Candidates raise big sums in Oregon’s competitive congressional races

Gun Rights

Two of three Democrats running in competitive Oregon congressional districts raised more money for their campaigns over the summer and early fall than their opponents, federal campaign finance records show. 

Reports filed over the weekend show fundraising and spending between July 1 and September 30. During those three months and overall since the election cycle began in 2021, Democratic candidates Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Andrea Salinas have outraised their Republican rivals in Oregon’s 5th and 6th congressional districts, respectively.

Val Hoyle, the state labor commissioner and Democratic nominee in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, trailed her opponent, Alek Skarlatos, in fundraising. National political analysts still give Hoyle better odds of winning her race than McLeod-Skinner or Salinas.

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The new fundraising numbers arrived as candidates and their supporters are making their last push to reach voters before ballots begin arriving in mailboxes this week. Over the past week, an anti-abortion groups spent $17,000 to promote Skarlatos and 5th District Republican nominee Lori Chavez-DeRemer, and a group ran surveys targeting Hoyle and Salinas. 

Quarterly reports strong for Democrats

Skarlatos, a former Army National Guardsman who became a minor celebrity after helping stop a terrorist on a Paris-bound train in 2015, leads every candidate in fundraising. The third-quarter brought him to a total of more than $3.6 million, and he still has more than $535,000 left to spend. More than $2 million of his overall haul came in the form of donations below $200. 

Hoyle has raised almost $2 million, including more than $600,000 in contributions from other members of Congress and Democratic political action committees. She has less than $250,000 to spend. 

McLeod-Skinner, an attorney from Terrebonne who unseated Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, in the May primary, has raised more than $2.7 million for her campaign, almost entirely from individual donors. More than $880,000 came from people who contributed $200 or less. She has more than $660,000 available in cash. 

Chavez-DeRemer, former mayor of Happy Valley, loaned her campaign more than $400,000 before the May primary. She collected less than $1.6 million in contributions and ended the quarter with $376,000 in cash. 

Republican Mike Erickson, a logistics consultant running in the 6th District, has loaned his campaign more than $1.3 million. He raised less than $750,000 from other contributors, and he has less than $30,000 in cash. 

And Salinas, a state representative, raised a total of $2.3 million for her campaign and has just over $206,000 available for the rest of the campaign.

The 5th and 6th districts have both been rated as “toss-ups” by the Cook Political Report, and polls from earlier in the fall indicated close races. 

Before the end of the month, candidates will file one more pre-general-election report covering their fundraising and spending between Oct. 1 and Oct. 19. A December post-election report will cover the period between Oct. 20 and Nov. 28. Ballots will be mailed to Oregon voters beginning Wednesday and must be returned or postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 8. 

The National Right to Life Victory Fund paid for these mailers supporting Alek Skarlatos and identical ones supporting Lori Chavez-DeRemer. (Provided)

Anti-abortion group sending mail

Like Republicans around the country, Skarlatos and Chavez-DeRemer have sought to distances themselves from abortion politics since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. 

Skarlatos boasted of his support from Oregon Right to Life and its national affiliate in his 2020 challenge to Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon. A DeFazio campaign ad featured footage of Skarlatos saying the U.S. Supreme Court should try to overturn Roe and that he opposed federal funding for Planned Parenthood. This year, Skarlatos told The Oregonian that abortion was a “sensitive issue” best left to the states. 

Chavez-DeRemer told the Salem Statesman-Journal in May that she supported so-called “heartbeat bills” that ban abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy or two weeks after a woman’s first missed period. Earlier this month, she told Portland-based TV station KGW that she didn’t support any federal restrictions on abortion. 

Despite Skarlatos and Chavez-DeRemer distancing themselves from anti-abortion talking points, the National Right to Life Victory Fund is still supporting their campaigns. The PAC last week reported spending nearly $9,500 on mailers for Chavez-DeRemer and more than $8,000 on mailers for Skarlatos.

Copies of these identical mailers reviewed by the Capital Chronicle claim that Skarlatos and Chavez-DeRemer support legislation to prohibit late abortions, require parental consent to abortions on minors and bar the use of tax money for abortions, as well as unspecified legislation to “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” The mailers accuse McLeod-Skinner and Hoyle of supporting unlimited abortions at any time and for any reason. Abortion is legal at any stage of pregnancy in Oregon, but abortions after the first trimester are rare and almost all late-term abortions happen because of serious threats to the life or health of the fetus or pregnant woman. 

“These tactics are consistent with the strategy that Mr. Skarlatos has been following all year,” Hoyle said in a statement. “He’s doing everything he can to hide his extreme positions on abortion, climate and the minimum wage because he knows his views are so out of step with the voters in this district that he can’t get elected if he tells the truth.” 

Anti-abortion groups have not supported Erickson. His last congressional run in 2008 imploded after revelations that he had paid for a girlfriend’s abortion. 

Messaging polls raise eyebrows

A recent phone survey in the 4th District appears designed to sway some progressive voters to support a third-party candidate over Hoyle. The Capital Chronicle reviewed screenshots of the survey, which didn’t include information about who paid for it. 

Recipients were informed that Green Party candidate Mike Beilstein: 

  • “supports a Socialist-style agenda that would nationalize our health care system and provide universal coverage.”
  • “supports a progressive agenda that will decriminalize drugs, provide free college tuition, advance social justice and could impose strict gun control”
  • “is a progressive environmentalist.”
  • “considers climate change to be an ‘immediate existential threat.’”
  • “will help pass the Green New Deal and impose carbon pricing on fossil fuel companies” 

Meanwhile, poll questions said Black employees at the Bureau of Labor and Industries during Hoyle’s tenure experienced racial hostility, that Hoyle was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and that she was an “avid supporter” of the fossil fuel industry.

Hoyle supported the proposed Jordan Cove project that would have built a natural gas pipeline and export terminal in Coos Bay, adding thousands of jobs to the region. Developers abandoned the project last year, and after criticism from fellow Democrats in the primary, Hoyle said she would no longer support fossil fuel projects.

The NRA last supported her in 2014, a year before Hoyle, then the House majority leader, helped pass a bill expanding background checks before gun sales. An independent state investigation in 2021 couldn’t substantiate allegations of racial hostility at the bureau. 

Beilstein said in an interview that he knew nothing about the poll. He said he knows that he stands no chance at winning, and he doesn’t think Skarlatos does either. 

“I’ll certainly get less than 3% of the vote. Of course, if I’ve got these Republicans campaigning for me, maybe maybe I’ll do better,” he laughed. “But  I think there’ll be at least a five- or six-point spread between Skarlatos and Hoyle, so  I think I can get into that middle without disrupting a race.”

Doyle Canning, an attorney and climate activist, ran against Hoyle in the May primary and criticized her record on environmental issues. Canning, who has since endorsed Hoyle and is campaigning for her, said the polls seemed like a cynical attempt by Republicans to sow confusion and peel the progressive Democrats who supported her away from Hoyle. 

“They know that they can’t win fair and square on the MAGA platform in this district, so they’re using misleading push polling and dirty tricks to try to confuse progressives,” Canning said. “We’re not going to be used by the party of Donald Trump to elect a MAGA Republican to Congress.” 

A Capital Chronicle reporter living in the 6th Congressional District received a similar messaging poll late last week. That poll, also a SurveyMonkey survey in white print on a green background, asked about tolling on Interstate 5 and said Salinas supported adding tolls of up to $5 between Wilsonville and Salem. 

Both polls asked voters to choose between a “Republican member of Congress who will be a check-and-balance” to Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi” and a “Democrat member of Congress who will help Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi pass their agenda.” 

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