempted to run closer to the ideological center but fell badly to the decidedly more leftwing candidate, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek. The latter candidate’s margin of victory was a landslide 56-32%.

This type of turnout model, therefore, opened the door for Ms. McLeod-Skinner in the 5th District contest, and she took advantage to the extent of easily defeating a seven-term congressional incumbent.

But, the turnout model wasn’t Rep. Schrader’s only problem. As is so often the case when incumbents lose, redistricting played a major role. A majority of the new 5th District’s constituent base (53.2%) was new to the Congressman. Oregon gained a new congressional seat because of the state’s strong population growth rate and, as a result, the 5th District in particular was greatly changed. The new 5th saw significant territory coming within its borders from three of the state’s four existing districts, including a full 24% of people previously living in the heavily Republican 2nd CD.

Instead of again including the state’s capital city of Salem, which now lies in the new 6th District, the new 5th darted to the southeast toward more conservative rural territory and annexed the city of Bend, a place that had traditionally remained in the 2nd CD.

For the 2022 general election, while the historical Democratic regional voting trends favor Ms. McLeod-Skinner, a D+3 rating from the FiveThirtyEight data organization suggests that this seat becomes a significant Republican target later this year.

Dave’s Redistricting App, the second data organization that has immediately plotted and analyzed all of the new congressional districts around the country, sees the new 5th as a bit more favorable to the Democrats than does 538, however. Dave’s plots the historical Democratic marker at 50.6% while the Republicans record a considerably smaller 44.6%.

The new 5th Congressional District nominee, Ms. McLeod-Skinner, will now face the freshly nominated Republican, former Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer. This contest will likely be the most competitive congressional race in the Beaver State, and becomes a GOP national conversion target.

Mr. Schrader is the fourth incumbent and second Democrat to be denied re-nomination so far in 2022, joining Reps. David McKinley* (R-WV), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), and Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-GA). Redistricting affected three of the four negatively, especially Reps. McKinley and Bourdeaux who were paired with incumbent members of their own party.

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