National Democratic campaign backs Janelle Bynum for Oregon’s 5th District

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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday, Jan. 29, named Oregon’s Janelle Bynum to its competitive “Red to Blue” program, throwing its support behind the state representative a few months before her primary election.

Bynum, D-Clackamas, is one of several Democrats vying for a chance to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer in the 5th Congressional District that stretches from Bend to Portland. The race is a top target for Democrats trying to flip the U.S. House, as the district voted for President Joe Biden in 2020 and is home to more Democrats than Republicans.

Bynum’s chief opponent in the Democratic primary is Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a Terrebonne attorney and the 2022 Democratic nominee. Metro Council President Lynn Peterson has been in the race for months but struggled to gain traction. Matthew Davie, a tech executive from Bend with no prior government experience, also recently filed to run.

Becoming part of the Red to Blue program means Bynum will have access to DCCC strategic guidance, resources and training, along with more fundraising support than other primary candidates.

Monday’s announcement, shared first with the Capital Chronicle — a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group — is the latest in a series of signals that Bynum is the preferred candidate of the Democrats’ powerful fundraising machine. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York, personally encouraged her to run, and Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek endorsed her, as did most Democrats she serves with in the state House.

“I am honored to receive this united support from Democrats throughout our state and across the country — because they understand that Oregonians deserve a representative who will stand up for us, protect reproductive rights, strengthen our local economy and finally deliver results for our families in Congress,” Bynum said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. “Lori Chavez-DeRemer has failed us at every point, siding with her extremist colleagues and sowing chaos and dysfunction in our government instead of actually advocating for our interests. I’ve defeated her twice, and together, we’re going to defeat Chavez-DeRemer a third time this November.”

Bynum has served in the state House since 2017, twice beating Chavez-DeRemer in legislative elections. She led criminal justice reform efforts in earlier sessions as the only Black woman in the House, then pivoted back to focusing on the business and education issues that first drew her to politics last year as the lead sponsor of the Oregon CHIPS Act, a $210 million investment in the semiconductor industry intended to boost the state’s ability to compete for federal funding.

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, the Washington state Democrat who chairs the DCCC, praised Bynum’s experience in a statement announcing the committee’s support.

“As a working mom of four, a businesswoman, and a long-time champion for Oregon families in the state House, Janelle Bynum has spent years standing up for others and paying opportunity forward,” DelBene said. “She’s the right leader for this moment, and the right candidate to replace Lori Chavez-DeRemer and her extreme track record in D.C.”

The DCCC’s involvement in the 5th District proved irritating to primary voters during the last election cycle. The committee’s main responsibility is protecting incumbent Democratic representatives, and it was all in for then-Rep. Kurt Schrader, a moderate Democrat.

Precinct committee persons — the elected local party officials who vote on party business and lead voter registration and turnout efforts at the local level — objected to the DCCC’s support for incumbent Schrader, who irked Democratic constituents with his ties to the pharmaceutical industry and by being one of only a few Democrats to vote against Biden’s COVID relief plan. One precinct committee person from Bend, home to McLeod-Skinner’s base, called the committee “the 800-pound gorilla from Washington.”

Local Democratic Party committees in Clackamas, Deschutes, Linn and Marion counties broke with tradition and changed their own bylaws to allow them to endorse McLeod-Skinner in the primary last year. Despite assistance from the DCCC and other national groups, Schrader lost the primary to McLeod-Skinner by nearly 10 points.

The DCCC and other national Democratic organizations went on to support McLeod-Skinner once she became the nominee. The DCCC alone spent more than $1.8 million attacking Chavez-DeRemer in the 2022 election, according to federal campaign finance records.

But sore feelings between local McLeod-Skinner supporters and national Democrats continued in the general election after the House Majority PAC led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi abandoned the 5th District race to spend more on tight races in Oregon’s 4th and 6th districts.

McLeod-Skinner said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle that political insiders from Washington, D.C., keep misjudging races in Oregon, citing her primary and general campaigns last year and the nearly $1 million the House Majority PAC spent to support political newcomer Carrick Flynn over now-U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas in the Democratic primary for the neighboring 6th Congressional District last year.

“Whether the DCCC doesn’t trust voters here in Oregon to make the best choice or they are determined to cover up their 2022 election mistake of canceling their investment in OR-05 and helping Lori Chavez-DeRemer win — it’s wrong and undemocratic,” she said. “But the joke’s on them: Oregon voters will have the final say, and I know they’ll reject these misguided attempts to manipulate our democracy. Janelle Bynum should do what’s right and reject this unfair involvement in this race.”

The primary election is May 21.


Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter.

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