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Chavez-DeRemer wins backing of GOP group recruiting more women to run for Congress

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Oregon Capital Bureau

The former mayor of Happy Valley was touted Monday as part of a “pink wave” of Republican women who could restore GOP control of the U.S. House.

Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a candidate for Oregon’s 5th Congressional District, was among 10 Republican women boosted at a Monday morning fundraiser in Washington, D.C. They were all endorsed by the Elevate Political Action Committee, a GOP leadership fundraising effort led by U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, the House Republican Conference Chair.

“We have strong Republican women running from Florida, to Indiana, to Arizona, to Oregon, in top battleground districts that will determine the House majority,” Stefanik said at a press conference after the event Monday.

Democrats currently hold a 222-210 majority in the House, with three vacant seats. Republicans have targeted 70 open and Democratic-held seats in the 2022 election. Stefanik’s group goes a step further and backs women in the Republican primaries. Chavez-DeRemer was tapped by the group in an effort to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby.

“I will flip Oregon’s 5th district and will be standing with these women in Congress,” Chavez-DeRemer said.

Stefanik’s office said the endorsements on Monday focused on Hispanic Republican candidates with a proven ability to attract support and funds to take on Democratic incumbents.

Over the last century, the midterm election after a new president takes office has resulted in a loss for the president’s party in all but two years, 1934 and 2002.

Stefanik said in 2019, there were just 13 Republican women among the 435 members of the U.S. House. In 2020, Elevate PAC supported woman candidates who flipped 11 of the 15 seats won by Republicans. 

Elevate PAC has raised $600,000 this year and has endorsed a total of 18 candidates so far. Chavez-DeRemer declined to say how much the group has pledged to her campaign. She also declined to say how much her campaign has raised and spent in 2022. Under federal campaign finance rules, the next report isn’t due until March 31.

Chavez-DeRemer reported at the end of 2021 that she had raised $350,940, spent $124,877 and had $226,062 in the bank.

Schrader reported $3.5 million in the bank. 

Chavez-DeRemer is also receiving money from an Alexandria, Virginia-based political action committee set up to raise contributions that would be split by Chavez-DeRemer and 4th Congressional District candidate Alek Skarlatos. 

The 10 candidates endorsed on Monday said they wanted to change the impression that Hispanic voters instinctively support Democrats. 

“I am pro-life, pro-God, pro-gun, and anti-socialist,” said Ana Paulina Luna, a candidate for Congress in Florida. “In 2022, we take back the House from the identity politics Democrats are using against the Hispanic-American demographic.” 

Morgan Ortagus, running for a House seat in Tennessee, said the group’s goal was to sweep House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. from control of the U.S. House.

Ortagus used a variation of the traditional Republican red vs. Democratic blue color-coding to give the women a collective nickname.

“This is going to be a pink wave, a pink wave of Republican women around this country that are going to fire Nancy Pelosi, that are going to take the House back,” she said.

Stefanik said the Republican efforts had the Democrats playing defense, with swing district Democrats scrambling to hold onto seats, while other have retired rather than face possible defeat.

“I think we will have a historic Republican victory,” Stefanik said. “They’re running for the hills.”

In introducing Chavez-DeRemer, Stefanik said Schrader had voted “lock, stock and barrel” with Pelosi.

Many progressive Democrats in Oregon would disagree. Schrader was among a handful of House members who opposed the return of Pelosi to the top job of House Speaker. He’s also split with the party on deficit spending and the scope of restrictions on Medicare’s ability to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. Last week, he announced he would no longer take contributions from a political action committee tied to Charles Koch, the conservative activist billionaire.

Schrader is defending a lot of unknown territory, with redistricting leaving him with less than half of his current constituents. The new boundaries run from southern Portland, jump the Cascades at the Santiam Pass, and take in most of Redmond and Bend in Deschutes County.

Democratic activist Jamie McLeod-Skinner is making a strong challenge to Schrader in the primary. She’s won the endorsement of five of six county Democratic parties in the district, as well as former Gov. Barbara Roberts. Whether Schrader or McLeod-Skinner ends up winning the May 17 primary, Democrats say the district won’t support a pro-Trump Republican in the November general election.

While focusing on Schrader, Chavez-DeRemer must first win the Republican primary. She’ll share the ballot with Bend entrepreneur Jimmy Crumpacker, orthopedic surgeon John Di Paola of Wilsonville, building restoration technician Madison Oatman of Bend, and trucking company co-owner Laurel Roses of Mulino, in Clackamas County.

Some of the 10 candidates receiving Stefanik’s endorsement on Monday worked in the Trump administration or have been endorsed by the former president. Trump has not endorsed in the 5th district race. Crumpacker in particular has been a Trump loyalist, touting his ideological allegiance during an unsuccessful GOP primary bid for the 2nd Congressional District, which included Bend prior to the recent redistricting.

Stefanik’s rise has also been tied to her pro-Trump stance. She became the House Republican Conference chair — the third highest ranking GOP leader in the chamber — after backing the ouster of U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY, from the job. Cheney was among 10 Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump following the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The riot occurred just after Trump had repeated unfounded allegations that he had won the election and Congress was aiding president-elect Joe Biden in “stealing” the election.

Stefanik said Monday that 280 Republican women were running for Congress in 2022.

The PAC is similar in purpose if not politics to EMILY’s List, the liberal PAC backing women in primaries. Its name is an acronym for “Early Money Is Like Yeast,” contributing early money to help candidates rise above others in races.

The first step for the Elevate PAC-backed candidates is to win their primaries. The group used the Monday press conference to hammer at issues polls show are especially important to GOP voters. Several mentioned controlling illegal immigration and concerns over rising crime rates.

A Pew Research Center survey released last week showed majorities of both Democrats and Republicans believe the economy is the top issue in the 2022 election.

But party members went in opposite directions on several key issues.

Among Republicans, 68% believed immigration was the top issue facing the nation, followed closely by violent crime and foreign policy (both at 67%). Among possible GOP primary voters, 62% said the size and scope of government had become too large.

Democratic priorities were different. The Pew survey said just 34% of Democrats said immigration is a top issue, while 26% said government is too large.

The top issue for Democrats is health care, with 74% saying it was a crucial issue, vs. just 14% for Republicans. Climate change was important to 64% of Democrats vs. 14% of Republicans. While 54% of Democrats said racial and ethnic inequality and diversity was a top issue, it was cited by just 14% of Republicans.

Majorities of voters in both parties said COVID-19 would not be a factor in the 2022 election, with 46% of Democrats saying the pandemic would impact the election, while just 19% of Republicans said it was a key issue

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