Rep. Earl Blumenauer to Retire

With candidate filing deadlines beginning to appear over the political horizon, we are starting to see a new swing of congressional retirements come into focus.

Yesterday, 15-term Oregon US Representative Earl Blumenauer* (D-Portland) announced that he will not seek re-election in 2024.

Mr. Blumenauer, who first came to the House in a 1996 special election succeeding Ron Wyden who had been elected to the Senate, has served in public office consecutively since 1973, including his time in the Oregon House of Representatives, the Multnomah County Commission, and as a Portland City Commissioner, in addition to his 28+ years in Congress. He currently serves on the House Ways & Means and Budget Committees.

Rep. Blumenauer leaves a safely Democratic Portland suburban anchored seat that covers Hood River County and parts of Multnomah and Clackamas counties located in the northern part of the state that occupy the Washington border region. Therefore, we can expect a crowded and hotly contested 3rd District Democratic primary scheduled for May 21, 2024.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the district as D+43. Dave’s Redistricting App calculates a whopping 70.5D – 25.0R partisan lean. In the 2020 election, President Joe Biden carried the 3rd with a 72-25% super majority. The Daily Kos Elections site ranks OR-3 as the 155th most vulnerable seat in the Democratic Conference.

Several major Democrats could compete for the district. So far some of the Democratic names already popping to the surface include Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, state Representative Travis Nelson (D-Portland), Multnomah County Commissioner Susheela Jayapal (D), sister to US Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), former Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury, and Gresham City Councilor Eddy Morales. Others are expected to surface, which means we could see an open primary campaign featuring a double-digit number of contenders.

The Oregon congressional plan is not one of those under litigation so it is likely that the current map, which gained a new seat in national reapportionment, will remain in place throughout the decade. The Beaver State delegation features four Democrats and two Republicans but has lost the bulk of its seniority from the election just past and in this current cycle.

Of the state’s six US House members, four are freshmen as the 2022 cycle saw Reps. Peter DeFazio (D; 36 years) and Greg Walden (R; 22 years) retire, and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D; 14 years) defeated in the Democratic primary. Now, Mr. Blumenauer will retire adding just short of another 29 years of lost seniority. In this short two-year period, Oregon will have lost 100+ years of congressional seniority.

The state’s House dean in the next Congress, assuming she runs for and is re-elected next year, will be Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Washington County) who won her first congressional election via a 2012 special vote.

Mr. Blumenauer’s retirement decision means there are 22 open House seats nationally, 15 from the Democratic side, and six that Republicans currently hold, with one new redistricting-created open seat in Alabama. Of the 21 incumbents who will not seek re-election at this point, eight are retiring or have resigned, and 13 are running for a different office

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