Oregon’s primary elections: Three things to watch on May 21

As Republicans look to maintain their slim majority in the House, there are a handful of races in Oregon that could determine which party will seize control of the lower chamber next year.

All six of Oregon’s House seats are up for grabs in November. Although many of them are deemed to be uncompetitive, there are at least two districts with high-profile primaries that could act as a bellwether for how Republicans will fare in the general election.

Voters are already casting ballots by mail ahead of the May 21 congressional and presidential primary races. Although the presidential primary is largely uncompetitive, President Joe Biden could see a growing number of Democratic voters in the blue state cast their votes as “uncommitted” in protest of his handling of the war in Gaza.

Here are three things to watch for in the Oregon primaries.

Blumenauer’s retirement attracts crowded primary for Oregon’s only open seat

The retirement of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has attracted crowded primary fields from both sides of the aisle to replace the incumbent, who has held the seat since 1996.

Six Democrats are facing off in the party’s primary later this month, with the victor highly favored to win the seat in November. Oregon’s 6th Congressional District is rated as D+22 and is deemed “Solid Democrat” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

The Democratic primary has sparked national attention, with several outside groups pouring millions of dollars into the race to boost their favored candidates for the safe blue district.

Among the candidates vying to replace Blumenauer is Susheela Jayapal, the sister of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), a well-known progressive Democrat on Capitol Hill. Susheela Jayapal could benefit from name recognition cemented by her sister as well as her past experience as Multnomah County commissioner.

However, she could face an uphill battle. At least one super PAC has poured more than $1 million into the race to attack Susheela Jayapal’s record. Additionally, the 314 Action Fund has spent $1.7 million in the cycle so far to boost Democratic candidate state Rep. Maxine Dexter.

That money prompted Jayapal and Eddy Morales, who is also running for the seat, to accuse the group of funding its ad campaigns with “MAGA money.” The group has not yet disclosed its donors from April, which is when it began spending money on the Oregon primary.

Democrats face off to challenge Chavez DeRemer in key toss-up seat 

Meanwhile, two Democrats are facing off in a primary to challenge Rep. Lori Chavez DeRemer (R-OR) in one of the most competitive races of the 2024 cycle.

The Democratic primary features a faceoff between state Rep. Janelle Bynum and Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who unsuccessfully ran for the seat in 2022. Whoever wins the nomination will become a crucial part of Democrats’ efforts to flip the House back in their favor, with the seat rated as a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report.

The race could feature a rematch if the primary is won by McLeod-Skinner, who lost to Chavez DeRemer in the 2022 midterm elections by just 2 percentage points. Bynum has sought to use that to her advantage, positioning herself as a candidate who has previously defeated Chavez DeRemer and could do so again.

Bynum twice defeated Chavez DeRemer in 2016 and 2018 for a state House seat, once by 2 points and then again by 8 points.

Oregon’s 5th Congressional District is shaping up to be one of the most closely watched races as Chavez DeRemer must defend her seat in a district that Biden won by 10 points in 2020. The district is also pivotal as it could determine which party will win control of the House next year.

Biden faces protest over handling of war in Gaza

Elsewhere on the ballot, voters will have the opportunity to choose their preferred presidential nominee even as the race has already been settled as a rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Despite not having a primary challenger, Biden must grapple with a growing number of Democratic voters who are opting not to back his candidacy and are instead planning to write in “uncommitted.” Biden has faced similar pushback in roughly two dozen other states where hundreds of thousands of voters have cast their ballots for no candidates.

If those efforts persist into the general election, it could spell trouble for Biden as he prepares to face Trump in what is expected to be a tight race.


However, Democratic strategists familiar with Biden’s campaign strategy told the Washington Examiner in March that the Democratic base would eventually rally behind Biden when presented with the “reality of the alternative” presented by Trump in the general election.

“The president hears the voters participating in the uncommitted campaigns,” Biden campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt said in a statement. “He shares their goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace — and he’s working tirelessly to that end.”

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