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Pelosi: Oregon contests pivotal to control of U.S. House

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By PETER WONG
Oregon Capital Bureau

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she rejects the premise that Republicans, who lost the presidency and the Senate two years ago, are poised to make a comeback in the House in the general election Nov. 8.

Pelosi also says that Oregon is pivotal to any Democratic success in the midterm elections.

In addition to Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton, who is seeking a sixth full term in the 1st District, women are the Democratic nominees for three open House seats, including the new 6th District that Oregon gained as a result of the 2020 Census.

“We intend to grow our numbers. Oregon is very important in that regard,” Pelosi told reporters after a public appearance Tuesday in Portland.

She came to listen to a panel sponsored by the Energy Trust of Oregon. Before then, Pelosi spoke on behalf of the Democratic congressional candidates for the open seats at a private event. They are Val Hoyle of Springfield in the 4th, being vacated by Democrat Peter DeFazio after 36 years; Jamie McLeod-Skinner of Terrebonne in the 5th, who unseated seven-term Democrat Kurt Schrader in the May 17 primary, and Andrea Salinas of Lake Oswego in the new 6th.

A switch of a handful of seats would make Republicans instead of Democrats the House’s majority party, giving them the leadership positions and control of legislation and committee activity.

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy made an Oregon stop on Aug. 24 with Rep. Cliff Bentz of Ontario, the state’s lone Republican in the delegation, and three candidates for the same open seats.

Oregon open seats

According to two national rating services, the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, the 5th is a tossup with Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Happy Valley. Cook lists the 4th and 6th as “lean Democratic,” and Crystal Ball lists both as “likely Democratic.”

Oregon’s other seats are considered safe for the incumbents — Bonamici, Bentz, and Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Portland in the 3rd.

When safe, likely and leaning seats are counted, both services report that Republicans are much closer than Democrats to 218, which constitutes a majority in the House. But about three dozen seats are considered toss-ups.

Pelosi said it’s too easy to believe political pundits who say that with rare exceptions for the past 90 years, the party that holds the White House loses seats in mid-term elections.

“We never accepted that,” she said. “For a year and a half to almost two years now, we have been working: Building our grassroots mobilizations, building our messaging operation and amassing the resources needed for them. We believe it is urgent for the country that we must win.”

Pelosi, a Democrat from California, has held her San Francisco seat for 35 years. She became House speaker for the first time after the 2006 election — she lost it in 2010, when Republicans regained a majority — and for the second time after the 2018 election. The presidents in those midterm elections were Republican George W. Bush, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Donald Trump.

Alignment with Democrats

President Joe Biden’s job-approval ratings have inched up a bit, and Congress has passed legislation to boost spending on public works and semiconductor manufacturing, increased incentives for carbon-free energy and climate-change mitigation, and curb rising prices for prescription drugs.

While some Republicans voted for public works and semiconductor aid, Pelosi said the latter legislation (in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act) passed with only Democrats in support.

“Unaffiliated voters identify with us on these issues,” Blumenauer said.

“This is an undercurrent that plays well for us with the people who may not be aligned with one party or the other. But their values align with what we are working for.”

Pelosi also said Republicans have been running away from the Supreme Court’s recent decision to end a federal constitutional right for a woman to obtain an abortion. Public opinion surveys indicate that majorities oppose that decision, which left the issue up to states.

“Freedom to make your own personal decisions is a democratic issue,” she said.

Today’s Oregon Republican Party, Bonamici added, “is not the party of Mark Hatfield and Tom McCall,” among the moderates who led the GOP to statewide success until the 1990s.

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