Oregon Democrat at risk as 5 states hold US House primaries
WASHINGTON — After years of irritating colleagues, a longtime moderate Democratic congressman faces his toughest primary challenge yet in Oregon.
In North Carolina, a rising Republican star plagued by personal and professional scandals is seeking a victory in his GOP-leaning district.
And across the United States, an exodus of House Democrats has put half a dozen congressional seats on the line.
The results of House primary contests held in Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania are unlikely to offer any clues as to which party will control the House next year. But they will provide insight into the direction each party is heading after two years of unified Democratic control of Washington.
A summary of the races to follow:
Six open seats in Congress up for grabs on Tuesday were left vacant by Democrats who chose to retire or seek higher office rather than run again.
Mass exoduses from Congress are not uncommon ahead of midterm elections, when voters have historically punished the incumbent president’s party. But this year, an unusual number of 31 House Democrats announced they would not run again.
Most are safe Democratic seats, or at least lean that way. That means they are unlikely to play any part in determining which party will control the House next year. But the retirements represent a major loss of experience, knowledge and influence on Capitol Hill for House Democrats and underscore the party’s deep sense of pessimism about its prospects in November.
A Western Pennsylvania seat held by Rep. Conor Lamb is one of the few to be considered competitive. He chose to run for the open U.S. State Senate seat rather than seek re-election.
In Louisville, Kentucky, state Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey and progressive state Rep. Attica Scott are vying to replace outgoing House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth , who was first elected in 2006.
In Oregon, the retirement of House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio sparked a stampede. State Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle is a frontrunner for the safe Democratic seat.
Madison Cawthorn’s unexpected victory in 2020 made him the youngest member of Congress and a rising Republican star. Then the scandals started piling up.
The 26-year-old conservative has been condemned by senior GOP leaders in Washington as well as North Carolina. He now faces an intense primary challenge as he seeks re-election in his western North Carolina district.
The race drew more than half a dozen candidates, who could split the anti-Cawthorn vote. But Cawthorn has the support of the Republican whose opinion can have the most influence.
“He’s made some stupid mistakes recently, which I don’t believe he’ll make again,” former President Donald Trump said in a statement Monday. “Let’s give Madison a second chance.”
A TEST FOR MODERATES IN OREGON
US Representative Kurt Schrader, a moderate Democrat from Oregon, has often been at odds with his party. He compared Trump’s second impeachment trial to a ‘lynching’, voted against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House in 2019 and helped crash President Joe Biden’s social spending agenda with his opposition to some parts of it.
Even so, Schrader, a seven-term congressman, won Biden’s endorsement ahead of Tuesday’s primary in his newly redesigned district. The district is slightly less Democratic than before and contains only about half of the voters who previously elected him to Congress.
Progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner has the support of local Democratic parties in all four counties covered by the seat. If she wins, she could face a tough election campaign against the Republican winner.
Republican U.S. Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho took on conservative attorney Bryan Smith on the ballot in 2014 and smoked him by more than 20 percentage points. This time might be different.
Simpson has inflamed some hardline conservatives because he supported an investigation into the origins of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. He also called Trump “unfit to be president” in 2016.
Now the 12-term congressman has attracted a handful of top challengers, including Smith, for the 2nd congressional district he has represented since 1999.
One of the biggest problems in racing is local. Simpson advocated breaking dams along the Snake River to help protect salmon. Smith says it would devastate the state.
“He basically declared war on farmers, ranchers and families,” Smith told the Idaho Falls Post Register.
CRYPTOCURRENCY IN CONGRESS
A cryptocurrency billionaire’s big spending helped propel political newcomer Carrick Flynn to frontrunner status in the crowded Democratic primary in Oregon’s new 6th congressional district near Portland.
Flynn said he doesn’t have very strong feelings about cryptocurrency, an industry that has spent big this year electing its favorite candidates. But he has benefited from a $10 million advertising campaign by the group Protect Our Future and is the rare leading candidate to win the support of the House Democratic leadership.
Loretta Smith, a Carrick rival who wants to be Oregon’s first black woman elected to Congress, said it was “disrespectful and wrong” for Pelosi’s campaign arm to get involved.
She and other Democrats in the race criticized the decision at a joint press conference where they decried it as an insult to Oregon voters.
In the nine-person primary, Carrick appears locked in a close race with state Rep. Andrea Salinas, a three-term state legislator who would become Oregon’s first Hispanic woman in Congress if elected.
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